22. Te Mata moonrise, Hawkes Bay

Te Mata moonrise, Hawkes Bay. 6.05pm, 22 September 2010

Blame celestial mechanics for the fact that the full moon always rises at or close to sunset, a million moony paste-ins high over well-lit landscapes to the contrary. (If I was really grumpy I’d add how quickly “moonlight fatigue” sets in when half that multitude describe their fakes as “moonlight”).

This is not moonlight; it’s a real moon photographed in dwindling daylight with an 85mm lens on a Nikon D700. Even at ISO 2000, f16 at 500th sec indicates daylight, here underexposed for effect. f16 gives good depth of focus, covering both the trees and the distant cattle. The cows were grazing the slopes of Te Mata, an outstanding rib of rock forming an interesting, driveable backdrop to Hastings and Havelock North on the plain nearby.

The evening before full moon (especially) is great for setting the rising moon against the landscape, or cumulus clouds low in the sky, because the light values of each are roughly similar. Much earlier moons get too high in the sky for this purpose, although they are still useful for reflection off bright surfaces  Conversely, a big moon rising after dark is “only” good for landscape silhouette, if the moon itself is not to be blown out entirely. But the night before full – that’s brilliant.

In composition terms the image above illustrates my developing three-punch theory. According to this, the first punch delivers the scene, the second supplies the elements which give extra character or design, while the third punch is the further detail which adds real depth or intrigue, often only apparent on closer look – in this case the miniaturised cattle.

Alas, there are thousands of one-punchers in my collection – appealing scenes that are like nice stage sets at the theatre, all awaiting further “action”. I have so often forgotten to find a second punch for them. And the third punch is even harder to deliver.