I had staked out a location for last night’s supermoon well in advance: a hilltop about 6 miles away from home, one of the highest locations in the county. I had studied the location in The Photographer’s Ephemeris; I had visited it the night before last to make sure all of my calculations were correct. Hubby and I arrived 40 minutes before moonrise. The weather was partly cloudy, but indications were that the moon would be visible.
What I didn’t count on was that everyone else in Ithaca would think this was a great location, too.
About 15 minutes before moonrise, a car pulled up with a couple of elderly people. They wandered over to the tree and mostly stayed on the other side of it… so I thought, oh well, I guess I can deal with that.
Then another car pulled up – with 1 adult, 3 children, and a dog. The kids ran all over the place but mostly stayed out of my line of site. Another car – this time, a bunch of adults (one guy with a long scraggly beard) wandered to a spot right between the camera and the impending moon. By the time we left, there were about 10 cars parked on the side of the road.
What to do?
I knew it was important to have something that a viewer could use as a point of reference for the size of the moon – for example, a tree – so going up to the edge of the hill wouldn’t help much. So I had asked hubby to come along, partly for company, partly for security (I’m not big on being outside by myself at night), and partly as a potential prop.
When we first arrived, we had spent a few minutes rehearsing for the backup plan, so I knew that we had to put hubby up towards the edge of the hill, with the camera way back and zoomed. We had estimated where to place his hands. We hadn’t dealt with the details such as how to communicate.
I didn’t even see the moon start to rise – the lowest part of the horizon was covered by clouds. When it emerged, hubby moved into position, and I started yelling across the field: top hand up 1 inch! bottom hand up 1/2 inch! Step backwards a half step! I took about a dozen shots and crossed my fingers that they would come out decently.
Some minor Photoshop adjustments later, I’m relatively happy with the outcome. Here are my notes for next time: go with a smaller aperture (higher f/stop); get farther back and zoom in more (this was cropped, and we could have made the moon look bigger); make sure the hand is completely flat. And finally, remember to have fun!