• Big Bend National Park, Texas

    Andrew Takano

Your Stories

A series of amazing images, explained by the people that took them.

In one of the darkest places in all of North America, the last few rays of moonlight stream across the seemingly endless desert landscape of Big Bend. On this night, a far more subtle ‘sunset’ occurs. Nearly invisible to the unaided eye, and unable to overpower even ancient starlight, the brilliance of this moonset can only be experienced through the art of photography.

During a sunset the sunlight is so intense, and the atmospheric scattering so widespread, that one cannot see the stars until long after the sun has disappeared below the horizon. The light of the moon is far more subtle. Moonlight passes through the atmosphere and is scattered by oxygen and nitrogen just as direct sunlight does, creating the same gradient from red to blue that can be seen in the sunset of a clear day. This moonlight scattering is of such a weak intensity that only with a modern digital camera sensor, behind a fast lens, in a place completely void of light pollution, can one capture this unseen marvel of nature.

I had intended to spend 4 days in the desert of Big Bend National Park shooting sunrises, sunsets, clouds, the milky way, etc, but I had a nearly catastrophic car problem as soon as I arrived in the park, one of the most remote places in North America. Through some miracle, I was able to briefly get cell service (I was never able to get it again) long enough to call a roadside assistance service. They managed to get a distant tow truck driver to drive around 80 miles to come get me and take me to the nearest settlement, a tiny town with around 200 residents, mostly scattered across the surrounding desert in small homesteads.

There was a single mechanic shop in town, and the gentleman on duty managed to diagnose the problem (cracked radiator hose) and MacGyver’d together a temporary repair for lack of parts. He advised that the temporary repair would not last and that I should proceed immediately back to civilization or risk being stranded for 3 days while parts are ordered and delivered to this remote desert settlement. Having driven over 500 miles just to get there, I wanted to at least give myself one brief outing to take some photos. I went to sleep early, woke up at 2AM, and drove out into the remote expanse on the western side of Big Bend National Park until I found a spot with the right lines of sight and proceeded taking photos as the moon set and darkness spread across the desert.

While I regret that my trip was cut short (and the repair in fact DID fail the day after I returned to Austin, TX), I am happy I was able to get this photo (among a few others that are still in my post processing backlog).

Andrew Takano is from www.highfieldmedia.com