Here are two views of the Moon rising behind Cathedral Rock in Sedona. The first image shows the Moon ~95% illuminated and was taken from the meadows in Crescent Moon Picnic Area. I like how the Moon lies behind the dark pillar located in the gap between two sunlit pillars.
The second image was taken on the following night with the Moon ~98% illuminated and was captured from Pyramid Trail, a location about twice as far away as the first image. This doubling of distance results in the Moon appearing larger relative to Cathedral Rock—a nice illusion.
Here are another set of images of the moon rise behind Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona. I had two locations preselected for the shots on this day. The first was located about one and one-half miles west of the rocks so that the moon’s disk would appear larger than the gaps between the rocks. We were on the eastern slopes of Pyramid Peak (the eastern summit of Scheurman Mountain). This setup worked as planned but since it was still early in the evening the sky was too bright and the moon appeared washed out. I did get the result I was seeking, however, which was the moon larger than the opening between the different rock columns.
We moved to our second location—closer to Cathedral Rock which was now only one mile away—at the Red Rock Crossing/Crescent Moon picnic area. Many other photographers were assembled here but were scattered over a large area so that it wasn’t hard to secure a good spot for the next series of images. This time, the sky was darker and the moon was perfectly framed between the rock columns. I admit that I did not know, in advance, that it would work out this well. The Photographers Ephemeris can tell you the times and geometry of the setup but it can’t reveal how the size of the moon will compare with the rocks.
It’s spring and this is the time of the year when the moon rise behind the sunset-lit spires of Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona, can be breathtaking.
Two years ago, I took a 1-day workshop from Southwest Perspectives called “Sedona Full Moon Hunt.” We were taught not just how to use the camera for capturing the image but, more importantly, how to know when and where to position ourselves for these types of images.
There are several applications available for smart phones, tablets, and computers that provide this information. My program of choice is The Photographer’s Ephemeris. With this information in hand, one can position themselves in the right spot and wait for the moon to rise. The waiting part, however, can be tough as you wonder if you are in the “right” place. It’s a moment of relief, then, when the moon rises right where you expected it in the gap.
As the calendar marches forward into spring and early summer the location of the moon moves south relative to the rocks; it then moves north in the cooler season. It’s during the warmer months that it lines up best with the gaps between the spires.
If you get too close to the rocks the moon will appear small compared to the spires. Get farther away and the relative size of the moon appears much larger in comparison. But it’s never that easy. Some shooting locations are effortless to get to: drive, park, set up, done. Others require a bit of walking or hiking.
Getting in the right place is at least part of the enjoyment of capturing these images.
The full moon occurred on 04 June and there was an early morning partial eclipse — but I slept through it. The two evenings prior to the full moon, however, provided an opportunity to photograph the rising moon as the sun still cast light and color on the red rocks.
Using The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) I was able to pre-determine where to set up to photograph the moon as it traversed above the towers that make up Cathedral Rock. As the moon rose up and to the right I moved my position to the left to keep the moon in the larger gap. The unintended consequence of this movement is that I was able to get these similar — but slightly different — images about five minutes and 50 meters apart. Putting them together side-by-side makes a good stereo pair using the cross-eyed viewing method — that is, as long as you don’t object to having two moons in the 3-D image.
The following night I set up in a different location and was able to capture the moon as it rose from behind these cliffs with this large home in the foreground.
Even though it was full almost two days ago the waning gibbous “Supermoon” (Wikipedia; NASA) was still 98% illuminated this morning. I used “The Photographers Ephemeris” to find the perfect location — as well as a backup site — to get this sequence of images. Good thing, too, since my prime location was gated and locked!
The first image shows the moon above Cathedral Rock (0554 MST) in Sedona, Arizona. It then slides down and to the right appearing again in the V-shaped notch (0604 MST) and then finally in the lowest portion of the gap (0611 MST). The sky was brightening rapidly so that in the final image the moon is almost overwhelmed by the sky.
Afterwards we hiked up the trail to the saddle in Cathedral Rock — where the moon had set less than an hour earlier.