The Endless Dance

The Story Behind This Photograph:

In the moment I was creating this photo, all I could think about was making sure I had the right focus, exposure, and composition. But in the days since then I’ve had time to reflect a bit more on the unbelievable age of these trees and what they’ve seen. With the oldest bristlecones topping the 4,000-year mark, it’s not impossible to think that this particular tree could be 2,000 years old or more. Imagine the things it’s seen and endured. In all those years it would have seen the full moon rise and set an incomprehensible 24,000 times. It’s an endless dance that I feel privileged to have witnessed merely a few dozen times.

The band of pink and blue you see in the sky is what’s known as the Belt of Venus, which occurs right around sunrise and sunset on clear days. The pink layer is sunlight bouncing off the atmosphere. The blue layer is Earth’s shadow. It’s one of my favorite atmospheric phenomena, not only because of the beautiful complementary colors it creates, but also because it reminds me that we are all living on this finite ball of life, floating in the endless expanse of space.

Tech notes:

Can you guess what the hardest part of making this photo was? Simply finding the right tree! To celebrate the 2020 Halloween Blue Moon I wanted to photograph it aligned with the coolest, spookiest trees around, the ancient Bristlecone Pines. But although there are thousands of Bristlecones in the White Mountains, not just any tree would do. In order to work well for this shot, the right tree would have to check four important boxes:

  1. It would have to be aesthetic, with the right combination of living and dead branches. Bristlecones that are fully alive top to bottom just look downright shaggy!
  2. It would have to be growing on a narrow north-south ridge so that I could align the moon behind it.
  3. It would need to be isolated from other trees and any distractions or obfuscating elements.
  4. There would have to be another small ridge or hill nearby that I could shoot from at the same elevation as the tree. If I shot from too high up the tree will blend into the landscape behind it. If I were too low, the moon wouldn’t appear behind the tree until the sky and landscape are totally dark.

Who says I’m too picky??? 🙂 It was a frantic, fun race that particular afternoon to find a tree that fit these criteria, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I stumbled across this beauty about 45 minutes before moonrise. It gave me just enough time to plot out the correct angles and distances, get into position, and shoot! All in all I captured approximately 50 images of the moon gracefully rising above this tree. But this frame, which captured the warm end-of-day light flowing across this ancient arboreal beauty, was the best of the bunch.

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Comments On This Photo

2 replies
  1. David Whiteman
    David Whiteman says:

    Joshua, Talk about complementary colors with that warm light on the tree and the blue background. You really have this moon thing dialed in. Where I live Pa. it is hard to find locations with an interesting foreground and our mountains just high enough make it difficult get the compression from a zoom to make the moon look large in the photo. Really enjoyed your insight with the zoom lens. My 28 to 300 Tamron is my go to lens. All the best.

    David

    Reply
    • Josh Cripps
      Josh Cripps says:

      Hey David,

      Good to hear from you. Well, I wouldn’t say I have it dialed, but I sure do love trying! Each attempt is its own adventure. Something I’ve been experimenting with more which might work for you is to add the human element into your moon shots. It’s fairly easy to put someone on the top of a hill 1000 feet away from you and get them in the exact right spot/pose using walkie-talkies. It can add some good flexibility and interest towards moon shots when otherwise great subjects are hard to find!

      Take care,

      Josh

      Reply

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