Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chasing the Moon

Celestial Events – Chasing the Huge Full  Moon

Full Moon over Golden Gate

In a couple of my recent Travel TidBits blogs I wrote about the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012 and about the super full moon rising on May 5, 2012.  I actually photographed another ‘huge’ full moon setting on the early mornings of April 6 and April 7. On those days, the moon had similar characteristics with a near earth  orbit as described in my May 5 post.  The moon only 'appears' to be ‘huge’ due to the proximity to the earth.

I have only recently started to pay attention to these celestial events but find it fascinating.  Probably a lot of us go through life without ever paying much attention to the sky specifically if you are not an outgoing night person – well I did not feel I missed anything….  But thanks to The Bay Area Night Photography Meet-up group and the Star Circle Academy, I am all of a sudden more intrigued by what’s happening in the sky and willing to stay up or even go out at an ungodly time of 3-4am to watch – not to haul with –the moon.  So this is what I did on April 6: 

It was full moon and the moon was unusually large to its near earth orbit.  It’s a complicated story how to figure out where the moon might be either rising or setting over a landmark to capture an alluring image.  But thanks to Steven Christenson of the Star Circle Academy, I knew that looking west from the Berkeley Marina the moon would set over the Golden Gate Bridge.  With the bridge about 8-10 miles away, the perspective would be such that the moon would appear large relative to the bridge.  But this also meant that a large tele lens would be necessary to capture the setting moon and bridge in that far distance.  For this shoot, I choose the Nikon D7000 camera with the cropped sensor (aiding in the further reach), Nikon 200-400mm lens at full tele, and added a 1.4 teleconverter.  This gave me an effective 825mm tele - allowing for the relative close-up considering the 8-10 miles of distance between the Berkeley Marina and the golden Gate.  The images shown here were taken at ISO 200 with the an aperture of f/7.1 and a shutter speed varying between 3-5 seconds.

Well, armed with all my equipment and tripod and bundled in down jackets and hats and gloves, my friend Lynda and I set out at ~4am on a cold morning of April 6.  By the time we reached the Berkeley Marina a lot of photographers had gathered there to observe and capture the huge moon.  It was good to be early, to select the best place and set up our equipment, and follow the moon on his descend.  As it neared the bridge, the clicking of the cameras was the only sound to be heard.  Everyone as concentrating on settings, eager not to miss the shot since the moon waits for no one.

It was a great experience and finally over a hot cup of coffee, we talked about other possibilities to capture the ‘huge’ moon.  

Well, next morning at 4am, I was on my way to the coast and hoped to photograph the setting moon over Pigeon Point.  It was a clear morning along the coast with only a cloud bank far out over the ocean.  As I set up in the dark – thanks for a camping headlamp well equipped to see what I was doing - the moon was still high in the sky on its path beyond the horizon.  … and then I noticed it that my position would not bring the lighthouse into the path – oh well, too late to change [I hadn't done the complicated calculation .... mentioned above!!] .  But look for yourself, I still had a nice view over the calm ocean, and the morning colors just before sunrise were definitely worth the early trip out to the coast.

The setting full moon over Pigeon Point

Til next time,


Looking for some fun photography outings, check this out: