Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Dolphin Moon

Redux from January, 2010
I had planned this shoot for several weeks. January 13, the moon would rise at 6:03a.m., 119 degrees azimuth. It would be about as close to the lighthouse as it would ever get, when viewed from the most westerly sandbar under the east end of the most westerly bridge on the causeway.
The temperature was in the 30s, but the wind was almost calm. I got the gear out of the car and put the lens on the tripod and the camera on the lens. Put on the vest, grabbed my McDonald's coffee, hefted the rig over my shoulder and started walking alongside the bridge. No moon yet. It was dark but I could see that there were low clouds on the horizon. I looked at my watch - just about time. I should start seeing the crescent any minute. As I reached my destination, still no moon. I should be seeing it. I set up the tripod at the edge of the water, pointed the lens towards the lighthouse, and tried to level the camera. Too dark to see the bubble, so I fished out the little light that says "Grandpa" that David had given me for Christmas. It's single little LED seemed awfully bright. I leveled the camera and attached the shutter release cable.
Oh!  There it is!  The moon had risen fully above the layer of hazy cloud. I took a shot. Didn't even check the settings. A 30 second exposure. I knew I needed a much shorter exposure time to keep the moon from smearing as it moved. I composed, made a few test shots. Managed to get it down to five seconds. Too dark. More adjustments. The moon sped along its rising path.
Before I knew it, it was too high to keep it in a horizontal frame. Recomposed to vertical for a few more futile exposures. Changed from the 300mm lens to the 70-200 zoom. Composed a few more horizontal frames with the zoom lens. The moon seemed so small through the shorter lens as it continued its relentless climb into the brightening sky.
As I walked back towards the car, I realized how cold my hands were. I had been completely oblivious to my old nemesis, the cold. The buildings that had been behind the island slid along the horizon with me as I walked. The light in the sky had gained some character. I made some unplanned pictures with the 70-200. 
As I made my final exposure, a pod of dolphins started rolling out in the bay. They were way too far out for the 200, but I popped off a few anyway. I just stood there and watched them for a few minutes until they moved out of sight. It's always good to see dolphins.


  1. Spectacular photos! LOVE the Dolphin Moon scene...the lighting is impressive. And oh, I do miss those incredible skies.....a nice reward for a cold, dark morning.

  2. I'm delighted you like this, Anon. Thanks.

  3. Beautiful Buck. The colors are stunning and the dolphin really adds to the last one. On my visits I rarely get skies like this. I guess another advantage to living so close. Was the photo with the moon a composite? It looks so large in the photo.

  4. Thanks Don.
    Nope, not a composite. The scene was exactly as described. Telephoto lens magnifies the size of distant objects. I was more than a mile from the lighthouse. Had I used a shorter lens, both lighthouse and moon would have been smaller, and sky would have filled the frame.