The Earth revolves around the sun. The moon revolves around the Earth. Elementary stuff, but sometimes it takes a keen eye and some good, old-fashioned luck to capture this cosmic handiwork. A fancy camera helps, too.
From May 27 to Sept. 8, the Arizona Daily Star asked readers to send us their vacation photos featuring the sun or moon. Candidates entered 135 photos into the Facebook contest. In the next week, 338 total votes were cast. Here are some of the favorite entries — chosen by voters and by the Star’s director of photography, Rick Wiley.
Who: Victor Haile, 43. locomotive engineer.
Where: Waipio Valley, Hawaii.
When: June 2013.
What: Every night during their island getaway, Haile and his wife, Karin, rushed back to their Hawaiian bungalow to catch the sunset.
Haile snapped a photograph of Karin on the last night of their vacation, as she fingered flowers, took pictures and watched the sun dip behind the island. Miles from the nearest town, their bungalow was perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean and jungle.
The bungalow, at the end of a windy road complete with switchbacks, had open-air windows and lock-free doors. They lounged on the couch on the back porch taking in the view — cliffs, jungle and ocean.
“It’s beautiful in the daytime, but at night a little scary,” Haile said, mentioning the jungle noises that grow louder at night.
The Hailes have visited Hawaii every year for about a decade, but staying in a bungalow was a first.
How: Together, the couple took 1,700 to 1,800 photos. They printed about 600 for a photo album and shared the photos with their Facebook friends, who have come to expect this hobby to produce impressive photography.
Haile photographed the trip — even the snorkeling — with a Pentax Optio waterproof camera.
Who: Ken Mowbray, 49, employee at CyraCom International Inc. and paleoanthropologist for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Where: Aboard Sea Cloud II in the Bay of Biscay.
When: August 2013.
What: Mowbray picked up some photography copycats aboard the Sea Cloud II.
With about 75 passengers aboard this three-masted ship on its way from Ireland down to France and Spain, Mowbray’s eye for scene-setting did not go unnoticed. The 10-day educational tour led by the American Museum of Natural History placed the Tucson native in the spotlight as one of the educators on board. His goodhearted mimickers also learned from his photography, glancing at his shots to compose similar ones of their own.
Coming into the Bay of Biscay, the Sea Cloud II left the rockier seas along the coast of Ireland. Finally, with clear skies and smoother seas, the ship turned off its engines and dropped its sails — a break for the seasick- prone.
“That was one of the few opportunities that the clouds parted and the sun came up,” Mowbray said. “Usually, when it’s rough, it’s overcast and rainy and drizzling, but that was a gorgeous night and evening.”
Without a jacket that night, Mowbray was “just freezing” as he waited for the sun to go down. Even with his Arizona blood putting him at an immediate disadvantage, he toughed it out and waited.
“We kept joking that we were waiting for the green flash from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ ” Mowbray said. “I love the fact that (in the photo) you can see the ocean, and it was fairly smooth sailing, and the sun was so huge. The clouds put it into perspective.”
How: Mowbray, whose hobby is photography, takes photos whenever he can. By the time he returned from the trip, he walked away with about 1,600 photos. He bought his current camera, a Nikon D5100 DSLR, the Christmas before the trip and spent the cruise getting acquainted with his new toy.
Who: Dan Beamer, 67, retired.
Where: Beach resort in Costa Rica.
When: January 2009.
What: Beamer and his wife, Barbara, spent a week getting VIP treatment at a resort in Costa Rica.
Coming off of a previous week of vacationing with his two sisters and their husbands in the country’s mountains, Beamer and his wife decided to tack on a beach getaway for two.
The only ones on the property, they got five-star attention for days. During breakfast and dinner, the waiters gave them undivided attention. Literally. By the time the weekend rolled around, two other couples with children checked in. It wasn’t enough to upset the tranquillity of the trip.
