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.


ABFriday Forum– Week 51

Week 51!!! 

Next week is the 1st Anniversary Edition and that will be extra special but there never will be another Week 51.

The AfterBefore Friday Forum has been adroitly managed by Stacy Fischer for 51 consecutive weeks, allowing anyone with an interest in image post-processing to participate.  Guidelines and this week’s edition are available for all to see at her Visual Venturing site.

My submission this week takes a look at one of my favorite tools in Photoshop, the Photomerge process.  If you have never tried this, it’s really easy to do.  For example, let’s stay with the theme of last week—“Road Trip”–and use a location that is a little further west:  Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Montana.  The late afternoon sun made the colorful boats stacked on the dock a natural subject and the result of the first image taken is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 51 Before

First Image, Unprocessed RAW File

But while this was a reasonably decent image, it didn’t seem to convey the great expanse of the scene that I saw.  Thinking a panorama format would do the trick, a second shot (same exposure as the first) was taken with the camera swung to the left but partially overlapping the first image.

Both images were opened in Adobe Camera RAW, but only minimal changes were needed.  So minimal, we won’t waste time on them.  Next, they both were opened in Photoshop and then the command sequence File–>Automate–>Photomerge was executed to bring up the display shown below:

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 51 Before 03

The Photomerge Dialog Box

The first step is to click on “Add Open Files,” (Red Arrow) which brings all open images into the list.  If any appear that are not supposed to be there, highlight them and click on “Remove.”  Most of the time, the “Auto” process will work just fine (Red Arrow.)  Make sure you click on “Blend Images Together.”  (Red Arrow) Then click “OK.” (Blue Arrow)   Something like the screen capture below will appear.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 51 Before 02

The process produces separate layers for each image used.  In this case we have only two (Red Arrow).  The image must first be flattened before any further work is done (Layer–>Flatten Image).  Next, a judicious crop removes the uneven edges (Yellow Arrows) and one is ready to continue with whatever additional adjustments are necessary.

Very little additional work was needed at this point.  A slight boost in contrast using a Curves Layer Adjustment (Preset: Linear; Blend Mode: Normal), then a neutral density gradient layer for the sky and mountains (Blend Mode: Soft Light), and finally, a teeny bump with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer (Saturation: +6).  The final result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 51 After

Please visit Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing Site to see all of the other submissions.  There are always many interesting ideas to be found.