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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 95
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Cinco de Mayo Super Moon
Sunday 6 May 2012   —   Category: Shooting
With all of the media hype surrounding last evening’s Cinco de Mayo super moon, I needed no other reminder to head outdoors at sunset with my photographic equipment. As you can see from the photos to the right, I definitely had quite the setup!

First, I dug out my Manfrotto Bogen 3246 tripod, which I had purchased about seven years ago when I was doing a lot of vid­e­og­ra­phy with the Panasonic AG-DVX100 I used to own. With everything extended, this heavy-duty tripod reaches an as­tound­ing height of seven-and-a-half feet (without the head)! That’s why I needed a ladder just to look at the LCD screen of my camera!

Last year, when I bought my new camera system, I also purchased a new head for this tripod: a Man­frot­to 410 Junior Geared Head — ideal for astrophotography, which is why I bought it. This precision head brings the total maximum height of the tripod to just about eight feet, and the weight to about thirteen pounds — definitely not a tripod to take hiking in the Cascades!

As the sun was setting, I used the excellent Star Walk app on my iPad to determine where the moon would be rising. Un­for­tu­nate­ly it was further south than I was hoping — it looked like it would rise from behind the neighbor’s house rather than the neighborhood trees. So I set up the tripod and ladder in a far corner of the backyard which would give me the best view.

The moon was scheduled to rise around 8:25, but it was ob­vi­ous­ly going to be later than that before it cleared the neigh­bor­hood obstructions. With a hot mint tea in one hand and a re­mote shutter release in the other, I perched on the ladder, waiting for the anticipated moment when I would see the top of the moon peeking up somewhere to the east.


Finally, around 9:00, the big moment arrived. The moon first appeared right behind the peak of a neighbor’s roof. For the next 45 minutes I shot about 145 photos of the moon in various poses. Sometimes it was unobstructed, other times it was partially hidden behind buildings or branches.

Because the moon is so bright, it can be difficult to get a good exposure. If you expose for the moon itself, everything else is really underexposed. If you ex­pose for the general scene, then the moon is totally overexposed, looses all detail, and ends up being a glowing glob of light. Fortunately, Adobe Photoshop (or other image-editing software) can help a photographer out of this dilemma.

A composite image, with a properly-​exposed moon from one picture re­plac­ing an overexposed moon in another photo, can lead to interesting and sat­is­fy­ing results. This is the approach I took with my first moon photo from 2006. After looking at the pictures I took last night, I realized that the same technique would work equally well this time around. You can see two of the final images to the right. You can see a third image — of the moon behind a leafy branch — by clicking here.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 95
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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 95
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