It’s there, I tells ya!

Doing my check with the ol’ Stellarium, I found that I would have another opportunity for a particular accomplishment this morning right before sunrise, so I set the alarm and made off while skies were still dark (well, as dark as they get around here, which doesn’t count as significantly dark at all,) to be on site when it happened.

“What’s that?” you ask in that long-suffering way, rolling your eyes and wondering if I can get to the point within another paragraph, or whether I’m going to keep padding out a post like a goddamn high-school essay, and you should know better by now, because I enjoy the little clicks that the keyboard keys make, so no, we’re going into another paragraph after all, even if it is only the next sentence.

The crescent moonrise, I say with some surprise, wondering why you’re not aware of this. It’s not like it’s hard to keep track of. This morning, the moon would rise only a short period before the sun, and in that time, it would be a remarkably thin crescent – 0.9% illuminated, actually. That would be the smallest that I’ve captured, if I was successful. So was I successful?


pre-sunrise sky showing no hint of crescent moon at all
Timing is right, direction is right, so the ultra thin moon is in there somewhere, but as you can see from the conditions, humidity and the thin clouds on the horizon (actually, throughout most of the sky) were conspiring to keep it from me – and everyone else in the region, too, though shockingly, I was the only one sitting there on the side of the interstate looking out over the lake at the time, so I guess something important was going on elsewhere. The reason I was out on the interstate by the lake (Falls Lake this time,) was that I needed a view as low as possible, shielded by as few trees as I could manage, and this particular spot offered 3.5 kilometers (I know – I checked) before something rising above the water would block the view, so, pretty low. About the best I’m going to get without a mountaintop or an ocean, really, and they’re both 200 kilometers or more away.

[A brief note here: I was using my smutphone for orientation, instead of a proper mapping compass, and I’m going to stop doing that. My previous cheapass little ZTE phone wasn’t too bad at orientation, but my now still-cheapass Samsung sucks remarkably at it. Holding perfectly still, you can watch the directions change by as much as eight degrees or so, which is no help at all when you have to be precise with high magnification. People enthuse about how much their smutphones can do, but if it can only do any of them halfass, why bother?]

Even if it had been perfectly clear, I doubt I would have seen anything, between how bright the sky was getting and the seeing conditions, which are illustrated by this cropped detail of a cellphone tower beyond the lake’s edge.

atmospheric distortion on distant cell tower
I even did a brief video clip, which I’m not going to bother putting up here (it’s but a few seconds long,) that shows the rippling of a plane contrail that I could even see in the viewfinder. This was likely from residual heat rising from the lake after the air cooled at night, meaning the lake wasn’t the ideal spot for this, or at least not when the temperature drops.

Despite the lack of moon, the sky was becoming pretty photogenic – there were some nice deep pinks and reds developing closer to where the sun would break the horizon, and I figured I could get something out of the efforts.

A flock of seagulls, the not-famous kind, against the predawn red sky
My location was far from ideal, however: cell and high-tension towers, power lines, and just plain ol’ trees were getting into every vantage (all you people insisting on your 5G coverage to stream shitass movies on your phones have really screwed things up for nature photographers – you know that, right?) But not far away, almost within sight, was a boat ramp with a much better vantage, in fact the one that I used for my first Leonids attempt this year. Getting to it, however, was another matter, given my position alongside a very-busy interstate. I had to go up to the next exit, turn around, head back down past where I’d been to another exit, and then down a couple of klicks to the ramp entrance, all because the car had wheels and not hoverjets or something useful like that (in 2021!) Naturally, by the time I did all this, the brilliant reddish tones had all vanished from the sky, leaving mostly yellow. I’ll keep saying it: be on site before sunrise/set if that’s what you’re after, because seeing the colors and then deciding to find a good spot to use them will usually be too late – they change very rapidly. This isn’t a case of, “Not as I do,” because I was on site – just not with the intention of sunrise itself. So there.

streaky predawn sky with flocks of birds over lake
The colors really weren’t bad, they just weren’t as good as they’d been 20 minutes earlier, but I still snagged a few frames. and yes, that’s the same cell tower down there, only from a slightly different angle and at 18mm full-frame instead of 600 and cropped. With the rising light, the birds were getting active, and flocks of them were visible in all directions – mostly seagulls and cormorants it appeared, none of them venturing very close, and the one heron that I heard stayed right at the shadow line above the water, indistinct, and never came out to make a focal point.

no-longer-floating dock on Falls Lake, NC
I didn’t spot any eagles, either, and while I’ve been seeing them routinely on Jordan Lake, not that far away, I can’t imagine they’d avoid this one, so I’m only putting it down to luck this time. The patches of blue made nice enough accents, but you can see the lake level is significantly down, since that’s supposed to be a floating dock – I wouldn’t recommend jumping off the end of that unless you’re an Atlantic City high-dive actor that can handle only half-a-meter of water at best. I also wouldn’t recommend it due to the temperature, but some people are into that kind of thing.

Anyway, not through lack of trying, but still in search of better photo subjects. Or nonsense – I’m not averse to posting nonsense.