I was lucky to be in a place with clear skies on the evening of March 19th, 2011 to witness the rising of the biggest and brightness full moon in 20 years. One side, the perigee, of the moon was 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other. It was 14% bigger and 30% brighter than full moons which occur on the other side of the moon’s orbit. This moon also caused extra high and extra low tides. Low tide was at 5:30pm that evening when you could have walked the channel between the mainland and the rock the lighthouse sits on.
It was a real treat to be on the east coast of the United States where I could see the moon rise up and over the ocean. I spent a few hours driving the Maine coast between Fort Foster in Kittery, and York Beach searching for the right spot where I’d have an interesting yet unobstructed view.
When I turned into Nubble Lighthouse on the north side of York, I was amazed to see about 25 photographers already out on the rocks claiming their real estate for the moonrise. It was 6pm and although the moon was not going to rise until 7:15pm, I decided to join the party. It’s always fun to hook up with other photogs and talk shop. There were over 50 photographers there by show time. I enjoyed being out there in the 35 degree evening chill clicking away with people shooting every kind of camera from iPhones to sophisticated HD video cameras.
The show began around 6:40pm when the setting sun was nearing the horizon and the western sky lit up in beautiful hues of yellow and orange. (All images shot with a Nikon D700 with a f/2.8 70-200mm lens.)
As it got closer to moonrise, I was concerned that the lighthouse may block the view of the moon cresting the horizon. I thought about moving my position to the other side of the lighthouse, but knew that racing over wet rocks to another uncertain destination just was not worth it. So I stayed put and at 7:15pm was thrilled to be able to shout to my fellow shooters, “we are being mooned!!”.
The brightness of the moon was remarkable in contrast to the night sky. To not blow out the moon highlights in the following images, I exposed the moon about 10 stops darker than the surrounding ocean, rocks and lighthouse and combine the two images in Photoshop.
As the sky darkened and the moon rose higher the light reflected off the water from both Nubble Lighthouse and the moon.
By 8pm it was pitch dark and the moon was slipping into cloud cover.
What a fantastic way to say good-bye to Winter and Hello Spring!