This is the strawberry moon (supermoon), the last supermoon of 2021, captured rising beside the church of Saint Ana and Mount Krim on the Ljubljana Moors in Slovenia. It was a last minute decision to capture it from this viewpoint and one that was both fortuitous and almost deadly!
June’s full moon is also known as the Strawberry Moon. It’s not actually strawberry coloured. The name is because it appears around the time of the strawberry harvest in northeastern USA.
A supermoon looks slightly bigger and brighter since it’s closer to the Earth than usual. June’s Strawberry Moon is the second and last supermoon of 2021.
Upon arrival I used the AR (augmented reality) feature of my Photopills app to find the perfect spot.
AR is a great tool for fine tuning your planned composition when at the location. You can simply point your phone at the scene and see the trajectory of the sun or moon.
Using this I was able to move myself into a position where the moon’s course would bring it right up behind the telecommunications tower on the right hilltop.
The ever increasing glow behind these hills was a clear indication that the moon was coming up exactly where predicted.
The downside, however, was that I was on the marshes. My viewpoint was right next to a field and the flies were ferocious. To add insult to injury it was windy and while standing in the wind brought some relief from the onslaught, it was not a good place to setup my tripod. When using a telephoto lens, as I was in this case, even the slightest bit of wind can be a problem.
I was using a Canon 100-400 L series zoom. This is a big, long lens which is also very sensitive to even the slightest breeze. Even when securely mounted on a tripod, it becomes a problem when using slower shutter speeds, and naturally as I was shooting at night I would be doing just that.
Therefore I had to set everything up in a more sheltered area, which in this case was behind the open boot of my car. I setup very quickly and then got inside the car and waited with the aircon blasting, swatting the odd errant fly that had somehow made it inside.
One hour after the moon had risen, at 10pm, the magic happened. The moon crested the mountaintop right in the perfect position. It was time to face the flies!
I got bitten to hell in the 15 minutes that followed. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised just how much.
Anyone passing would have thought that a madman was taking photos, as between clicks I would run around insanely slapping flies off myself.
But it was worth it! For the next 15-20 minutes I danced around my camera shooting a variety of images as the moon came right up where I had anticipated.
Now, the moon coming up so late presented a problem with dynamic range. What we see with our eyes is not always possible in camera. The moon gets much brighter the higher it climbs in the sky. Once darkness falls then the intensity of the moon is elevated. So while we can see the detail in the moon, the huge difference in contrast (the difference between the brightest part and the darkest part) between the moon and the darkness of the surrounding landscape is beyond the range of all cameras. Our eyes can take in a much wider range of contrast, which is why we can still see the detail of the moon and some detail in the surroundings, in my case the church and the hilltops.
So you are faced with a choice. Expose for the darker parts and accept that the moon will be a round ball with no detail, or expose for the moon and have the surroundings in complete darkness.
However, there is a third option: take two exposures, one for the moon and one for the surroundings. Then blend them.
Before anyone starts shouting that this is cheating, remember that what you see with your eyes is not possible in camera. Therefore by making a double exposure and blending them, you are actually reproducing the scene more faithfully.
For this image I shot one at 2.5 secs, the second was taken at 1/80 sec. The faster exposure captured the detail of the moon while the slower one captured the detail of the church, hills and clouds. The result more closely resembles what I saw with my own eyes.
When the moon is up high and it is night, then I find the closest white balance to correctly reproduce the white of the scene is “fluorescent” Sometimes though some more adjustments are needed.
As you can see on the first example of the double exposure, the churchfront has a nasty green hue upon it. This is a result of the mix of colour temperatures.
The moon’s colour temperature is different to that of the artificial light being projected onto the church. Therefore I used the brush tool in Adobe Camera RAW to desaturate the colour here and make it whiter.
In this image I set the white balance to shady, which has in effect acted as a warm up filter and given the image a lovely warm hue. It’s also given the illusion of the supermoon being the sun or at least more like a strawberry moon. Here I didn’t doing any blending and left the moon without any detail.
While the photo of my back above may look quite nasty, it wasn’t as nasty as it appears. There was in actual fact no soreness or irritation and the bites had pretty much gone down by the next morning. So it was worth suffering the onslaught to get these great photos.
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