Moonrise: Thanksgiving Eve

Last night, my sister (who is a photographer based in Pennsylvania) and I decided to try and capture an image of the full moon rising.  My sister is visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday and the coincidence of a full moon in late November on a perfectly clear night with temperatures in the low 60s was impossible to resist.  The result is posted below.

Moonrise D-15-11-25-0173_177

Moonrise, Washington, DC

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Keep shooting….

 

Crescent Moon and Jefferson Memorial


Last night was Friday the 13th, and I was hoping to get lucky with the crescent moon as it was going down in the western sky.  Catching a crescent moon at twilight is kind of tricky, because you have several factors to consider.  For example, if you want to capture the rising crescent, you will be shooting at dawn a couple days before the New Moon. If you want a moonset, then it will be at sunset a couple days after the New Moon. Other factors include the location of the moon on the horizon, size of the crescent, and the time of the setting or rising sun.  All of these can be determined with one of the various smartphone or tablet apps such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE).

Most of the factors looked promising for the crescent after sunset on the 13th.  It was two days past the New Moon and, according to TPE, it would be lined up fairly well with the Jefferson Memorial with the Tidal Basin in the foreground.  The size would be a little smaller (<5% illumination) than I would have liked and a bit higher in the sky (9 degrees), but otherwise there seemed to be a lot of potential.  So I headed down to the Tidal Basin to see what would happen.

Jefferson-D-15-11-13-7583-and-7587_90-and-91_92-PAN-(rdy2size)

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 125mm. Five separate exposures at varying speeds (0.3 to 0.8 sec) @f/8, ISO 400; Images merged in Photoshop during post processing)

I started shooting about 10 minutes after sunset and stopped about 55 minutes after sunset.  The best results were at about the 35 minute mark, seen above.  Those looking closely will see the three spires of the USAF Memorial on the right side of the image.

 

Keep Shooting….

Moonrise over Washington, DC

When you are trying for the classic moonrise over the city of Washington, DC, everything has to go perfectly.  Several of us made the effort on October 26th, knowing the weather would be bad on the following night, the night of the full moon.

We also knew before we arrived that conditions would not be perfect because the moon was coming up 15 minutes before sunset and it likely would be too high in the sky by the time the twilight blue was at its peak and the illumination of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and US Capitol were in balance with the ambient light still in the sky.  We also knew that the clouds could pose problems.

But, when we arrived, there was an additional problem.  The Marine Corps Marathon had been held on the previous day and our chosen location (near the Marine Corps Memorial) was also the location of the finish line for the race.  A massive disassembly effort was underway.

Moonrise 01

Unexpected Obstructions, 20 Minutes before Moonrise

Moonrise 02Another Surprise

Moonrise 03A

Passing Truck, 4 Minutes after Moonrise (not visible yet)

But, aside from the occasional passing vehicle, there was nothing that was directly obstructing the view.   By 6:15, the official time for the sunset, the moon was already pretty high and it was still too bright to see the illumination on any of the buildings below us.

Moonrise 04

Clouds obscuring the moon at Sunset (6:15 PM)

At 6:30, the twilight was a nice blue color, the clouds had abated, but the moon was too high.

Moonrise 05

Ideal Twilight, 15 Minutes after Sunset (6:30 PM)

So the only solution was to back off the focal length, and take the full scene and then do some post processing cheating.  The image above was taken with the telephoto zoom extended to 200 mm and the moon in its actuual location at the time.  The image below, taken a few seconds later with a 145 mm focal length, shows the moon in a decent location.  But it was just “moved” down during the postproceesing from where it was at the time the image was taken.  Not a bad result, but not something I will post on my website or offer for sale.

Oct 26 Moon

“Manufactured” Moonrise over Washington

Lessons Learned:

  1. If one wants to capture an image of the moon rising over the “Big Three” (Lincoln, Washington, and US Capitol), the specific location is right in front of the Netherlands Carillon a short distance south of the Iwo Jima Memorial.
  2. Using the well-known app “The Photographer’s Ephemeris,” the moon should be rising at an Azimuth reading of about 85 degrees.
  3. For ideal twilight conditions along with the lighting of the “Big Three,” the moonrise time should be about 15 minutes after sunset.

Keep Shooting….

Lunar Eclipse: Not!

September 27, 2015 was the last chance to see a total lunar eclipse in the eastern United States until 2019 according to the cognoscenti.  So even though the skies had been overcast for several contiguous days I didn’t want to wake up this morning and learn that there was a miraculous parting of the clouds for the entire event.

I had a place all picked out for the moonrise, but the clouds close to the horizon blocked the view.  But the next time moon rises at about 90 degrees east (due east), this wouldn’t be a bad place to be. Without the clouds, it would have been right next to the base of the Washington Monument.

WW II Memorial 01

Then, as the time approached for the actual eclipse to begin, I moved over to my chosen location near the German-American Friendship Garden along Constitution Avenue.  The location itself looked like it had potential for a night shot, so I tried a test exposure with my wide angle lens.

Washington Monument 01

But the eclipse was due and the clouds seemed to be breaking up so I set up a few yards away with the hope of getting a series of exposures as the moon tracked across the sky into the earth’s shadow.  These would then be combined into a single image in post-processing.  This, of course, requires a wide angle lens and, because of the timing, a tall building to add some interest to the exposure and the Washington Monument certainly qualifies.  But the skies didn’t really clear and I suspect the substantial amount of clouds in each image will make for a prolonged post-processing effort that may lead nowhere.  However, here is a cropped version of one of the images during the totality phase.

Lunar Eclipse 01 (lighter)

Imagine, if you will, a wider (uncropped) image with a sequence of moons in various stages of the eclipse crossing over the top. My first attempt at this, last year, can be seen here with the Lincoln Memorial

Keep Shooting…..

