shooting the moon

I have a weird hobby. One evening a month, I drive out into the country and find an isolated spot, usually near an open field. I sit in my minivan with my camera, looking to the east. And I wait.

I look at my watch. Then, I stare at the horizon. I look at my watch again. I check to see where the sun is setting, then follow its path to the opposite side of the sky. I squint, and look at my watch again.

More often than not, I see nothing. After about 15 minutes, I go back home. But sometimes, I’m rewarded with an amazing sight. A hazy orange orb starts peeking its way over the horizon.

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There it is.

On this one day a month, when the moon is full, it makes its way into view at almost the exact same moment the sun is setting. It’s usually almost impossible to see the moon at this time of day because it’s still bright outside, and the lower part of the sky is typically covered in haze or completely overcast. But once in a while, when the sky is clear, the sun shines like a spotlight directly onto the moon. When it appears at the lowest point in the sky, it looks enormous.

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If you are planning to take a photo, you have to be ready. The moon looks like it is racing up the sky. You only have a few minutes to get this shot before it climbs over the tree line, ascends the houses and starts taking on a bright orange glow.

I try to find a spot to put its magnitude into perspective. This is harder than it sounds.

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You can see the moon best on high ground with nothing to obstruct your view. Usually, these spots are somewhere along a country road, and they don’t exactly have parking spots. When we first moved out here, I would always be on the lookout for a perfect viewing spot that also had a place to pull over so I wouldn’t get run over standing next to the road with my tripod. These days, I also look for interesting scenery — a barn, a pond or a tree — that will add life to my photo.

Last night’s full moon was one of the best I’ve seen in the three or so years that I’ve been obsessed with taking photos of the moon. The sky was perfectly clear, and it was a super moon, making it looks 14 percent larger than it does normally.

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I have an app on my phone that tells me when the moon will be at its peak. When the day comes, I usually say to my husband, “Do you think I should really go out and take ANOTHER photo of the moon?”

He responds in his usual super encouraging way. “You have to enjoy the moment. You only live once. Go.”

I make jokes to myself about how I’m the official moon photographer for my friends on Facebook. My journalism training runs deep, and I feel some kind of need to cover my self-assigned “moon beat.”

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It only takes about 40 minutes for the moon to launch into the sky, and lose its supernatural orange glow. But during that time, I love watching the moon for a few reason:

It’s one thing in my life that is 100 percent predictable. The moon always comes up at the exact moment that it is supposed to. I don’t know why I seem to find this surprising, but it gives me some kind of reassurance to see it pop up over into the tree line at the exact moment that meteorologists said it would.

It gives me perspective. I’m always in awe to think I’m viewing something that is 238,000 miles away. It reminds me I’m basically a speck in a galaxy so enormous I can’t even comprehend its size. It makes me think about my awesome creator and how powerful He is to put all of the elements in place so we can even live on Earth.

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It’s a challenge. When I started taking photos of the moon, my goal was just to get a close up so I could see the craters and details of something so far away. These days, I like to find ways to frame it. I’m nearly giddy when a flock of geese fly across my photo or I can position myself so it looks like its hovering over a flag pole. On Saturday evening, this guy was flying his ultralite, probably enjoying the view as much as I was. When he saw me with my camera, he flew around in front of me so I could get a shot of him with the moon. I couldn’t talk to him or tell him “thank you”, but I have a feeling he was smiling just as much as I was!

I took all of the photos in this post the last two evenings. You can go ahead and laugh at me for being so geeky about my love for the moon. But I don’t mind. I will be right back at it next month!

 

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So, what about you? Do you like looking at the moon? Did you catch a glimpse of last night’s super moon?

 

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