Just Outside Your Front Door

I discovered again recently that amazing things often exist just outside your front door, no matter where you are.

It was Saturday, May 6, a little more than three hours after it had been May 5, about 3:30 a.m.

As often happens now that I am a full-time freelance photojournalist, I had awakened and started thinking about writing I needed to do. Words started dancing in my head, then sentences, then complete paragraphs, and by that time I was wide awake. So I figured I might as well commit them to paper.

As I was walking from one side of what should have been a dark house to my office on the other side, I suddenly noticed I could see quite clearly.

Somebody had left a light on again, I thought. But this light was different; it was aura-like, coming from all around instead of from one source.

Then I looked up at one of our skylights and was startled to see the night was nearly bright as day. I vaguely remembered a news report that said May 5 would see the brightest full moon of the year as our celestial neighbor passed closer to Earth than usual for some astrological reason.

So I quietly went out the front door to a view that could have been featured in a dozen different movies.

High and to my left, just below treetop level, was the biggest, brightest moon I’d seen in quite some time. It was nearly centered between a V-shaped gap in the trees.

It hung there like a silver dollar on steroids, a perfectly round, glowing ember. I was in awe.

My photographer’s instinct kicked in, and before I got too moonstruck, I headed in for my Nikon and tripod, remote shutter release, flashlights and flashes. My Nikon battery needed charging from shooting I’d done the day before, so I grabbed my smaller, simpler Canon digital while that was in progress.

As it turned out, the perfect view was three steps out of my front door. I hooked camera to tripod and set it up. I went back in for a cup of coffee; moments like this were made for that first cup of morning coffee.

Then I started shooting. I used different techniques to capture the moon as it quickly made its way across that gap in the trees; it was moving fast. I even caught it blurring in some of the longer-exposed shots.

I could see I needed to get this quick or lose it, because once it got to the other side of the gap, it would be lost in the trees.

I used flashlights and long exposures to light up the trees in the foreground. I used open flashes to illuminate a broader scene. I was in a shooting frenzy using all the low-light techniques I could remember on such short notice before the shot disappeared in the trees.

As the moon began to touch the far side of the gap, I changed position a little to buy some more time. I was able to snap off a few more shots before it melted behind the Georgia pines.

But the melting started a whole new show. The “brightest moon behind the Georgia pines show.”

So I sprinted back in for my now-charged Nikon, monopod and more coffee and proceeded to capture the moon between gaps in the pines. It was great; I was having a blast, thankful for digital cameras because otherwise I’d be burning beaucoup film.

Then the orb got too low in the pines and the show stopped. But as I reconnoitered the area, I surmised that totally changing my position might give me one last chance.

So down the street I went, by now about 5:30 a.m., in my jammies, monopod slung over my shoulder, camera strap clanging as I walked, coffee cup hooked over my finger, ambling down the middle of my street, tracking the moon.

I wondered what a neighbor would think if he sleepily looked out his window on the way to the coffee pot and saw me. What would I tell the police when they responded to the report of a crazy guy stalking the streets?

Guess I could blame the extra pull of gravitational force on my brain fluid; yeah, the moon made me do it.

A few hundred feet up the street another road T’d off to the right. Smack in the middle of that intersection, the moon jumped into full view again.

“Ha, thought you’d get away, did you?” I said to the orb. Now I was talking to the moon…but not howling yet, so I figured I was OK.

Fully prepared for blue, flashing police lights to illuminate the street soon, I grabbed what I knew would be my final shots as the moon settled lower, than sank behind the trees.

I briefly thought of getting in my truck and finding it again, but then thought no, the view just won’t get any better than what you saw right here.

So I slung the mono-mounted camera back over my shoulder, drained the last dregs of coffee and headed back, packed everything back in the house and proceeded to download what I’d shot.

I’ve shared a few of the views with PRB and hope they’ll have room to show a couple; the photos can’t do justice to what I saw and felt on that morning.

But I’d also like to share what I took from the experience besides capturing a moment in time that otherwise would have been lost.

• First, sometimes the view right outside your front door is as spectacular as any you’ll find in the world, if you just take the time to look.

• Make sure you always have a backup plan; when the battery in one camera is dead, you’d better have a functioning backup ready or the opportunity may be lost.

• Take advantage of the opportunity when it comes knocking, even if it’s at 3:30 a.m., because if you don’t, you may miss the chance of a lifetime. I thought I might get up the next morning in case I didn’t get the shot I wanted; it was raining the next morning.

• Luck, they say, is when preparation meets opportunity.

• The world you see depends on where you are standing. Change where you stand and you may see a whole new world filled with opportunities that would have been lost to your view.

I didn’t get as much writing done that morning as I had planned. But that’s OK, because if I hadn’t gotten moonstruck, I wouldn’t have been able to share it here with you.

Who knows, reading this may give somebody the perspective to take a step they’ve been considering. It may inject someone with confidence they need to make a decision.

Or, it may just make you look at your Friday a little more positively and think about doing something this weekend you’ve been meaning to do but have been putting off.

Regardless of the effect, here’s wishing you a lucky Friday as you prepare to meet new opportunities. Go ahead, howl at the moon!

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, who also served until recently in municipal parks and recreation, lives in Peachtree City, Ga., and can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.