I Wanna See You Dance Again

One of the very few annual Pontiac rituals I observe is a long rural drive during the rise of the Harvest Moon while listening to Neil Young’s classic album of the same name. This usually occurs while I’m out on the Great Plains, where finding an unobstructed horizon and a cloudless sky is a virtual certainty.

But there’s no Pontiac road trip this year, and the car will be up for sale a few weeks from now. Leading up to the moonrise of September 9, I was skeptical of my chances for a successful Harvest Moon viewing experience here in Indiana. Over the decades, I have missed out on countless celestial events due to cloudy weather in the Great Lakes region. Would my very last Pontiac/Harvest Moon pairing be ruined by a gray sky? To my great surprise, the prairie weather came to visit me for a change; the scattered high clouds that were passing by earlier in the day had cleared out as evening approached…

Just as the sun went down—about five minutes before the Moon was due to arrive—I spotted a location with a fairly clear view of the eastern sky. And as it turned out, I did not end up watching the moonrise from my home state as expected. Rolling up State Line Road, I found a narrow gravel road leading off toward the wind farm on my right, and I parked the Pontiac about 100 yards into the state of Ohio. A couple of minutes later, I had the camera and tripod set up and ready to go. At the exact time and azimuth predicted by my MoonCalc app, the big orange globe cracked the horizon…

After shooting several frames of the Moon rising over Ohio’s corn and soybean fields, it was time to put on the music and make the long, circuitous journey homeward via lightly-traveled farm roads.

While the lonely roads, the beautiful sky and the sublime soundtrack did a great job of setting the mood, the evening was also enhanced by less-obvious elements, such as the reflection of moonlight on the pearl-colored vinyl of the Pontiac’s seats and boot cover…

As always, I made sure that the drive was long enough to listen to the entire album at least once. By the time I rolled the Pontiac into the garage for the night, more high clouds had arrived from the southeast, nicely illuminated by the Moon above…

Here’s 100 seconds of video from Friday night’s drive. Yes, shooting video at night with a cell phone rarely yields great results, but at least this will give you a little taste of the ride, complete with the sound of the wind and the music…

(If the video above does not display, follow this link to YouTube.)

I don’t know where I’ll be next September, or even what I’ll be driving by then. Whatever it is and wherever I am, I’ll find some way to enjoy each year’s Harvest Moon experience.

 

One Moon Ago

Preceding yesterday’s Halloween blue moon was the Harvest Moon of October 1. This autumn’s road adventure marks the first time in the past 14 years of travel that I’ve packed only film cameras and left my DSLR at home. I have lost interest in digital photography in recent years and I find that I’m much happier when shooting film. However, DSLRs are clearly the superior choice when it comes to astrophotography; if I hope to capture the Milky Way or the northern lights, I will pack my digital Nikon.

The rise of the Harvest Moon is something I look forward to each year. As that date approaches, I tweak the Pontiac’s course to put myself in an area with good weather and an open horizon. This was my first attempt at preserving the event on color film.

(My time-lapse video of this moonrise can be viewed here.)

Crook County, Wyoming
Kodak Ektar 100 film (35mm)

Night Music

Here in the eastern US, I have never heard a coyote sing. But on my western road adventures, I’m lucky enough to hear them most evenings if I’m lodging in a rural setting. Happily, they always put on a show whenever I’m camping in the grasslands. They begin singing shortly after sundown, and the music usually surrounds me—one or more coyotes off to the left of camp, and others calling from my right. Lying alone in my tent, halfway between them, I often wonder if they’re talking about me.

So it was on that night last month when I slept in South Dakota’s Grand River National Grassland, a beautifully silent place to hike and camp. Once the coyotes began their chorus, I activated my phone’s audio recorder.

To give you something to look at while you’re listening, I’ve married the recording to this time-lapse video of the rising Harvest Moon, which I captured a few nights later in Wyoming. Note: You may want to send your dog or cat out of the room before you play this video…

Harvest Moon 2017

South Dakota never disappoints when it comes to viewing the Harvest Moon. This was the scene Thursday evening in the rangeland east of Rapid City…

While waiting for the moon to come up, I caught this beautiful sunset over the Black Hills…

2 for 1: I started my day with a bonus Harvest Moon sighting just 12 hours earlier, setting over the hills to the west of Rapid City…

I ask the moon for orchids
She said, “How ’bout a drop of blood from a rolling stone?”
She never fails to tickle my funny bone

“Burn Card”
The Barr Brothers

Prairie Moonrise

I almost never point my phone’s camera at the moon anymore because all previous attempts to capture a decent image have failed. When this scene appeared above a southeastern Alberta farm, I had to try one more time. Just love those backlit clouds.

moonrise

Eclipse of the Harvest Supermoon

Each time the Harvest Moon rises, I’m invariably viewing the spectacle while standing somewhere on the Great Plains. On the evening of September 27, 2015, I again found myself on one of my favorite dirt roads at sundown and, like many times before, I had the Big Sky and the silence all to myself…

This was going to be my first viewing of an eclipsed Harvest Moon, so I dedicated the entire evening to skywatching. The weather above this parcel of South Dakota was just perfect for the occasion, as it often seems to be in September. From this location, there was plenty to see right out of the gate, with sunset (19:19 CDT), moonrise (19:13) and the start of the penumbral eclipse (19:12) all bunched together. The fully eclipsed moon would be seen about two hours later, giving me plenty of time to enjoy the clouds and all the colors of twilight while the moon climbed higher…

See you tomorrow…

Thar she blows…

Still some lovely colors to the west…

Home on the range…

Better than a drive-in movie…

Deep into the umbra: With the moon darkened substantially, this was the first time I’ve ever captured stars and the moon in a single exposure…

The Harvest Moon this year arrives on September 16. No eclipse, but I’ll be watching anyway.