How a Photographer Captured This ET-like Photo of Her Son in Utah

Man in the moon
Ethan Osness balances on a red-rock formation in Pioneer Park, a mountain-biking and climbing hot spot in southwestern Utah, outside St. George Amy Osness

OUTSIDE ST. GEORGE, Utah, at the edge of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve—a public wilderness teeming with Gila monsters, Mojave Desert tortoises, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes—there’s a 52-acre red-rock expanse known as Pioneer Park.

It was here, in the mid-1800s, that Mormon settlers sought shelter from the heat, relaxing in the shade of the cliffs. And it was here, one November evening more recently, that photographer Amy Osness captured her 19-year-old son, Ethan, biking the trails by moonlight.

To get the photo, “I had to anticipate where the sun was setting at the same time the moon was rising,” says Osness, who also mountain bikes. A month prior, she’d missed a chance at a similar photo, during another full moon. “I was too close,” she says. “I realized that I needed to be about a half-mile away to get what I wanted.”

Though the photo was a first for her, she and Ethan regularly bike after sunset. Compared with day rides, “it’s more exciting, and it makes you feel like you’re going a lot faster than you are,” she says. “All the same trails you normally ride during the day become new and different.”