The Supermoon That Wasn’t!


It was all over the news: “A ‘supermoon’ will be visible Saturday night, and will look 14% larger than usual. At 11:35 p.m. ET, the moon will officially be full. At 11:50 p.m. ET, the moon will be at what astronomers call perigree — just 356,955 km from Earth” (Calgary Sun, May 5, 2012).” I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, other than the fact that a larger moon meant the possibility of an interesting photograph.

So I did my research on how to photograph the moon. What camera settings to use, how to set up the shot etc. etc. There is a real art to night photography, and from past experiences I’ve learned a few things: For starters, bring a flashlight so that you can see what you are doing and what you are focusing on!

With the prospect of a great photo, I packed up my camera gear and roommate in tow and headed up to the top of Nosehill Park, in Calgary, Alberta. I pointed my iphone compass in the direct of southeast and started on a mad dash to the top of the hill in order to chase the rising moon. My roommate asked me to slow down–she said that I was hiking too fast. But when it comes to night skies and the rising moon, there’s only a limited window of time to capture the moon at its best. So I was in a hurry to get to the top, and trying to get me to slow down when there’s a good photo to be had is as easy as telling a young child to stay out of the cookie jar! We both want something badly, and the will power to control that urge doesn’t come easily! I slowed down a bit, but I still reached the top 100 meters ahead of her.

Once at the top, however, there was no moon to be seen. Talk about disappointing! I looked around the sky to see if my compass was off, but soon realized that it was just too cloudy to see the moon. Fortunately, the moon, although covered by the sky, illuminated the clouds and created a beautiful night-line sky.

I set up my camera on my tripod, played around with various settings and white balance and took shot some long exposure images of the cityscape. The sky really was beautiful!

After a while I decided to use my roommate as a stand-in model and experimented with some lighting.

The night hike was still worth it, even though there was no moon to be seen and my hands were numb, exposed to the air and the cold metal of my camera and gear.

My roommate and I managed to find our way back in the dark to the parking lot, 5 minutes before the park gates where to be closed.

I will have to wait another year or so until the supermoon. I didn’t get the shots I was expecting, but I got some other interesting shots instead. That’s what photography is all about; Capturing moments as they present themselves, expected or unexpected. To date, some of my favourite shots where unexpected moments.

As Hedy Lamarr once said:

“All creative people want to do the unexpected.”

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