Temple of the Moon

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo

Taken in at the Temple of the Moon, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, on October 11, 2016.

The Temple of the Moon in Capitol Reef is a striking rock formation: it literally looks like a church made of mud and stone that rises hundreds of feet above the desert floor. And yet on my few visits to the park I’ve had trouble photographing it. Conditions never quite aligned for me to take a noteworthy photograph of the monolith. Until a visit in 2016, that is.

My friend Julia were on a whirlwind desert camping and road trip and almost on a whim decided to buzz out to Capitol Reef. We arrived in the park in the afternoon and decided to venture out for the night to the Cathedral Valley. Despite recent rains (even some sprinkles as we drove out), the backcountry roads were in good condition -minus a wash or two here and there- and we made good time to the area.

Arriving late at night under a waxing gibbous moon we hopped out of the car to see a series of high clouds streaking across the night sky. Even better was the full halo being created in the clouds by the light of the moon. I immediately grabbed my camera equipment and went sprinting off into the desert to line up a composition which placed the moon at the apex of the tower. In order to get a good exposure with clean details I decided to shoot some longer exposures of approximately 90 seconds. The tricky part was anticipating the moon’s movement during that 90 seconds so that the average position appeared to be directly above the tower.

After a series of frustrating but fun test shots I was able to make this image, which showed the moon and its halo, as well as a secondary spire on the Temple.

See more beautiful Capitol Reef National Park photos here.

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