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Shawwal 1431 & Eid Al-Fitr

The new crescent moon of Shawwal 1431 has been seen as far east as Australia, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal and the festival of breaking fast Eid Al-Fitr. I will be updating this post as the evening progresses with photos from our local area. Please come back here again. For the reports from other locations you can check Here at Crescent Watch and also Here at the Australian National Crescent Sighting Coordination Center.

Expect a West Coast update on this site at about 9pm PDT.  Till then go out and look for the crescent moon, its an uplifting experience.  It will be setting approximately 30 minutes after the sun sets, it will be approximately 3 fingers wide above the horizon (about 5° altitude) and about 2 hand spans wide to the left of the sunset point on the horizon (about 24° to the left).  Best time for it to be seen this evening on the West Coast is 7:39 pm PDT.

Stay tuned.

Update:

The new crescent moon was sighted by yours truly along with about 30 other Individuals at approximately 7:35 pm PDT from Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. Eid Al-Fitr has commenced! Eid Mubarak to all Muslim readers. Photos are forthcoming…Stay tuned.

Update:

Here is the image of the new moon for Shawwal 1431.  It was a beautiful evening with over 30 individuals attending the sighting.  Eid Mubarak to all!

Shawwal 1431

Shawwal 1431

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I Can’t See It

Every month for the last 20 years I have gone out to look for the new crescent moon.  Sometimes I see it and other times I don’t for one reason or another.  It has become a family tradition and my kids love to go out to look for the moon as much as I do.  Hopefully they will continue on with this monthly tradition after I am long gone and that they will will pass it down to their kids.

Shabaan Hilal, 1431 - July 12, 2010

This evening we went out to sight the new moon for the Islamic month of Sha’baan. It is the 8th month in the Islamic year and it is a crucial moon to see as it helps mark the beginning of Ramadan, the 9th month and the month of fasting. I saw it first among my family this evening as the kids were playing around. When I called out ‘There it is!’ of course they all ran to me and started probing me so they could see it. One after another, like dominoes, the lovely sound of “Ahhh, I see it I see it!” All but one. My youngest daughter, only 4 years old, and so determined to see the moon cries out – “I can’t See it!” “Where is it?!” After about 2o minutes of pointing to it, and helping her find landmarks where she could cast off into the sky to see it, we still were no better off.

I told her to relax, it will get brighter and you will see it. As we sat there, she suddenly asked, “what’s that black thing up there?” She had noticed a jet liner coming into the Bay Area to probably land at the San Francisco International airport. It was flying directly at the moon. I told her to, “keep watching the plane, and it will fly right next to the moon and when I tell you, look real hard.” Suddenly I say – “Now!” “I see it, I see it!” she yells out in glee.

It is the strangest thing, seeing the new moon. It brings great joy to my heart, and to everyone who has ever come out with me and saw it. One moment you are looking at blank sky and then the next, there it is, as plain as day itself. Its as if it suddenly comes into existence from nowhere, its born into the world – somehow almost miraculously.

Next month, for the month of Ramadan, we are expecting the moon to be seen on the evening of August 11th. Go out an experience a miracle. Your heart will thank you for it.

Peace.

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New Islamic Year – 1431

New Crescent - Muharram 1431

New Crescent - Muharram 1431

This evening, in silence, the new Islamic year – 1431 began.  Now I don’t live in the Muslim world so I have never experienced what takes place upon seeing the new moon that ushers in the new Islamic year, but here in the United States, it goes pretty much un-noticed.   In fact if it is not the moon for the start of Ramadan or the moon that ends Ramadan, most Muslims never look into the sky or even bother to notice what the Islamic date is.  For me the new moon is an awaited monthly friend that I have been faithfully visiting for the last twenty years.  For me it is always a joyous event.  And although the moon never seems to be any different, every time it comes around it comes with a different sky as its backdrop.  And so it is always something new to look at.

Muharram Crescent and Clouds

Muharram Crescent and Clouds

So on this eve of the New Year, I wish all the Muslims a Blessed Muharram, and may the year 1431 be a safe, prosperous, and beneficial year.

Peace to you all.

