2018 Red Tide

It seems like every five years or so there’s a really strong red tide here in San Diego that is made up of the dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedra, which causes nasty low-visibility reddish water during daylight… but the most amazing neon blue glow at night! A good red tide is spectacular underwater (turn off all your lights, wave your hands around, and watch the water sparkle!) and a lot of fun above water also–find a dark part of town and just watch the waves break. I haven’t yet figured out how to photograph the red tide below water, but you can get some pretty cool & abstract shots above water.

Here are my favorites from tonight’s outing. I may add more or swap in others as the red tide continues.

My favorite moment of the night came at the end, after a particular car had been parked with its headlights shining out onto the ocean for at least 20 minutes–ruining the chance for anyone near him to see the amazing display. I stopped off & tried to contain my annoyance and just let the guy know that there was something great going on and his headlights made it impossible to see it… and he’d probably enjoy it, too, if he turned his headlights off. The guy completely flipped out after he turned off his headlights… he seemed to think that it was one of the most amazing things he’d ever seen… and he’d completely missed it for the first 20 minutes… right there in front of him!

The last couple images have some mixed colors–with reds mixed in with the neon blues.  I don’t know if that’s real and/or because of the very high ISO that I tried out at the end and/or because of the guy’s headlights off at the distant right side of the frame.

View large & enjoy the details!  SCROLL DOWN (there are images below!)

See also:  2011 Red Tide photos

The dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedra causes breaking waves to glow bright blue at night off the coast of San Diego, California, USA.

Super Blue Blood Moon

The Super Blue Blood Moon total lunar eclipse of January 2018 from the West Coast of the United States — have you ever seen more hype or adjectives applied to the poor old moon??

“Super moons” aren’t a whole lot more than a media thing. The moon is very slightly closer to the Earth, but not so as to make it appear huge. If you see a “super moon” photo where the moon just looks massive, someone has faked the shot! Blue moons aren’t a physical thing–nothing is different about the moon on a blue moon. Blood moons… now there’s the fun! Blood moons occur on total lunar eclipses, when the moon looks quite red during totality. A blood moon I can get excited about!

This is the fifth total lunar eclipse that I’ve photographed. It’s fun to watch the moon disappear, and visually it’s quite nice during totality–with the red color. I’ve shot lunar eclipse time series. I’ve shot lunar eclipses with a whole lot of glass, so the moon is huge in the photo.

The total lunar eclipse of April 2014, shot with 1,000mm of lens

I’ve also done a fair amount of full moon photos. Perhaps my favorite full moon photo of mine is the shot I got about five years ago of the full moon setting behind the Mount Soledad Cross in La Jolla. That shot was very difficult to get and was shot from a LONG way away with 900mmm of glass. To get the moon so big in a shot, you need a lot of lens.

The full, blue moon sets at sunrise behind the Mount Soledad Cross in La Jolla, California.

So as we approached this Super Blue Blood Moon, the thing on my mind was: can I get the moon behind the Mount Soledad Cross during the total solar eclipse? A lot of research and scouting the ground later, my answer was “no, I could not.” At least not from such a great distance that I could use 1,000mm of lens and make the moon huge. However, I did think that if I went down into the canyon behind Mount Soledad, I could probably get the angle about right to put the moon near the cross when it was low-ish in the sky in the middle of totality… with about 400mm of lens. So not a huge moon, but not too small!

Fast forward to the morning of January 31st. Up at 3:30 AM and over to Mount Soledad. I pull up in the early early dark… and there are dozens of cars already there! Oh, no!!! I had told no one about my plans, except one person that I trust and him just late the night before. Had someone arranged one of those annoying photography workshops?? I gathered my gear and walked in to the cross. It was a lovely morning and the crowd was in a great mood. Sounded more like a party. In perhaps the single most important rule of photography, that you never know until you get there, I kept going past the cross and down into the canyon… and there was NO ONE else there! Happy happy, joy joy. I had the place to myself until well past the when the moon was at the right elevation for the shot down there, when a second guy showed up. He had shot down at Balboa Park for the start of the eclipse and then rushed up to Mount Soledad to try to get a second shooting location in. He didn’t make it, but was nice to talk to for a bit.

The only real bummer was that the cross was not evenly lit. When I first arrived, there were no lights on it. Didn’t it used to be lit at night? But then a floodlight from the lower left was turned on, causing strange diagonal lighting throughout all of totality when the moon was low enough to get near the cross itself. Here is one of my early favorites:

A total lunar eclipse behind the Mount Soledad Cross in La Jolla, California, USA. “Super Blue Blood Moon” of January 31, 2018.

