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Photographing a Super Moon

>> Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tonight is the "super moon", meaning the moon is full at the same time that is is at the closest point to Earth in its orbit.  I have read it appears about 14% larger and 30% brighter than usual.  The last time we had a super moon was 1993.  And for once, Syracuse had crystal clear skies on the night of an astronomical event.  Hooray!

My husband and I meandered over to Devoe Road, which is one of the high hills in Camillus, west of Syracuse.  I actually watched a lunar eclipse from the top of Devoe Road many moons ago (pardon the pun) with my Dad.  So, when I was trying to think of a good spot to watch and photograph the super moon, Devoe Road popped into my head.

Here's the view, just as the sun was going down behind us:

Apparently it popped into a lot of other people's heads, too, because we had a fair bit of company up there.  Most folks, however, drove up and snapped a few photos and left.  Not one even had a tripod, and most were using a flash.  All found it too chilly to linger.

It turns out we had some deer for company, too, although I didn't realize it until I came home and downloaded the photos.  If you look closely you can see them in this photo, lined up along the tree line:

We also stood for quite some time listening to coyotes howling at the moon.  Truly spine tingling.  How I love that sound!  Someday I hope I get to hear wolves howl at the moon.  I bet its even tinglier.

The moon rose almost at the same time that the sun was setting.  There was still a fair bit of residual light in the sky when the moon first appeared, which made the first few shots somehow less atmospheric than I had envisioned.  We had a lot of trouble with the white balance, and wound up changing the k values, which my husband tells me has something to do with kelvin scale.  It worked, and we finally started to capture the incredible orange color of the moon on the horizon.

As time went on, we got better at fiddling with the settings on the camera, and came up with some really cool photos.  Unfortunately, capturing the texture of the moon, versus the amazing atmosphere of the hills and trees, required different camera settings.  Without photoshopping two shots together, it was one:

Or the other:

As we were contemplating loading back into the car to thaw our completely frozen fingers, a woman pulled up and snapped a few photos, and suggested we go back down the hill toward the Erie Canal, since the moon was reflected in the water.  It turned out to have been a wonderful recommendation, and I got in a few more quick shots before we went home.

Overall, a chilly time, but great fun, and a great learning experience about photographing in low light setting.  I am so glad my husband had the patience to read the user's manual for the D90, and to relay the info to his impatient wife.  Without him, I would probably have been cursing and unable to get any good shots.  So I guess, really, tonight's photos are a joint effort.  Thanks spouse!


sarah March 19, 2011 at 11:23 PM  

lovely lovely lovely! thank you! my own point-and-shoot efforts were laughable.

Woodswalker March 19, 2011 at 11:36 PM  

Just exquisite! I was out trying to take some photos too, but I couldn't see my camera buttons in the dark, and my fingers started to freeze. So I resorted to point-and-shoot, which yielded some technically inadequate but accidentally charming images. You were lucky to have someone who knows your camera well along to instruct you. Beautiful night for a moondance!

Bill and dogs March 20, 2011 at 4:53 AM  

Thank you for these wonderful photos. I didn't even try to take any because I knew my point-and-shoot couldn't handle it. Instead, I went to bed early and got to see your terrific pictures this morning. Thank you.

Bill and dogs March 20, 2011 at 4:54 AM  

I should add that your header photo is exquisite and makes me long to get back out on the trails again.

Carole March 20, 2011 at 9:53 AM  

Oh I really enjoyed these photos, they're wonderful and striking. That last one in the Erie Canal is super too...thanks for posting and sharing.

Ellen Rathbone March 20, 2011 at 6:36 PM  

Ooo - nice shots!

Louise March 23, 2011 at 9:02 PM  

What lovely shots! I envy people like you, with real talent.

Cynthia Meents May 5, 2012 at 8:30 PM  

I found your post looking for advice on tonight's super moon (5/12). I love your water shots.

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