One of my favorite things about landscape photography is the opportunity to experience nature in complete solitude. But since COVID has forced us all to socially distance, I’ve realized that another one of my favorite things about landscape photography is the opportunity to experience nature in the company of others.
There’s a lot of waiting in landscape photography: for the light to be right, the lightning to fire, the sky to darken, the clouds to part, or the moon moon to arrive. But it wasn’t until I started leading photo workshops that I fully appreciated how much I miss sharing that waiting with people who appreciate nature’s beauty as much as I do. Whether it’s actively engaging in conversation, or just watching my workshop students enjoy the company of friends new and old. And then there are the many lasting friendships that formed in workshops.
So about a week before the late November full moon (that I’d circled on my calendar over a year ago), I got the bright idea to invite a half-dozen or so of my favorite photography friends to join me for one of my favorite things in nature: a full moon rising above Yosemite Valley. I sent an e-mail invitation detailing what was going to happen, where I was going to photograph it, and when I’d be there.
My brother Jay and I left for Yosemite late that morning, arriving at Tunnel View about four hours later. After about ten minutes circling and waiting for a place to park (I’ve never seen Yosemite more crowded in November), we made it up to the designated spot right around 4 p.m. I was thrilled to see nearly everyone I’d invited, some who had driven as long as six hours to get there. A couple of them had brought their wives, and one brought a friend.
The standard Tunnel View vista was crowded enough to qualify as a super-spreader event, but since I’d chosen a broad, unmarked slab of granite above the parking lot, we were able to socialize while remaining safely socially distant. The moon would arrive at 4:25, so after enthusiastic greetings and a few elbow-bumps, I opened my bag and went to work.
For this event I set up two tripods: one with a Sony a7RIV and Sony 200-600 with a Sony 2X Teleconverter; one with my other a7RIV and Sony 70-200 f/4. (Normally I’d have used my Sony 24-105 f/4 G, but I’ve shot this moonrise wide so many times that I decided before leaving that I was going to go all telephoto.)
Equipment ready and compositions set, I checked my watch and saw that we still had 15 minutes until the moon arrived. Perfect. Because this shoot was as much about reconnecting with friends as it was about photography, before leaving I’d filled two large thermoses with boiling water, and brought enough cocoa mix for each of us to warm our insides with two steaming cups of chocolate goodness. Sipping cocoa, we enjoyed the view and waited for the moon, chatting, laughing, and simply catching up—just like the good old days.
The moon arrived just as the last sunlight bathed Half Dome in warm hues that started amber and transitioned to soft pink before finally fading. As the moon rose through the darkening sky, the conversation was replaced by clicking shutters.
The image below is one of my first clicks; at the top of the post is one of my final images, captured shortly before the foreground became too dark to capture (with one click) without overexposing the moon.
Down in the parking lot we chatted more in the darkness, reluctant to acknowledge that our gathering was over so fast. I’ve always thought that there are few experiences in nature better than watching the moon rise above Yosemite Valley, but as far as I’m concerned, the highlight of this evening was reconnecting with friends.
Great article and a well needed time with friends even if it had to be short. Thank you 😊
Thanks, Rhonda. So glad you could make it—yes, it was too short.
Would have been great to finally meet you, but it was so packed there was little chance of that. Maybe next time. Nice write up Gary. And beautiful telephoto shot!
Thanks, John. Good to hear from you.
Dear Gary Hart,
Thank you for capturing on your superb landscape photos of Yosemite the rugged beauty of Nature. Your love of photography and also the Moon itself is very obvious and admirable. What a night it was to look upon the full moon shining upon the landscape in all its grandeur, and to reflect deeply in the momment!
Did you have a chance to do the same under the April super pink moon, which is the very first super moon of 2021?
Therefore, I would like to resonate with your photos with my post entitled “If My Name Were Moon Tonight…with Clair de Lune“, which you can access by clicking the featured post in the Home page of my blog.
This multimedia offering comes to you in my dramatic attempt to bring the Full Moon alive, so to speak, in the form of Music Animation with Dynamic Visualization presented in high definition and imbued with a scintillating full moon surrounded by eye-catching astronomical phenomena and stellar activities!
This post also contains my rhyming poem (or serenade) entitled “If My Name Were Moon Tonight…“.
Please enjoy to your heart’s content the mixed-media offering of “If My Name Were Moon Tonight…” and its beautifully rendered Music Animation with Dynamic Visualization on the big high-resolution screen of your desktop or laptop computer. Switch the video playback to full-screen mode. The animation starts calmly and will gradually climax. There is also the opportunity to savour my own rendition of “Clair de Lune” recorded on the organ.
Happy May to you soon!