Racing the Super-Moon’s Celestial Clock

Picture: Super-Moon rising over Mount Diablo, as seen from Briones Regional Park, Contra Costa County, California

Image: Super-Moon rising over Mount Diablo, as seen from Briones Regional Park, Contra Costa County, California

This last weekend was the “Super-Moon Rise.” This is when the moon is supposed to be 10-13% larger in the sky because the moon’s orbit brings it closest to the earth. Normally I don’t go chasing after these kind of celestial events too often. But as the date approached, I took a few moments to look up when and where the moon was due to rise, using the great app from The Photo Ephemeris (TPE). With the sun setting at its northernmost azimuth during the year, the full moon would be rising at its southernmost point. Sure enough, TPE showed the moon would be rising right over the slopes of Mount Diablo as seen from the hills of my favorite local hiking area, Briones Regional Park. I also knew that the moon would rise around 7:54pm, and just a few moments later would crest the shoulder of the mountain.

I left my house late. I was in a rush from the very start. I drove to the trailhead, slapped on my pack, and hiked the 1.5 miles uphill as fast as I could manage. I was huffing and puffing like an engine as I constantly envisioned the moon behind me, approaching the horizon as the earth continued with its unyielding spin. It was that “the moon won’t wait for me” thought that kept fueling my pace. Adding to the effort, I had packed two camera bodies, two tripods, and four lenses, including my not-so-light 500mm f4 lens.

My hustle paid off, as I arrived at my destination at 7:53pm. I knew I only had moments before the moon would be visible. While hiking, I was pre-visualizing not only my composition, but how I would most efficiently set up my gear to capture what I wanted. First out of the pack was my D7000, which I set up to shoot a timelapse using an interval of one frame every five seconds. I then set up my 500mm lens, and didn’t have more than a couple moments to catch my breath before shooting away as the moon rose exactly where I expected. Unfortunately it was a very warm day, so all the 500mm images were pretty much a waste of effort due to the compressed atmospheric distortion caused by the radiant heat waves. As the moon rose, I switched lenses on my Nikon D800 to capture a variety of compositions, and knowing I would get less heat distortion with shorter focal lengths. I also made sure to shoot a few panoramic images. These really captured the locally-iconic shape of Mount Diablo with the moon far better and larger in the composition than I could do with any single-frame image. So why go to the trouble of a panorama vs. a single frame with a wide-angle lens? Well, it basically boiled down to my thought of “What good is a Super-Moon photo if the moon appears as nothing more than a-little-white-dot-in-the-sky?”

(Btw, the Timelapse was shot with a 50mm lens on a 1.5x DX crop camera, for an effective focal length of about 75mm.)

I’d be really curious which of these three versions you like the best? The single frame (top), the panorama, or the timelapse?

Thanks for looking. :)

- Gary.

Picture: Panoramic photo of the Super-Moon rising over Mount Diablo, as seen from Briones Regional Park, Contra Costa County, California

Image: Super-Moon rising over Mount Diablo, as seen from Briones Regional Park, Contra Costa County, California


Image ID#: 130622b_LMO-0167 (Top Image; purchase a traditional photo print below)

Image ID#: 130622-LMOmoon_18x52 (Pano Image; contact me to purchase a print.)



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8 Comments on “Racing the Super-Moon’s Celestial Clock”

  1. Richard Wong Says:

    Nice Gary. I like the contrast and color better in the first image but the composition better in the panoramic.

  2. Michael Russell Says:

    I prefer the panorama over the single frame version. Did the moon seem noticeably larger than any other full moon?

  3. Jean Day Says:

    Nice work, Gary. I really enjoyed the moon sneaking up from the hazy atmosphere in the time lapse, but I really like the pano. Nice comp with lots of good layers of light and shadow.

  4. Bruce Finocchio Says:

    Hi Gary,

    I too like the composition in the panorama image better. The other one has too much foreground that’s not helping much. The foreground has the same about of space as the mountain and the moon, so my eye isn’t sure where you want me to go to, and the mountain part shown doesn’t included its iconic double peak. The format size is a bit blocky for me, and the image just lacks interest and that special something to draw me back. So it’s the panorama for me, for the foreground has a nice horizontal rhythm with the mountain.

  5. Dale Says:

    Definitely the panorama, for the same variety of reasons others commented.
    It would really be nice if the colors could be brought out a bit more like the single frame shot.
    Great photo and great description of what it took to get it too!

  6. Jackson Frishman Says:

    Definitely the pano for me: the mountain looks a bit cut off in the single frame, whereas in the pano its outline nicely complements the curves of the hills and the shadow. The light and processing feels better to me in the pano too, with just a little more pink on the mountain and a richer sky. The bottom third of the single frame also looks just a tad bright to me. The timelapse is nice and would be great as part of a longer video.

  7. michael stern Says:

    I like the pano and suing longer lenses and stitching together is the way to do these types of images. I’m alos a fan and producer of time lapse, which is also well done. I’m curious, which exposure mode were you in and did you use a vari-ND filter?

    Thanks.

    Michael

  8. enlightphoto Says:

    Michael:

    Thanks for the reply & sorry for the delay in mine, as I’ve been out of town. Manual Mode, and no Vari-ND, though I should have. Part of my learning process on this one was ‘flicker’ ‘cuz my shutter speed was too fast. Cheers & Thanks again! – Gary.



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