Not much color tonight, but a nice view of north Golden just the same.
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Not much color tonight, but a nice view of north Golden just the same.
As I headed out to shoot the last of the nearly-full SuperMoon this morning, I changed plans at the last second due to the mid- to upper-level clouds in the atmosphere, and instead caught the SuperMoon setting over Golden, well after the sun had come up. Brief window for spectacular images of full moons, so we’ll just go with this until the next one…
After having spent the morning on the Genesee I-70 overpass with 12-15 other photographers shooting the setting SuperMoon, I was hoping that tonight’s location for the rising, 12-hour-old SuperMoon might be a bit less hectic. I’ve been using The Photographer’s Ephemeris iPhone app for planning landscape shots for a few years now, and it is an indispensable tool for planning phases and the precise location of the rising/setting of the moon, as well as showing you the relative heights of camera and subject, etc.
Having avoided the best ‘downtown’ location the night before due to poor atmospheric conditions, I chose the lower flank of the eastern side of Green Mountain to line up the rising moon over the Denver skyline. As either good or bad fortune would have it, on the evening of 11/14/16 the lower atmosphere to the eastern horizon was socked in with cloud cover, preventing any chance of capturing the moon directly behind skyscrapers. Let’s face it, moon pictures can be kind of mundane; after all, a cropped-in image of a SuperMoon looks pretty much just like an image of the moon at either apogee or perigee. Being the largest, brightest moon since 1948, I wanted to try and capture something unique, and present it in a way in which our expectations of the subject matter are set aside. I thus chose to capture a sequence of the SuperMoon rising through those clouds and out above Denver, which I would compile into a TerraLapse image showing the entire event, rather than just a single shot of the moon over the city. Shooting sequences like these is a rigorous, time-consuming process that demands attention to detail on a variety of aspects of the image. I’ve been confounded in countless ways over the last few years of shooting these sequences, and I still occasionally find a new way to screw it up.
After setting up and manually-focusing as best I could using Live View, I then narrowed the exposure down to get as much light onto the downtown buildings as possible without having the foreground look unnatural, knowing full-well that the moon would be blown out (excessively over-exposed) using such an exposure. Since the moon was rising 40 minutes after the sun set, there would be no way to get a proper exposure of both the moon and city. I used a manual exposure setting so it didn’t change through the sequence, and started shooting at 4-second intervals about 90 seconds before the moon broke the horizon, even though there was no way to see it through the cloud cover.
As the moon came up you could see its orange glow behind the clouds, and I was pretty sure that the sequence would prove to be unique, though you never quite know what you are going to get with ‘time-lapse’ sequences like these until you put them all together to see the final image. Back in 2013, the ‘Tribute Hike’ star-trail image I captured over Loveland Pass gave me the idea to use astrophotography image stacking techniques in order to blend a series of images into a single, long exposure, far longer than you could ever capture in any camera. I’ve refined the technique over the years (with regard to both image capture and post-processing), and have applied it to many non-traditional (e.g. daytime) subjects. Basically each frame is brought into Photoshop, and blended using the ‘Lighten’ command, which essentially compares the brightness of each pixel with every frame in the sequence, and ‘picks’ the brightest one for the final composite image. This process can take hours of computing time, depending on the resolution and number of frames crunched.
This image in particular was problematic with all the air traffic approaching and departing Denver International Airport, which showed as a variety of points of light creating interrupted ‘streaks’ and general noise throughout the image. Although I could have used some layering techniques to try and isolate the sky, a mind-numbing amount of cloning them all out from the source imagery was the only viable alternative to creating a natural-looking image absent the abundant air traffic. I ended up using 407 images from a Canon 1Dx (raw files ~18.7MB each, totaling 7.99 GB) captured between 5:23:08 and 5:56:58 PM, which after compilation is effectively a 33 minute, 50 second exposure, and showing the entire moonrise from before it’s even visible, to its coming though the clouds and then ultimately leaving the frame.
