Moon Rise and Ice On A Salty Lake

Blue Hour Moon Rise

Moon rise Mono Lake, New Years Eve

New Years Eve moon rise at Mono Lake

2018 has already gotten off to a great start, as I enjoyed a great sunset at Mono Lake on New years Eve, then the “supermoon” moon rise at Mono Lake on New Years Day. The angles and timing of the moon rise vs. the sunset seemed to work out well for Mono Lake for both dates. On the first evening, the clouds interfered with the moon rise, but clearer skies to the west let the sun’s light through, for a great sunrise.

The second night, the moon was a little bright relative to the landscape as it rose, but the view of it was uninterrupted, so I was able to capture a nice sequence of moon rise shots as the moon rose over Mono Lake’s interesting “tufa” calcium carbonate rock formations.

One of the most fascinating details, particularly on the first night, was the ice forming on the surface of the lake. Temperatures were close to freezing, but Mono Lake is nearly 3X saltier than the ocean, so ice would not normally form on the lake at that temperature. Mono Lake’s tufa rock formations form underwater, where springs deliver calcium-laden water. I noticed in places where fresh water was upwelling to the surface, spreading out and then freezing as it cooled. Apparently in the winter when there is little or no wind to encourage mixing, the fresh and salt water does not necessarily mix well and the less dense fresh water rises tot he top and can freeze. You never know what interesting things you’re going to see next as you spend time outdoors!

Mono Lake Icy Sunset Reflection

Mono Lake Icy Sunset Reflection

The other photos from the sunset weren’t too shabby either. I’m so fortunate to live surrounded by such great scenery and weather!

Eastern Sierra landscape photography.

New Years Eve sunset reflection at Mono Lake, California.

Share This:

Sunset Moon Rise Coming December 24

Mono Lake moon rise November 16, 2013

A few times each year, the moon rises at just the right time to be visible during sunset, while there’s enough light on the landscape to capture that in the photo as well.  That will happen this month on December 24, Christmas Eve.  I’m not suggesting that you ditch the family to go chase the moon, just step outside at sunset, look to the east, and you’ll have one more reason for the night to be a particularly memorable one.

If you might also want to photograph the moon, I’ve collected some notes on this blog post that I started in 2006:

How to Plan Great Full Mooon Rise and Set Shots

I’m not sure if we’ll head down to Mono Lake.  I’ve been going there for decades and my kids have been going there for all of their lives, so it holds a lot of sentimental value for us. It’s pretty close by, so if the weather is nice, we may head down there.  The light could be particularly nice around: 4:35 – 4:55 pm.  Ping me on social media if you’re down there, in case we’re standing a few feet down the shore from each other!

Share This:

Tutorial on Planning Moon Photography

Moon rise, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Moon rise, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

I’ve been enthralled with the moon since growing up watching the Apollo missions on TV, the original Cosmos TV series starring Carl Sagan, and getting a 60mm telescope.  My digital photography of the moon was underway by 2004, and digital cameras improved significantly over the following years, particularly with the release of the relatively affordable Canon 5D Mark II, with its large 35mm “full frame” sensor for excellent dynamic range and low light performance.  I went to watch the first space shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base, and I had a press pass for the fourth landing there.

With my passion for space and astrophotography, it was fun discussing one of my favorite subjects, moon photography, with PhotoPills app developers Rafael Pons and Germán Marquès, who joined me on the Landscape Photography Show.

Here’s the video on YouTube:
Landscape Photography Show Episode #20 Jeff Sullivan and Rafael Pons “Shooting The Moon”

Also featured on the show was photography from Chris WhitingAlan Majchrowicz, Dag Ole Nordhaug, Franka M. Gabler and David Tomek.  Take a look at their work, and follow them on G+ to see more.  Many thanks to Jim Warthman, Carra Riley, Kevin Rowe, Tom Hierl, Sheila B. DuBois for hosting the Landscape Photography Show !

