At the end of October, photographer Zach Cooley ventured to Arches National Park in Utah. There, he captured a surreal sight: a full moon framed by the North Windows Arch that makes it look like a giant eye in the sky. In brilliant single-exposure photos, the beguiling visual is almost too perfect to be real.
Cooley’s incredible images represent a lot of planning on his part. “Moon photos like this can involve some fairly extensive planning, and that was certainly the case for this shot,” he tells My Modern Met. “I use multiple specialized photography apps which allow me to see exactly where the moon will appear at any given time and position (PlanIt!, The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE), and PhotoPills).”
Putting himself in the exact right place at the right time was also key. “For precision alignment, you have to be standing in just the right spot, and a few steps in the wrong direction could mean you miss the target.” Cooley was nervous as the moment approached; he wondered, would he be standing in the correct spot? “I was never happier when it appeared in the right place and I knew I could achieve the planned shot.”
Capturing Earth’s satellite has long been a fascination for Cooley. “I have a memory of when digital cameras were fairly new and my dad tried taking a photo of the full moon straight above us. It didn’t turn out at all,” he recalls. “He captured the same thing that many today do with cell phones—just a white disc, lacking the details that we can see with our eyes.”
Once Cooley began his photography practice, he made it a point to learn how to take better pictures of the moon. “It’s something we don’t normally see in our day-to-day lives,” he says. “Watching a sunset or a sunrise is common for many, but it’s not often that we witness the moon at the moment it peeks above the horizon, or as it sets and ‘touches’ the landscape.” Through compelling shots like the “eye” at Arches National Park, Cooley offers a powerful reminder of how marvelous our moon is.