David Barthel - North Shore Images PhotographyDavid Barthel North Shore Images Photography
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

January Full Moon at Split Rock Lighthouse

It's been quite an unusual winter so far here in Minnesota with unseasonably warm temperatures and a lack of that white stuff which half of us love and half of us hate. Photographers looking to capture classic Minnesota winter scenes have been out of luck thus far.

In contrast, in the four years I have been photographing January's full moon at Split Rock Lighthouse, the moon has never failed to make its appearance. Like clockwork, the moon slipped above the horizon, on schedule, at 4:18 PM and continued its ascent as sunlight faded. As the sun set, the eastern sky took on a pink hue that seems to be most evident on these clear winter evenings.

As daylight faded further, the pink transitioned to blue. This period of blue sky is known as the "blue hour" to photographers.

It has been a goal of mine each year to capture the moon centered directly behind the lantern of the lighthouse as it makes its trajectory. This is somewhat challenging as there is only a small window of opportunity in which this shot can be made. Once the moon is above the lighthouse, it is too late.

There is always a sense of awe in watching the full moon in the first minutes after clearing the horizon. Its apparent size seems to, at times, defy the imagination.


  1. Oh, but you should have gotten up the next morning and caught the same moon when it set! Admittedly, my vantage point is quite different from yours; I saw it from west-facing windows on the 28th floor of a Chicago highrise. Having gotten up before sunrise on Sunday morning, I was astonished to see the moon hovering near the horizon, about to set, at the approximate latitude where the sun sets in June. Just an astonishing sight to behold, at 6:30 a.m.!

    1. I'm sure it was amazing! I saw the moon rise the next evening and it seemed to appear larger than the prior night. There must be some atmospheric phenomena that give the moon varying "apparent" sizes when near the horizon.


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