I had said in a previous post that the reason I stopped along Highway 14 in the early hours of September 19 was to photograph a beautiful full moon as it set over Western South Dakota. I worked this scene for twenty minutes and took several HDR sequences, trying to get the right composition. It turns out that I should have been working harder on getting the right exposure since I’m not happy with most of what I got. It turns out that when you use a slow shutter speed on a setting moon, you just get blur. Who would think that the moon sinks so fast?
The secret with a good full moon photo, incidentally, is to try to get it in relation to something that has a known scale because it makes the moon look bigger. I don’t know that this photo does a perfect job of that but I was intending to show the moon in the context of the landscape I was in. I also liked the dirt road that leads the eye to the moon and if I zoomed in too much on the moon, I lost most of the road.
I would like to have a second chance on this moonset but, like many transient things that I photograph, I think what you are looking at is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. Yes, there will be many more full moons. But to photograph the the so-called Harvest Moon over these hills will probably not be an opportunity I will have again.
For science minded, you might be interested in knowing that the Harvest Moon occurs in September and because it is close to the autumnal equinox, the moon rises and sets close to the same time for several nights in a row and stays looking fuller for a longer period of time. Thus it provides more light. In the days of manual harvest, farmers, who would often work through the night, appreciated the additional light at harvest season. Another feature of a setting moon is its color, which takes on the red hue from the atmosphere near the horizon. Some say the moon takes on a pumpkin color, which certainly is appropriate for the start of fall.
Have I left you wanting more? Check out this NASA ScienceCast: