Window Photography

Treetops and Crescent Moon — Wake County, NC © jj raia

Treetops and Crescent Moon — Wake County, NC © jj raia

I am always waking up early and peeking out the window to see what the new day has in store. Sometimes I have time to get dressed and run out the door to get to a nearby location and shoot what might be an interesting sunrise, while other times, there is no time at all, and I just sit back and enjoy the show. On this day, I knew in a few moments, the increasing light would make the disc of the moon completely disappear leaving only the crescent, and the veil of clouds would probably lighten or vanish, eliminating most of the contrast in the sky. At this time of day, just as the eastern sky begins to lighten, the clouds are actually darker than the sky; the opposite of expectations during the middle of the day. All I could do was grab the tripod, mount the camera and change to the 70-300mm zoom to get in close enough so the moon would not look like a blemish in the frame. The only thing left to do was open the window; and luckily, the one I peered out is the only one without a screen, to provide a clean and unobstructed view of what was going on.

The treetops were left in to give it some context and a sense of place, and it was fortunate that there was a singular pine almost directly under the moon, to break up the uniformity of the tree line a bit. But it was the gauzy nature of the clouds that gave the sky the texture and inspiration to photograph it, rather than simply enjoying the view and crawling back into bed.

The final image is actually two horizontal images merged together as a panorama. The reasoning behind that option was to zoom in to make the moon large enough for it to be prominent, but not too large to shout it was placed in the sky with some fancy trick in software, and then add the trees below in a second shot at the same zoom. Zooming in that far also  provided a secondary purpose that eliminated almost all of the distractions just outside the edges of the frame.

I have used the same technique where the zoom of each panorama frame is different, as in the photo below where the moon and the lit fog was at 200mm, while the surf and lower fog bank was at 70mm. Incidentally, the upper half itself was two separate frames; one being for a properly exposed  moon being lit through the haze shortly before sunrise, and another for the properly exposed sky and fog. These two were blended in separate layers with everything masked out except the moon over the properly exposed sky. Then the top and bottom were blended together along the fog bank at the horizon line.

Moonset and Fog — Sonoma Coast, CA © jj raia

Moonset and Fog — Sonoma Coast, CA © jj raia

Sometimes things inspire you to take photographs even though the resulting images are not anywhere near epic quality, but it is always a good idea to just keep shooting whenever the spirit moves you to do so, and keep the creative juices flowing. It keeps you in practice for when something epic does happen. And in the case of the crescent moon, a few minutes later you can be comfortably sipping a cup of hot coffee while still in your pj’s waiting for everyone else to wake up. The moonset was a different matter since I was living out of an SUV at the time on the 3-week photo trip through California in 2017. No hot coffee… no PJ’s!!


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