Paul Grayson | Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

September 03, 2015  •  1 Comment

Sic Transit Gloria MundiSic Transit Gloria MundiCopyrighted Digital Photograph

The Arc de Triomphe was constructed to celebrate the military prowess of the Napoleonic army after its victory at Austerlitz in 1806. It is inscribed with many battle victories and the names of many generals who fought and died under the Empire, but on Armistice Day 1920 it assumed a more humble and, for me, a more moving role as the last resting place of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the representative of all who have suffered or fallen to defend France.


Given the significance of the site, my photographic effort to capture a transit of the moon beneath its arch led me to take some images, which seemed to point more at the “memento mori” aspect of the Arc than its celebration of “La Gloire de la France”. This is one of those. Below the frieze of imperial troops battling their way to victory, two angelic carvings frame the arch of heaven, while a glistening moon wrapped in beetling clouds hints at death amid the smoke of ancient battles.


Thus Transits The Moon


I use several extremely useful iPhone apps to plan ahead for particular light and astronomical conditions. Using an inbuilt, GPS-based, or a stand alone compass, these simplify calculations about the sun and the moon, such as their rising and setting times, altitude in the sky and their geographic bearing (azimuth). I use these to plan ahead, for example, where the moon will rise on the horizon and how I might line it up in relation to some ground base scene that I wish to capture in a moonlit and/or moon viewed scene


The iPhone has its own inbuilt compass, which is reasonably accurate which I use with “Darkness”, while “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” (TPE) is an integrated app, which orients itself. These are both inexpensive and can be bought from the Apple App Store, or are available on the other platforms.


The one thing these apps cannot do is change the danger factor associated with the ideal spot. I thus found myself sheltering behind concrete bollards in the middle of the Avenue de la Grande Armée, right on the edge of the racing mass of metal that is the Place de l’Etoile, all the while jostling for a clear line of sight with tourists taking selfies.




I have discussed some specifics about imaging the moon before. Several typical settings are mentioned below, such as heavy negative exposure compensation, spot metering and the use of a tripod. On this occasion, I did take the risk of a slow, one-second exposure, a compromise resulting from my choice of a high quality ISO of 160. That was with a view to handling the quite intense post-processing that often accompanies my night photography.





Camera: Nikon D800

Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G

Focal Length: 130mm

Focus Mode: AF-S

Aperture: f/10

Shutter Speed: 1s

Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single

Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority

Exposure Compensation: -2.7 EV

Metering: Spot

ISO Sensitivity: 160

Mounted on Tripod


If you feel like transitioning to the rest of my website to see other night and moon images, please let me know what you think.


Copyright Paul Grayson 2015


Personnellement, je ne suis pas fan du cadrage. Mais par contre la lune dans les nuages est absolument superbe. On dirait qu'ils sont vivants et sont en train de s'emparer de la lune. Ca fait frissonner. J'adore !
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