Super moon Apology
I beg your forgiveness for neglecting my blog last week in favour of photographing a “Super moon” rising behind the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as other images of Ground Zero, the Flatiron District and JFK airport.
Homage To John Atkinson Grimshaw
In my bio, I list night photography as one of my preferred subjects. This is very much due to my early appreciation of the works of the above-named Victorian artist, known as the Painter of Moonlight. His Pre-Raphaelite style very much appeals to me, creating mysterious landscapes, with a silent moonlit beauty all of its own. His period in art, contemporaneous with Charles Dickens and Jack the Ripper, was part of a gloomy, menacing movement which leaves the viewer silently contemplative before a quiet landscape, usually devoid of people.
After booking my trip to New York, I learned that there would be a conjunction of a Super moon and a Blood Moon Eclipse on the day prior to departure from the city. I therefore delayed my return by one day, to ensure that I could comfortably capture the event and planned where I would try and set the scene. Having researched the direction and timing of moonrise, I eventually decided on setting up opposite the Brooklyn Bridge at the South Sea Seaport. There are advantages to having actually lived in a city, in terms of scouting venues for images!
Paper Is Best?
The subtlety of this image is best seen on a print, rather than a screen, especially if you do not come to my website to see it in full-size projection. The delicate web of wires supporting the roadway of the bridge become harder to view against the unlit sections of the sky as is the brooding shape of the southern Tower on the Brooklyn side.
The exposure privileges the moon and its corona, as it rises at its perigee, 12% bigger than normal, due to its being 26,000 miles nearer the earth than at its apogee. The event took place in partially cloudy conditions, creating the halo effect and reducing the view of moonscape detail.
I declined to attempt imaging the later Blood Moon, since the moon would be high in the sky and in very small scale against the New York Landscape. Equally, I was not equipped with the longer focal length lenses need to do it justice as an astronomical subject. That said, I was already stretching my “reach” by attaching a X1.5 converter to a 200mm zoom lens.
That Pesky Moon
I have previously mentioned the particular difficulties that photographing a celestial object as bright as day at the same time as a darkened, nighttime landscape. The problem is that the dynamic range of a camera is far less effective than the human eye. Therefore compromises are forced on the photographer. I chose to expose for the moon, using “matrix” metering to make the camera use an “averaged” solution. Therefore, the light meter in this case took a reading from both the moon and the landscape. Nevertheless, the landscape was severely under-exposed.
A partial solution to this would have been to use a low ISO, so as to retain the maximum amount of dark detail for later post-processing. However, this would also have resulted in a combination of much longer time of exposure, wide, depth of field reducing aperture and insufficient speed to “freeze” the fast-moving orb. So, as always the image is a compromise.
As you can see below, I chose to short-circuit the automatic capabilities of the camera for focus and exposure mode, which obliged me to manually set the aperture, ISO and speed. I carried out an iterative process, reviewing the overall result on the camera’s viewer and monitoring the White and Colour Balance graphs.
Image quality was also protected by the use of a tripod weighted down in the centre by the camera bag, a cable release, using “mirror up” mode and waiting 10 seconds between exposures for vibration to dampen down.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G, plus a 1.5 times Teleconverter
Focal Length: 280mm
Focus Mode: Manual
Shutter Speed: 1/125s
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single
Exposure Mode: Manual, using a cable release
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 800
Mounted on tripod and with camera bag hanging from centre hook.
It was a joy and a privilege to share this occasion with the other professional photographers and videographers on-site, as well as with the general citizenry who came out to view these celestial wonders. I hope that you can also get a sense of the beauty of the occasion.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015