Shooting the Rare Super Full Moon

I guess you knew about last night’s super full moona nice NASA piece on it here. If you missed it, there will be another in 18 years or so & you can catch it then (weather permitting; the weather was perfect here last night). 😉
I’ve seen a bunch of images posted on the web from last night. Most of them were of nothing but the moon – boring…. What makes anyone think those shots are any different from one made of a normal full moon? It’s larger you say? “Larger” is simply a matter of lens magnification – use a longer telephoto. If you wanted to take advantage of the fact the the moon was 14% bigger than usual, you needed to make an image that included some foreground matter for perspective.
My choice of a shot was this next one. I knew that it would be a challenge because the scene’s dynamic range far exceeded the camera’s range. I used 9-shot automatic exposure bracketing (AEB) throughout. I shot in the manual exposure mode and biased the initial image by -2/3 of a stop because the correct moon exposure was -4.67 stops from the metered exposure for the scene. So my AEB gave me the following nine exposures -4.67, -3.67, -2.67, -1.67, -0.67. +0.33, +1.33, +2.33, +3.33 (a single exposure based on metering the entire scene would have been 0.0).
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Click on any image to enlarge it.

This image was based on Photomatix Pro’s 2-Image Fusion option (not HDR). I used the -4.67 & +1.33 exposures – shooting 9 different exposures was good since it gave lots of options in post processing. It was subsequently cleaned up a bit using Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3. Note – NONE of my HDR programs (Photomatix Pro, HDR Efex Pro, HDR Photo Pro, and HDR Darkroom Pro – does anyone make an HDR “amatuer” ;-)) were capable of anything that I’d consider showing – except as an example of a complete disaster! Disappointing.
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A variation on the theme is this next one. It was made with Photomatix’s Fusion option as well but used four exposures which were -4.67, -2.67, -0.67., +1.33 together with Fusion Auto instead of the above image’s Fusion 2-Image. Again, no HDR program gave anything except crap.
You do shoot both horizontal & vertical, don’t you? And obviously you have an L-Bracket on your camera to facilitate this, don’t you? And a tripod? What – you think you can shoot these nine shots (some of which run nearly 10 seconds) hand held. Dream on.

I didn’t attempt to compensate for the color balance difference between the two images in post processing – but it’s easy enough to do.
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The above images were made 1/2 mile from home. Although I’ve shot 1000’s of images here in my community, to make this shot I needed some very specific and accurate data regarding where the moon would be and when relative to my intended foreground. I used The Photographer’s Ephemeris to plan my outing down to the last details (and selected this specific location from six that I was considering). The resulting image is precisely what I envisioned – to the last detail in terms of the moon’s location relative to the community clubhouse. Why waste your time (especially if you have to travel a long distance for a rare photo op)? The only uncertainty in this adventure was the technical aspect and I covered my butt with bracketed exposures and four HDR programs (none of which turned out to be worth a damn in this instance except Photomatix’s Fusion Option). Always have a plan and not just Plan A – quite often plans B, C & D are needed, too. One thing that I hadn’t planned for was the surprising lens flares (on the higher +EV exposures) my lens produced (dumb me – never used the lens in this type of lighting; just assumed it would be OK, but not without lots of post cleanup).
This was one of those rare cases for me where the word “envisioned” and reality were more than the usual photographer blather-speak. All in all, of the 100,000+ images I’ve made this one is near the top in terms of technical and execution challenges. Definitely not one to try to figure out after arriving at the scene.
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Here are Silver Efex Pro 2 B&W versions of the two images.


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At age 74, and with an average interval of 18 years between super full moons, I had to make the most of this one. The best thing about it was it got me off my butt and out with the camera – past that my assessment to my wife’s “How was it?” was – “A big whoop!” in a sarcastic tone. 😉

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