Whaleback Moonshine

Landscape photography sounds so sedate and relaxing but often it requires traveling quite some distances and going out in all types of weather conditions.  Yesterday was one of those days. It was going to be a full moon and I wanted to find a lighthouse where the moon rises behind it.  I used The Photographer’s Ephemeris (http://photoephemeris.com/) to see which one would line up in an accessible spot.

The Nubble meant I would need to stand  too close, for Scituate Lighthouse the moon rose out to the ocean.  Whaleback Lighthouse was just right!  This is in the harbor near Kittery between Maine and New Hampshire

To be able to get those types of shots where the moon looks really huge next to the object (lighthouse in this case) you need to be a long way away and zoom in with a long lens.  So I lined up on the ephemeris where I would need to stand so that the moon rises up behind the Whaleback.  Fort Stark park in NH was ideal.

So I packed my gear, bundled up in layers and set the iPod for Ed Sheeran and headed off to New Hampshire.  As I arrived at the road leading to the park I was surrounded by deer.  I’ve never seen so many.  They were a little wary of me too.  They had the last laugh when I found the park to be closed and No Parking signs everywhere.  I don’t give up that easily so I drove a little further North and found another park. I walked for 20minutes back  to Fort Stark.

It only took that long for the water in my tripod from yesterday’s shoot to re-freeze and once again I had a tripod popsicle.  It was COLD!  I made my over the rocks and tried to set up the 400mm on the tripod, taking great care as the wind was powerful and froze my hands immediately as I set up the gear.  After retrieving my gloves which were blown down to the rocks below I was ready!

As I mentioned you need to put a lot of distance between the moon/subject and use a long lens.  This is a shot of the set up I used.  You can see how far away the lighthouse is on the shot I took with my phone.

Setup for Whaleback Lighthouse Moonrise

This is the shot of the lighthouse at 400mm with the set-up above, about an hour before moonrise

Whaleback Lighthouse telephoto

The sun set before the moon rose which meant I had to keep adjusting the settings to cope with the dark.  I didn’t want to sacrifice the speed too much because at 400mm any tiny movement will lead to motion blur so I wanted the shutter speed as fast as I could afford.  It was also tricky to make sure I was focused correctly as it was windy making the image move in the live view.  My hands were numb with cold as I played with the settings.  As the time for moonrise came and went there was still no moon.  I was wondering if I had gotten the location wrong.  Turns out there were clouds which were not visible on the horizon.  A few moments after I first saw the moon appear it looked like this, coming out from the clouds.

Whaleback Lighthouse moonrise telephoto

It always amazes me how quickly the moon rises (another reason not to have a slow shutter speed).  The shot I like the best from the set is a few minutes after this.  It was also the slowest of the set as I had changed my settings to give bracketed exposures.  The settings were 400mm, f6.3 and 1/10sec.  I was happy that there was sharpness, light in the lighthouse and detail in the moon despite some clouds and haze.

Whaleback Lighthouse moonrise - final

Not a classic moonrise, but it was still fun, despite the painfully cold conditions, to come back having got some shots, spotted some deer and breathed a lot of freezing cold, fresh New England air!

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