the moon rises behind Staple Tor

Staple Tor Moonrise

Great Staple Tor, Dartmoor

Staple Tor cuts one of the most striking silhouettes on Dartmoor. There are many viewpoints of Staple Tor but my favourite is also the most accessible! From the south-west one of Staple Tors stacks of granite is exposed to reveal what seems an almost impossible structure of massive plates of granite somehow balancing on one another. It has been an ambition of mine to photograph this particular stack and long ago realised the potential of Staple Tor as a silhouette against a full moon. The best chance would be a moonrise, shot from my favourite southwest viewpoint.

18 months ago I bought a 400mm lens and tele-extender purely to photography the moonrise or moonset against Staple Tor. A large investment on a lens setup that you only really want for one image is not an easy decision to make. So began 18 months of waiting. This is actually a relatively rare occurrence. In order to maintain colour in the sky the image must be taken shortly after sunset. The moon must also be high enough at this point that it rises above the tor itself. This basically gives you one evening every 3rd full moon that is suitable for the shot. I had been looking forward to Friday the 9th of December for almost 6 months! Of course of these relatively few opportunities cloud is likely to ruin some of them. Furthermore tripod vibrations due to wind will inevitably make some evenings hopeless.

When the evening finally came I was well prepared. I had worked out exactly where I needed to be. I had my camera set on a custom mode of exposure settings that I had calculated. I hung 10kg of dumbbells off the tripod to stabilise it in the breeze and an umbrella was used as a windbreak. I was so well drilled by the point the moon peak its head over the hill that I knew that finally, after 18 months I was going to get my shot. This image might look simple, but it's anything but!

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