Taken 5-May-12
Visitors 265

5 of 14 photos
Photo Info

Dimensions1500 x 1179
Original file size465 KB
Image typeJPEG
Color spaceAdobe RGB (1998)
Date taken5-May-12 09:01
Date modified23-May-12 08:34
Shooting Conditions

Camera modelNIKON D800E
Focal length50 mm
Focal length (35mm)50 mm
Max lens aperturef/2.8
Exposure30s at f/8
FlashNot fired, compulsory mode
Exposure bias+3 EV
Exposure modeManual
Exposure prog.Manual
ISO speedISO 100
Metering modePattern
Digital zoom1x


Last May the news media was alive with reports of a coming SUPER MOON. The so-called super moon, where a full moon coincides with the stellar body’s perigee, or closest point to earth, was one of the year’s astronomical highlights resulting in a phenomenon where the celestial body (moon) is magnified near the horizon making it appear about 14% larger than normal.

Being fairly new to the Coast I had decided that I wanted an iconic foreground in my Super Moon Rising image. What better foreground than the infamous Newport Bay Bridge (an architectural super star that was built in 1934) With the help of my handy Phone/Computer App called " The Photographers Ephemeris" I was able to pre-plan every aspect of my anticipated capture, of this unusual event. I knew precisely where and what time the moon would peek over the horizon, as it began its nightly journey across the heavens. All I had to do was drive down to the small parking area above the edge of the bay and hike down to the exact location I had selected from my app to ensure the moon would rise under that infamous landmark, for what I hoped would be a very unusual and remarkable image.

About an hour before moonrise I was at my pre-planned spot and preparing my equipment for the event. I had pre-visualized the scene and on arrival found it to be everything I had hoped for. The composition was strong, with a remarkable diminishing line moving from image left to image right as the bridge crossed the bay. However I found the scene to be a little heavy on the left, .

I knew I would need to place the moon slightly right of center for it to balance and compliment the composition of the image. This small issue meant I might have to relocate my position a little right or left, depending on exactly where the moon finally came into view.

I selected the lens, ISO setting, shutter speed and F-stop. I knew from experience that the exposure values of the surface of the moon itself was essentially the same as a sunlit landscape scene here on earth, so that exposure would be no problem. However, the tonal values under the bridge was another matter. The shadow values deep in the recesses of the iron girders on the bottom of the bridge were about one tenth of the light values of the moon. This ten step exposure range was clearly outside the capabilities of a single exposure on any digital camera available today.

I was going to have to bracket several exposures to capture the bright tonal values of the surface of the moon on one end and the deep recesses of shadow under the girders on the other end. Additionally, I hadn’t planned for the amount of light coming from the carnival grounds across the bay on the South Beach Peninsula which always happens on the annual Loyalty Days Celebration here in Newport. *(I had never been here for this celebration so seeing all those lights in MY scene, was quite a surprise, to say the least)

At the appointed time, for the moon to pop up on the horizon, nothing happened??? It took me about 10 minutes to do some quick re-calculations on the published moon rise time before I realized there was a significant cloud bank on the SE horizon that I hadn’t seen in the darkness. That meant that when the moon did actually pop up that I would have less than 6 to 10 minutes to capture the moon under the bridge given its new position on the horizon. Nothing like a little pressure.

I programmed my camera to do an auto bracket of 5 exposures each one a full stop apart from each of the 5 exposures. *( when you bracket for a full tonal range of exposures you want to be sure you have your camera set on APERTURE PRIORITY so that your shutter speeds change with each of the 5 captures, and not the F-Stop’s. If you allow your F-Stops to change with each capture in the sequence then each of the 5 images will have a slightly different depth of field/focus and the images will not be in exact registration as the image size in each capture will be subtly different from one to the next which makes merging the multiple images together a very, very difficult process) Also, it is very important that you pre-focus your camera for the scene and then disengage your (AF) Auto Focus to ensure every frame is exactly the same from frame to frame.


By capturing 5 different exposures of the scene I ended up with the most underexposed frame (or darkest capture) perfect for the moons bright surface. And, the most overexposed frame (or lightest capture) perfect for the really dark areas under the bridges girders. *( remember that a single exposure on a high end digital camera can normally handle about 7 stops of tonal values. So, by shooting a 5 stop bracket I knew I had everything I needed, and a little more, in the scene that demonstrated a ten stop spread.

I shot about 20 (five shot) bracketed scenes of the moon rise and I have to share that I was amazed at how fast the moon travels across the sky when you’ve got a narrow window of time to capture it in a very small chunk of space. It almost go away from be before I realized that I was...............done! Well, I had 100 frames to work with so hopefully it was going to work out just fine.

The next day I settled into the production room to bring the best of the shoot together to see what it would look like. As I edited the 20 sets of images it was quickly apparent that the second set of 5 shots was the best. Not by just a little, but over the top.... better. What made the difference? Well, if you look closely at the scene you’ll notice a couple of small clouds trying to block out part of the moon as it transitioned out of the clouds and headed for a clear sky overhead. The addition of the atmospheric intrusion added a nice touch to the overall scene. *( I have to admit I didn’t remember even noticing the little clouds in the scene given the intensity of pounding through the mechanics of nailing down 5 frames over and over again with virtually no change in the circumstances other than an airplane in one scene and a boat in another. Neither did anything FOR the image so they ended up in the delete pile very quickly.

Bringing multiple exposures together in today's world has become rather simple. All you have to do is follow, even somewhat close, my description of how to shoot a bracketed scene and then open the five frames in a software like Photomatix or one of your choice and you’re off and running. I personally don’t usually like the end product of software managed HDR Tone Mapping of images in an attempt to get the most out of the shadows and the highlights. It certainly does work but 98% of emerging or new photographers take it way too far and the images end up looking a little muddy and fake and can usually be classified as “Here’s another poorly managed HDR image by someone that doesn’t really know what they are doing” kind of image”.

As a general rule I manually manage most of my bracketed exposure images though it normally takes me a number of hours to accomplish the task to my satisfaction. This is one of those images that I felt required the personal touch. And, 8 hours later I had another winner.

If you look closely at the image you will be amazed at the detail in the girder work of the bridge itself, the pilings, water and even the carnival lights all demonstrate a remarkable amount of detail. There are a number of reasons for this kind of quality in an image, especially, a low light level night time image.

First, it was shot on a rock sturdy tripod. I used a remote cable release so I wasn’t touching the camera, I always use the “Mirror Lockup” setting on my camera to minimize camera vibrations / shake, a GREAT high quality lens (Nikon’s 12mm -14mm 2.8 zoom WA) and finally it was shot with Nikon’s latest D-800E 36MP DSLR camera. There has been some controversy out there about the pros and cons of having the Hi-Pass filter removed from the sensor which is supposed to increase sharpness and detail. Well, take it from one photographer to another..................... IT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE !!. I am seeing the kind of detail, resolution and sharpness that I used to get ONLY when I was shooting with my 4x5 Field/View camera on 4x5 transparency film. I actually think today's high end digital cameras have finally surpassed the large format cameras of old.

If you have any questions or comments about my new Moon/Bridge image, or questions about the 800E...please drop me a note. I would love to hear what you think???