Harvest Moon in the Window
The Harvest Moon peaks through a natural window in sandstone towers at sunset. The layers of colors in the sandstone compliment the colorful layers of the Northern New Mexico sky at sunset. This image is real, as I saw it with the moon rising in this notch. It is not faked or a composite, it is the result of careful planning.
The Story Behind the Photo
For many years I had wanted to capture the full moon rising in this notch formed by sandstone towers in Northern New Mexico. After some measurements in the field I was ready to give it a try. Calculating the exact time and place to see the moon was tricky since the notch is so narrow. Read More
As I hiked into the location to make the photograph the sunset began to light up the landscape with phenomenally warm hues. For those that have never experienced New Mexico in person it is sometimes hard to believe the colorful sky here and how it’s glow illuminates the land.
Looking through my viewfinder while adjusting my tripod an interesting “mirroring” occurred. The layers of color of the rock started to mirror the same colors in the sky. This composition was a gift that I am grateful for.
Pastel colors of the land and sky welcomed the bright appearance of the Harvest Moon as she peered through the notch, moving quietly and quickly across this natural window.
This experience was very moving for me. Seeing the colors of the land light up in concert with the sunset sky, followed by a crisp and bright moon shining down on me.
As I packed up my gear and hiked out I mumbled what words I could remember from Neil Young’s song “Harvest Moon“.
But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.
— from “Harvest Moon“, Neil Young
Although there was a chill in the fall air I kept my windows down as I winded down the mountain roads back home — I wanted to feel the night.
The video link to Neil Young playing Harvest Moon was filmed very close to where I grew up in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California. The Mountain House Restaurant and Bar in the video, is located on Skyline Boulevard where I would stop to fuel up on bike rides. In the video the significance of the matchbook with “Alex’s” is that it was another restaurant located on top of Woodside Rd where it met Skyline Boulevard. That is the restaurant where Neil Young met his wife Peggy. I believe that Alex’s turned into Alice’s Restaurant, named after the famous Arlo Guthrie song.
That night as I photographed the Harvest Moon it reminded me of looking out a natural window in the landscape at the Moon peaking in at me.
The Harvest Moon
What is so special about the “Harvest Moon” ?
The Harvest Moon is defined to be the Full Moon closest to the Fall (Autumnal) Equinox. It usually occurs in the month of September, however some years the Harvest Moon occurs in October. During this time of year the plane of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is at a shallower angle with the horizon on Earth as compared to spring time.Read More
In the days before tractors and lights this was a perfect time to harvest crops. As daylight faded at sunset the moon would soon rise and help light the fields throughout the night. The light from the Harvest Moon helped the farmers pick their crops at night.
During Harvest Moon time:
- The time between successive moonrises is short (~ 30 minutes compared to 50 minutes)
- Some light is always present since the time between sunset and moonrise is short — no full darkness.
- The angle of the moon’s orbit is closer to the horizon
- In the days before tractors and artificial lights the Harvest Moon allowed for farmers to remain in the fields working after sunset when Harvest Moon was rising in the east just as the sun set in the west.
The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is tilted 5 degrees to the Plane of the Ecliptic (the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun). In the Northern Hemisphere, when the ecliptic intersects with equatorial plane, the Fall Equinox, the Moon’s orbit is at a lower angle to the horizon — the time of the Harvest Moon.
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“Harvest Moon in the Window”