Harvest Moon rising
By Toby Melville
“Moon, Daddy!” exclaimed my two year old daughter excitedly from the rear seat as I drove her back home from a day with the childminder. “Where’s the moon?” I inquired as I concentrated on navigating through the evening rush hour on the busy roads of west London. “Over there: moon!” she repeated.
I knew it was a full and so-called Harvest Moon that night. I had a 500mm lens and decent enough 2 x converter in the trunk of the car as the every-ready back up emergency news set up. But the afternoon had been grotty and drizzly so not for the first time I had pretty much abandoned ideas for ‘full moon’ shots for another month.
But she was right: as I sat at the traffic lights in an interminable line, I could just catch a glimpse of the huge glowing orb peeping between clouds and houses. So, now the dilemma again of plenty a photographer when features and news just don’t happen between pre-determined working hours or ‘on-shift’. Continue home and then do the cherished fun evening routine of bedtime stories for Junior, followed by wee glass of wine and dinner? Or go moon chasing?
This time the picture hunt won. Mom was already home, and happy to do the bed routine for our daughter. I promised not to be long (heard that one before!), dropped off Little One, turned the car around, nipped down a couple of well used short cuts, all the while seeing the moon rising higher, darting between clouds and the wonderful dusk blue starting to turn blacker with the moon growing brighter and brighter. The race was on, and opportunities were fading fast! Plane lights flickered as they came into land ever nearer to the moon’s path as I drove away from home, close to Heathrow airport, one of the world’s busiest.
I hadn’t enough time to go to any of the buildings that might work well with the moon rising behind as it was already too high, and I wasn’t close enough to get to the right areas of London. So planes it was.
I raced up and down a road that intersected the landing path of the northern flight landing runway for aircraft coming in from an easterly direction, and then bingo, after about 15 minutes I saw the spot: between two large retail park buildings and just through a gap in the trees that were dotted along the pavement, there shone the moon in the dark sky with incoming planes coming right up through the middle of it.
DSLR and effectively 1000mm lens over shoulder plus monopod, I raced up and down the busy roadside edge to try and recapture the moment I had just seen out of the car window: the moon was scooting up across the sky darn fast. As I perched my camera and lens on the edge of the pavement, one then two then maybe five in total planes came silhouetted through the moon over a ten minute period or so. Bored, tired drivers briefly looked interested as they wondered what this loon with a huge piece of metal and glass was doing running up and down beside them as they sat in the main road gridlock. Could there really be a celebrity standing on the roof of a Homebase DIY store?
Another 10 minutes and I was back home. The lights were out upstairs but as I tried to quietly sneak up past my daughter’s bedroom to grab the laptop and edit the frames as quickly as possible, an inquisitive little voice piped up: “See moon, Daddy?”. “Yes darling,” I replied. “Night night, it’s sleepy time”. Half an hour of gentle negotiating ensued to get her back to sleep whilst I edited on the stairs landing outside, a glass of red wine helping (or maybe hindering) the editing process. Maybe she’ll be a pilot one day, or an astronaut, or maybe just dream of those things.