Beaver Moon

Last month’s full moon was the Beaver Moon (also called the Frosty Moon) and I was unfortunately on the road and unable to seek out photographs of the full moon here in lovely Maine. I did create two photographs I quite like from a few nights before the Beaver Moon as the moon was waxing. Those two images are below, along with one other – a photograph I made of the actual full moon from my hotel room in Austin, Texas. You can find the entirety of my Adventures in Celestial Mechanics project on my website. By the way, the second photo is incredibly sensitive to monitor settings – on one of my monitors it looks fabulous, on my laptop it is horrible. But the print sings, which is what ultimately matters.


"Beaver Moon, Waxing I", Copyright Jim NIckelson
"Beaver Moon, Waxing II", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

And the photograph from Austin…this was completely serendipitous as this was not a photo trip – but my daughter woke us up early and our hotel window was perfectly positioned.

"Beaver Moon, Austin", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Adventures in Celestial Mechanics

Adventures in Celestial Mechanics” is the name of my new body of work based on capturing moonrise of each full moon of the year. It is also the name of the textbook (see cover to the left) of my favorite college course, the intro orbital mechanics course with Dr. Victor Szebehely. (Way back when, I majored in aerospace engineering and specialized in orbital mechanics).

The delightfully-named textbook (by Dr. Szebehely) captured the beauty and majesty of the equations underlying orbital mechanics, making it appropriate for this series on moonrise of the full moon. For moonrise of the full moon results from an important phase of the celestial dance between the Earth, Sun, and Moon – when all three bodies are aligned and one can stand on the Earth with sunset at your back and moon rising right in front of you. I had been agonizing over a title for this series for a while, but once I looked at my shelf and saw this now 20 year old textbook sitting there, I knew that I had found my series title.

Dr. Szebehely was a great professor because of his knowledge of the subject and this enthusiasm for sharing it with students, and frankly because he seemed to care about us undergraduates far more than many of my other professors. He was also funny, with a dry humor that his deep Hungarian accent only enhanced.

In our aerospace engineering program, the workload was relentless with homework in each class every night. Notwithstanding that, Dr. Szebehely had a long-running joke where he refused to give us any homework on the night of a full moon and he would instead tell us: “No homework tonight. It is full moon. You have more important things to do.” I’m not sure I did then, but I certainly do now – every full moon now finds me out there with tripod and camera, seeking out the rising moon.

Nightfall, The Bubbles

Another recent entry in my Nightfall series is this image, entitled “Nightfall, The Bubbles”. This image required an exposure of over 12 minutes, which of course resulted in the visible star trails (you can still pick out the Big Dipper and North Star, though). This image also required me to balance precariously – with tripod, obviously – on some small rocks on a very dark Jordan Pond. You can see other night landscapes of mine here. As always, please let me know what you think!

"Nightfall, The Bubbles", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Harvest Moon

The most recent full moon was the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon closest in time to the autumnal equinox and is also perhaps the most famous of the full moons. Its name comes from the harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere, naturally, and specifically from the fact this full moon allowed farmers to work late collecting the harvest because of its brightness and rise time. Part of the cultural impact of the Harvest Moon also arises from the fact that the difference in moonrise times varies little each night around the time of the Harvest Moon, so the days just before and after the Harvest Moon have similar conditions (i.e., the moon rising pretty close to sunset). So, while every full moon rises close to sunset, the Harvest Moon provides this effect for several days in a row, effectively giving us more full moon conditions.

For this year’s Harvest Moon, I traveled two successive nights up to Acadia National Park. The weather conditions were not particularly cooperative, or so I thought. In the field I was relatively pessimistic about the photographs I captured this full moon, but once I returned home I realized that I actually struck gold.

The first photograph below is from the top of Cadillac Mountain shortly after moonrise. I love the soft sunset light on the clouds above the moon, as well as the configuration of those clouds themselves. That’s Schoodic Head out there in the distance as I’m overlooking Frenchman Bay.

"Harvest Moon II", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

The second night I stationed myself on the Park Loop Road looking again towards Schoodic Head. Because of mist/fog on the water, the moon wasn’t immediately visible after moonrise and I was worried that the evening would be a washout. Instead, the mist created a beautiful soft blue light and the moon did indeed peek through, as did the islands and trees in the bay. The scene was amazing but I feared the resulting print would not convey the magic of that moment, but I was happily wrong. The print of this image has become one of my all-time favorites already. I have learned that initial enthusiasm can fade, but I’m optimistic that this one will remain a personal favorite. Let me know what you think, as always!

"Harvest Moon I", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Thunder Moon – updates to Adventures in Celestial Mechanics (Full Moon) series

I just added to my website four new images from July’s Thunder Full Moon. For this moonrise, I was stationed at Popham Beach State Park ready to catch moonrise over the Atlantic from, well, sea level. Let me know what you think, as always!

I also have finalized a name for the series instead of Full Moon (which is a bit too generic) – Adventures in Celestial Mechanics. More about this soon, but here is the short version. My favorite college textbook was the delightfully-named Adventures in Celestial Mechanics (for my orbital mechanics class). Night photography has become my recent passion in part because it gives me a way of rekindling my love of space. This series of full moon portraits takes advantage of one of my favorite dances of the celestial bodies – the alignment of the Earth, Moon, and Sun that happens at moonrise of the full moon. Once I looked at my shelf and saw this now 20 year old textbook sitting there, I knew that I had found my series title.

