Monday, October 21, 2013

The Hunter's Moon

Hunters' Moon behind Chief Mountain (c) John Ashley
Give a man a fly rod, and you feed him for a summer - if he can master the overhead cast. Give a man a rifle, and you might feed him through the winter - depending on his aim. But give a man a camera to point at the moon, and he remains a starving artist for life.

I was still a teenager when I traded hunting rifles for 35mm cameras. Sticking with the rifles would have been less expensive, but I've never met an animal that's more interesting dead than alive. Besides, after each and every hunt with a camera, other people still get to experience and enjoy my still-living, breathing target the next day. Hopefully, the next person's only armed with a camera and, hopefully, they have less patience than me. Just like a traditional hunter, I "target practice" with my gear, scout out different locations for different seasons, study my quarry endlessly, and feverishly watch the weather.

Photographing the moon is even crazier than traditional hunting. I really do suffer from an unexplainable and irrational desire to chase the moon (slightly less so the stars), and especially the full moon. I can clearly see the lunacy in my behavior, but I'm helpless to stop this addiction. How addicted?

The moonrise and moonset occur later each day. Typically moonrise photos work best during the two days before the full moon, and moonset images are best during the two days after full. That's five days out of every 28 that I'm hoping to be out there somewhere, usually hours away from home and a warm bed. I just recovered from sleep deprivation during the last full moon, a few days back, and already I have yellow sticky notes on my computer for potential alignments during next month's full moon azimuths. And from now 'till then, I'll check and recheck the cloud cover forecasts several times a day, watching and waiting.

This month's image is a good example of my lunacy. The first time I photographed a full moon behind this mountain was 21 years ago. I have yet to get it perfect. This month I was positioned in the right place at the right time. But between the wind shaking my heaviest tripod, and heat waves rising from the snow-free foreground (did you know you can get heat waves in freezing temperatures?), the image is too soft to enlarge very much.

In my day job, I don't make as many sales if I can't make big enlargements, so the conditions have to be just right and I have to be awake and alert and relatively cognizant. Of course, I absolutely live for these moments out there, and I really don't like bringing money into this affair, but I still have a family to feed and a wife to placate.

So after all these years, I'm still watching and waiting. November will bring us the "Frosty Moon." I've already bought chemical hand warmers and battery-powered boot insoles. Call me a lunatic - that's a compliment in my world.