December 2015 update: I’ve created a new @DSLRastronomy Twitter account to focus more on astrophotography than my regular @JeffSullPhoto Twitter account, which also covers travel and landscape photography.  I started planning moon shots with Naval Observatory tables, as I explained in a blog post back in 2006.  Later I was thrilled to use a free app on a Windows PC: Anticipating Sun and Moon Alignments.  Today I’m glad that we can carry our apps on a smartphone in our pocket.  I like having multiple apps, since they’re relatively low in cost, and you never know which one will introduce the next cool feature first.  Rather than have to reevaluate them every year, I’d rather have multiple installed, and let the new features come to me in updates.

Google+: Reshared 17 times
Google+: View post on Google+

Share This:

Landscape Photography Show Episode #20 – Moon Photography

Here’s the recorded tutorial on YouTube:

The app PhotoPills is available here:

Crescent Moon Behind Auburn Courthouse

No more guesswork: PhotoPills tells you when the moon will be where you want it.

I can’t wait for the next full moon!

Share This:

Tutorial on Moon Photography Planning – Live Tonight!

Tonight I’ll be broadcasting a live tutorial on how to determine exactly where to stand to place the moon on top of a natural or man-made landmark.  Here’s a link to the event if you’d like to join us:

In this example, I predicted where to catch the full moon during a lunar eclipse so its path would pass the tip of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco.  Using eclipse predictions, lunar elevation angle and compass direction, I used the height of the tower to predict how far away I’d need to stand and in what compass direction.  I mapped that point on Google Earth, showed up a little early to start shooting hundreds of photos to created the time-lapse sequence, and it turned out that I pretty much nailed it!  The center of the moon passed right across the tip of the tower.

New tools make this sort of planning easier than ever! We’ll be demonstrating the PhotoPills app.  If you’d like to purchase the app to follow along on your smartphone as we show the features, follow this link to buy it:

Here’s a time-lapse video I created of the moon as it approached and passed the Transamerica Building:

This video was featured on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog on Discover Magazine:
Lunar eclipse time lapse : Bad Astronomy

Here are some more sun and moon photos for you to enjoy:

Moon Rise Between Half Dome and El CapitanEclipse Moon Set Under Belt of VenusMoon Rise Behind Half DomeVane AttemptSunrise Sunspot ViewJoin Me In Yosemite This NovemberMono Lake Sunset Moon Rise SaturdaySunset Full Moon Rise over Mono LakeLunar Eclipse, Landing on the Transamerica PyramidMono Lake Sunset DreamFull Moon over Bay BridgeMono Lake Moonrise (Re-edit)

Crescent Moon Setting Behind Auburn CourthouseSolar Rainbow in Yosemite ValleyTree and MoonSouthern California SunsetBorrego Badlands MoonriseYosemite Moonrise

Monitor Pass Sunset Sun RaysMoonrise by Half DomeDawn Full Moon Set in AuburnMorro Rock MoonsetSunset at Pfeiffer RockHappy Thanksgiving!

Moon and Sun, a set on Flickr.

Share This:

How To Predict Moon Rise for Landscape Photography

Originally posted in 2010, I occasionally bump this forward in my blog to tell people that they can plan to take an amazing sunrise moonset or sunset moonrise shot on an upcoming date.  As I update this on September 17, 3013, here on the California/Nevada border, the moon will rise at 5:50 pm tonight and be about 12 degrees up in the eastern sky at 7 pm sunset.  Somewhere with something tall to place the moon next to should work well, like Yosemite Valley.

Tomorrow the moon will rise around 6:25 then be about 5.8 degrees up in the sky at sunset (close to 7 pm).  That will work best somewhere with a relatively low horizon.  These times will vary by your specific location on the globe, and the application described below can correct the times for your position.

I used to line up moon shots the old-fashioned way… looking up the full moon rise, arriving and seeing where the moon was emerging, predicting where it was going, and changing my position several times to try to be in just the right place at just the right time.

Fortunately there’s an application that takes a lot of the guesswork out of lining up the sun and moon with natural or man-made objects to take stunning photos. The application The Photographer’s Ephemeris allows you to plan a shooting location for a fairly exact alignment with particular landmarks: Free Download for PC or Mac

It runs on Google Earth satellite photos, so you can easily see your planned shooting position, it shows you the azimuth angle (compass direction) of the sun and moon at any give time from there, and you can read the elevation angle as well.  If the lineup isn’t just right as the sun or moon is coming over the horizon, you can adjust your shooting position (at various times and stages in the sun or moon rise) to get just the alignment you want.

