Behind the Image: Crescent Moon and Tulip Poplar

"Behind the Image" is a new series of blog posts that I will use to tell the stories behind some of my favorite images. I'll write about the process and technique that was required to make each photograph, as well as the experience and a little about gear as well. Thanks for reading!

Crescent Moon and Tulip Poplar, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina - 92mm, f7.1, 0.6 sec, ISO 200

Crescent Moon and Tulip Poplar, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina - 92mm, f7.1, 0.6 sec, ISO 200

The sunsets at Price Lake are often spectacular. Colors can very widely from the previous evening. In the spring, this colorful light can be snuffed out by rain clouds. I waited a week for weather conditions to be favorable. Finally, the clouds parted. On this evening, just a couple weeks ago, I brought my wife and our dog, Jack, along to keep me company while I waited for the sun to set. We hiked around the rim of the lake and chose a spot to set up. My composition included Grandfather Mountain in the distant horizon, thick silhouetted forest in the middle ground, and the sky's vibrant hues of pink, orange, purple, and blue reflected on the calm lake surface. A few clouds provided texture and a bit more visual interest. I took a few shots at various slightly different compositions, but didn't stray much from the original. It was a textbook sunset shoot - f/11, tripod, ISO 100, cloudy white balance - easy. I was pretty happy with the shots, but those did not end up being my favorites of the evening.

Sometimes you plan a shoot around particular light and a particular subject, and then nature presents you with something else that is often more intriguing. We packed up and hit the dark trail just before last light. Before we reached the car, I noticed something. The crescent moon was aligned perfectly within an indention made by the lack of foliage in a very large tulip poplar. The sky was bold and blue and the tree was silhouetted. Wind was minimal. At the car, I switched out the full frame D600 with the wide lens for the crop sensor D7000 which had my 70-300 VR mounted on it and popped it onto my tripod. I walked back to the spot where the moon and the tree lined up just where I wanted it. I made about three exposures and a video clip. As simple as this photo is, it is probably one of my favorite exposures so far for 2016. I like simplicity. Simplicity is calming. Simplicity is nature. Simplicity is peace. Whenever I have a chance to work with such graphic and zen-like elements, I take full advantage. Three element photographs are like visual haiku. This image reminds me of one poem in particular:

if I show my tenderness of love
a tree, too, will start talking -
spring moon

- Heinosuke Gosho