Moonrise

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.

 

Giverny: Monet’s Gardens

My painter friends may chastise me for this skimpy report on a subject dear to their hearts, but time is fleeting and promises to do more sometime soon will have to suffice for now.

Although I have visited these gardens on two previous trips to France, I had not been here in June or July, which is the time that the water lilies bloom. It was our hope that they might be out this time, so off we went on Tuesday to see what might be in store this time.   It turned out that we were in luck.

I calculated in advance how best to minimize (at least in my photographs) the excessive crowds that almost certainly would be there. Here are three images that show the results and the several tricks that I used are listed afterwards. (I should confess that none of these maneuvers are surprisingly new, but might be helpful to photographers at least. I envy painters who, blessed with skills I can barely comprehend, merely leave out those pesky details.

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Approaching Storm, Monet’s Giveny Gardens

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Water Lilies, Monet’s Gradens

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Monet’s Garden, Giverny

 Here are my 4 techniques to minimizing the crowds at Giverny and similar places:

1. Pick a day when rain is forecast and likely, but the outlook should be for showers rather than a sustained deluge. The prospects for rain discourages some, but not all. Moreover, overcast skies contribute to higher quality images when photographing flowers.

2. Find a position that where plants (which you want) help block out many of the tourists (which you don’t want) as they pass through the scene, but also provides a good composition.

3. Break up the scene into a number of images using a longer lens, picking off sections that have few or no persons in the scene. Then use photomerge in the photo post processing software of your choice.

4. Move in close for a tightly framed image where those pesky people can’t trespass.

5. Still, there are some folks who will successfully thwart your best efforts in any number of images. Don’t curse them; Delete them! The clone tool and the Edit-> Fill-> Content Aware procedure are your best friends here.

It was a dark and Stormy Night…

Wind, clouds, and nightfall.  Not the usual descriptors for perfect photographic conditions, but in the right circumstances,   these conditions can produce dramatic images.  As suggested in my last post, the Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial seemed to have potential for nighttime photography.  And so, here are a few examples of my first attempts.

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Sunset plus 15 Minutes (Note Washington Monument under leading gull)

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The Washington Monument: Opening Soon!

The Washington Monument is the iconic structure of the city of Washington DC and I have been photographing it since 1999 when I first got serious about photography.  Yet despite the numerous images I’ve made of it in the 15 years since then, I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I never made it to the top during that time.  But even though I do have a few excuses—such as an earthquake—it serves no purpose to bore you with a recitation of them.  Instead, I have seen the error of my ways and I fully intend to be up there as soon as possible when it re-opens next month.  Details about the re-opening are below, but first a few highlights from the past 15 years are in order, not necessarily in a chronological order.

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