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The Mortal Moon
The Mortal Moon

Photograph Information Photographer's Comments
Challenge: Free Study 2007-08 (Expert Editing)
Camera: Canon EOS-30D
Lens: Tokina AF 12-24mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX
Location: Madison, WI
Date: Aug 28, 2007
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 200-800
Shutter: 1/15 to 6 seconds
Galleries: Sky, Astrophotography
Date Uploaded: Aug 30, 2007

The lunar eclipse of 8/28/07. A great deal of planning (months ahead of time) went into the creation of this shot. So read on only if you're a serious astro-geek, or are just bored and trying to get drowsy in advance of a good nap.

Since the eclipsed moon would set from Madison while the total phase was still in progress, I made it my goal several months ago to incorporate the Madison skyline into my shot. This meant calculating where I had to be to catch the moon setting in close proximity to the dome. This brought into play my previous experience shooting the moon against the Wisconsin capitol dome:

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Since I had shot previous moon rises and moon sets extensively, I had a lot of practice, and had only to look up the exact position of the moon on the morning of August 28, and to record the position in azimuth when the moon was about 1 degree in altitude (the approximate elevation of the dome. With this info in hand, courtesy of Starry Night Pro, I acquired a google map of the area, and put a protractor to use. After measuring some angles, I drew a line leading away from the capitol dome, eastward across the lake. Where that line intersected the shoreline of Lake Monona was my shooting location (an apartment complex with a nice lakeshore).

Once I had the location picked out, I decided that rather than going for a very tight shot of the moon and the dome, as I had often shot before, I wanted to do something a little more artistic. I had seen several mosaics like this before an decided to try it myself. I calculated where the moon would be as the penumbral phase began (about 3 am local) and, after carefully calculating the moon's altitude at that time, and its azimuth at setting, chose my Tokina lens, which at about 20mm, should easily encompass both the moon and the skyline, and hopefully make for a pleasing composition without too much distortion.

I arrived on site at about 2:20 am, and had plenty of time to set up and take a few test shots. Set up mainly involved carefully leveling the tripod and composing the shot so that the moon was correctly located in the upper left and the capitol skyline in the lower right. I began my exposures precisely at 3:00 am. I had previously decided to do one exposure every 4 minutes. The only real challenge was deciding what shutter speeds to use, since the illumination levels of the full moon vs. the partially eclipsed moon vs. the totally eclipsed moon vary by many magnitudes. I had read a few web sites with recommendations on exposure, and, with my own test shots during setup, had a pretty good idea how to proceed. I purposely overexposed the first shot to give a blooming anchor for the eye in the upper left hand of the photo. I then switched to 1/15th of a second until the moon was nearly in full eclipse, and lengthened the exposure to 1/5th, then 1, then eventually 4 seconds. I had to boost the ISO and bump it up to 6 seconds because the moon became almost impossible to see as it entered the hazy muck at lower altitudes. The later shots, as dawn grew closer, gave me the blue twilight sky. The encroaching dawn and thickening haze eventually spelled the premature end of my sequence, well before the moon reached the region of the capitol dome.

I packed it up and headed home for a 2 hour nap, then fired up photoshop to see what my efforts had produced.

I had over 45 images to work with. I selected one of the dawnish shots with a deep blue sky to use as my background, and then copied all of my moon exposures into the Photoshop PSD file in separate layers. I carefully cropped each image, leaving only the moon and a bit of surrounding sky, and then played with blending modes to create a seamless blend between the lunar disk and the blue background sky (most of the moon shots were when the sky was darker so their cropped images had black backgrounds). Luckily, photoshop's blending modes were perfectly suited to this task and I was able to integrate all the images with no unseemly (and time consuming) touchups.

Once the final was fully assembled, I could see that I had a nice shot on my hands. I was amazed at how easily and quickly it came together. My preparation and planning had paid off handsomely! The final image was put through the normal post production enhancements, curves, levels, NEAT, etc. and then cropped slightly to produce the composition seen above. What a tremendous and exiting bonus that the free study this month was under the Expert editing rules! I can actually submit this to a challenge. Thanks DPC! One thing I want to underline is that for all of my photoshop manipulation of multiple images, this composite retains full photographic integrity. It is a true time-lapse image, with nothing created that was not a real event that morning.

Alas, for all my going on and on, the image is imperfect. My biggest gripe is that I didn't experiment with shorter shutter speeds for the initial shots, which would have given me detail on the lunar disk, rather than a white circle. The lens distortion pulled the first few moon images into ovals. The hazy conditions prevented me from capturing the eclipsed moon all the way to the horizon. Plus a few more nits not worth picking here - I like the shot. No, I love the result and am very happy with its visual impact. It's certainly at a whole different level than my previous favorite effort at a lunar eclipse:

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I don't care how this scores. My own astrophotos have not done very well in challenges previously. This shot is very special to me and though I think it could do well, it doesn't have to. I'm very happy with the result and am proud to place this among my greatest photographic accomplishments ever!

Title from:

Sonnet 107
Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since spite of him I'll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes;
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.

William Shakespeare

Place: 131 out of 503
Avg (all users): 6.1020
Avg (commenters): 7.2857
Avg (participants): 6.0196
Avg (non-participants): 6.2889
Views since voting: 8352
Views during voting: 290
Votes: 147
Comments: 14
Favorites: 11 (view)

Please log in or register to add your comments!

10/01/2007 12:48:51 PM
What a great line you have here; it really would have intersected the Capitol building!

Great job.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/11/2007 06:41:41 PM
this is awesome ! really. the photo and the story and execution ... everything. perfect
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/08/2007 05:15:13 PM
I had a comment but fell aslee padfjsg;gjasfhgjfashj;f.

Nice planning and very interesting to ready your comments.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/08/2007 12:33:41 AM
You SHOULD be very proud of this! You planned, executed, and edited it to perfection. Congrats!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
 Comments Made During the Challenge
09/06/2007 12:53:43 AM
Well done with the tools you have, Darn hard to do too. Good luck
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/05/2007 02:30:58 PM
Very nice montage. Good patience.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/05/2007 10:13:14 AM
Well you have to keep in mind that during a full moon, it´s day on the moon so you have to expose for it accordingly, I would have voted higher had there been some texture in the moon in all of the frames.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/05/2007 07:48:09 AM
Great photo, must have taken a while?
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/03/2007 12:50:37 AM
What happened to the last 45 minutes!?
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/02/2007 01:28:50 AM
All that mining thats going on up there, Im still waiting to get a cut !!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/01/2007 09:47:00 PM
extremely creative image - the time lapse nature, with the moon heading toward the bright lights, is so well composed
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/01/2007 05:10:36 PM
Execellent job. This couldn't have been easy and unless you had more than one camera, it was a one shot deal. Great tones and exposure control.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/01/2007 03:42:17 PM
Very nicely done! Excellent exposure, though the sun-lit moon is washed out. I'll be interested to see if this is one shot or a collage of many shots. 8
  Photographer found comment helpful.
09/01/2007 12:34:53 AM
great work...a really interesting result
  Photographer found comment helpful.

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