Monday, December 8, 2014

Moon Leaving, Sun Arriving, Natural Bridges

Moonset and Earth's Shadow at Dawn.
I got skunked this month as far as my monthly moonrise shots of the Full Moon. That's why I try to be ready each month, because you only get twelve a year, and some of them will be snuffed out by unfavorable weather. Or you need to be doing something else. That sort of thing.

The evening of the December Full Moon had too many clouds on the eastern horizon where I was in southeast Utah's high desert canyon country. By the time the moon appeared through the thin clouds it was hazy, wan. Blah.

My backup plan for moon landscapes is the morning after Full Moon: moonset. Most photographers overlook that time, when being out at dawn allows you to position the setting moon in a landscape facing west instead of east. 

I was at Natural Bridges National Monument. Being December, I had the Bridge View loop drive to myself that early in the day. Winding along the rim of White Canyon, I stopped for a look down at Sipapu Bridge. The stone bridge itself was too dark for a good photo that early, but I noticed the small potholes in the sandstone bedrock that had water still in them from the last rain. I made a composition with one reflecting the moon. 
Moon reflection in sandstone pothole at dawn.


Then further along the loop drive, I liked how the dawn colors were shaping up in advance of sunrise. The Earth's shadow and the blue to pink gradations of the Venus Belt made for another moonset shot. 

Finally I was at Owachomo Bridge, the oldest of the three stream carved bridges in the park. I was hoping to find some angle to get the bridge and the moon together in a shot. Owachomo is the best candidate for that, because it's much more out in the open than the other two bridges, Sipapu and Kachina. 

Moon setting over Red House Cliffs.
 But I couldn't find the angle necessary. So I enjoyed being down underneath the bridge once again ("Owachomo" is Navajo for "under the horse's belly"). If it was a horse's belly, it was one long, skinny horse. Majestic in its own way. A slender bridge compared to the other two, this one is the oldest, the most eroded and so the thinnest. It will fall the soonest. Whenever that might be.

But not this morning. I continued down slope from the bridge, to the stone lip along the creek still slowly carving Armstrong Canyon. 

From down there I could not yet see the sunrise itself. But it was lighting up the south side of Owachomo's sandstone span. With clear blue sky behind. Nice, very nice. 
Owachomo Bridge at Sunrise, December.
Photo location: Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, southeast Utah. Click on any photo to enjoy a much larger version.

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© 2014 Stephen J. Kriewg