This is a story about a man and a moon…
For whatever celestial reason, the moon has been in the news this year. A few months back, the super moons were out in full force, but all this meant was that the moon was closer to Earth than normal, making it appear larger. We live in an age where movies can make people look as if they can fly, so an extra-large moon wasn’t all that exciting. Had the super moon affected the gravitational pull in some sort of super manner that caused mailboxes to suddenly get sucked out of the ground and fly into space, people might have gone outside to have a look, but a slightly larger moon? Meh.
This time of the year boasts a spate of normal sized moons that have interesting pseudonyms. There’s the harvest moon, made famous in a 1931 song by Ruth Etting, the hunter’s moon, the beaver moon, and we recently had the blood moon, which is not to be confused with a blue moon, which isn’t really blue. There are others, but let’s talk about the blood moon and what occurred during the early hours of October 8th, 2014.
The blood moon probably got its name from somebody who looked up at the moon, saw that it was deep orange and thought, “Hey, that looks like a blood orange. I’m gonna call that a blood moon because lunar eclipse sounds like a Mitsubishi sports car.” Somehow the media grabbed onto the term and it stuck, kind of how the tic-tac-toe sign is now called a hashtag.
The blood moon is simply a lunar eclipse, which is what happens when the moon passes into the shadow of the Earth. This happens when the sun, Earth and moon are directly in line with each other, just as they taught us in sixth grade science class. The moon reflects the light from the sun and eclipsed moons are red because the atmosphere scatters blue light more than red light and at sunset, there is a lot of atmosphere along the edges for the sunlight to go through, so what’s left after this atmospheric filtering is red. I’m sure there’s a better explanation that includes tetrads, umbras and penumbras or possibly Tetris umbrellas but here’s the bottom line: Red moon pretty. Must get up early to look at it.
So I did.
Back in the day, I got up for work between 5:00 and 5:30, which was difficult if it was still dark outside. I’m biologically geared to fall asleep about three hours after the sun sets and I wake up immediately when the sun rises so as the days get shorter, I start to sleep longer. Getting up in the dark is never fun and setting the alarm for 5:00 just doesn’t happen these days unless there’s a jet idling in the driveway to take me on vacation.
In this case, I wanted to see the lunar eclipse and take some pictures, so before I went to bed, I screwed the long lens on my camera, put the camera on the tripod, and adjusted the f/stops and whatnots. I wanted to see the lunar eclipse, and taking pictures of it was more for the challenge than any need to have pictures of the moon. What was I going to do with pictures of the moon? Beats me. I was sure National Geographic was going to be all over this with more skill and a better camera than I have, but it gave me a twofold excuse to leave a warm bed to see something unique, hours before dawn even thought about cracking.
It was raining when I went to bed, so when I got up at 5:00, the dog and I went out to the side yard to see what was going on. The sky was perfectly clear. While Milo was peeing, I looked upwards and hanging between the pine branches, clear as a bell and surrounded by stars, was a bright white and very full moon.
“Huh. Look at that. No red,” I said to Milo, who would only care about the moon if it were draped in bacon. “I’m heading back to bed. You in?”
On the way to the bedroom, I reset the alarm on my phone to 5:45 and while I couldn’t fall back to sleep, Milo flopped down hard and was snoring within seconds.
I got up a few minutes before the alarm and walked out the front door, and from the driveway I could see that the moon was almost completely red with just a sliver of white. I went back inside, swapped my slippers for a pair of black loafers that were in the hallway, closed the door, and went back into the dark, wearing seersucker pajama pants and a hooded sweatshirt—only this time, I was carrying my camera gear.
I set up past the pine trees near the unlighted road and snapped off a few test shots. It was hard to tell how they turned out by looking at the tiny view screen, so I bracketed different exposures and ISO’s, snapped a bunch more, and then went back up to the house only to find that the front door was locked. We have a deadbolt lock and while the handle knob wanted to let me in, the deadbolt wasn’t budging.
“What the…” I said. I was still a little groggy, so I tried again. Nothing. “What manner of sorcery locked this door?” I said out loud, because I often talk to myself in Elizabethan English. I walked around the house to the side door, but that was also locked.
“Well, ‘tis a churlish and dismal event fit for a fustilarian,” I said. Worse still was that the grass was damp and I wasn’t wearing socks and my ankles and PJ bottoms were getting wet and cold. Also, anyone who happened to look out their windows would have seen a shadowy figure scuffing around the house in the dark wearing a hooded sweatshirt while carrying a camera on a tripod over their shoulder. That couldn’t possibly look legal.
We keep a house key stashed under a rock in the yard, so I found that and let myself back in, and then did the math on what probably happened. Mrs. G. must have let Milo out and when he came back in, she flipped the deadbolt knob out of habit and went back to bed. My not being in bed never entered into her muzzy equation and I’m sure Milo made his head right at home on my pillow.
I went inside and downloaded the pictures, ditched the blurry flops and then went back outside. The sun was just starting to come up so the black sky had turned to Egyptian blue, or what might also be called a deep, pretty blue that goes well with a pretty rust colored moon. I took exactly two pictures of the full eclipse. After almost two hours of moon watching, I saw what I set out to see, so it was time to call it a morning and yes—I still had the house key in my pocket, just in case.
I have to say that the entire experience was fun, even the part about being locked out of my own house. I took about fifty pictures and kept three, which is about par for my level of photographic skill. I posted them on Facebook and Instagram, which is what people do with pictures these days, but more importantly than that, this experience made me realize something I had forgotten: that the early, dark part of the day, the part that most of us sleep straight through, is often the most interesting. Also, stash a spare key someplace because you never know when your spouse is going to lock you out of the house.