Supermoon November 14, 2016

I made an attempt at photographing the supermoon. The so-called ‘supermoon’ occurs when the moon is closest to the earth, and full at the same time. When this occurs, the moon is larger and brighter than normal. The last time this occurred was 1948, and the next time will be in 2034. To get good moon shots you need to decide on a foreground for the photograph, and then get the moon with that foreground. I didn’t have a good foreground place in mind, so I decided to hike up into South Mountain Park and see what I could find. I had in mind a picture with a Saguaro, the city, and a rising moon.

I knew I would have to hike out of the park at night and planned on bringing a headlamp. Unfortunately, I forgot it. That also made the photography more difficult because I couldn’t see what I was doing. Luckily, I had a bright moon when hiking out! (and also my ‘flashlight’ mode on my phone).

I didn’t do a good job with the moon photography, but I posted a couple anyway. I didn’t get the moon in a good position with the Saguaro, so I had to settle for it just coming over the horizon, and it is kind of over-exposed, so it looks like the sun. I learned some things for the future. For those interested, I put some photography notes in this blog after the photographs (below). I put it last because I’m assuming most people aren’t interested.

The photos aren’t what I was after, but it was fun, and it was really beautiful. I have that in my memory, if not in the photographs! And, I learned some things that hopefully will improve my next moon photographs. Here are the photos:

Photography notes:

  1. The main photography problem I had was dynamic range. To expose the foreground correctly caused the moon to be washed out, and when I exposed the moon correctly, the foreground was way under exposed. To fix this I use my HDR (high dynamic range) program. More on this below.
  2. I found that when the moon is rising it moves pretty quick. In order not to blur it, I had to use a shutter speed of about 1/10. Unfortunately, I used too long of an exposure for a lot of them.
  3. I didn’t get the moon in a good position with the Saguaro shot. By the time it rose enough and I got some decent shots (i.e. without too long of a shutter speed), the camera had moved on the tripod (I think in the darkness I didn’t put it where the footing solid enough), and my HDR program couldn’t line up the multiple pictures with different exposures. I had to settle for the shot that doesn’t really convey the supermoon. I could photoshop the moon with a good exposure into the Saguaro picture with the foreground exposed, but that would be too much work (and maybe cheating 🙂 )!
  4. My HDR program is called Photomatix. I found out that it has a nice feature that lets me select an area in the photograph and then specify which picture to use in that area. It worked really well for putting the well-exposed moon shot in the well-exposed foreground.
  5. The moon rose at 6:05 PM and the sun set around 5:25 PM. If I would have gone the day before the moon rose at about 5:15 (and the day before that at 4:30), so I would have had better light for the foreground.
  6. My pictures didn’t really convey the size of the moon. I think I should have used my longer lens.

Summary of lessons learned:

  1. Don’t forget the headlamp!!
  2. Make sure the tripod footing is very solid (the headlamp will help to see better where the tripod is placed).
  3. Get the exposures right for the moon movement and brightness.
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