I’m pretty happy with the end result:
EF 70-200/2.8L IS II@200mm
RRS TVC-34 Tripod
RRS BH55 Ball Head w/PC-LR Panning Clamp
The Photographer’s Ephemeris (app)
Photo Transit (app)
Time-lapse video compiled of the SuperMoon rising over the Denver skyline, as captured from Green Mtn. (33 minutes, 50 seconds):
Last night’s SuperMoon actually became truly ‘full’ just after setting this morning. I went up to the Genesee overpass on I-70, and although I was the second one there, ultimately there were about a dozen of us shooting (for some reason semi trucks like to honk at people with tripods).
I captured several time-lapse sequences which were used to compile the TerraLapse images below–basically, very, very long exposure images); the video is included at the bottom of this post.
Tonight’s SuperMoon over Jefferson County Administration Building, Golden, Colorado. At around 6:30 tomorrow morning, the full moon will be closer to the earth than it has been since 1948, and it’ll be 2034 when we’ll next see it any closer. It’s approximately 30% brighter than a ‘typical’ full moon.
Took a 27-hour trip (door-to-door) to Utah to try and capture what had been reported as being an exceptional year for the Perseid Meteor Showers, due to Jupiter’s gravity altering the path of the comet fragments/dust that cause the yearly event. I had planned on catching both ‘peak’ nights, but the closure of I-70 at Glenwood until Thursday afternoon prevented a two-day trip, so I arrived Friday night just before sunset, and was home by 4 pm on Saturday.
Although the second night wasn’t as good as advertised, I did capture two meteors with persistent trains at 0308 and 0321 hrs; images and time-lapses of those will have to wait a day or two. I just now finished up the composite image from the 36 major meteors that I captured with a 15mm lens; those meteors were captured over 2 hours 32 minutes of shooting between 0153 and 0426 in the morning. The fading light on Castleton Tower is from the moon, which set just after 2 AM.
A crop from the main meteor in question, showing the gases slowly moving away from the location of the meteor. These gases could be seen moving with the atmosphere for more than 30 minutes afterward (time-lapse to follow).
So our first family vacation of the year was one I’ve been anticipating for many months, as I’ve not been able to get out and do any astrophotography for quite awhile. Although the 3/4 moon wasn’t rising until after midnight, unfortunately the Milky Way also wasn’t rising until about 10PM, giving me a limited (and late) window for shooting. The weather certainly cooperated for our 5 days on the lake, and the 75′ houseboat we rented from Bullfrog Marina was amazing.
Few places in the U.S. offer such a plethora of accessible (relatively I guess, assuming you have a boat) dark sky locations. The region around Bullfrog Marina (south of Hanksville, UT) is sparsely populated with very few towns to light up the sky. Hiking around the barren landscape in the middle of the night is a unique experience, on one hand completely safe from bears, mountain lions and such, while on the other hand you wouldn’t want to tumble yourself down a cliff as you’d likely never be found.
While out shooting Sunday night, I experienced a silence so deafening that it was hard to imagine. Whether we realize it or not, there is almost always sound around us, whether we are in a structure or in the outdoors. In the case of Lake Powell: wind, water lapping the shores, fish jumping, various boat sounds, a bat or moth flying by, a small piece of gravel rolling down the slickrock (from where I do not know). For about five minutes the wind quit completely, and shortly thereafter the lake became absolutely still and quiet. My surroundings were completely and utterly silent, in a way I’ve not experienced in my 5+ decades on this earth.
Anyway, enjoy. I did.
Happy New Year to you all!
Spent the weekend up in Estes Park, and got in one hike from the Bear Lake trailhead up to Emerald Lake. Along the way is Dream Lake, which exhibited some of the most beautiful clear ice I’ve ever seen. As hordes of snowshoers clapped by, I spent nearly an hour contorted in myriad ways, trying to ‘fit’ what I saw before me into the camera. Countless people probably thought I was nuts, but quite a few strayed onto the ice to see what I was looking at.
In any event, enjoy the mystical qualities of alpine ice, Rocky Mountain style!