Thoughts and musings of an old codger.

Moon musings.   - Friday 5-3-2021

Many people ask me why I usually have a compass about my person, and is it because I need it to get home after a heavy session up the pub. Well, there are several reasons, but here is the most obvious.

I saw a photo once of a Tower on a Hill, similar to Glastonbury Tor. Nothing special about that you might say, except this was in silhouette, with a very large full moon passing behind it. This composition is exactly what I have aspired to achieve, but never have.

Much of that is about me, because to get a shot like that, you have to prepare, and prepare heavily.

Location, location, location:
First, the location. I have not come across a suitable location yet, that is within 50 miles of where I live. That’s not to say there isn’t one, but you have to have the filing cabinet open in your brain as you travel around in your day to day business to recognise a scene and think “That might just look OK with a moon behind it”.
It has to be something that will create the foreground interest, even in silhouette. Could be architecture, or a tree, preferably deciduous in winter
Secondly, you have to be able to see it from a mile or a mile and a half away. That’s because you want to zoom in to the moon with the longest focal length at your disposal.
So generally, you need a hilly or a mountainous area, or somewhere that is flat for miles around.

So, you have found your foreground subject, possibly on a trip to the supermarket, and thought, “that would look good with the moon behind it”.
Well, now you need a compass, because you need to know where the moon is going to rise (or set), and if you saw it during the day and it was north or south of your viewpoint, you are going to have to find another place to take your photo, as basically your subject needs to be east of your viewpoint for moonrise or west for moonset.

Research and Technology: You are going to need to know the phases of the moon, the azimuth, how high it will be at any particular time, the compass direction of rise and set. Add to this, the time it rises and sets, and the time of sunrise and sunset, depending on the type of shot you want. If you want your foreground to be visible rather than silhouette, the moon needs to rise at twilight at least.
Then don’t forget the weather forecast. No point getting set up if its pouring with rain, really windy, heavy cloud etc.
Luckily, we have smartphone apps and the internet to provide all this information, so having found the location, and verified that conditions will be perfect for the planned photograph the only remaining aspect is get there and take it.

Preparation and Expedition: Prepare all your gear and check it is all in order. Spare memory cards and batteries, remote release (or timer at a pinch), tripod, flask of tea and a chair. If your not hiking, take everything you have.
Get there hours early. Give yourself time to set up and relax, check all the gear and settings, find the right spot etc. That’s where the chair and tea come in. Get it all prepared, then sit down and relax waiting for the main event.

A friend once told me “Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail”

A short while after I had my first draft of this article, I saw somebody had taken the photo I might have taken using the aforementioned preparation.
Tony Howell posted this photo and has kindly allowed me to use it in this article

Tony is a professional photographer and has a fantastic portfolio on his website. See the original photo here