Thursday, June 27, 2013

2013 Supermoon

2013 Supermoon Rising 

Four Peaks was my destination for shooting the so-called Supermoon this year. I struggled with a suitable location, but decided on a saddle below the peaks. The drive from Phoenix is very entertaining as you wind through pristine Sonoran Desert and climb up the side of the rugged mountain. The road was better than I remembered too. 

The saddle location afforded me both east and western views if I chose to shoot it as it rose in the east and set in the west. But I didn't spend the night. The tiny campground at the top was full and plenty of other people were also taking advantage of the conditions.

It was a while before I realized the moon had actually risen due to atmospheric haze and some light clouds on the horizon. Some 15 minutes had passed after it crested the horizon and I was able to see the moon. 

I was surprised by all the confusion this year about the exact time the Supermoon would appear. I triple checked the date and time myself. It rose on Saturday, June 22 and set the next morning... Sunday the 23rd. It was only at 4:35am on Sunday that the moon achieved its full Super status and was at perigee with the earth. If I had waited until the moon rose on Sunday night, I would  have missed it. The moon's phase would have been one cycle off, only 98% full and still a very nice moon, but really not that super at all.

There were plenty of photographers that did wait and missed the shot. I was really surprised that so many pro shooters couldn't figure this out. The news media kept saying it was on Sunday. And it was. Sunday morning at 4:35am. But so many thought that meant Sunday night and must have never checked the numerous sun/moon sites detailing the exact time schedule.

Last light and the rising Supermoon

I scrambled to find this interesting foreground element as the last light kissed the top of the closest hillside.

Supermoon and Earth's shadow

My final shots were taken as the Earth's shadow became apparent on the horizon. The dark blue band and darker distant mountains were accented by a warm glow of the setting sun. 

There really isn't anything that special about the Supermoon. Even the term "supermoon" is a recent phenomenon. Okay, it appears brighter and is closer to the earth, but so what. The difference is imperceptible to the human eye. If you didn't know it was a Supermoon, you wouldn't think anything of it. The moon always looks big on the horizon as it rises. The size difference is only 16% from a normal full moon. 30% brighter is significant, but it always looks bright and the human eye compensates for this.

I think the big difference is how things are reported these days. Social media and the explosion of photography has everyone scrambling to shoot these kind of events. The moon is a very popular celestial object and has always had a large following. Something about the full moon stirs people's imaginations and awakens the mysteries of the universe to them. Having an object so close to our planet forces us to consider the possibilities and wonders of the universe. Human beings are creatures of adventure and exploration and once a month, the full moon lets each us do a bit of our own space exploration.

See my Fine Art America gallery for a variety of high-quality products from individual prints and canvas wraps to metal prints and frame and matted works of photographic art.

© 2013 G. Reid Helms / Arizona Panorama
All reproduction rights reserved

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gamma Delphinus Meteor Shower

Gamma Delphinus Meteor Shower

My latest photographic safari was to shoot the Gamma Delphinus Meteor Shower. I decided a spot on top a mountain north of town would probably be a good location. It was far enough away from the light pollution of the Phoenix metro area that it might not be a problem. I'd visited this vista on the way to Seven Springs a couple times before and has 360 degree views. The main view faced east towards the meteor shower origin and worked out great.

The light from the FAA radio tower array was a bit much though. Keeping glare out of the shots was all but impossible. I really liked the idea of having the transponder tower in the shots though, so I tried to make the best of it.

The meteor shower was kind of lame. I had no idea if the fast moving and faint falling stars would actually image or not. I did manage to capture a few, but they were small and faint just like what I was seeing with my eyeballs. It had all but fizzled by 1:30 and I gave up at 2am and drove home.

Putting the above shot together was a nightmare. This was the first time I tried to do a Milky Way panorama. I usually have my act down shooting panoramas... it's kind of my thing. But the Milky Way was high overhead and I had to improvise. If I'd shot it a little earlier when it was lower in the sky, it would have been so much easier. So, I tilted the camera up and did my normal pan. Stitching the shots together manually took a while and was more difficult than I imagined. I finally achieved a decent pano and stacked the static shots of the meteors I'd managed to capture into the final piece.

Milky Way Panorama

Night photography is all the rage right now. A bunch of my favorite photographer friends on Facebook and Google+ are cranking them out in various locations around the country. Seems like everyone has switched gears. I've seen some amazing images on lakes, with bridges, on roadways and in the mountains... and quite a few panoramas too. It's much harder than it looks and my Nikon D7000 was barely sufficient in producing quality images. I think my 10mm lens was actually too wide and added too much distortion to the sky especially in the panorama shots. It was a good learning experience though.

Nevertheless, I had a blast shooting and hoping things would turn out. The night was cool enough I had to wrap a blanket around me to stay warm. This was in light of the fact it had been over 110 in the valley that day. Needless to say, I was delighted to feel the cool air and get a bit of a chill. I felt like a creature of the universe as I gazed into the night sky anticipating the next shooter. It sort of reminded me of fishing... waiting for the next bite and hoping it would be a big one! And like fishing, I can't wait to try it again!

See my Fine Art America gallery for a variety of high-quality products from individual prints and canvas wraps to metal prints and frame and matted works of photographic art.

© 2013 G. Reid Helms / Arizona Panorama
All reproduction rights reserved