I know, I know.  I promised scenes from the Galapagos would be in my next post, but……

A week ago (March 12), there was a full moon, an event that happens every 29.5 days.  But for photographers in Washington, DC, it was a special night because the moon would rise in a location on the horizon that was pretty close to perfect for the so-called “Holy Grail” shot.  It happens, on average, every one or two years.

Full Moon March 2017

Moonrise over Washington, D.C., March 12, 2017

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 200mm on tripod;                Exposure: 1.6 sec @ f/11, ISO 400; taken )

There is a spot in Arlington, Virginia where one has an excellent view of the city of Washington with a compositionally sweet alignment of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol.  The location is the base of the Netherlands Carillon, just to the south of the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Before the advent of the smart phone/tablet, anticipating this event was not easy, requiring a compass and access to some publicly available software on the website of the U.S. Naval Observatory.  But now, with the availability of numerous apps, such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) or Photo Pils, anyone can figure it out. For example, on this night, even with temperatures hovering around freezing, there were over 60 photographers there, each with at least one tripod and a big lens.

Other than the cold weather, conditions looked pretty good on this evening.  The sky was clear and the moon would rise at 86.0 degrees azimuth on the horizon and 13 minutes after sunset.  That was a bit further south than ideal, and a bit later than desired relative to the sunset. Nevertheless, it would be the best opportunity in 2017 with only one other chance (October 5) that will be in the ballpark.  However, in October, the blue twilight period (Civil Twilight) will end before the moon gets sufficiently elevated.

Moonrise D-17-03-12-9670

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 200mm on tripod;                Exposure: 1.0 sec @ f/11, ISO 400; taken at 7:32 PM)

Although the official time of the moonrise was 7:27 PM, it would be a bit later before it would appear above the skyline.  It was first sighted by the group at about  7:29 and the image immediately above was taken about 90 seconds later.  By this time, the end of civil twilight is approaching and we would soon lose the classic blue color that is essential to this kind of image.


Moonrise D-17-03-12-9696

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 200mm on tripod;                Exposure: 2.0 sec @ f/11, ISO 400; taken at 6:36 PM)

Furthermore, the combination of a very clear sky with the rapidly fading twilight would cause the moon to become extremely bright as it rose above the dimming effects of the ground haze.  The above image was taken at 6:36 PM, about 3 minutes before the end of civil twilight.    Already the moon is becoming increasingly bright and the excellent details on its surface have almost vanished.  Any images taken after this point would require increasingly heroic post-processing efforts.

So when you prepare for a moon shot, make sure you check more than the location.  The relationship in time between the sunset and moonrise and civil twilight can have a significant impact on your results.  If you are in a classic landscape situation where no artificial lighting typical of an urban scene is expected, you may want to evaluate the prospects on the night just before the actual full moon.  This is especially true where a mountain may be blocking the moon at the time of the “official” moonrise.


Next (and I promise): Scenes from the Galapagos Islands.


27 thoughts on “Moonrise

  1. Ah, you are the master, Robin. I read the whole thing with a huge smile on my face. Photos are amazing, and the way you planed for the shooting amazed me too. I’ll have these photos in my head for a couple of days for sure. Thanks.
    Have a great evening.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Helen! I know it has been a really long time since you made this comment, but I wasn’t ignoring you or the others. There seems to be an issue with my getting access to the edit/writing features on my account. Long story, not interesting, but hopefully it will be resolved soon. But I appreciate your taking the time to write the comments and I hope to have a new story up soon.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! It is nice to hear that. And I do apologize for being slow in responding. As I have been explaining to all who made comments, problems with access are preventing me from easily getting on to my own site. I have this crude work-around finally, but it is really slowing things down.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks very much, and you make an excellent point. I apologize for not getting back sooner, but (as you can see from my other replies on this post today) WordPress has decided to make it difficult for me to access my account for some reason. Anyway, I do appreciate the kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. These are fabulous! I’ve forwarded them on to some good friends in DC who I think will appreciate such beautiful captures of their/your city! And thank you for all the great tips on planning a moonrise shoot – I’ll certainly take them into account next time I get a good chance!


      • No worries on slow responding or not responding at all! I’m easy-going, and believe me, I get behind on blogging all the time. 🙂 And then there’s the woes of WordPress….. lol


  3. I’ll wait anytime for your Galapagos pictures to see this event. The moon moves faster and appears more rarely with this kind of beauty than those tortoises, so you have to take it when you can. We can follow you “Into the Mystic” hearing Van Morrison music while watching your “Moondance.”
    Of course the Capitol dome renovation was just completed, improving the image even more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Don. I appreciate the comments. As I mentioned to other readers, WordPress has been causing difficulties for me regarding access to my account and getting around that obstacle has slowed me down. The first Galapagos is about ready to go, but I have to crack their code. At least I’ve found a back door into the comments from the last post.


  4. Excellent work and efforts. Even as an photographer i can understand how much it is important to make every picture creative that you capture. Even i started photography to inspire others and for helping them so that they can raise themselves as an photographer. You can have a look on my work at and let me have feedback for my work.


    • Thanks very much, Nitkin. I’m sorry for the delay in getting a reply to you (and everyone else). I have been having trouble with WordPress and accessing the blog. I’ll try to get a look at your work once I get this problem sorted out.


  5. Completely agree with Helen – you truly are the master. I was just out attempting a full moon photo and thought why bother when I can look at Robin’s gorgeous full moon over the Capitol photos 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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