Friday August 31st 2012 I was set up in Upper Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park to photograph the rise of a Blue Moon. The next one wouldn’t happen until 2015, well after the Mayan calendar has stopped so I wanted to be on location and set up in plenty of time. Arriving at my scoped out spot I set up my tripod, camera, 400mm lens and a cable release so as to avoid any potential camera shake. After a quick gear check there was nothing left to do except wait and enjoy the scenery. As a wildlife photographer, I have honed my skills at doing nothing and enjoying the scenery in preparation that if things happen it may be quickly, brief and furious so enjoy the quiet moments too. In Yellowstone, any time I have a tripod set up with a telephoto lens, bear spray on my hip and looking through binoculars I am bound to draw some visitors. Everyone fantacizes and even romanticizes seeing a bear, especially a grizzly, in Yellowstone and I must look like I know something so they always stop and ask. Besides photographing in Yellowstone, my next favorite thing as a Naturalist is sharing my knowledge of the Park. Several people had stopped to inquire what I was looking at to which my reply was, “I’m waiting for the full moon to rise over Mt. Everts.” They nodded, thanked me and politely drove on to look for bears and wolves. After a few of these interactions and laughing to myself having seen the looks on their faces a white mini-van pulled up. I panned the horizon with my binoculars for any abberations in light alerting me the moon was about to breach. Then I heard in this very calm and soft East Indian voice, “Excuse me kind sir, may I ask what you are looking at?” I turned with my canned response ready only to find a very friendly, middle-aged, East Indian gentlemen looking at me with great hope in his eyes. “I’m waiting for the moon to rise,” I said lowering my binoculars.
“Da Moon, Eh?,” he asked as his expression changed to confusion. He looked at my lens then back at me then back at the camera. “Not bears?”, he questioned as his eyebrows lowered. “Nope”, I ushered “Just the full moon.” I gave him a minute to process this and raised my binoculars again. “Oh,” he laughed, “I see you are looking at DA MOON.” “Ok, no problem, no problem, I see da moon.” He squinted and scanned to where I had been looking with my binoculars chuckling to himself. “Ok, buddy you are looking at da moon then,” he said one last time as he thanked me and started walking back to the mini-van. A female driver stuck her head out the window and shouted with a strong Indian accent, “What does he see?” “Da moon,” he shouted back. “He sees da moon,” sarcastically and over one shoulder to make sure I heard.
They drove off into the dusky evening as I laughed out loud to myself. He really thought I was viewing something animal and very special I didn’t want to share. I had been a bit worried about a bear sneaking up around me while I was too focused on my work and not paying attention but his departing shouts and my outright guffaws surely alerted any bears in the area to my presence. The blue moon rose spectaculary over Mt. Everts, I eventually captured one of the best images of my life and spent the rest of the evening wondering if they finally saw the same light and exclaimed, “Ah, DA MOON!”