Finally, as I climbed back up out of the canyon, the sky started to lighten during what’s called “blue hour” (which really is only about five minutes!) just as I rejoined the party near the cross, so I stopped to grab a shot there as well:

A crowed gathers at the Mount Soledad Cross in La Jolla, California, to watch the “Super Blue Blood Moon” total lunar eclipse set. January 31, 2018

Merry Christmas… and 2017 in review!

Many photographers publish a year-end “Best of” set of 10, sometimes 15 photos… a skill which I seem to have decidedly not mastered!  Most years, I look back over my photos and either hate everything or simply cannot whittle it down to 10.  I like different photos for different reasons, and sometimes like a photo because it’s arguably just a really good photo, but other times because it reminds me of a place or time.

Below are my favorites from 2017.  As you’ll see, I didn’t manage to reduce it to just 10!  It makes me sad that there are no underwater photos from this year, but it was a year of fairly bad ocean conditions early on, hand surgery, shoulder injury, and often simply too much going on.  I am, however, gearing up to get back in the water, so hopefully you’ll see underwater photos again next year!

My trips this year were limited:  three quick, weekend trips early in the year for an absolutely stunning wildflower bloom; one run up to Yosemite during back-to-back snowstorms; Wyoming in the summer for the total solar eclipse; and fall colors trips to the Eastern Sierra and Zion.  Stay tuned to see what 2018 has in store!

If I had to pick a single photo as most iconic for the year, it would be the shot just below–of the “diamond ring” formation just as the total solar eclipse of this past August ended.  Did a whole lot of people in the United States get this shot?  Yes.  But this is MY shot.  A shot that took a whole lot of planning, preparation, effort… and no small amount of worry!  Would the sky be clear in Jackson, Wyoming, during the eclipse?  Would the park be so overrun with tourists that we’d get stuck in gridlock and not be able to get to the centerline of the eclipse?  Because we had not managed to get hotel rooms for the actual couple days around the eclipse–even though we made our reservations 6-7 months before the eclipse!–would we manage to get a campsite after we had to leave the lodge?  In the end, it all worked out and it was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

Other than the first and last photos, the below are in no particular order.

The “diamond ring” just at the end of totality during the Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017, as seen from Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming.

The Milky Way over Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

El Capitan peeks out through falling snow. Yosemite National Park, California.

Kayakers at Oxbow Bend in the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Wildflowers at sunset in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Fall color in Surveyor’s Meadow along Bishop Creek in the Eastern Sierra, California.

Beaver den near Schwabacher Landing in Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming.

One of two cubs of Grizzly Bear 399 in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Mixed wildflowers cover a hillside in Southern California.

Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California.

Sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park during wildflower season. California.

A surfer does a flip off the backside of a large wave at La Jolla Shores. La Jolla, California.

The Big Dipper watches over a field of wildflowers at night in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

California poppies overlook a lake in Southern California.

Rain approaches surfers off La Jolla Shores, California.

Flooded field and trees during a heavy snowstorm. Yosemite National Park, California.

Dead tree and reflections in a beaver pond in front of the Teton Mountains; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Reflections of yellow aspens in fall in the Eastern Sierra, California.

Blend of ten exposures of the sun’s corona and prominences during the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Reflections in a pond. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Yellow Tickseed in the central valley of Carrizo Plain National Monument, California.

Reeds and their reflections in a beaver pond. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Marsh and ducks at the edge of Gull Lake on June Lake Loop in the Eastern Sierra, California.

Reflections in the fishing pond near Aspendell, California.

A coyote looks back at the photographer, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Endless yellow wildflowers–looking down towards Soda Lake in the valley of Carrizo Plain National Monument from high in the Temblor Mountains.

The Teton Mountains as seen from a beaver pond at Schwabacher’s Landing in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

An artist’s palette of wildflowers. Temblor Mountains, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California.

Hillside Daisies at sunrise after an overnight frost in Carrizo Plain National Monument, California.

Two bald eagles soar over the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Merry Christmas from the Moore family!

Night Photography Catch Up

Life has been far too busy the last couple years and I haven’t kept up with posting photos from all of my trips.  Now, as I’m planning for a couple photography trips this summer and thinking about the night shots that I’m going to try to get, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my favorite night shots from the past couple years.

