The moon is Earth’s closest astronomical neighbor, varying anywhere from 222,000 miles to 252,000 miles away depending on where it is in its elliptical orbit. A supermoon occurs when the moon is new or full while being at its closest point to the Earth, making the moon appear much larger and brighter. Occasionally a supermoon will occur during a total lunar eclipse, resulting in a giant moon that appears orange or red in color. Such an event last happened in September of 2015.
Because of the moon’s close proximity with Earth during a supermoon, the moon’s increased gravitational pull affect’s the tides. Tides are already highest during a new or a full moon, and the additional pull when the moon is closest to the Earth creates perigean spring tides. Even at their strongest, the tides are only a couple of inches higher than normal, but can cause flooding in coastal regions.
There is speculation that supermoons can have a geological affect on the earth, increasing the frequency of earthquakes and volcanic activity. There is also speculation that the moon’s increased gravitational pull may affect the behavior in animals and humans. As of yet, no evidence exists to support these hypotheses.
The most recent supermoon happened December 3rd, 2017. The day before the official supermoon, I shot the moon rising over the mountains from Top of the World Park in Laguna Beach. This is my favorite time to photograph the moon. As the moon comes up, the sun sets at the same time providing an all in one shot of the moon and entire scene. From high up on a hill overlooking Laguna, it was surreal watching a giant moon rise over purple mountains into a blue sky while the sun sank into a red and gold ocean behind me. The following morning I also captured the moon setting behind a row of palm trees located at Shaw's Cove from atop Heisler Park.
Suggested setting for this type of photo seen above. Start with ( 1/125th / ISO 160 / F4 ) from here, rock the shutter back and forth to achieve a proper all in one exposure. Don't forget to focus on the moon as this is your main subject matter. I tend to use auto focus first to lock in on the moon then switch it to manual and zoom in two times with digital zoom to see if the focus is as sharp as it can be.
The day of the supermoon, I traveled to Fonts Point in Borrego Springs and got remarkable footage of the moon rising over the alien desert landscape. The Salton Sea was visible in the distance, and even the chilly Santa Ana winds that were blowing weren’t enough to deter me from spending the night shooting.
I used the Sony A7S because it performs so well in low light conditions. With the increased brightness of the supermoon, many of my shots can be mistaken for daytime shots.
Even when the moon is at its closest in its orbit, it still only appears 14% larger than normal. While it can often be much brighter, increased size is not always dramatically apparent, especially on film. So what can you do to make the most of your supermoon shots? Composition and equipment are key.
To show how big the moon truly is, a point of reference in the photo can help provide some scale. A tree or building composed in the foreground can force perspective and make a supermoon seem even bigger. Lens choice is also important. The larger the focal length, the larger the moon will appear in photos.
Supermoons occur roughly every thirteen months, but that latest one in December is actually the first of a trilogy. The second will occur January 1st, and the third will be an extra special finale on January 31st where the supermoon will coincide with a complete lunar eclipse as well as being a blue moon!
I hope you all enjoyed the images and story behind this two day adventure chasing the December supermoon! If you have any questions about the gear I use or even more insight behind capturing these events please don't hesitate to contact me here or leave a comment below.
Till next week everyone!