The summer of 2014 is a good summer to observe the Full Moon when the moon was at the perigee of its orbit around the Earth. Wait, what is perigee? Perigee is when an object orbiting another make it’s closest approach to the object. Apogee is when it’s furthest from the object being orbited. When the Moon is at perigee, it appears larger than at any other time in its orbit while at apogee it appears smallest. On August 10, 2014 the Full Moon is perigee and will appear about 13% larger and 30% brighter than it would at apogee this is why its called a “Super Moon.” For you non-astronomical folks, here’s a link to a good illustration of it on the Huffington Post. If you missed this one, there is another coming on September 9, 2014.
Even in the city, the view of them larger moon can be very rewarding. A pair of binoculars or a small telescope provides a great experience when observing the Moon. If you have camera that has a longer lens, you can silhouette the larger moon rising behind a foreground object. If you have a really long lens, you can get a good close-up of the moon. To get the best exposure for the moon, you need to open up one stop from the basic sunlight exposure, f/16 @ 1/ISO setting. That is if you ISO is set at 250, the normal sun setting is 1/250th of a second at f/16. But even though the Moon is in Bright Sunlight, it’s darker than mid gray, it only appears white because it is in a black sky. So open up on stop 1/250 sec @ f/11 and you’ll have a good exposure.
My reason for going out to photograph when we have a Full Moon is not to photograph the Moon, but to use its light to illuminate terrestrial object. The moon is reflecting sunlight back to the Earth and illuminating it. Since the moon is about 30% bright, I can get slightly shorter exposure. While you use normal sunlight exposures to photograph the moon itself, the moon reflected light is much dimmer than the direct sunlight during the day. Even though the reflected light is dimmer than daylight, once your eyes adjust to the light you’ll be amazed at what you can see. Head out to a dark area with no lights around and be amazed by the beauty of the moonlight on the scenery. My wife and I have hiked and backpacked with just the light of the full moon, a most magical experience.
I wasn’t going to be hiking this time. One of the photo projects I’m working on to photograph old structure using moonlight. The results provide a photo with and interesting effect. Since the structure is illuminated by reflected sunlight, it appears to be illuminated by the sun. But since there isn’t as much light, there isn’t enough to illuminate the sky, so while the structure looks like a daylight exposure, the sky is a very dark blue with stars.
So I set out to photograph a few old building I had seen on recent trips. The location I was heading for was Red Mountain. It’s a small town, if you can call it that, along US 395 in California, about 25 miles north of Kramer Junction and 25 miles south of Ridgecrest. During the last couple of times passing through Red Mountain on or way back from Lone Pine, I had noticed a couple of buildings that looked interesting. We left home in the early afternoon on August 9 and headed to Red Mountain. Since I was also going to be getting up early the next morning to do some more moonlight photography, we got a room in Ridgecrest so we could get a few hours sleep that night.
I returned to Red Mountain just after 8 pm as it was getting dark and set up my equipment. I’ll throw in a little MS related info now. I have a very difficult time walking now and use a cane for support and have balance problems. With it being dark, it only aggravated the problems. My wife, Margaret, works an outstanding assistant. I could find the spot where I wanted to photograph from and she would bring e my camera and tripod.
I found three building I thought would be good subjects. On appeared to an old residence, another appeared to and old store and the other was an old grocery store. It’s kind of hard to identify what they may have been as there is little room in front of them as the road has been widened over the years. I set up the tripod and attached the camera. This type of photography is where the advantages of digital quickly become apparent. It’s hard to get meter reading in such dark light, isn’t that an oxymoron, dark light? I set the ISO at 1600 and took the first exposure at ¼ sec at f/8. Not to bad, but a little dark. After a couple more test shots, I arrived at good exposure of 1/15 sec and f/8. With film, I wouldn’t have been able to see my results until the film was developed. I would have needed to bracket and record the info for future use. Using digital I can always start new each time in case the lighting is a little different and still get the correct exposure. Here are the three buildings.
Even though I was out shooting building, I did turn around a shoot a couple of moon shots. I was using my Nikon D800e. I took my Nikkor 500mm f/4 lens and put a Nikkor 2x convertor on it to give me a 1000mm focal length. After all, if your out there, you might as well take the shot.
After shooting in Red Mountain, we slept about 4-5 hour in Ridgecrest and then headed out to my next target. My main project at this time is shooting subject for my “Land of Giants.” In Pearsonville, about 20 mile north from Ridgecrest is a giant statue of a woman. It looks like it may have onetime been used as an attraction for a golf course. I have photographed it in the daylight, but I thought that moonlight would add a little something to the photo. We arrived a little after 4 AM and set about photography. I was nice that I could use my scooter to get around as it made it easier to find the right angle for the photo. Again, my loving loyal assistant would bring me my tools.
A few dozen yard north of the statue is the Pearsonville water tank. I couldn’t resist photographing it also.
We got back into Ridgecrest about 5:30 AM and stopped at a McDonalds for something to drink and a quick bite to eat. As we were walking back to the car, I noticed beams coming from the horizon from the full moon that had just set. I’ve seen this from the Sun but this was the first time I had seen this from the Moon.
All in all, I was a very interesting trip. Daytime temps were about 100° F during the day and the low as about 70°. It made shooting at night very comfortable.