In 1987 I was only a mere 70 miles from Stonehenge on the summer solstice. At the time I was young and too ignorant of both the date and geography to make an effort to get down there. Over the years I’ve kicked myself mentally for that lapse, although I probably couldn’t have gotten close with all of the crowds. Even so, I’ve tried to do something special for either the winter or summer solstice each year, whether it’s a kayaking or some other outing. This year I decided to watch the sun rise from Bald Rock.
I tend to do more with winter solstices than summer. You don’t have to get up quite as early to watch the sunrise. So, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I got up at 4:00 am to drive up 276 toward Bald Rock, especially since Laura and I had shared some excellent dungeoness crab and most of a bottle of wine on our back deck in the long summer evening before. My head wasn’t quite ready for the effort, but I went anyway.
As I drove up through Travelers Rest and Marietta a full moon lingered in the west. I was hoping it would still be up when I got to the rock so that I could get some photos. Turned out it was the only photo subject for the morning. This was a rare “Strawberry Moon,” which occurs where the summer solstice and full moon are on the same day. This evening both would be in the sky for a brief time.
And, as usual for one of my sunrise jaunts, the sky gets brighter MUCH faster than I expect. I was beginning to fear that my timing was off, and that I’d miss both the sunrise and moonset. I picked up the pace as much as I felt comfortable with my pounding head.
When I got to Bald Rock I had it all to myself. Apparently there aren’t as many closet Druids like me in the area as I’d thought. I hauled all my gear down to what I thought would be a suitable spot on the graffiti-covered granite.
…and, me being me, I had a ton of gear – multiple cameras and lenses, several tripods, a comfy chair, and thermos of coffee.
The moon was sinking lower, and it was getting closer and closer to Table Rock. It was soon apparent that west, not east, would be the real show. I set up the GoPro on time lapse pointing toward the moon, and my iPhone pointing east, also on time lapse. Most of the time my Nikon D7000 was pointed toward Table Rock. I also had my Nikon D50 with a 50mm f/1.8 lens and my Panasonic Lumix. I had things covered.
I could also see that the sun was going to rise too far to the north for me to capture. I took these photos in January of 2007, and the sun was coming up in a gap just above Paris Mountain.
I was hoping for a similar shot from today’s outings. Instead, it would be obscured by trees and the ridge to my left.
Turns out I wasn’t the only Druid. A young couple arrived. However, when I greeted them with “Happy Solistice!” they were a bit clueless. Another woman showed up, and was there for the same reason as I, and had picked her spot just as poorly. Even so, It was a nice view, and I didn’t mind sharing my rock.
The moon sank lower toward Table Rock. I kept snapping photos as it descended, trying out different lenses, zoom levels, and exposure settings. The image at the top of the post is my favorite.
The rock traded moonlight for a the glow of the rising sun.
The sun also began to light up the valley below.
I did upload the two time lapse movies I created. I decided that these would have been much more interesting with a breeze and a few clouds to provide some motion. Here’s the video of the moon from the GoPro…
…and here’s the eastward view from the iPhone:
I also tried something new. I had a good enough connection on my iPhone that I was able to do a Facebook Live session, once I’d finished the time-lapse on that device. It was interesting. Later in the day I checked some other live broadcasts on FB, and found the majority to be less than uplifting, but it looks like a tool with potential. I wonder if YouTube has something as easy to use.
Three different sets of young ladies arrived. One asked if I’d take photos of them. Another was already set with selfie sticks, etc.
I packed up my things and hauled the tripods, chair, and most of the cameras back to the car. Since it was light and I had plenty of time this morning, I decided to explore the rock a bit more. The sounds of water in the small brook that runs next to the road caught my attention first.
From there I climbed down lower onto the rock. One could certainly take a tumble from here and get hurt pretty badly, but the drop isn’t as sheer as it might appear initially. Sadly, graffiti was everywhere.
It was time to head back. I grabbed some breakfast at the Travelers Restaurant, then headed back to crash for a nap.
I wasn’t able to catch the strawberry moon later in the evening. I had Chorale rehearsal until 8:30, so I couldn’t find a good position. Even if I had, low clouds obscured both sunset and moonrise in our location. I enjoyed the moon from our back windows. I had already taken enough photos of it for one day.
One thought on “Summer Solstice on Bald Rock”
You picked the right spot to watch the moon set! We walked down to the end of the block to see the moon, but my pictures didn’t turn out as I had wished. Happy summer solstice!