These are a few of my favorite things

California Sunset, Sierra Foothills

California Crescent, Sierra Foothills
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
2.5 seconds
82 mm
ISO 100
F11

Maria von Trapp had them, you have them, I have them. They’re the favorite places, moments, and subjects that provide comfort or coax a smile no matter what life has dealt. Not only do these “favorite things” improve our mood, they’re the muse that drives our best photography. Mine include the translucent glow of a California poppy, a black sky sprinkled with stars, a breathtaking sunrise duplicated in reverse by still water, and the vivid arc of a rainbow following a cleansing rainAlso on my list (as you may have guessed by now) are the rolling hills and stately oaks of the Sierra foothills, a delicate slice of moon hovering above the horizon, and the subtle band of shifting color separating day and night.

I do my best to put myself in position to photograph all of these moments—the more I can combine, the better. For example, on my calendar each month (among other things) are the best days to photograph the old moon before sunrise, and the new moon after sunset. And in my GPS is a collection of foothill locations (though by now I’m sure my car could navigate to these spots on its own) with hilltop oak trees that stand against the sky.

The best evenings for the new moon in the most recent lunar cycle were Friday and Saturday, January 31 and February 1. With plans for Friday, I blocked Saturday and made the drive up to the foothills, where I waited at a favorite spot for the sun to drop and the moon to appear. Over the years I’ve accumulated lots of pictures of these trees beneath a variety of skies, with and without the moon. My composition decisions on each visit were mostly determined by the conditions: clouds, color, the moon’s direction, and the moon’s elevation above the horizon.

Saturday night’s cloudless, unspectacular sky spread a simple canvas that emphasized the crescent moon floating above the day/night transition I love so much. As an added bonus, Mercury joined the party, leading the moon to the horizon (above the tree on the right). In the deepening darkness I moved up and down the road to change the moon’s position relative to the  trees. With the moon fairly high, I found that moderately wide, vertical compositions worked best. I underexposed slightly to  and emphasize the trees’ shape with a silhouette; with nothing else to balance my frame, I decided on the symmetry of an isosceles triangle connecting the trees and moon.

Same view, different day

4 Comments on “These are a few of my favorite things

  1. I reslly love the art and how you have captured scenes during the day/night amazing,

  2. I was out on Saturday here in AZ photographing the same moon! Since I had to work all day, I wisely took my camera with me, but not my tripod, so I could not get a longer exposure handheld. I love those little slivers of moon and it was a treat to see Mars as well.Your photos and locations always inspire and teach me. Thanks.

  3. A timeless song, enjoyable in a “different way” each time we hear it – My favorite is actually John Coltrane’s version, which proves the point that we are in a different “place” each time we hear it (I am anyway). I believe this concept connects ABSOLUTELY to YOUR point, as well as your actual practices. Getting asked “Why do you go back there so much?” really makes me smile now because I think of you and your words. When a place is full of surprises each time we see it, then that’s our heart and soul connecting with it…you are the best example I can think of who reinforces and lives in that concept…Wonderful, Gary!

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