136. Crescent moon signature, Port Taranaki

Crescent moon signature, Port Taranaki. 8.56 pm, 9 May 2011

The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise. –  Tacitus

You do not have the whole evening to shoot the crescent moon – it retires early. While it’s going, though, the crescent obliges the moonlight photographer on western coasts with some great reflections. The actual light from a crescent appears to be the feeblest shimmy, barely causing a shadow, yet its pictorial effects over water can be demonstrated with a shutter of just 2 seconds.

In view here is the north side of the harbour, bounded by the Lee Breakwater; soundtrack would include the occasional ruckus of roosting penguins under the sea wall from which this was taken. The Incandescent light balance (tungsten) was selected because of the bright bounce off the boats of onshore lighting; tungsten gives a convincing portrayal of night in terms of human emotion, yet it is technically off-beam.

The square format suits the subject matter but in cropping the original rectangle I’ve also eliminated a slight flare from the brilliant port lights, on the left side of the frame. A short shutter was required to have the boats sharp, as their slow motion even in harbour is soon apparent on longer shots. The added benefit of this is sharpness in the stars – on short telephotos the movement of the stars is slight but visible at 8 seconds.

The quote seemed to fit this image of safely moored vessels, on a coast devoid of natural harbours, yet boats are of course designed to ride the swells. The point is, nothing much is achieved in the shelter of a harbour, apart from preparation for the next trip away! We must venture out…

The image succeeds by its moody blues and the close match of light levels, moonlight with onshore lights. When shooting within city precincts this balancing of light sources is a good starting point for your night photography.

85mm, ISO 2000. 2 seconds at f4. Vivid picture control