Shoot the (Super-)Moon or What to Do During Lunar Perigee

I must admit that the first time I heard the term “supermoon” was just prior to last year’s ‘event,’ which occurred on May 5th. Lunar perigee? When the moon is at it’s closest point in orbit to us? Sure, I was aware of that. But ‘perigee moon’ is apparently too scientific and hence un-sexy for the press and mere mortals to utter. Instead, we have the term bequeathed to us in the late ’70’s by an astrologer: supermoon. If i had known that fact, I would have stopped uttering it back around May 4th of last year. Once upon a time (long ago and in a far distant land) I wanted to be an astronomer. There was a quaint period when as school kids we would discuss such things (whata you wanna be when you grow up?). Once I answered the question, I often would be asked “Well, what is so interesting about astrology?” I would cringe and sputter in indignation and the offending cretin would get a lengthy lecture on the fundamental differences between Science and Fairy Tales. Yeah: I was like that…even in sixth grade. I also didn’t have a lot of friends, but that is a different subject. At any rate, I have this thing about medieval belief systems in modern times and despite the fact that even National Geographic calls the lunar perigee a super…whatever, we’ll just call it by its scientific term: a perigee full moon.

This year’s super-…sorry, perigee full moon was being reported as being brighter with an ever-so slightly larger apparent disk than last year’s event. Last year the moonrise and size was phenomenal and though I only brought home one moon image worth publishing, I did some late night full moon landscape photography of Little Sahara that I am quite happy with. So, the question was: where to go for this year’s event.

I considered a return visit to the dunes of Little Sahara, or perhaps a longer venture to the Spiral Jetty, or maybe a little closer to home…a drive out to Skull Valley or Stansbury Island. I dithered and dallied and finally late in the afternoon I decided to go no further than 15 miles away to the Great Salt Lake. I packed my cameras, including my quite heavy Sigma 5-500mm (nicknamed The Bigma), and two tripods and by 7:15 was out the door. Moonrise was slated to occur at 8:20 with sunset following at 9:05.

Just off of the frontage road that parallels I-80, and a couple miles east of the Saltair off-ramp, is a turn-out for the Lee Creek Audubon Society Preserve. This is one of my favorite access points to the mud flats along the lake’s south shore. I applied bug juice (needed), donned my cheap mud boots (also needed), and hoisting my 22lb pack started The Trudge. I had two photographic intentions: to capture the moonrise and to shoot the shoreline and mudflats in the bright moonlight. I was partially successful.

Half way across the what ended up being about a 2-mile walk to the water, I realized that despite my pack’s weight, I had forgot to bring water. I thought of the phrase I had heard/read some time back in reference to thirsty shipwrecked sailors cast adrift on the ocean: surrounded by water but not a drop to be drunk. Well, I was thirsty, but was also pretty sure the analogy ended there. I really had no idea how far away the shore was, though I could see it glinting in the distance. And, despite my continual sinking in the  quagmire-esque mud, I was goal-bound to make the water before the moon rose. Consequently, lowered my head and I picked up the muddy pace.

I did hit water’s edge with ten minutes to spare and quickly laid out a waterproof cloth that I had thoughtfully brought along to rest my pack on. Whilst standing there I realized that using the larger tripod mounted with The Bigma was not going to work: the tripod legs — like what my own legs were doing right then — would have sunk into the mud and probably never really stabilized. I should have brought along three sections of half-foot square plywood for the tripod feet. Oh well, best laid plans…etc.

I was quite used to the rich smell of the oolitic mud and the brine flies — though in the copious millions — bothered me not as they never seem to fly higher than mid-ankle. Speaking of ankle, my cheap boots had sprung a leak and I could feel gritty wet sand grinding around my bare feet. But all was forgotten when the moon finally did rise. The images with the hand-held Bigma turned out okay as did one infrared image shot at 300mm. As a pronounced contrast, I quite like the three images posted below that display a more panoramic feel. Especially does the infrared shot work well for me.

As the sun dropped below the horizon, I shot a few sunset frames. I wasn’t really sure how/if any of these would work, as the sunset was not that ‘glorious.’ But I got clever in post-processing and took five exposures captured at about 1/25 sec each and manually blended them in Photoshop. The result is the fiery-red image below. How did I capture five images that could be overlay-ed? I used my lightweight travel tripod mounted with my Pentax K-5 and a compact Pentax 18-135mm lens. Result: the tripod feet only sank ever-so slightly. This permitted me to take the last images of the night: a series of 30-second long exposures of the shore and distant islands silhouetted by the dying light of the day. After those, I realized that to shoot the landscape solely by moonlight would necessitate staying out another 2-3 hours. This I chose not to do.

I was thirsty after all.

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IMGP2415-Edit-roughbordersAt PerigeeMoonrise Over Wasatch_CLA3043_4-Edit_CLA3068_9-EditBlood-Red Sunset on the Great Salt LakeOn the Shore of the Great Salt LakeOn the Shore of the Great Salt LakeOn the Shore of the Great Salt Lake

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4 thoughts on “Shoot the (Super-)Moon or What to Do During Lunar Perigee

  1. I’m not sure if I like the comments or the shots best. In any case, no friends in 6th grade? I beg to differ!

  2. Awesome! I had a blast during the “super moon” too and glad to see you had a good time. I didn’t pack a 500mm beast but still had good results:) Looking forward to following your blog here on WP! EE

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