View the tutorials for some examples of the capabilities of, and applications for, this program.

Tutorials:  You’ll be surprised at just how easy and intuitive it is.

Below are my results from researching on TPE a much more subtle event: anticipating and planning for the position of a crescent moon. I identified two positions a couple of blocks apart for two different times, then adjusted my position a few yards onsite to place the moon beside or behind the same courthouse, while avoiding trees or power lines.

So fire up TPE and go give this a try in your area on the next full moon rise (and set), or whenever!

Remember to pick a target reasonably far away (say 1/2 mile to several miles) to put the moon alongside, so you can use a long zoom lens and capture the moon appearing really large beside it.

Share This:

Quick Trip to Yosemite for the Moon Rise

Moon Rise over Hall Dome, Yosemite National Park

I’ve been pursuing moon rises behind Half Dome for many years. The weather doesn’t always cooperate, but I’ve caught it from several different vantage points now, and I have a few more angles to catch it from on return trips.

This time there had been a couple of light snowfalls already in the Fall, so there was a nice dusting of snow and the beginnings of ice on the lakes as I crossed Tioga Pass.  Here’s Ellery Lake with Ice and patches of open water.

The light wasn’t great as I passed tuolumne Meadows, but upon reaching Tenaya Lake, I found a mirror surface reflecting trees on the far side.  You could get great pictures if you moved away form the families throwing rocks into the lake, and timed your shots to avoid the worst of the ripples they created.

Next I pulled into the Olmstead Point parking lot.  I was shocked at the quantity of people crowding the area so late in October.  I didn’t stop.

Then I checked a few stands of dogwood trees tucked into groves of redwood trees, and found the dogwoods brightly colored and beautifully back-lit.

Proceeding for a lap around Yosemite Valley, Upper Yosemite Fall was completely dry, missing even the modest wetness you’ll often see on the rock.  Most of the deciduous trees seemed a couple of weeks behind schedule turning color, like the aspen had been in the Eastern Sierra this season.  The oaks were lightening somewhat, but not far enough along to warrant a stop by Cook’s Meadow.  I did spot some trees nicely back-lit against Cathedral Rock, so I pulled over.

A large van full of photo workshop customers passed by; I figured I’d catch up with them in a few minutes, either in the turnout opposite Bridalveil Fall at Valley View, or a short while later catching the moon rise. 

Unfortunately in this dry year even spring-fed Bridalveil Fall is nearly non-existent, breaking up into a thin mist partway to the ground.  Noticing the angle of the sun, I stopped to see whether there was enough water in Bridalveil to create a rainbow in its mist.  Sure enough, the rainbow was there, and the low water of the Merced River made a perfect reflecting pool to offer creative compositions including colorful Fall foliage.  Odd that the photo workshop passed it up (perhaps they caught it the day before).

By then it was time to go set up for moon rise.  Curiously, the photography workshop was still nowhere to be found.  Had they really left the park only minutes before one of the events of the year in Yosemite? 

Last year the only other person who had anticipated the moon rise in the position I had chosen was a guy from Seattle shooting on film.  Of course once the moon rose, two or three dozen people joined us!  This year, from another location, I first met someone from Cincinnati.  As it turned out, someone had gotten the word out online, so roughly 2 dozen people more people eventually showed up (and there were apparently a few more at the vantage point I had used the prior year).  

A started one camera at 105mm focal length to capture a time-lapse video of the entire moon rise, and I used a second camera to capture the initial emergence at 400mm then the rest of the event at 200mm.  It’ll take me a while to get each sequence processed, but so far it’s looking good!  There are even a couple of climbers you can see move slightly in the video, on El Capitan directly opposite the moon in this image.  

 I’ve been pretty busy this year wrapping up my guide book to California landscape photography, but in 2013 I’ll have to offer a few Yosemite workshops.

