Monday, March 21, 2011

Super Moon

Click on a photo to see a larger version, then use your Back button to return to the story.  Enjoy!

 The moon is closer to Earth than it has been in 19 years!  The full moon was Saturday and the weather gorgeous - clear and cool.  Crystal and I headed toward Shell Point in search of a western viewpoint from which we might look due east to see the moon rise over the St. Marks lighthouse.  We found nearly such a spot on a remote stretch of salt marsh.  I hiked along the shore to a point where my hand-held compass put me due west of the distant lighthouse.  Crystal set up a chair to write and watch the evening unfold on the marsh.

The light did it's usual magic on the marsh as the sun sank toward the horizon.

I set up two cameras, one tucked back in the cedars with a wide angle lens to try to capture the setting with the moon rising.  That one I put on an intervalometer which would automatically shoot a photo every 15 seconds starting shortly before the scheduled event.

For the lighthouse set up, I used a combination of camera and lenses to give me the greatest telephoto power I could get... the equivalent of about a 1000 mm lens.  Tightened the tripod, locked up the camera's mirror, and attached a cable shutter release to minimize vibration. I tested manual settings until I was in the right ballpark.  Then the countdown began.

8:04 pm came and went on my watch... No moon.  But by 8:08 the top of the huge ghostly red "jellyfish" began lifting out of the invisible haze a few degrees above the Gulf horizon.  The effect was really dramatic through my telescopic lens.  There was one little problem - one that I had half expected:  the moon was rising about 10 degrees to the right (south) of the lighthouse.  No way to move far enough or fast enough to re-frame it, so I photographed the lighthouse, then shifted my camera slightly and started shooting the moon.

When I "photoshop" a photo, like I did with the Mooned Lighthouse at the top, I like to describe the process.  My published "altered photos" go into the Altered section of my website.   Mooned Lighthouse is a composite of two photos shot sequentially with the same camera and lens.  The scale has not been changed and the horizon lines are matched to make it as accurate as possible had I been able to predict the exact spot the moon would rise and been a few hundred yards down the shore. Here are the two full images superimposed but otherwise unaltered.  Next chance I get, I'll try to be in the spot that lines up the full moon and lighthouse so I can make the photo in one shot.

Moments later, the massive shimmering celestial body -- distorted and fuzzy from the heat and haze thickest near Earth's horizon -- was fully visible over the Gulf of Mexico.

As it lifted away from the thick atmosphere, the moon grew yellower and brighter and was soon casting a reflection across the choppy water.  The bright globe glided into the night sky and cast sweet moonlight on the marsh as we packed up to head home.


Tazio said...

cool ...

Rachel said...

Wow, great shots. We watched in awe as it rose over Tallahassee! You had a much better vantage point!

Lou Kellenberger's Nature Diary said...

Great images as usual David... special thanks for the story and the information about the shots.

HK said...

Awesome and breathtaking. A large part of that majic is how you capture it.
Thank you,

Carla said...

Hi David, Such great images -- I added the link to our SILVER IMAGE® Photo Agency FB site! Carla

David Moynahan said...

Thanks so much. This was a special event... one that I really wanted to capture in my photos. It was a learning experience too... I look forward to more full moons, even if they aren't quite as super.

David Moynahan said...

Carla, Thanks for adding my blog to Silver Image. Other readers, please feel free to share through your other channels. =) Thanks!!