Iceland: Part 2

As we continued up Route 47 to the waterfall at Kirkjufell, a series of intermittent showers began to tantalize us with a series rainbows shimmering in the fjord (Hvalfjörður, which is about 30 km long and 5 km wide). We finally found a place with enough room to park off the road, but as we scrambled out of the vehicle we were immediately buffeted by extremely strong wind gusts.  Nevertheless, a complete rainbow hung over the water and we would not be deterred.

Iceland 04

Rainbow over Hvalfjörður fjord, Iceland

This was the last we saw of any sunshine on this day.  By the time we reached the waterfall, the wind was approaching gale force (my opinion, based on the fact the rain was going more or less sideways).  But extreme weather can be an exhilarating experience and while I captured no memorable photos at this waterfall, I’m not likely to forget the power of the wind and rain during my brief excursion around the falls.

Based in Hellnar for the night, we headed out to Arnarstapi for a twilight photograph of the Gatklettur Rock, a natural arch formed on the beach.  The rain had slackened, and the dark clouds provided a foreboding scene. Two members of our group can be seen in the lower left corner of the first image, prviding a sense of scale.

Iceland 06

Gatklettur Natural Arch from Overlook

Iceland 05

Gatklettur Natural Arch, Close View from Overlook

Since the images of the horses were well received, here is one more which I suspect is an equine interpretation of the verb “photobomb.”

Iceland 03

I failed to mention in the previous post that the horses were located in a large pasture along Route 47, about 7 km northeast of the intersection of Route 1 and Route 47.

To be continued….

Ulysses S. Grant: Overdue Repair Job

Ulysses Grant 02

The Grant Memorial, Guarding the Capitol’s West Front (November, 2014)

The massive memorial to Ulysses S. Grant, like so many of Washington’s monuments and memorials, has long suffered from neglect.  (See, for example, a January 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal).   Now at last, as reported in today’s edition of the Washington Post, a restoration project is underway.

Ulysses Grant 01

Scaffolding for the Grant Memorial Restoration (August, 2015)

When I first photographed the memorial I knew much about Grant, but nothing of the history of the statue.  But I had available a most valuable resource: James M. Goode’s imposing reference, “Washington Sculpture” and found a story that fascinated me.

In 1901, a young, unknown sculptor, Henry Merwin Shrady, submitted design for a prestigious commission: a memorial statue of Ulysses S. Grant and the largest ever commissioned by the US Congress at that time. His 22 competitors were experienced, well-known artists and a furor erupted when the 31-yar old was selected.  He was selected a second time when one of the losers demanded a retrial.

Ulysses Grant 04

Artillery Group, on South Flank of Main Statue (January, 2010)

This one work would consume Shrady for the rest of his life, which tragically ended 20 years later and just a few weeks before the memorial’s dedication.  Before he began his work, Shrady conducted intensive research on Civil War history, immersing himself in the details of uniforms, military practices, and the anatomy and physical movement of horses. He was loaned actual uniforms by the secretary of war. West Point and other military schools conducted special drills for him to observe artillery and cavalry maneuvers.  And he investigated much, much more in his unending efforts to bring authenticity to even the smallest aspects of his work.

But despite his premature death, the memorial Shrady produced was unlike any other in the U.S. up to that time. It is vast, with a base 252 feet wide by 71 feet deep, and was the largest bronze-casting project ever undertaken. At its center stands an equestrian statue of Grant. Flanking him, albeit some distance away, are clusters of warriors: a Cavalry Group to the north and an Artillery Group to the south.

Ulysses Grant 06

Cavalry Group on North Flank of Main Statue (November 2014)

(Note the tarnished green stains and missing sword blade; note also the face of the fallen soldier under the hooves of the lead horse-thought to be a self portrait of the artist)

Shrady obtained numerous postponements, fending off demands for deadlines while dealing with numerous challenges such as a fire that destroyed the foundry responsible for casting the bronze components and political fights over the proposed location of the memorial.

Ulysses Grant 05

Artillery Group at Twilight (November 2014)

Ulysses Grant 03

Setting Moon, Grant Memorial and Washington Monument

I’m looking forward to the completion of the renovation project, the memorial will have a totally different look, and new opportunities for photography.  But when the scaffiolding is taken away, those who live here should go back and take a close look at what is by far the most dramatic work of sculpture in the city.  In the meantime,

Keep Shooting……

 

 

USAF Memorial at Night

The U.S. Air Force Memorial, sited on a promontory overlooking the Pentagon with a commanding view of the Washington skyline, is becoming an increasingly popular stop for busloads of students visiting the nation’s capital.

USAF 02

 

Following its dedication in 2006, it seemed few people knew of its existence, but it seems to have been discovered in recent years and the hours around sunset seem to be especially popular.

USAF 04

The memorial is the last major work designed by James Ingo Freed, who also designed the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  It features three stainless steel spires that soar skyward, evoking the “bomb burst” maneuver perform by the Air Force Thunderbirds.

USAF 03

View to East with Honor Guard Sculpture on Right

The small vertical spire in image above—between the left and middle spires of the Memorial–is the Washington Monument.  The lower two-thirds of the Memorial’s spires are filled with concrete and the upper portions are hollow.  Each spire has a transition section between the concrete-filled and hollow segments containing a one ton lead ball that is allowed to roll in a steel damper box.  This feature is intended to stabilize the spires in high winds.

USAF 01

I visited the memorial earlier this week, and the high humidity combined with the floodlights on the South Inscription Wall made for a rather dramatic effect.

Tonight, and every Friday night during the summer, the USAF Band will perform a free concert for the public.  Click here for details

 

Keep Shooting….