First up is Delicate Arch in Arches National Park with stars behind.  Delicate Arch is an interesting place to shoot at night.  It’s a considerable hike in and back out, and getting your tripod set up for the “money shot” below the arch requires a willingness to walk down a slope just above a plummeting-to-your-death drop-off that’s mildly sketchy during the day and a whole lot more sketchy at night!  This particular shoot was a lesson in being less polite.  That night, another photographer had set up several cameras to shoot time lapses and I was being far more concerned about my impact on his shots than he was being about his impact on my shots… and when I was able to process my shots afterwards, I hadn’t really dialed things in as well as I needed to and ultimately didn’t get the shots that I wanted.  So one of these days I’ll have to go back and try again!


False Kiva in Utah.  I’d had a night shot at False Kiva on my wish list for some time.  Something about the place just spoke to me.  The shoot, however, was way on the outer edges of my comfort zone.  It involves a one-hour drive from the nearest town, followed by a one-hour hike from your car, then a primitive path halfway up a sheer cliff to a cave, then spending the night alone in that cave in the midst of Native American ruins.  More brave people than I might leave the cave and hike back out in the middle of the night, once they’ve gotten the shot, but you may notice a theme that I’m not really in favor of plummeting to my death in the middle of the night when out solo hiking in wild places.  I did try to sleep a little in the cave while waiting on my shot, but hadn’t hiked in a cot, the ground was pretty dusty with rodents skittering, and the one big flat rock that I tried out was a bit closer to the cliff edge that really seemed wise for sleeping.  It was, however, a great experience and I had a lot of fun experimenting with different ways to light the cave and kiva.


The Virgin River and The Watchman from Zion National Park.  Several attempts shown here, from a couple trips.  Night photography has gotten a lot more popular.  My first try at this shot I had the place to myself and very few people had taken this shot.  By my more recent attempts, there was a small gaggle of photographers (I think entirely photography guide and client pairs except for me) on the bridge in the middle of the night and the shot has become more common.  This is a theme; it gets harder and harder to find new & unique shots!

The classic view of The Watchman from the Canyon Junction Bridge in Zion National Park, where every sunset the bridge is lined with photographers. This photo was taken three hours after all the photographers left.


Looking down the Virgin River in Zion National Park towards The Watchman, lit by the lights of Springdale, Utah, under the night sky.


The Virgin River runs down past The Watchman rock formation under a night sky at blue hour. Zion National Park, Utah.


Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.  Funny story to this shot.  Old Faithful erupts roughly every 90 minutes.  I wanted full dark, Milky Way arching a bit to the left, and not too many people still out and about–so I chose an eruption somewhere around 11 PM to midnight to head out and attempt the shot.  Perfect night, Milky Way in great position.  Did a couple test shots before the eruption and all looked good.  Eruption started and I triggered my shot.  30 second exposure.  20-25 seconds into my exposure and some nitwit off to the right turns on an absolute canon of a light and paints the eruption.  My shot is completely blown out and no way did this bozo get a shot either.  If s/he had a long exposure, the shot was blown out.  If a short exposure, the stars wouldn’t show.  With much grumbling I headed in to the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn to wait another 90 minutes and try the shot again.  By that time is would be closer to 1 AM and I would be out there all by myself.  Talked with the staff in the Inn and asked if there were ever bears out by the geysers in the middle of the night?  “You should see the security footage from a couple nights ago of a grizzly chasing a bison down the boardwalk by Old Faithful,” they said.  “Here, you should take this bear spray with you,” they said.  No bears, no nitwits with light bazookas for attempt #2.

Old Faithful Geyser erupting at night. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.


Self-portrait of the photographer light-painting Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park at night.  Walking down into the amphitheater at Bryce by yourself at night?  Sketchy!


Silent City at Bryce at night.

Bryce Canyon hoodoos in the Silent City at night with the Milky Way arcing above. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA.


Two shots at Owachomo Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah.  First is your classic light-painting shot, second is winning the meteor lottery!  On this particular night, there ended up being four of us shooting at Owachomo Bridge–photographer Chris Eaton, two girls whose names I didn’t get and who were having a lot of fun, and myself.  I didn’t realize it, but it turned out to be one of the nights of the peak of the Aquariid Meteor Shower.  As the night progressed, there were more and more meteors streaking across the sky–but invariably not in camera frame, or when no one was taking a shot, of big beautiful streaks… behind us!  Several hours of “did you get it?”  “nope!” yelled between the four of us in the dark.  Finally, a huge meteor streaked straight through the middle of the bridge and exploded in a visual and sound punch that all of us could feel.  Chris and I both started screaming–we’d had our shutters open!!!!  The effect of the meteor in person was much, much more than it appears in the shot.  We could feel the explosion.

The Milky Way behind Owachomo Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument. Utah, USA.


An Aquariid meteor explodes below Mars after streaking across the Milky Way on a clear, dark night in Utah.