"Thunder Moon I", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Thunder Moon II", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Thunder Moon III", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
"Thunder Moon IV", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Night Photography on the Web

I wanted to point out two great collections of night photography. First, this is a really slick video of the winning shots from the BBC’s Astrophotography contest, along with an explanation of each. Highly recommended. (Hat tip to Rob Galbraith for bringing this to my attention).

I’m also excited to point out the new exhibition from The Nocturnes (the hub of night photography on the web) entitled “All Along the Lee Shore…”, featuring eight night photographers, including three images from myself. I’m honored to be included in one of their online exhibitions and definitely recommend that everyone check it out.

"Thunder Moon", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Full Moon Series update – Rose Moon

A little while back I also mentioned my new Full Moon series (which may yet change names) where I photograph the moonrise of each full moon of the year. Because of variable conditions and the fact that each full moon only comes once a year, this will be a multi-year project. In June, however, I was lucky enough to photograph moonrise from the top of Mt. Battie here in Camden for June’s Rose Moon.

The visible moonrise itself was delayed by cloud cover. You can see the moon starting to peek above the clouds in perhaps my favorite image of this group:

"Rose Moon", Copyright Jim Nickelson

Once the moon was high enough in the sky, the reflected moonlight in Penobscot Bay became quite striking, too.

"Rose Moon II", Copyright Jim Nickelson

The reflected moonlight was very dramatic, and I captured that element in my other favorite of these images as the moonlight formed a shadow behind the island.

"Rose Moon, Reflection", Copyright Jim Nickelson

And,  to give you a bigger picture of the moonlight in Penobscot Bay (the mouth of Camden Harbor is just below the bottom, and you can see windmills out on the island, too)…

"Rose Moon, Penobscot Bay", Copyright Jim Nickelson

Hunter’s Moon (& the Full Moon Series)

"Hunter's Moon", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Hunter’s Moon is a photograph I took last fall from Point Lookout/Ducktrap Mountain – moonrise of the full moon. It has already proven to be a popular image and it has led me to start work on a new series, very tentatively titled “Full Moon”. The series as it stands now is focused on capturing the rising full moon from the Maine Coast. I’ve long been fascinated by the different names for each full moon and each photo will be titled accordingly. I’m trying to photograph each full moon of the year, which means that due to weather & life it will take a me a few years to capture each one – there is only one chance each year for all of them, so planning and a bit of luck are required. I will post soon some from the summer full moons, so keep an eye out in this space.

Hunter’s Moon is one that is remarkably hard to print and also hard to convey online. Because most of the image is so dark, modern monitors tend to make it much brighter than the image appears. Similarly, it is one of my most difficult images to print because 98% of it is in the deep shadows. The print shows just a touch of detail on the silhouetted mountains/islands in the foreground. Luckily I find it a very satisfying image that has quickly become one of my favorites.

More soon as the series continues to develop, and let me know what you think!

The Big City

In our continuing effort to ensure that our daughter realizes the whole world is not quite like our beautiful little corner of Maine, we took a family trip down to NYC at the end of April. This was not a photography trip, mind you, but I did have a chance to do a little photography when I was there. It was a perfect NYC weekend — spring foliage in Central Park, 70 degrees and sunny — and a great trip.

I had two main subjects in my limited time – the trees in Central Park (who could resist?) and some night photography walking around the Upper West Side where we were staying. I’ve included a few of the photos below – for the remainder feel free to check out my new NYC gallery on my website. And, as always, let me know what you think!

Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

New work, new camera, new exhibit, new catalog

I have a whole slew of things to mention this week.  First, there is a new show up at the University of Maine Museum of Art up in Bangor that is excellent.  The show includes the gorgeous 8×10 contact prints of Ilya Askinazi and the large scale, color digital creations of Todd Watts.  I saw this show last week and both bodies of work were impressive in their own right while being completely different from each other.  Ilya’s photographs are exquisite, of course, and I was entirely smitten with one of his Israeli landscape images that had boats in the far distance (hard to describe, and unfortunately not online). I was also very impressed with Todd’s photographs – it is far from what I normally enjoy, but amazing in vision and execution.  His piece with the birds in winter (again hard to describe) that is at the CMCA show was one of my favorite pieces in there, too. The show ends Dec. 31st and you can find reviews of the show from Heather Frederick and the Bangor Daily News at the links.

On a totally different note, Pentax has just announced that they are bringing their new medium format digital 645D to the US.  At $10,000 I wouldn’t say it is affordable, but it is less unaffordable than previous medium format digital and weather-sealed to boot.  I’d love to have the next generation, presumably better and cheaper successor to this for landscape photography.

The CMCA has placed online the full catalog for the Ten Years Later show and, well, wow.  One giant, free, downloadable PDF with 4 hi-res images from each of the 150 photographers – 600 images in all – what a phenomenal resource.  Grab a cup of coffee or two and enjoy some great photography.

And lastly I’d like to show one of my newer images – this time more of an industrial nightscape.  Let me know what you think…

Copyright 2010 Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.