November 2, 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the making of Drakes Moonrise, my most collected and published photograph. I was fortunate to be on the beach that day when a setting sun, a rising moon and receding tide combined to create a lifetime photo opportunity. In this post, to celebrate the anniversary, I’ll share the story about the making of Drakes Moonrise.
In 1989 I saw a color photograph of the full moon rising over the sandstone cliffs at Drakes Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The composition was striking. Although I liked the photograph, I thought it would’ve been better in black and white. So inspired, I decided to see if I could capture my own moonrise at Drakes Beach using traditional black and white film.
The bearing of the moonrise varies throughout the year. I used astronomical tables and detailed maps to predict a date favorable for a moonrise over the white cliffs at Drakes Beach. My first opportunity was on November 1st, 1990. I got there early with compass in hand. Unfortunately the landscape was flooded with sunlight and the moon was too high and too pale in the sky above the cliffs. I was a day early. I had been down this road before and knew I would need to try again the next day. (I wrote about that previous experience in the making of Mount Vision Moonrise. Things had turned out very well that time, so I was hopeful that I would be lucky again as I planned my return for the next evening.)
A Fortunate Moment
When I arrived the next day, the sun was lighting up the beach and the sandstone cliffs. The moon had not yet risen. Soon enough, though, the ghostly sphere made it’s appearance, gradually separating itself from the horizon line formed by the grassy bluff below it. The moon brightened as it slowly rose. The sun set, darkening the beach, creating a lovely contrast between the beach sands and the bluffs. Gradually, the shadow began rising up the cliff. As the moon rose slightly above the cliff, the sun’s last light glowed on the grassy hill below. This fortunate combination of sunlight, shadow and moon glow created the perfect moment for the photograph. This light lasted for just a minute – then the sun set, plunging the cliff and hillside into a darkening shadow.
Drakes Moonrise, in collections throughout the world, is available in a number of sizes and presentations. The following links will bring you to respective pages for secure online ordering at my website:
Archival Prints & Matted/Framed Gift and Numbered Editions (Contact me for prints larger than 16×20)
West Marin Moons Boxed Notecard Sets (includes Drakes Moonrise notecard along with 4 other moonrise cards)
Signed books: Point Reyes 20 Years (Photo and text) Both the standard version and the collector’s edition are nearly sold out.
West Marin Moons Print Folio (Drakes Moonrise collector’s print along with seven other moonrise prints)