The ghostly galleon

Disclaimer. This post is not about ‘how to photograph the moon’. Neither is it about “amazing super moon shots”. In retrospect, I don’t even know if the photos will amount to something post processing. 

So, I found myself on top of a hill after having almost run for five kilometres to reach in time. That I did but the eastern horizon was shrouded by plantation. And I was out of the choice for higher elevation. 

So I perched myself on a rock, to pass time seeing the sun set, till the moon would come up. It was tranquil. Birds chirping, lovers at odd intervals, children playing badminton with tennis racquets, and flying kites, old women chattering. All in all, safe tranquility. 

I have taken out my gear by now. Tripod’s set, the remote trigger fails to work (as usual), the right lens (the best option of a 200mm, given the constraints) mounted.

I am taking long exposures of the murky skyline when night stealthily creeps in. It’s only after several shots that I realise that I am getting starry lights of the city and a black sky, even with a thirty second’s exposure. 

The lovers are probably gone. A man is sitting at a distance, nonchalantly and furtively checking out my work. When suddenly, my heart skips a beat as I look towards the east. The alliteration in “The Highwayman” (Alfred Noyes) or “The Listeners” (Walter De la mare), had left this very image in my mind. In the “leaf-fringed” horizon, I see a bulbous yellow-red quiet spectacle. 

“THE wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,

The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,

And the highwayman came riding–

Riding–riding–
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.”

I am not good with words. The photos I took might be lost is translation. So I do feel ill at ease, trying to explain what I saw. I hope you understand how beautiful it was when I say that in that moment I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed even if the photos amounted to nothing. I just wanted to sit there.

This is when I notice a clearly drunken man almost rolling down the hill. This didn’t bother me much. In the event of him bothering me, all I’d have to do would be to give him a gentle nudge and gravity would oblige. I turn to the area where the previously mentioned man was sitting. Now I can see two silhouettes and that creeps me out a little. He catches me looking that way and asks me if I’m shooting the moon. I appear brave and give a curt reply. Suddenly I see a black figure standing at a distance. I look hard and the figure starts moving in my direction. From the other end a flashlight blinds me as I notice two men approaching. I am starting to grab the gear as calmly as I can while my mind is racing and am planning to run down the hill. 

Bated breath as the men with the flashlights pass me. I catch the outline of a tripod on one of the men’s shoulders and immediately let out a sigh of relief. They soon start complaining about how white the moon looks on the screen as they indiscriminately make use of the camera flash. Idiots. 

I am a little assured now and take out my camera again. A few more shots later I start descending. To my surprise I find two more sets of people shooting the moon. 

When I reach the base of the hillock, I stop to take a few more shots. This is when a man comes up to me and asks me what I am doing. I stutter in my imperfect Hindi and explain to him that I’m taking pictures of the moon. He looks unconvinced. He waits and then asks me not to light a fire. I guarantee him that I won’t. I pass a family where the cars are parked. They share the excitement of the first sighting.

It’s nearly 9 as I walk back home, with prickly nettles bothering my bottoms. I feel a little less inhibited. 

However scared I was, I feel I had claimed my space. I had not spotted anyone coming alone, especially women. The point is not to hand myself a ribbon for bravery, but to tell myself that I should take chances, be a little less afraid. The perks of going solo can be liberating.

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