Moon ring!

Last July I was leading a group of photographers on a trip around Svalbard, not far from the North Pole. Highlights of the trip included polar bears and other wildlife, but other subjects caught our attention too. One example was parhelion, where the sunlight refracts through high-altitude ice crystals to form a wide ring around the sun.

Parhelion, Svalbard
July 2011

This image shows the ring around the sun. It’s at a 22º angle from the sun, and as you can see the ring only just fits within the field of view of the 24-105mm lens (on an EOS 5D MkII). We were standing on a stony beach watching some playing walruses, and during a break in the action I simply turned around, dropped the exposure to keep some detail in the clouds, and photographed the sun ring.

Walrus playtime

Looking at the timestamp on the first photo I can see it was taken just before 4pm, but this phenomenon lasted for many hours. It’s hard to attach times to some of these memories without the camera’s timestamp: this close to the North Pole in summer the light was fairly consistent even at midnight! Here’s another image from about five hours earlier (using a 17-40mm lens).


Anyway, the thing that prompted this post was the scene I found last Sunday night. It was a full moon so I went outside to check on the view and was greeted by this scene:

Moon ring, Melbourne
May 2012

It was a rushed photo to capture the ring before the clouds dissipated, and the foreground is the side of my house lit by a distant streetlight. The ring is the same 22º from the moon (as it’s caused by the same shape of ice crystals) as found in parhelion, and this photo was taken using the wider 17mm lens.

I really wasn’t expecting to find this at home, and it brought back many memories of last winter’s summer trip to the Arctic (winter at home, summer up north). It was nice to be followed home!

Encroaching walrus

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