I have decided that I need to write more to describe my thought process when it comes to the creation of images. I find more often than not I have not given enough thought to an image when I create it. This weekend I went out of my way to plan a photo adventure around one thing, a Super Moon. Maybe it was more of a hair-brained idea either way I was sure it would be a grand time. It started with a call to Camren Photographic Services, they just happen to have the greatest weekend rental policy around. You can rent a lens for 72 hours for the price of 24 hours; this enabled me to rent a 500mm f4 lens for the low low price of $60.
I arrived at Camern after taking off work early and was promptly surprised by how small a 500mm lens is. I was expecting a tripod-crushing monstrosity. After picking the lens up for the first time, the lens only seemed marginally larger and no heavier than the 300mm 2.8 that I lugged around a couple years ago to shoot sporting events. This gave me some confidence that this would be an excellent handheld lens!
Coming home, I decided to play around with the lens and see how easy it was to produce amazing wildlife shots that photographers like Dan Walters seem to create with ease in volume. After spending a good amount of time trying to find a bird to shoot without any success I decided to shoot the next closes wild animal I could find, our household dog. Amazingly, even shooting a dog that will sit still for me I found the 500mm lens to be unwieldy and unforgiving in the afternoon light. Out of the nearly 50 shots I took I am still looking for a keeper.
A few hours later I noticed a bright glow through my window, it was still not quite a full moon but after my previous success with shooting the dog I figured a little practice wouldn’t hurt. This time, thinking ahead I grabbed my tripod. The moon was high in the sky but was bright and mostly free from haze. Because the moon was so high in the sky I grabbed my 1.7x teleconverter and my crop sensor camera giving me an effective focal length of 1275mm. I figured if this didn’t get it I would throw in the towel. Thankfully, the brightness of the moon with the added stability of my tripod gave me enough of an advantage that I managed to get my first decent moon shot.
Needless to say I was excited going in to Saturday. After the success from the evening before I figured there would be nothing that could go wrong. I had picked out a location east of Greeley. It was on top of a good-sized hill, which had an excellent cotton wood tree that I could shoot through if I had some time. I have shot here before and I felt it would provide a good foreground. Arriving early at the location I found the entire area to be hazy and overcast. Being impatient like I can be sometimes I decided to drive around to find a different or better location. Soon I found myself in the dark still driving around trying to find this location. Giving up hope I headed back towards my original location.
Looking in my rearview mirror I saw the moon obscured by clouds start to come up above the horizon. I pulled the car over where I was and started to get out my camera, lens and tripod. I saw a glimpse of the full Super Moon as I was setting up my tripod. I was really excited that even though I wasn’t in a great location I was still going to get to shoot it. As I was putting the lens on my tripod the moon started going back behind the clouds it so briefly just came from. You could say I was frustrated, that would at least be a G rated term for it. I started driving back home, about 10 minutes from town I stopped at another location but the moon was still hidden. At this point I had pretty much given up hope of shooting the super, maybe in another 18 years.
As I was going into town I decided that there should be no reason that the lack of a moon should hinder my photographic journey. I took a left and decided to head downtown. Upon arrival, I was unsure what I was going to shoot. The 500mm was put back in it’s trunk, after a bit of rooting around in my back I dug out a lens that I often take with me night shooting but rarely use, a 1974 Nikon 50mm f1.4. This lens was previously owned by the Omaha Times newspaper. To put it kindly, it looks like it has been through the losing side of a war zone, but it was almost free so I cannot complain.
Shooting some random stuff I found of all things a brick wall, after a bit of study I found that there were some nice highlights from street lamps in the background. I tried using them to create a flare but this lens was having none of it. I then tried to use the lenses shallow depth of field to my advantage and have just a small portion of the wall in focus. I found what I felt was a sweet spot about 6′ down the wall and shot several different compositions of it. As a last shot I took the camera handheld, cranked it down to minimum focus and put one of the highlights right in the middle at the end of the screen. Clicked off one shot, I was not immediately satisfied with it so I packed up my gear and went home. Overall, while it was great to get out I was disappointed that I didn’t get any shots that I wanted.
Getting home and going through my images I confirmed my lackluster performance for the evening. When I got to my last shot I saw something I couldn’t see on my tiny LCD. There was an amazing dark pattern like a sunburst that was being pushed out of the center highlight. It was caused by a combination of the bokeh of the lens and the lines of the bricks. The colorcast of the image was horrible but I had a feeling it could make a strong black and white. After a bit of processing I found a shot I was happy with.
While, I had grand dreams and designs of what the perfect shot would be for this Super Moon weekend I didn’t let my frustrations of nature providing obstacles get me down. I went and found something else to shoot and in the end found once again that the perfect shot is can be what you plan but more importantly is what you make it.