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Moonrise Over Capitola Wharf

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 29 August 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


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It has been a relatively cool summer here in central California but earlier this week all that changed as the first real heat wave of the season decided to pay us a visit. Where I live, our pleasant 72-degree days were suddenly rocked with a blistering 109 sweltering degrees! As it turned out, the absence of our summer fog coincided with a full moonrise - now that's what I call timing!

I quickly went to my go-to friend, The Photographer's Ephemeris to determine a location along the coast to photograph the rising moon at sunset. This incredible piece of software works in conjunction with Google Earth so pinpointing a location couldn't be easier. It is a free download for both PC's and Macs, and is also available as an app for the iPhone (for $9.99)!

One location I had in mind, the Capitola Wharf, worked beautifully. The Ephemeris on my friend Scott Schilling's iPhone showed exactly where the moon would appear; the only unknown was how long it would take to climb over the hills above Rio Del Mar. Moonrise times are calculated from level horizons so azimuth must be factored in. Fortunately local resident and friend Mike Hall was also along and guesstimated no more than 10-15 minutes (he missed by 1 minute as it only took 9 before it made its appearance - can you work on your timing a bit better Mike!!!).

With the absence of the fog, a beautiful twilight wedge formed and as the moon began rising through the earth's shadow I knew I had my shot. I had scouted this area prior to sunset and just hoped the windless night would allow me to use these pampas grasses as a foreground. As you can see, it worked!

Timing is everything in photography but planning and executing are just as important. I did use a Singh-Ray 2-stop hard edge graduated neutral density filter to hold back a bit of exposure on the sky, but other than that, this image was processed normally.

This location also holds sentimental ties for me as my family would vacation each summer in Capitola. Most mornings I would awake early with my dad and we would go fishing off this wharf - those are memories I'll always treasure!

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 3/10 second F/16.0 ISO 400 70 mm

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