According to Wikipedia: ” A supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. The most recent occurrence was on June 23, 2013, as the closest and largest full moon of the year and the Moon’s closest encounter with Earth for all of 2013. It will not be so close again until August 10, 2014.”
Curiously, the term comes from astrology and is of relatively recent (1979) coinage – it is not used in the astronomical community which refers to it as a perigee-syzygy or perigee moon. Somehow, I think the astrological name will stick as far as the general public is concerned.
The weather forecast for East Cork of the evening of the 23rd June was good – calm and clear. I wanted to photograph the Moon as it rose in the sky with some landscape in the shot to give a sense of perspective as well as interest. I figured that Ballycotton Island would be a good choice and I checked the Photographer’s Ephemeris application to establish the moonrise direction. It was due to rise at 21:43 and would be directly over the island, viewed from Ballinamona beach, shortly thereafter.
A screenshot of The Photographer’s Ephemeris page for Ballycotton on the 23rd June. This application is indispensable for landscape photographers. See: http://photoephemeris.com/
I arrived at Ballinamona car park around 9pm. There were a few other people about enjoying the pleasant evening. Three women emerged from a car carrying a beach windbreaker, chairs and bags of material. They set up the windbreaker and chairs in a sheltered spot in the dunes on the beach side of the carpark and the material they were carrying included sticks with which they made a fire. It was fitting that they did so as not only was this the night of the Supermoon, it was also St John’s Eve – a traditional night for bonfires in Ireland. These women were marking it in style – having a picnic on the beach and waiting for the emergence of the Moon over the ocean – although I suspect their fire was for heat only. It was a nice night but there was still a chill in the air.
I set up my tripod a few yards away and placed my Canon 5D Mark11 and Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens on it and attached a cable release. I set the ISO to 400. All I had to do now was wait.
I checked my watch as the time of moonrise came and went – 21:43, 21:50, 21:55 and still no sign of it. Was it hidden behind the island? And then at 22:00 exactly it became faintly visible a few degrees above the horizon to the left of the island exactly as the Photographer’s Ephemeris had indicated. Despite the seemingly clear sky a distant cloud obscured most of it.
At 22:00 the Moon revealed itself albeit faintly
As it slowly rose in the sky however it left the cloud behind and emerged in all its magnificence. I had to politely decline the picnic women’s offers of tea or coffee as I concentrated on the photography.
I waited until it was directly above the lighthouse and then I packed up and left. It was 22:23. When I got home I did a quick edit on what I thought was the best shot of the evening and I posted it on Twitter at 23:06. I should add that it was a straight shot – the moon was not re-positioned using Photoshop in any way.
Immediately people started re-tweeting it and by midnight I was trending in Ireland (Twitter-speak for being very popular – not to be confused with trendy; I was never that). The image has been re-tweeted 576 times since.
The BreakingNews.ie Facebook page posted it and they received 2,445 “likes”.
To date it has been viewed 6,377 times on my Flickr account.
I was contacted by the Irish Examiner for a high resolution copy and they published it on the 25th June.
The back page of the Irish Examiner on 25th June
I am astonished at the response. I thought it was a good enough photo but the image is technically deficient in that it is a bit “soft” due to the atmospherics – it is difficult to get things bitingly sharp when you are shooting into late evening haze with a long telephoto lens. I may well have contributed to the softness by not using mirror lock-up when making the exposures. A shutter speed of 1/13 sec didn’t help either. That obviously didn’t matter as far as the public was concerned. They liked it and that was that. Sometimes those of us in the photographic community can get too bogged down in the technicalities of an image to the detriment of recognizing that a photo can have impact and resonance for people without being “perfect”. Certainly, I have lots of other shots that I would regard as being technically superior but none, so far, has been as popular as this.