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Rajab 1430 Begins

Rajab Hilal 1430

Rajab Hilal 1430

The new crescent moon (or Hilal in Arabic) of the 7th month of the Islamic Calendar, known as Rajab, was sighted this evening at 8:40 pm PDT from Russsian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It was a perfect afternoon with subtle but stunning colors and atmospherics.  For moons, it just does not get better than this one.  More on the afternoon preceeding this photo in a later post.  Enjoy!

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Lost and Found

It was that time of the month again – searching for the new moon.  The conjunction took place on Sunday May 24th and on that evening, even though it was cloudy and overcast in my area, the moon was too small to be seen with the naked eyes.  With Sunday being the 29th day since the last time the moon was seen, the descision of when the next new month, Jamad Ath-Thaani, would start was by default on Tuesday, completing the previous month as a 30 day month.  This made searching for it on Monday not as critical.  But that never stopped me.

This time around I was very excited to try and photograph the new moon using the large format 4×5 camera.  Two weeks ago I found a Nikon 500mm f/11 Telephoto lens.  A lens that I have been trying to find for almost three years.  Nikon of course discontinued making that lens years ago and it rarely turns up on the used market, but two weeks ago chance would have it that I was searching for it and found one in near mint condition, for nearly 50% of what it goes for new!  So I had always wanted this lens to allow me to include the moon, especially the new moon, in my landscape photos.  So this new moon was going to be that lens’ maiden voyage in moon photography.

I decided I would spend the day out with my four kids, aka photo assistants, bumping around the coast giving their mother the day off.  Destination – Point Lobos State Reserve on the Big Sur Coast.  The day was clear and sunny until we reached Monterey and then the skies became overcast and gloomy.  Upon our arrival, I realized that I had forgotten to bring along my photo vest.  No big deal right?  Wrong.  For in it was my light meter, color meter, ND filters, and focusing loupe.  Oops – No large format photography today.  How was I to photograph the moon later?  So I took a deep breath and decided that today was a day off, no serious photography.  Yeah right.

With a small DSLR in hand the kids and I explored Point Lobos.  It is a very intricate piece of the coast.  The rocks are contorted in places, stratified in others, and conglomerate everywhere else.  It is a very difficult place to capture in a photo.  The light needs to be just right, and I still have not been there when it was just right.  To add insult to injury the reserve is in full bloom right now.  California Poppies, Coast Paintbrush, Dudleas, and Seaside Daisies to name just a few.

Point Lobos in Bloom

Point Lobos in Bloom

 It takes time to get a feel for Point Lobos.  It is a slow moving place.  The sea does not churn with great waves rather slow moving turbulent waters sloshing in and out of the rocky cliffs.  Capturing this water action is another matter altogether.  Timing is everything with these conditions.  Clearly a digital camera makes this endeavor less painful to the pocket and much more enjoyable knowing you got the action at its peak. 

Water Action at Point Lobos

Water Action at Point Lobos

At the same time however, when working with the big camera and film, there is a certain connection that is made between you and the ocean.  You spend more time studying the water.  You watch the waves, not one or two, but tens of waves until you start seeing the attributes in the wave that are needed to create the perfect water action.  Such was the case when Controlled Chaos, Rush Hour and Mist-erious Seas were made.  But this time, it was kind of nice having the digital camera to see the results right away.  It allowed me to capture something nice and still keep my attention on my four intrepid explorers.

Rough Runners

Rough Runners

Theodore Roosevelt, known as the “Rough Rider”, was once quoted as saying “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat“.  Well I think my kids are taking that to heart in a very serious way.  Its as if they don’t know that there are limits to how daring one can be.  Put a camera in their hands and they stop at almost nothing to capture what they see.

On The Edge

On The Edge

 And if I had let her, my three year old would have have followed them out onto that rock.  In time.  Her ambition preceeds her sure footedness for now, and even though she is gung-ho to follow her siblings, she readily accepts a fatherly hand or a ride on the shoulders to get to where she wants.  But once there, she gets into the thick of it in a serious way.  I think that is what makes the magic of childhood so grand.  They don’t know their own limits and so they are willing to try everything.  Sometimes however, it is to their own demise and detrement, especially if the wisdom of the parents is not there to keep their foolhardiness in check, inspite of the dissenting voices insisting that they can do it.  But caution aside, and they find the most amazing places.

