This month's full moon had some unusual characteristics, and provided a great opportunity to put into action some plans that I had devised earlier this year.
First, the characteristics: on Sunday April 29, 2018, moonrise in the Chicago area was at 7:32 pm, with sunset shortly after at 7:49. The moon was 100% full at 7:58 pm, thereby providing the opportunity to see it at its fullest while it was above the horizon and there was still some light in the sky. So many times, the actual time of the full moon is 12 hours or more away from the time of moonrise. So while it is 'close' at moonrise, it will usually have a slight dent in the fullness.
I decided to do my viewing at my "go to" place: the Meacham Grove Forest Preserve. It is close to my house, so I can easily judge the viewing conditions before setting out. There is a nice body of water (two, actually), and a hill with a great vantage point. I have chosen six images to show the progression of the evening. I took the first one as I was climbing up the hill, and the setting sun gave me a nice warm yellow-orangey glow at the horizon from my vantage point.
My plan was to scout out the location of the rising moon from the top of the hill, and then make my way down the other side so I could get a second look at moonrise from a different vantage point - one that would give me a mountain (ok, hill) for the moon to peak out from behind.
Once I got to the top of the hill, and using The Photographer's Ephemeris to locate the direction of the rising moon, I was treated to a sight that I could not have been planned better. My goal from a few months back (that was not successfully achieved at that time) was to have the rising moon appear next to and behind an architectural structure. I had no idea that the Sears Tower (or WIllis Tower, if you insist) would be lined up so nicely for me, or would even be visible from thirty-plus miles west of downtown Chicago. The moon was very pale, but large, and gave me a wonderful surprise, as shown in the second image above. I made no adjustments to the size of the moon. I did however work it over in post-processing to make it stand out better through the considerable haze.
The third image was taken from a lower vantage point, to show the dried flowers reaching to the sky in front of the moon. The challenge in this type of shot is to get both the flowers and the moon in focus. The flowers are sharp enough, and the moon, although "soft" does show some of the detail of the craters and shadows. I took quite a few of this angle; this was the one I liked the best.
For image four, I went to a wider angle to get the moon in context of the landscape, picking a nicely positioned tree to give extra interest. There was a ribbon of purple haze that hovered just above the horizon, and I gave that a little boost in post-production to enhance the mood that I felt. And yes, that little white dot is the moon.
I was able to get several closeups of the moon; image #5 above is one of my favorite ones.
In the final image, it was getting quite dark, and close to the 'witching hour' in the forest preserve, which closes at 1 hour after sunset. As I made my descent down the hill and joined the path back to the parking lot, I took a couple of final shots of the moon, which was amazingly high in the sky and quite small-looking. Image #6 is a composite - one for the landscape with a featureless bright circular spot, combined with another darker exposure to pick up the details in the moon. There was still some nice magenta color hovering above the hillside, which added to the mood.
All in all, I felt it was a very successful evening. I have been frustrated on so many occasions trying to get that perfect shot of the moon. I can't say I am there yet, but I was pretty happy with my experience this time and the resulting images.
Oh, my camera gear...
I had my trusty tripod and two cameras with me: my Canon 5D Mii with a Tamron 28-300 mm lens, and my Panasonic/Lumix DMC-FZ70 with its 20-1200 mm non-removable zoom lens. Most of the images shown above came from the Lumix camera, shooting at 1000 ISO, which gave me a lot of noise but allowed pretty fast shutter speeds.
I would love to hear your thoughts, along with any "moon experiences" you would like to share. What worked and what didn't work? What are your favorite places to capture the moonrise or moonset? Feel free to comment below, or send me an email at email@example.com.