Share This:

Astronomical Events Coming in March 2012

To get the best possible results with my astrophotography, I try to plan ahead to shoot as many astronomical events as I can. Here are some of the opportunities you’ll have in the next month:

March 3/4: Mars at Opposition.  Mars will be as close as it gets to the earth, and will rise in the evening as the sun sets.
March 5: Mercury may be visible shortly after the sun sets through March 12, but on March 5 it reaches it maximum distance from the sun.
March 7: The nearly-full moon will rise just before sunset. Mars will rise right behind the moon in the evening sky.
March 8: Full moon.
March 9: The nearly-full moon will set just after sunrise.
March 10 – 20: Venus and Jupiter Conjunction
March 12: Arguably the best day of the Venus – Jupiter conjunction, as Jupiter will be just above Venus.
March 21: Thin crescent moon rises shortly before sunrise.
March 22: New Moon. March 21-24 will be good nights for star trail photography!
March 24: Thin crescent moon sets shortly before sunset.
March 24-25: Conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon.

I’ll be out shooting with 25-30 of my photographer friends in Anza Borrego State Park and Death Valley National Park in the March 2-10 timeframe, and soon I’ll be announcing photowalks for April, May and June.  The best place to catch my announcements will be on Google+:

Share This:

Chasing The Moon: Lunar Eclipse December 10, 2011

Having shot lunar eclipses several times in the past, my objective this time was to see whether I could line up the Eclipsed moon with a major landmark. I selected San Francisco’s most iconic building, the Transamerica Pyramid. The time I chose was 6:06am, right when the eclipsed moon should be coming out from total eclipse and brightening back up. I looked up the height of the building, the elevation angle of the moon at that time, and that enabled me to calculate the distance I would need to be from the building. I determined the compass direction the shadow would fall, and located point on Google earth with the right direction and distance.

 I set my camera up in that spot 10 minutes early, and here’s how the next 10 minutes turned out:
I pretty much nailed it… the center of the moon passes right past the tip of the building!

Here are some more of my images from that night:

Share This:

Lunar Eclipse Photography, Dec 10, 2011

For tonight’s moon rise and lunar eclipse events, there are a range of shots available:

Moon Rise: Friday evening before sunset (about 4:15, but time varies with location)
Sunset: Continued moonrise in best post-sunset color (about 5pm, but time varies with location).

Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 3:33am PST, moon at 41.4 degrees altitude
– Night landscapes or cityscapes with full moon in penumbral slightly dimmed state
Partial Eclipse Begins: 4:45am PST, moon at 27.0 degrees altitude (partial eclipse)
– Telephoto shots of moon in various eclipse phases
Total Eclipse Begins: 6:06am PST, moon at 12.3 degrees altitude (nice crescent moon w/red shots in the moments before this)
– Images of red moon and sky over landscapes/cityscapes
Total Eclipse Ends: 6:57am PST, moon at 2.9 degrees altitude
– Partially eclipsed crescent moon setting in best pre-sunrise light
Sunrise: 7:12am PST, moon at 0.4 degrees altitude (partial eclipse)
– Sunrise to moonset, “golden hour” daylight
Moonset: 7:17am PST, moon at -0.3 degrees altitude (partial eclipse)
– If you’re in a very high place with very low horizons, for a few short minutes you may be able to capture a panorama, with the rare event of having both the sun and the moon in the sky at the same time!

The additional numbers are the degrees the moon will be above the horizon. Here’s a chart enabling you to anticipate which of your lenses can cover something that high, for the shots where you’d like to include both the ground and the eclipsing moon:

Common lens angles of view

If you shoot the entire eclipse in a sequence of still shots with your camera in one place, you can assemble them into a timelapse video like this one:

The other post-processing option for a sequence would be to create a composite photo of the phases, stacked into one image using software such as the free StarStaX:

Lunar Eclipse August 2007
Lunar Eclipse at Mono Lake

Here are my planning notes from last year, when it took me 46 hours to reach Tucson and a clear patch of sky to shoot the eclipse under:

Phases of the December 2010 Total Lunar Eclipse

For most viewers the apparent moon set time will tend to be a few minutes earlier due to terrain (or fog/smog).

Hopefully I’ll find it a little easier this time around. The next total lunar eclipse isn’t until 2014, so make the most of this one!

Share This: