Because of the elliptical orbit of the moon, there are times when it is closer to the earth than normal. Whenever it reaches at least 90% of its closest approach (perigee) Astronomer Richard Nolle called it a “Supermoon’ in 1979 and that terms has stuck. The full moon Saturday August 29th was such a moon — the first of three. It appeared 13% larger and 20% brighter than normal. And, for some reason (theories vary but the one that makes sense to me is comparative perspective) it will seem even larger and brighter as it rises and sets near the horizon.
The plan was to meet with photographers Lee Peterson and Mike Uriel on Friday evening to scout out a good location and then on Saturday to shoot the real thing. Unfortunately Lee was unable to go and I had not heard anything from Mike so I went to our initial target spot, Shelter Island, on Friday in time to catch the moonrise.
We based that location plan on The Photographers Ephemeris, a free application that shows the track of the sun and moon to help photographers orient themselves for a shot. It looked like the moon would rise over the city and we could shoot the city waterfront and skyline over the bay with this giant moon as a backdrop. The boat launch offered a superb place and easy parking at or close to the shooting spots.
But Friday’s shoot revealed for me that the spot was not ideal. Yes, the moon was over the city from there, as indicated, but not over the central part. Worse, as the moon rose it arched to the south moving quickly even farther out of line. On the horizon to the east was another problem; a cloud bank that kept expanding upward and obscured the moon until it was well over the city and too far to the south for the shot we envisioned.shots but their only value was to show why this was not a good spot.
I blasted over to Harbor Island, pulled into a parking spot and used a trash can to brace for this shot.
This was clearly a better angle and to help, the moon should come up a few degrees farther north (to screen left) on Saturday. So I reported my findings to Lee and suggested that we shoot from Harbor Island instead. There was a snafu in organizing the evening, and I was not pleased to discover there were no more free parking spots in the area but were all reserved for valet parking for the three restaurants there, but we did all arrive on the SE end of Harbor Island well in time to set up for a shot.
There is a walkway around the new touristy Mexican restaurant, though unless you are willing to do a hike, you still have to pay for valet parking whether you are going to eat or just for a view. I was SOOOOOO pleased… Then when I found Lee and Mike and found a spot to shoot (another small walkway overlook about 50 yards from them) but had to get a parking lot attendant to go with me to open the car so I could get the gear I needed.
The good news was that the moon rose nearly an hour later than on Friday and the sun had just set so the sky was already considerably darker.
All of the shots below were taken with a Canon 5DSr and a Sigma 50-500 f6.3 lens. Because of that combination I hauled my heavy tripod to the shoot spot since it was clear that for longer exposure night shots the camera needed to be rock steady. You can click on some of them to enlarge them and see the resolution of that camera and lens. Wow, if only that lens were a little lighter… And the tripod were a little lighter… And I were a little younger…
Once set up I took a few preliminary shots while it was still light to get a feel for the right compositions and settings.
I thought it would be cool to shoot with the gull on the piling in the mid/foreground. But there was nothing to do now except wait. There was another cloud bank but this time but it cleared from the bottom and allowed the incredible moon to show itself as it rose behind the El Cortez hotel/condos with the San Diego City Hall in the foreground.
I had cropped this one tighter since the gull on the piling had flown away and that shot no longer existed. However, on the next piling to the right there was a gull. I moved the rig over until the moons reflection lined up properly and tried again.
Meh… Close but no cigar; maybe if I’d had a light to show up the seagull better…??? But the real problem is there are too many “focal points” that distract from one another. Your eye does not know where to look and rest. I already had a shot of the moon over the building. Perhaps the gull in closer with the background softer??? At any rate it was not what I saw in my mind so I returned to the original spot for a wider view of the waterfront/harbor. I almost didn’t show that shot but the teacher in me wanted to show when an attempt at a good idea simply does not pan out. Back at the original spot, here was a wider view of the moon over the waterfront. If you look close you can see the post with the gull on it a little to the right of the reflection in this angle.
Although I was there for well over an hour, these moon shots were all taken within very few minutes of each other. As the moon continued to rise it lost the yellow color and its connection with the cityscape behind it so it was time to pack it in.
So then, this morning at breakfast, I am told that NEXT month’s full moon is not only another supermoon but should be BIGGER than this one. The good news is that at least now I know what to do…