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A Photographer on Capturing the Moon in Its Full Beauty

Learning to capture great photos of the full moon has been a joyful journey for this Alberta photographer.

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Moon shots Photo: Lynn Mabley

Finding the beauty in all phases

Some people feel anxious or restless during a full moon. I, on the other hand, find a calmness about it. I’ll stay up late into the night with my tripod and camera set to capture its craters and mysterious bright rays of light. I rise again early in the morning to capture the setting of the huge moon. Over time, during the period between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., I’ve taken numerous pictures of the moon rising, cresting and setting—all phases have a beauty of their own.

Every month, during the full moon, I check the forecast in hopes of clear skies so I can capture both its brightness against the darkness of the night, as well as the beauty of its descent upon, and eventually behind, the mountains.

It all begins with the rising of the moon behind my house. A treed area backs onto the east side of our property and provides a curtain for the rising of the full moon. As soon as I see its brightness shining through the trees, I bundle up accordingly, step outside and set up the tripod and camera.

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Moon shotsPhoto: Lynn Mabley

When the skies clear

In fall, when the trees are bare, an entirely new canvas for the rising moon is created. I’ve taken some great pictures giving the illusion that the branches are helping the moon—poking it or delicately hugging it as it rises.

I wait for the moon to clear the treetops before capturing its brightness against the dark skies. Last year, I challenged myself to photograph every full moon of the year. Much of the challenge was truly up to Mother Nature to ensure the skies were clear enough each month, at the right time, for me to get a clear shot. Well, together we accomplished it. Although to most they all look the same, to me, each month’s moon is as different as their names. There was April’s full Pink Moon, for example, which looked white, and June’s full Strawberry Moon, which was yellow—ironically neither was the colour of their given names.

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Moon shotsPhoto: Lynn Mabley

Early morning rise

At times, when the skies aren’t clear, you have to work with the clouds or wait for some kind of clearing. These conditions help create an eerie-looking moon. Last November, I captured the full Beaver Moon as it rose behind the trees while the clouds created a colourful opening for it, similar to a lampshade. Then in the morning, as I tried again, I still had to work with the clouds and ended up with an amazing shot of a cyclone-type cloud holding the moon as it softly coloured the cloud’s edges.

My favourite time to photograph the full moon is when it begins setting above the mountain in the early morning hours. Before going to bed the night of the full moon, I check a special app for its trajectory and setting time. I then set the alarm clock to get up early enough to have coffee and decide where the best spot is to set up the tripod, which usually still has my camera attached from the night before.

I awake to my alarm after a late night with the full moon and quickly check the weather conditions outside. If the weather cooperates, then I begin the morning photoshoot of the full moon as it descends behind the mountains. Every month I hope for a better picture than the previous one. Each month it sets in a different location on the mountain—I’ve been blessed in that I’ve been able to take them all from the comfort of my yard.

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Moon shotsPhoto: Lynn Mabley

Until it disappears

On March 31, 2018, I was capturing the Blue Moon setting above the early morning pink mountains, when a few ravens began flying through my frame. I quickly switched my camera setting to sports mode and continuously took pictures of the scene as they flew across the moon. I couldn’t wait to see the images I’d obtained—beautiful!

Once the moon appears to almost land on the mountains, I begin clicking away until it disappears behind them. During the full Worm Moon of March 2019, I even captured it as it appeared to roll on the hill. The next day, the moon’s trajectory changed so much I was able to capture that same full moon on the mountain top.

After a photoshoot, I spend the rest of the morning reliving the full moon’s presence as I scroll through my hundreds of pictures. The difficult part is deciding which ones to keep! It takes a while, but it’s time well spent. I look forward to continuing my quest to try and capture the best photo yet of the moon!

Next, check out the best places for stargazing across Canada.

Originally Published in Our Canada