“There was nobody on the beach,” Beamer said. “In the morning, we’d get up and walk for an hour on the beach. We might see three other people.”
With beach houses and other properties nearby, other stragglers wandered into the surf. The occasional horse and rider might trot down the shore. Beamer did not know the couple he photographed basking in the romance of an empty beach and setting sun.
“I like that it seemed like there was intimacy there just with the couple,” Beamer said. “The light was dramatic.”
How: Beamer has taken several photography classes, and he wants to take more — especially on Photoshop. He took about 300 to 400 photographs on his Costa Rica vacation.
When he photographed the couple in Costa Rica, he used an Olympus point-and-shoot digital camera. He took several shots of the couple but found the perfect moment when the sun appeared from behind the clouds.
Who: Alan Krasofski, 73, retired
When: August 2013
What: After a career spent in the travel industry, Krasofski has seen no sunset to rival Sonoran skies.
He retired here eight years ago, settling down after a career that took him to every continent but Antarctica. Now he staycations in Tucson, hiking and soaking in the sunsets that light up local vistas.
Every day, weather permitting, he walks about half a mile from his home to a desert trail. Camera in hand, he follows the trail to his favorite spot to see the sunset and surrounding wildlife. And then he watches.
“I just absolutely am addicted to sunsets and enjoy the different colors and that every single day is different, especially during monsoon season,” Krasofski said.
He has developed a bit of a fan base. Almost every day, Krasofski sends the most recent photos to friends around the world.
“I had a friend this morning who lives just a mile or two down the road say that she and her husband were having dinner and watching the sunset last night and knew they would get pictures this morning,” Krasofski said.
How: For years, in his travels around the world, Krasofski used a 35 mm film camera that never gave him the quality he wanted. Now, as he takes classes and learns from other local photographers, his Canon PowerShot SX30 point-and-shoot camera does better for him.
Who: Steve Pauken, 58, city manager of Bisbee.
When: June 15, 2013.
What: In his four-month attempt to photograph the sequence of the moon as it goes from new to full and back to new, Pauken wanted clouds out of the picture.
Monsoon season, then, posed quite the problem.
When Pauken snapped his shot of the moon peeking out from behind cloud cover, he did so thinking the photo would break his series of moon photographs. Later, the clouds disappeared, and he got the clear skies he wanted.
“The pictures of the moon I was taking to get my series aren’t that interesting all by themselves,” Pauken said. “A good picture has character and shows something. The clouds, even though they were in my way, had a very interesting look to them. We’re used to having clear skies, so when it starts to cloud up for monsoons, it’s like seeing them all over again.”
How: Pauken grew up around cameras and a photographer dad, but traded out his old SLR camera for a more convenient point-and-shoot during his own years of fatherhood. Now, he has rekindled his interest in photography, training his new DSLR Canon EOS Rebel T3i on the skies, landscapes and wildlife. For the moon shot, he used a 300 millimeter lens from his old SLR Canon.
“Here you can’t run out of subjects,” Pauken said. “It took me a year and a half to shoot 10,000 photos, and that doesn’t count the pictures I took with the point-and-shoot and phone cameras.”
Photo Editor Rick Wiley’s comments: “There are many dramatic sunsets among the contest entries. I ended up leaning toward the subtle images. Steve Pauken’s moon behind a pastel curtain of clouds was a moment of nuance in the atmosphere. The cloud pattern shrouding the moon has a painted texture. Every photo is a moment in time, but this one is a little harder to spot.”
Who: Betty McDonald.
Where: Saipan, Northern Marianas Islands.
When: Not available at press time.
How: Not available.
Wiley’s comments: “Betty McDonald’s photo of jet contrails leading into the center of the image backlit by the moonrise on Saipan is almost monochromatic, with the imposing shadow of the infamous island looming on the right. The confluence of light and lines creates a subtle moment that may not be an obvious photo for many people.”
Editor’s note: Betty McDonald could not be reached