Friday, January 27, 2012

P26-27: the moon

These two projects having been bothering me at a few levels. Firstly the need for close to full moon at or around sunrise/sunset has not furnished weather conditions that permit the type of shot needed to illustrate the concepts behind the projects.  Secondly, using the moon in landscape photographs is simply not of great interest to me, sure it is romantic an interesting light, but it is also very cliched and overdone; a city generates enough light to neither need nor indeed be able to use the light of the moon.  Finally it is something I have already explored and a problem that I consider solved from a technical learning perspective.

The next full moon is expected on 7th February, so roughly 10 days from now.  If the weather is anything like today, there will be nothing to see.  In the meantime I have looked at some recent photographs and also delved a little into my archives to a least be able to illustrate the project and demonstrate that I understand the conceptual basis of what is being asked.  On my early morning trips to the park, the moon is occasionally present, a few days ago on the 16th January I captured the following scene

The moon is at its Last Quarter heading towards the New Moon.  I only had a 24-105mm zoom with me, so could not frame the moon very large.  The photograph is OK, the man standing beneath the Monopteros adds some mystery to the shot.  The moon does not do very much, other than add a small point of interest.  My goal that day was the following shot, a 24mm wide angle of the park and city, with an even smaller moon.

Cropping this shot to vertical, makes the moon a more significant element of the image, but still very limited in its impact.  I do not as a habit carry a telephoto around, I like to travel light and have found the longer focal lengths to be of limited value for my shots in the park.

For that reason I have turned to a set of images captured in May last year on vacation in Borneo, a trip that contributed Assignment 5 of DPP, so part of my studies as well as great fun.  We had an East facing room nicely positioned to capture the sunrise, but also to capture sunset.  Whilst we were there the moon was full resulting in very low tides that exposed the coral in the lagoon.  My goal with these shots was to explore the shapes and colours of the lagoon, moon light simply offered an alternate colour palette.

I set my camera up on the balcony railing, a gorilla pod providing some stability, although the wooden nature of the building revealed itself in some of the longer exposures, slight vibrations causing a degree of blurring.  Not too bad, but enough to limit the photographs to illustrations of principle rather than as pictures in their own right.  I am using a Canon 40D a 1.6x crop DSLR with a 15-85mm lens, I will note the exif data below.

As the sun went down behind me the light is still being provided by reflections from the thin overhead cloud.  For the first photograph I managed to balance the light quite well and the moons surface is quite visible.

85mm, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO200

With a wider angle shot the moon is more of a point light source, although the cloud pattern perspective makes it look like it is radiating red light.  Just an optical illusion

15mm, 1/45s, f/4.5, ISO400

As the moon rose, sunlight finally faded away and now most of the light is being provided by the moon, however, in both of the following photographs, the colour is still predominantly blue as I am photographing a lagoon reflecting the blue night sky.

70mm, 1/20s, f/5.6, ISO400

50mm, 1/6s, f/4.5, ISO400

The following night there was some cloud in the sky and I elected to shoot a wider angle that would permit a view of the beach and the trees fringing the sand.  These photographs were also taken 2 hours later in the evening and so it is now fully dark and the tide has filled the lagoon once more.  As I am on a tiny island far off shore there is also little or no light pollution.  As I mentioned before the long exposures were degraded by vibration in the wooden building I was in, however, they work well to illustrate the final point.

15mm, 20s, f/4.5, ISO100

15mm, 30s, f/4.5, ISO100
In each photograph the colours are almost those of daylight, even though to the eye it was pitch black out there.  This is simply because the scene is illuminated by the moon which is simply reflecting the sun and so the full spectrum of daylight is present, just very much diminished in intensity.  The clouds and blue sky yield a quite eerie scene, with the moon appearing to be the sun, but not really.  The second photo demonstrates that this was night-time, the streak of light along the beach is a group of nature wardens on turtle patrol shining torches.  This is an egg laying island, although not a major one - but it did give me the chance to see turtles hatching and making that fateful run to the sea.

The nature wardens would transfer any eggs laid to a protected area where they could be monitored and then once hatched the turtles would travel to the beach in a red washing up bowl, not very glamorous, but much safer than walking.  The second shot talks to the ubiquity of camera phones and the way that our lives are being lived out on line in a deluge of photographs from phones.

Whilst I know I have not really fulfilled the strict brief behind these two projects, I have tried to show that I have used the moon as an element in my photographs and understand the issues behind longer exposures and the advantage of the colour balance that the moon delivers. It is simply that I neither can nor want at present to introduce the moon into my photographs at present.

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