North Coast Night Light: Watching the World Go ‘Round

We paused at Moonstone beach in a moment of reflection to watch the world go ‘round. It turns out you need more than a moment. The crescent moon, just visible here through the thin clouds, was soon completely hidden as the thickening cover slid across the sky. Humboldt County, California. January 11, 2019.

On the Humboldt coast in the thick of winter the skies are often obscured, and a fleeting glimpse of the stars may be all one receives in an evening. One such winter night my son, my brother and I took a trip out to Moonstone beach to observe the world turn. We stood between two planes: the wet, glossy sand beneath our feet and the sliding cover of clouds above. Forming a great wedge, the two surfaces met at the horizon in front of us and opened like a gigantic hinge. A tear in the clouds revealed behind them the vast cavern of space in which we float.

As we stood and watched we got the sense that the world turns very slowly indeed; we didn’t perceive any evidence of it turning at all, in fact. One needs time to observe the motion of the Moon and stars, and instead the clouds were moving in swiftly, eating up the little sky we could see. The crescent moon hanging in front of us was quickly engulfed.

The slope at Moonstone Beach is wonderfully gradual. When the tide is out as it was that night, the occasional far off wave will send a low sheet of water unfurling slowly across the sand to deposit a fresh coat of gloss. A cobble texture created in an earlier tide made little islands in the receding water, breaking the reflections of the bright night sky with almost metallic crispness.

The photograph shows the scene brighter than it was to our eyes. Because the camera gathered light for many seconds, and its sensor’s ISO was dialed up fairly high, it was able to pick up more light than we could see. Looking at the image that the camera captured I get the sense that we were standing on a plate of wet, textured iron. We were on the outer hull of spaceship Earth, hurtling headlong through space.

To see previous entries of “Night Light of the North Coast,” click on my name above the article. If you’d like to keep abreast of my most current photography or peer into its past, you can follow me on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx . I update my website mindscapefx.com less frequently, but you can contact me there.

Without color the image feels colder, and some of the environmental clues are removed – we can’t tell that the warm glow on the left is from city lights, and different from the more neutral glow of the moon to the right. The crescent moon is just visible behind the thinner clouds above the central figure.

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