Monday, September 28, 2015

Super Moon Sunday

Sunday (9/27/15) was the triple threat Super Moon. High above the city shone a full perigee, blushing harvest moon that, between the hours of 8pm to midnight, blazed with a reddish hue as it performed a full lunar eclipse traversing the Earth’s shadow. There was humidity, hazy precipitation and globular cloud cover but in spite of a few impediments, it was a beautiful sight to see.

The journey to capture this celestial event on camera started with a drive to Elliot Park in Evanston (IL) where the ominous cloud cover was so thick, you could barely see the headlights of the hovering helicopters and airplanes above. Earth-bound with jealousy as red as the Harvest Moon, I wished I was in one of those aircrafts because the pilots and passengers were getting a million times better view of the Super Moon than us Earth-bound folks.

I milled around Elliot Park but after a half hour of staring up at cloudy skies I put the lens cap back on my 300mm lens, unmounted the Canon DSLR from the tripod and headed back to the car. Home was not the next destination as Elliot Park is one of many great photography spots (especially when the skies are clear), there were a few other locations that came to mind as I walked back to the car. The Light House on Sheridan wasn’t too far away but other than riding past on my bike, I hadn’t been there yet and without some reconnaissance work, it’s difficult to set up in an unknown location, especially at night; I didn’t know the rules of the surrounding area, what roads were private, which were public, it was too dark at night and that left too large a margin for error(s).

So I headed to the beach along Lake Michigan in Wilmette’s Gillson Park and I think it was meant to because just as I arrived, a car was pulling out of the parking spot right in front of the walk way to the beach. Visually, Gillson Park is a panoramic delight: you’ve got the vast expanse of the Lake Michigan shoreline right at your feet and if you look east, you can see the Chicago skyline in all its glory. The clouds were moving fairly fast over the lake and through random little openings, I could catch glimpses of a red-tinted sphere; after about 15 minutes, like a stage curtain, the cloud cover lifted, the Super Moon was revealed and began my photo session with it.

Harvest Moon 9/27/15
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The snag was sand; the best location for a good celestial photograph in Gillson Park is in the sand, not a problem if you’re holding the camera but shooting the night sky requires a tripod and trying to stabilize a tripod in sand is like trying to make a dime spin on top of a pen point – frustrating and, pretty much, impossible. (However, I now wonder if the sand had been wet, would that have made the tripod stand a bit more stable? Well, anyway…).

I did capture a couple of usable images but, unfortunately, most of my photographs suffered from camera shake.

Eclipsed Harvest Moon 9/27/15
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It was getting late but I was not yet ready to give up on getting “the shot” so around 10:30pm, I left Gillson Park and as I drove along I kept looking for another location, which ended up being the empty parking lot of a strip mall across the street from James Park in Evanston. It was dark, there wasn’t too much street light congestion and I had a clear view of the Super Moon, which was already about 75% eclipsed, but still amazing. My tripod stood steadily on the concrete and there, in the empty parking lot, I got “the shot.”

Eclipsed Harvest Moon 9/27/15
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A dark empty park lot, when you are by yourself, is a little scary, especially when it’s close to the midnight hour; I am courageous but not crazy so I got in and out of there as fast as possible; kind of felt like a (robbery) target with a Canon DSLR camera, telephoto lens and tripod.

Overall a nice night, a beautiful moon and a couple of pictures I could work with.

Harvest Moon (HDR edit) 9/27/15
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Eclipsed Harvest Moon (edit w/ a Pixlr overlay) 9/27/15
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