The Hunter & Mistress Moon

I’m a night owl by nature (faugh to the brazen sun, I say!) as well as a hopeless romantic, and I’ve always felt a communion with the Moon. She is decidedly female (although the ancient Celts thought the moon was masculine), and I seek her each time I’m out at night. In the wee hours from our westerly-facing apartment, in her shining fullness, she can make our rooms seem day-lit. I speak to her, calling her bella Luna, and I fancy she smiles sweetly back, watching over me as I go about my business like the benevolent mother that she is.

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July’s Buck Moon, also known as Thunder Moon (for the season of storms) and Hay or Barley Moon. f/5.6, ISO-500, 1/1250 sec. © 2016 V. Barrett

For the last few months, my camera and I happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture Luna at her most rotund. In July, when she is known in some Native American cultures as the Buck Moon (for the time of year when buck deer begin to sprout antlers), I was at the cottage where the night skies are less polluted and quite dark. My photographer-sister and I spent a while that night down at the dock, shooting the full moon. Capturing the details of a bright white disc hung against an inky background is a tricky prospect which has heretofore defeated me; my sister’s instruction on ISO, f-stops and exposure demystified the process, and I got some decent shots. It’s a miracle, actually, that either of us got any good pictures, because we and our handheld cameras were forever jigging up and down as we became an intravenous hook-up for about a billion voracious mosquitoes. (Really, they should change the name to Blood Moon, but I think that one’s already taken.) Ah, what we will sacrifice for the sake of our art!

 In August, Luna assumed another identity, the Sturgeon Moon – the time when those large fish are most abundant in the Great Lakes. (Other names: Green Corn Moon and Grain Moon.) I was at home this time but didn’t get around to taking any photos until about 6:00 a.m. the following day, when la bella luna posed for me quite happily before giving way to her consort, the Sun. With the lighter sky and less-defined contrasts, the results were a bit murky, so I didn’t include that photo here.

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Harvest Moon, September 2016. f/5.6, ISO-1250, 1/1250 sec. © 2016 V. Barrett

September brought the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox at the peak of harvest time. (Farmers often worked well into the night by its light, bringing in the ripe crops before the autumn rains.) On this night, weary of her paparazza, Luna was playing the coy mistress, hiding her nakedness and teasing me as she darted from cloud to cloud. Once I grabbed my camera and hustled onto the balcony, with barely enough time to check my settings, I only had about a minute to shoot hand-held before Luna disappeared for good. The detail you see in her portrait is the result not of skilled photography, but of a lot of coaxing via post-processing.

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Waxing crescent of 7 Oct 2016. f/5.6, ISO-1250, 1/500 sec. © 2016 V. Barrett

As payback for her pertness, I interrupted Luna in early October as she was performing a most personal chore: waxing. I think she was not amused. Once again, I had to go heavy on the cropping and editing, but the final result showed me a different face: almost skull-like, staring down with vacant, gaping black eyes. Perhaps the moon’s moodiness was an omen for the scary shenanigans coming later this month.

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The constellation Orion © 2004 Mouser / CC BY-SA 3.0

As my hunt to capture the full moon continued, I tried to photograph the so-called “Supermoon” of October 16. (This phenomenon is merely hyped-up tripe, says my ever-practical astrophysicist husband.) I got smart this time and set up a tripod in advance, zoom lens at the ready. Alas, Luna was still sulking and refused point blank to come out from behind her nebulous veil, so I missed capturing the Hunter’s Moon altogether. I did notice, however, that the constellation Orion has returned. Known variously in folklore as The Hunter (Europe), The Giant (Middle East) and The Winter Maker (Native North American), this guardian of the night sky is more constant than the ever-changing moon and is a welcome sight during the long, cold months which lie ahead.

Lunar photographs taken using a Nikon D5000 with Nikkor 70-300 mm lens.

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7 thoughts on “The Hunter & Mistress Moon

  1. Great photos! My little girl is in live with the moon and gets so excited when she sees it, especially in the day time when the skies are clear. I’ve never managed a good photo of it yet, but I use my husband’s camera and I’m still learning the basics.

    Liked by 1 person

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