Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sooper Dooper Moon.

Everybody and their brother (and aunts, uncles, and nieces and grandsons, no doubt) took pictures of the closest "Perigee Moon" in almost 20 years. Why should I be an exception?

Now, every time I've shot the moon since we've lived here, it's been from the back porch, and I've caught it rising over the Little Florida Mountains which, you should know by now, are basically in our back yard.

I needed to find a new location to shoot from in this case, because I knew that once the moon got a few degrees above the horizon it would begin to look like any full moon. I needed the horizon in the picture when the moon was appearing to be at its largest. It was time to pack the little Montero and head up into the Little Floridas.

We were going to a spot about 2 miles east of the house, but the drive was more like 6 miles on fairly easy jeep trails. Our vantage point would give us unobstructed view all the way to the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces... nearly 100 miles away! I had my horizon, and had only to wait for the moon to rise.

Problem was, I had no way of knowing exactly where the moon would appear. So we arranged it so we'd be there early. Real early. Not wanting to be rushing around at the last minute, we arrived at our lookout around 6:15. Moonrise was scheduled for 7:44!

I got the camera, with 300mm lens on the tripod, and wandered around with another camera and shot a bunch of pretty much forgettable ambience shots. I've been to this location many times before.

I took my position at the tailgate when there were about 20 minutes remaining before moonrise. Margaret thought my verbal countdown ever five minutes was overkill, but hey, that's how I roll. When I finally saw the glow on the still quite light horizon, I had only about 10 seconds to get focused in and start shooting. It moves fast, and yes, it really did look 30% larger than a normal moonrise:

Moonrise, W. Potrillo Mtns., NM

f4.0 1/8sec, ISO400
For a while.. meaning 2 or 3 minutes.. I was able to shoot on auto, and still get detail in the foreground, and also in the moon itself, along with its beautiful orange cast. Also, the whispy clouds add much to the drama of the image. Unfortunately, as anyone who has tried to capture images of the full moon knows, (and judging from the interwebz, that's nearly everyone) there comes a point when you have to choose between detail on the ground and detail in the moon. You can't have both. Again, as evidenced by the images on the internet, most of the people who shoot the moon, have no idea how to do it properly. If you let the camera have its way, you end up with a white disk in the middle of the frame that looks very much like an Alka-Seltzer tablet.
f8, 1/250th sec., ISO400

If you want a properly exposed moon, with lots of detail, you expose exactly as you would at high noon, because what is moonlight, after all, but reflected sunlight! At ISO 200, shoot it at f5.6 and 1/500th of a second. Or thereabouts. Just don't be looking for any details in the surrounding frame. To get that you have to "take one from column A, and one from column b", mix in a little Photoshop magic, and voilá...

Moonrise, Little Florida Mtns., NM
That image was taken from the old stand-by location.. the rear porch of the house.  After we'd used up almost all of the daylight up on the mountain, we drove back down as quickly as was prudent, and got set up on the porch in time to catch a second "rising".  Moonbats.

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