Hidden Beach

Hidden Beach

We arrive at Hidden Beach.  A small secluded cove beach on the south end of the more popular Weston Beach.  Its a small beach no more than about 50 feet at its widest point and with a narrow opening to the sea.  The beach itself is made up entirely of small rocks and pebbles in a rainbow of colors and hues.  The kids quickly find the most dangerous place on the beach to explore, a small indentation in the rocks on the north side of the beach, a small cave of sorts that they quicky dub “The Cave of Terror”.

The Cave Of Terror

The Cave Of Terror

With each large wave a rush of water comes in and encircles the large rock on the north side of the beach and rushes around to fill in the “cave”.  The only refuge from the rushing water is a small rise of rocks in the cave directly up against the wall.  But once trapped in there, the sight of onrushing water is enough to elicit the squeals of doom from children who think the end is upon them!  Then in a sudden rush of panic they dart out of the cave as the water subsides, proud in themselves thinking that they had just escaped a catastrophe of monumental proportions.  Once they gleened all the thrill they could from the cave of terror, the fascination of minutia found on the beach quickly overtook them.  For the next two hours, they combed that small beach for anything that did not resemble a rock or a pebble.  And in some cases what they found was indeed fascinating.  Suddenly a thought occured to me.  I remembered a series of photographs made by Georg Popp and his family during their outings at the seashore.  So I looked around the pebbles for some likely Found object to be the base of an image.  I then called my kids and explained what we were to do.  Bring everything you find, everything.  We’ll pick the best and put them together to make a photogrpah of our day at Point Lobos.  So here over the course of two hours is a succession of photos resulting in “Lost and Found”.

The Base

The Base

The base context of the final image was this piece of kelp that had started to dry out.  I positioned the camera directly over it and made this base photo.  Then the first wave of interesting items started to appear.  I widened the view a bit and started to arrange the items.

Initial Items Placed

Initial Items Placed

At this point, I decided to start in the hunt of things as well.  I brought in more than just the shells my kids found as there was more to be found on the beach than just that.  I found blades of sea grass, other bits of kelp, pieces of coral, crab shells and other colorful pebbles and stones.  Pieces of irridescient mother-of-pearl on the insides of broken scraps of abolone shells and animal’s teeth as well.  We would probably still be there now finding stuff had it not been that high tide was threatening our “canvas”.

Filling up the space

Filling up the space

With a few more items, like a blade of sea grass, an old sea-bleached crab pincer, a headless crab with legs still attached, a few more shells, and voila.  Lost and Found.

Lost And Found

Lost And Found

All these items were once alive.  They lost their lives at sea and tossed and turned in the waves, carried for who knows how long and for how far, they managed to be washed ashore on Hidden Beach.  Lost for countless time, unseen by untold numbers of visitors to this beach.  A veritable cornicopia of visual delights found by four children and their child-hearted father and arranged together to give a picture of what diverse life exists under the sea.  It is one of the most enjoyable photographs I have ever made during one of the most memorable days I have ever had.  You can be sure that Lost and Found will be hanging on one of our walls very shortly.

Oh…and whatever happened with sighting the new moon.  The skies in Big Sur stayed overcast the whole time.  With just over one hour before sunset, we set out on the road in search of a place where the skies were clear.  We dashed north along Highway 1 hoping to see some clear skies.  The skies that were clear just a few short hours ago, were now gray and enshrouding.  I began to think that we might not see it at all.  Even as far north as Santa Cruz, the skies were still overcast.  I figured I would need to be above the marine layer to even have a chance, but time was not on our side.  As we neared the Highway 17 interchange that would lead us up into and over the Santa Cruz mountains, I spotted some color on the horizon just north of Santa Cruz.  So we continued north until we reached Wilder Ranch State Park, and we made our stand there.  There we were able to see clear sky and it remained so for about 20 minutes.  Then no more than ten minutes after sunset, fairly high up in the sky, the fine feathery whisp of a crescent appeared.

Jamad Ath-Thaani, 1430

Jamad Ath-Thaani, 1430

And so what started out as a day of photography gone bad, turned out to be a day of interesting dichotomies.  Abandon and Wisdom, Life and Death, Lost and Found, and Ending with a Beginning.  But why should that surprise us?  For has not this world been created with everything in it as pairs? From things to events to feelings, everything has its opposite and together they create a balance and harmony that keeps this world and everything in it going. 

Peace to All.

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New Year 1430!

