Thursday, December 09, 2010

Put Sunset Full Moon Rise Dates on your Calendar

Moon rise during sunset at Mono Lake.  The blue color near the horizon is the shadow of the earth.
Mono Lake Sunset Dream, originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan (MyPhotoGuides.com).
Most of the time the full moon is too bright for you to take a landscape photo and preserve detail on the moon. However, there's one situation where the moon can be bright, crisp and full, yet you can include it in a landscape photo: when it rises around sunset and when it sets around sunrise.

Each month the full moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise, and generally speaking, its rise and set times change an hour or so for each day you get away from the full moon day. So to catch the full moon in the sky while it's still daylight, look at the sun and moon times for the day before the full moon. Consider landscape shots where you can shoot eastward towards the rising moon. You can even look up the exact moonrise angle on a satellite photo of the site you're considering on Google Earth using a program (free for your laptop/desktop PC, small fee for iPhone) called The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE), and plan exactly where to place your tripod so you'll get the moon lined up exactly how you want it vs. natural or man-made objects between you and the horizon.

Moon rise 6:59 pm (light blue line shows direction), shortly before 7:14 pm sun set (orange line shows direction).


To catch the full moon in a generally westward direction, the same process applies, but look one day after the full moon and check for the moon setting just before sunrise.

The sun moves quite a bit from summer to winter, so to go even further and select destinations when the lineups work best, you'll be able to note on +The Photographer's Ephemeris what the bearing (compass direction) is from your favorite viewpoints to landmarks in the distance, and you can plan on being there when the moon will be in exactly the right place.

All of the times and angles vary somewhat as you move across your region, so simply to give myself a ballpark idea of how the sunset moon rises work out for 2011, I picked Modesto more or less in the middle of California:

Times for Modesto, CA:
................ Sunset... Moonrise... Bearing
Dec 20... 5:13....... 4:23.......... 59.2
Jan 19... 5:12....... 5:26.......... 68.2
Feb 18... 6:48....... 6:41.......... 86.2
Mar 18... 7:12....... 6:26.......... 89.9
Apr 17... 7:40....... 7:43.......... 108.7
May16... 8:06....... 7:45.......... 116.6
Jun 15... 8:25....... 8:37.......... 119.6
Jul 14... 8:24....... 8:03.......... 115
Aug 13... 7:58....... 7:44.......... 101.5
Sep 12... 7:15....... 7:09.......... 85.5
Oct 11... 6:31....... 6:07.......... 76.1
Oct 12... 6:30....... 6:37.......... 71.2
Nov 10... 4:56....... 4:48.......... 64.7
Dec 9... 4:44....... 4:12.......... 61.4

Now I can plan where I'll be for each sunset moon rise, and look up the more accurate numbers for sunset and moon rise in those exact locations... and now you can too!

The same process can be used to place and shoot crescent moons, which are attractive because they also rise and set near sunset/sunrise, and the thinner crescent moon phases don't put reflect so much sunlight that they'll interfere with your night shots.

Examples of landscape shots including the sun and moon, some planned in advance using TPE, may be found in the Moon and Sun set on my Flickr photostream.

Maybe you won't be inclined to go to as much trouble as I do to plan your shots, but nevertheless, if you plan on getting out on these dates to shoot around sunset, you could have the added bonus of a full (and not overexposed) moon to include in the shot!