About this time last week I was perusing my Facebook feed and there was a post from one of my old childhood friends showing a photograph of the moon he had made with his telescope from his amazing residence in Chicago! He had made reference to me about what I might do, and well that inspired me to go attempt what I've attempted in the past but have always failed at - photographing the amazing full moon!
When I say I've failed in the past I should clarify that statement, that when using film I've always failed at exposing it properly! I first tried to photograph it when I lived in Alaska when taking my first photography class, but those pictures turned out horrible - first I way over exposed the moon - it's much brighter than you might think, and second I attempted to hand hold the camera with that long exposure which led to blurry over exposed shots of the moon. I guess I could have made something up like that was "Art" or it was done with intention, but that was not the case. It was lack of experience, education, and understanding. I lacked the experience of knowing its ok to use equipment like a tripod, that I didn't have a full education on how to establish a good exposure or use a hand held spot meter, and I just didn't understand why either of the first two items were even relevant.
Fast forward to the year 2020 or 25 years later. We're towards the end of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic shelter order, or at least I hope we're close to the end. I haven't touched a digital camera since the end of March and only been using film cameras of all shapes and sizes during the shelter at home order, so when I found the inspiration from my old friend Devin it only made sense to me to use a film camera. I found the camera that I had learned my beloved craft on 25 years ago, a minolta X700, 35mm film camera and the associated lens that I had purchased for it. It seems that when photography was a hobby to a full time good paying job it was easier to buy toys as I had forgotten I had a 500mm mirror reflex lens, a 70-210mm 2.8 zoom lens, a 28-70 2.8 zoom lens, an 500mm 1.7 prime and a 2X focusable adapter. In essence a whole lot of good stuff and a couple of items that should help fill the frame with a big ol' Super Moon! I guess I should also mention that I was given some expired Kodak Professional TriX 400 film from another friend earlier this year - like 16 years expired! So that's the film I loaded into the camera and what I had been working on a separate self project.
I prepared the camera, the 500mm mirror reflex lens (it kind of looks like a mini telescope lens) and the 2x adapter - effectively giving me a 1000mm lens at f8. I settled on a location that thought would be perfect and had everything ready to go. The moon rise was going to be about 7:30ish and the sunset was just before 8:00 so I should have some sky exposure as well as some surrounding areas. That was the plan, and it was a fantastic plan, that is until the living room chair held me hostage to a late afternoon early evening nap! I'm suffering allergies pretty severely this year and I had been doing some yard work and they just zapped me and that chair put a curse on me! :-) Anyway my wife woke me up about 7:15 and asked if I was still going to try and photograph the moon. Truthfully, I wasn't really into it as the post nap grumpy Pete was just not into it, but I remember it being a Super Moon and the inspiration that my old friend Devin had given me and not knowing if we have any more Super Moons this year. So I loaded up the gear and headed out to the spot I had selected. As soon as I crossed the Truckee River heading to my spot I saw how amazing and big that moon was! I was quickly reminded of the reward of making some effort, but also the error of my grumpiness as it was already above the horizon and not the rise shot I had planned. I also found a better view point than I had originally planned a vacant parking lot with an unobstructed view and nobody else around! So I set up the tripod, the cable release, the camera and frankenstein's lens and adapter and tried my best to focus, this set up has a lot of variables in focusing! I then took a spot meter reading of my old friend and put my faith in the skills, the science, and tools I've been using the past 25 years and made some exposures. I bracketed up and down, constantly checked focus, tightened the tripod collar and head down and made my series of 10 or so exposures. I was confident I had something, and I did, of course I wouldn't know until Saturday though because of having to process film. Then I just sat for a few moments and reflected on how amazing God and Mother Nature are for creating this amazing moment. That shooting film vs. the digital camera forced me to enjoy the moment because I wasn't distracted by a LCD Screen that my now 25 years of experience, education, and understanding of how all it it relates to making a photograph will not let me down. However, I was still a bit let down because of my indiscretion with the nap that prevented me from being where I wanted to be when I wanted to be there. So I planned to do it again the next night - except for one thing - the moon rises about an hour or so later than the previous night, but was going to be at it's maximum size.
I thought about it all day last Thursday about ok I think I've got the exposure down, I think I've got focus nailed down a little bit better, and I for sure have the perfect spot, and no way a nap is going to get in the way tonight. In fact I was going to be early, like half hour early, so I could be set and ready to go! I didn't realize how dark it was going to be by the time it was almost time for the moon rise. Pre focusing on the horizon was an impossibility as it was too dark so I was going to have to rely on focusing on the moon (yes I know there is infinity, but I don't think it's accurate on my mirror lens, let's just say I know it's not accurate) Then almost like clockwork the sky behind the mountains on the east side of Reno started to get a glow and then a sliver and away I went metering, focusing, locking everything down and making exposures. It was glorious and it was a big moon! I exposed the remaining frames on the film I had loaded and took in the majestic scene. A real sense of peace came over me and I went home to go get Molly so she could experience it too! Of course the moon was already a bit higher in the sky but just as big and beautiful and she loved it too!
Below are a couple of shots one from Wednesday night when it was 97% full and well above the horizon and the other is from Thursday night when it was 99% full and just before it cleared the horizon. I love both the shots, both made with mature photographic technology - also known as film - Nothing auto anything was used to make them. A manual camera, a manual focusing lens set up, 16 year expired film, 50 year old eyes that aren't what they use to be, not that they ever were anything, but there was inspiration from an old friend on a random social media post that caused me to get excited about making a picture and I'm grateful for that! Thank you Devin!
I hope you will enjoy viewing these Majestic Moon Rise photographs!