In the Right Place at the Right Time

April 08, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Full moon over the Buffalo skyline struggling through a layer of pollution.Full Moon Fighting the Smog Layer over Buffalo, NY April 5, 2012: A day before the full moon. Googling the Internet, Time and Date comes up with 18:50 for the moonrise and 19:47 for the sunset. The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE) confirms that +/- one minute  and also shows the perfect place to be for the event to get the rising moon just behind downtown Buffalo.

On that note, I'd like to note that TPE is a truly great simple powerful tool that makes planning for sun and moon rises and sets much easier than anything else I had used before.

The choice was to head out this night, or to wait a day for the actual full moon and a different timing, especially of the moonrise, which would be at 20:06, more than an hour later and after the 19:48 sunset.

I decided to head out this night reasoning that the daylight would make it easier to balance the bright moon with the landscape underneath. I arrived on location about half an hour early and enjoyed the views of the Buffalo skyline bathing in the warm light of the setting sun. I've captured several individual photographs, and also some sequences to be stitched into a wide sweeping panorama of the city's waterfront. Then the watch showed the moonrise time and I kept my eyes glued on the east, not 100% sure what building to look at. As time went on I felt I should have seen the moon by now, ... and then I did! This very faint but huge ball rose right over the beautiful Buffalo City Hall. What a sight!

Full moon over the Buffalo skyline struggling through a layer of pollution.Full Moon over Buffalo and a Layer of ? The primary lens of choice for this night was the Nikon 80-400mm zoom lens so that I could capture the moon as large as possible with only a building or two, but also with a moderate skyline when zoomed back out to 80mm.

That is how the first two photos were created, one close up of the Buffalo CIty Hall and one wider, capturing a large portion of the Buffalo skyline. Another thing that became obvious was that the moon was gradually getting brighter as it rose higher. With the zoom in action, the reason may not have been so obvious but looking at the wider angle, it is quite clear why. In my Flickr post, I called the layer a layer of smog but got slight pushback. Whether smog or not, it surely is air pollution that kept the moon barely visible at first, then nicely balanced. And as the moon rose higher and the daylight became dimmer, the balance vanished later.

So, did my plan work? I completely loved this night and had a blast shooting the moonrise and sunset. However, my plan for the remaining daylight balancing the bright moon worked too well. I did not factor the pollution in. As a result, the size of the moon truly was awe inspiring, however, its faintness took much away. Too much to my taste because I really wanted a jaw dropper.

Solution? Back to my initial dilemma of which night to chose, another option emerged. How about both nights? And that is just what I did and came back to the same location two nights in a row.

Full moon over the Buffalo skyline struggling through a layer of pollution.Full Moon in Buffalo

April 6, 2012: I checked the weather, evening was supposed to be clear despite the rather cloudy Friday. What I did not do was recheck TPE for the different position of the moon at sunrise. I knew the moonrise / moonset times vary by quite a bit day-to-day but I did not remember that the azimuth changes so much too! So there I was watching the City Hall waiting for the moon. And then I saw it!

It really was not even close to the City Hall but rather a few blocks to the right, or south. But the size was as amazing as the night before while the air pollution worked with me, not against me this time. Since I was well into the blue hour at this point about had an hour past sunset, the city lights and the ambient light were nicely balanced and dim. Clean atmosphere would have rendered the moon too bright out of range to capture with any detail. Instead, the smog held it back like a gigantic neutral density filter. While I was relatively close to the skyline and thus not much pollution was between me and the buildings, the moon was a bit further and the filter thickness much stronger. Not that I like smog, or any other air pollution, but this night it worked to my advantage, dimming the moon just right and also warming it up.

What a difference one day can make! The moonrise was more than an hour later, about 7 degrees more to the south, the city lights came on by then, daylight fell into blue hour, all in all just the perfect combination! What a wonderful show the Nature put on!

Plan, revisit locations several times, use tools available and most importantly, have fun!


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