I was one of those who got caught up in the perigee-moon hype.
The first time I heard about the “super moon,” images of a really fat moon danced in my head. As my family and some of my friends already know, the Earth’s satellite is one my favorite photographic subjects.
But as many years as I’ve been pursuing this hobby, there are still a number of challenges that frustrate me when it comes to photographing the moon. I’ve learned to overcome some of them, which involved a lot of patience and research. And most of all - practice, practice, practice.
That’s why I understood perfectly well the frustrations that my brother, a serious amateur photographer in the Bay Area, shared with me about taking pictures of the rare super-moon phenomenon on the evening of Cinco de Mayo.
For the best lunar viewing and photographing, he went to the man-made Lake Elizabeth in Fremont. He laughed as he recalled that many other people apparently had the same idea. There were probably up to 30 people who were there taking pictures of the moon armed with a slew of cameras of every possible kind. He said he saw many photographers trying to capture the rising full moon in the horizon with their small handheld digital cameras. Many of them were taking pictures of the moon with their flash units, he said.
My brother owns an SLR digital camera with interchangeable lenses that include a powerful zoom lens. Yet, despite all that, he was frustrated about not being able to get enough details of the moon.
I understood perfectly what he was talking about. Been there, done that.
Every photographic situation, though, is different. At least, that much I’ve learned the hard way through the years. For me, what I’ve found to be the best way of taking any satisfactory image of the moon is to go the old-fashioned route - manual - which means manually setting your camera’s shutter speed and focal point. While that requires practice, each assignment is faced with a variety of challenges based on the different factors unique to each given situation - challenges that let you think fast on your feet, and sometimes quickly before what you’re trying to capture is gone.
Saturday’s super moon, for example, was challenged by a smoggy horizon - at least, from the vantage point that I had chosen which was along South Austin Road. It’s planting time in spring, so the air in the valley is full of flying dust. The atmosphere was such that the moon was already a few degrees above the horizon when I finally could discern its shape. I had to do some quick camera manipulations to compensate for those atmospheric challenges so as to get a decent image.
I did the same thing at 11 p.m. when the moon was very bright - so bright it almost like daylight outside, and bright enough to play hide-and-seek, which was what we did as children. This time, the challenge was in trying to overcome all that light to capture the details on the lunar surface.
I have yet to see my brother’s photos of the super moon. He is quite an artist whose photographs already have quite a following on the online photo-sharing web site called flickr. I can’t wait to see what he came up with this time.