Time passes by so fast.  This evening marked the beginning of the New Islamic Year, Year 1430.  Tonight being the first evening of the month of Muharram and tomorrow the first full day.  The Islamic calendar is one based on the lunar cycle.  Each of the 12 lunar months is marked by sighting the new crescent moon.  Three times out of the year it is a big deal throughout the Muslim world with the start and end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and with the start of the 12th month in the year which is the month of Pilgrimage.  For the rest of the year, the moons go pretty much un-noticed except for a handful of dedicated die-hard moon-sighters.

Muharram Moon in Pink

Muharram Moon in Pink

I however have made a point to go out and search for the new moon every month since 1990.   Some months I see the moon and other months I don’t.  And I don’t always get a photo, even though it was photographing the moon that got me interested in and steeped in photography to begin with.  I had marked this day, the 28th of December in my calendar from one month ago at the last moon sighting trip and ingrained that date in my head.  It came upon me quicker than I thought.  Then a few days ago, with the 28th a brainworm in my head, I forgot why the 28th was important and for some reason I thought 28th was a Monday.  Then about a half an hour before sunset TODAY it suddenly occured to me that this evening was the night for seeking out the moon.

Muharram Crescent and Mercury

Muharram Crescent and Mercury

As I scrambled to gather myself and my gear I realized that there would not be enough time to make out to my usual location for sighting the moon.  As I raced down the street to the gas station to fill up before my ascent to Skyline Hwy along the main ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains, I decided to take my chances and stay right there in town and hope that I would be able to see it above the mountains’ skyline.  So I gassed up the truck and then drove a whopping 150 yards and pulled into the neighborhood shopping center, parked and pulled out my camera gear and prepared for the show.  Twenty minutes later, faintly appearing in the sky the crescent emerged, and even though I have seen countless new moons, it was just as spectacular as any that I have ever witnessed.  As the evening progressed and the moon slowly sank closer and closer to the skyline one of its neighbors in the sky, Mercury, appeared to join the moon and usher in the new year. 

I then thought how amazing it is that the new Islamic year begins with such a heavenly event.  It saddened me to think that most of world in a few short days would be celebrating the new Gregorian year at loud heedless parties in a semi-drunken stupor.  No heavenly event would take place marking the new year, only the click of the mechanized hands of the clock, an invention of our own making, and then we would continue to party making more and more noise until we either pass out drunk or finally give up to fatigue.  In contrast, even though I was standing in the middle of a bustling city, all was silent as that moon made its way to the horizon.  In all the grandure of the universe, I again remembered that a simple event like the appearance of the moon and witnessing it come into existence links me with all of it.  Its both humbling and enriching at the same time.  I never tire of feeling like I am a part of something greater than myself, and grateful to the One who made it all, that I could be there and to share it with everyone else.

Muharram 1, 1430 - December 28, 2008 5:34 pm PST.

Muharram 1, 1430 - December 28, 2008 5:34 pm PST.

Happy New Year and Peace to All!

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Ramadan 1429 Begins

Today was the first day of fasting for the month of Ramadan this year.

Enjoying the afternoon

Enjoying the afternoon

I lead a trip up to the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the northern Santa Cruz mountians on Sunday after noon with about 20 people attending. We spent about two hours along one of the ridge trails in the preserve waiting for the sun to set so that we could start searching. We had a good time while we waited.

It was another perfect day for moonsighting. The sky was clear and visibility was excellent. Although it was clear and sunny we had mild temperatures in the upper 60’s.

As the sun began to set, we all anxiously waited to start searching. Although the sunset was quite impressive with its deep orange color, we had to really stop ourselves from looking to prevent the green spots from appearing in our eyes which would hamper seeing the delicate crescent moon.

Finally the sun had vanished below the horizon. It left us with sublte pastel colored skies.

However, try as we did, we could not see any sign of the new crescent moon. Even though is was a 30 hour old moon, its age determine from the moment it is in conjunction with the sun, it was low on the horizon, only about 3.5 degrees in altitude, and was only in the sky for 20 minutes after the sun set. Most 30 hour old crescents are easy to see in the sky after sunset, but this one was to low ont he horizon and set too soon after sunset.

In the end, no one in North America saw the crescent moon that evening. Making the month of Sha’ban a 30 day month and with Ramadan beginning on Tuesday September 2, 2008.

With one day now complete we look forward to a blessed month ahead of us.

Peace – Youssef

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