Exposures
May 11, 2012
Super Moon

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Recently I was asked to illustrate what was being called the "Super Moon" - a full moon that, because of its unusually close proximity to Earth, would appear slightly larger and brighter in the sky than normal. Although the difference was barely noticeable, I wanted to make a picture that would suggest the idea that the moon was actually larger than the full moons of recent months. To make the moon as large as possible in the frame, I chose the longest telephoto lens we have in the closet (a 600mm) and added a teleconverter which effectively multiplied the power of the lens by 1.4. This results in an 840mm lens.

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The moon's apparent diameter in the photo would be the same no matter where I stood to take the picture. Terrestrial objects like people and buildings, however, would appear smaller in the frame the farther away I actually stood from them. So in order to include some recognizable Sacramento landmark in the photo using a lens that long I would have to back up quite a distance. I also had to take great care to ensure the moon and my landmark lined up correctly. Using lunar prediction data from the website of the US Naval Observatory, I marked an area on a map to determine where I would need to be to line up the Sacramento city skyline with the rising moon.

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I spent several hours driving along accessible roads to find a the perfect vantage spot. Because the area to the north and west of Sacramento is so flat, there are few places that afford an unobstructed view of the city skyline. But from the County Road 102 over crossing in Woodland I could see the downtown buildings just over the roof of a retail building if I stood on the tips of my toes. I asked the manager of the retail store if he could help, and he graciously agreed to raise me approximately 20 feet up in the basket of a warehouse forklift. So as the sun set and the moon rose, I made my photo from a 'cherrypicker' just over the treetops in the store's parking lot nearly twenty miles away.

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