Shooting for the Supermoon in Wrightsville Beach, NC

Written by
Jason Barnette
Posted on
July 25th, 2014
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How many Supermoons were we supposed to have in 2014? Seems like every month throughout the summer we had another Supermoon event, but one of those months I found myself along the North Carolina coast in Wrightsville Beach. So I crafted a plan, a very careful plan, a plan that was heavily criticized by other local photographers. I wonder what they think of my result?

Sunset was at 8:24 p.m. and the moon was set to rise six minutes later. I knew I would be rushed, but I wanted to try to capture a photo of the sunset from the end of the Johnnie Mercer Fishing Pier before setting up to capture this photo of the Supermoon. The sunset was okay, but nothing spectacular. That’s when I turned my eye to the east across the ocean, looking for the rising moon. But all I saw was a massive bank of clouds along the horizon, about ten degrees high. I knew the moon rise would be a little late from my perspective.

My camera was still set up for capturing the lackluster sunset, and I knew the moon was rising above the horizon even though I could not see it. I threw my camera body into my photo backpack, compacted the tripod, and started walking off the pier. That’s when I noticed five other photographers standing near the end of the pier with their big glass (200mm and longer), tripods or monopods, all staring at the ocean. One photographer did a double take at me as I was walking off the pier.

“Don’t you know tonight is the Supermoon,” he asked.

“Yeah, I know. I’m heading out now to set up for a shot,” I replied.

The man snorted at me and waved toward the end of the pier. “You’ll get your best photo from here, boy. Don’t you see the rest of us set up?” he asked, referring to the other photographers.

I stopped, turned, and stared at the others. I don’t think they could hear this conversation, but I really wish they could. I turned to the photographer who had been berating me and replied, “Yeah? So?” I pointed out each of the other four photographers. “All of you are standing at the same spot, with the same lens, looking out across the same landscape. All of you will get the same photo of a moon rising over the ocean. Woohoo! That’s never been done before! When the night is finished and you go home to view your photos, your photo will look exactly like all the others. Exactly like the four others here and the hundreds around the world all pointing their lens at a moon over the water. Aside from a flashy watermark, nobody will be able to tell your photo from the next one.” I thought about continuing my rant and spilling the beans about my plans, but remembered the countless parodies of villains who talk too much so instead decided to just leave. The photographer scoffed at me as I left, and a few moments later I heard them all start clicking away as the moon appear above the clouds. I wasn’t worried.

I went down on the beach, set my camera up on a tripod, and captured the photo you see above. I was pretty excited about it even just looking at the result on the back of my camera. But the best part? I knew there were five photographers on that pier with unoriginal, bland photos of the moon that wouldn’t be competing with me. Good. I love competition, but I also love being unique.

The Supermoon illuminates the beach at the southern end of Wrightsville Beach, NC on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Copyright 2014 Jason Barnette

A 4-second long exposure of the full moon over the ocean on Wrightsville Beach.

After I captured this photo, I headed down to the southern end of Wrightsville Beach, to an area the locals simply call “The Gazebo”. There is a large covered sitting area at the beach access and one of the most popular public beach accesses on the island. I walked out on the beach and set up for a few moonscape photos. According to this story on Space.com the sun is roughly 400,000 times brighter than a full moon. Of course the Supermoon is an event during which the moon passes the closest to the Earth each year, so it appears brighter and bigger, but it’s still not that bright.

However, it is bright enough to light a beach scene during a 30-second exposure. Most of these photos are HDR composites of five frames with exposures of 2 seconds, 4 seconds, 8 seconds, 15 seconds, and 30 seconds. Doing some rough math (next year, I think I’ll test this theory) if I were to shoot a photo during full sunlight at around 100 ISO, f/16, at 1/640 exposure, that would equal 0.00156 seconds. If I were then to use the ratio of 400,000:1, I should be able to go outside at night during full moonlight and shoot a properly exposed, daylight-like photo at around 100 ISO, f/16, at 625 seconds, or 10 minutes 24 seconds. Lost yet? I came back to proofread and edit this story and I completely lost myself.

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One Comment

  1. […] 2014 was supposed to be the “Year of the Supermoon” with three events throughout the year. I happened to be in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina during one of these events. Despite ridicule from the other photographers, I think I managed to capture a pretty amazing photo of this Supermoon. You can read about me shooting the Supermoon in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. […]

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