An old bomber jet lies derelict in the Mojave Desert under a full moon. The side view is a 40-minute exposure, and the other images are 16-minute exposures. Stay tuned for more airplane photos.
Five years ago, we walked all of Geary Street in San Francisco. Yesterday, we did it again. Market Street, the Tenderloin, Western Addition, Japantown, and out through the Richmond District. This time we used a GPS app, and logged the trip as 8 miles, including the walk down the beach to get on the N Judah for the return trip downtown.
Best of Portland, Oregon
- Best vegan bowl: Portland Bowl at Canteen
- Best vegan bowl with beer: Sweet Hereafter
- Best vegan bowl with yoga pants: Prasad
- Best maca smoothie: Blossoming Lotus
- Best vegan pizza: Sizzle Pie Angel of Doom
- Best bike shop with a museum, bar, and live music: Velo Cult
- Best impromptu bike shop party on a Monday night: West End Bikes
Books and Records
- Best independent photo book store: Ampersand
- Best time to visit Powell's Books: 9am on a weekday
- Best record store: Exiled Records
- Most annoying tourist attraction: Voodoo Doughnut
- Best example of Peter Pan Syndrome: Ground Kontrol
- Best quiet downtown hotel with no hipsters: The Mark Spencer
- Best art exhibit: George Steinmetz's Desert View at OMSI
During the July full moon I returned to the ghost town of New Idria. For an excellent background and vintage photos of this historic quicksilver mining town, have a look at the Three Rocks Research site. Seasoned night photographers are familiar with how to calculate sunset and moonrise times. An additional factor that can make a big difference in planning a night photography adventure is the moon altitude. The moon altitude is simply how high the moon is above the horizon, expressed in degrees. The horizon is zero degrees, and straight overhead is 90 degrees. The azimuth is the angle of the moon along the horizon -- zero degrees is North, 180 degrees is South, 90 degrees is East, and 180 degrees is West. The U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO) has an excellent sun/moon data calculator, and also a sun/moon altitude and azimuth calculator.
Let's take a look at the sun/moon data for July 4th with some commentary on how to utilize the numbers:
- Sunset: 8:39 p.m. -- we arrived at the location a few hours before sunset to scout our shots in the daytime.
- End civil twilight: 9:00 p.m. -- time to get your first shot ready to go, shooting can typically begin within 20 minutes of this time.
- Moonrise: 6:48 p.m. -- shooting 3 nights before the full moon means the moon will already be up when the sun goes down.
- Moon transit: 11:29 p.m. -- the moon is approximately half way through its arc across the sky.
- Moonset: 4:10 a.m. on the following day -- important for planning, especially if the moon will drop behind any mountains before this moonset time.
- Moon phase: waxing gibbous with 94% of the moon illuminated -- plenty of light for night photography, but exposures will be slightly longer than when full.
Last September's visit to New Idria was 2 nights before the full moon. The moon was high overhead during optimum shooting hours, with an altitude between 31-45 degrees. (In the Northern Hemisphere, the full moon typically reaches its highest altitude around the time of the Winter Solstice).
The July 2009 full moon had a relatively low altitude. The lower altitude of the moon creates a more directional, harder quality of light than when the moon is high in the sky. Below is a chart that shows the moon altitude during last week's shoot on July 4th:
By a little after 1:15 a.m. the moon was gone behind the ridge. This schedule still allowed a solid 4 hours of night photography. Driving out of the valley into more open territory, the moon appeared again for another hour or so, and then disappeared for the night. Photographing the same location with the moon at a very different place in the sky really helped me better understand just how much the moon altitude effects the quality of light. I hope this article will be helpful in planning your next full moon photography adventure. Enjoy the night photos of New Idria. Many thanks to Steve and Riki for making the trip!
Bill Owens is an internationally renowned photographer living in Hayward. His most famous work, Suburbia, has been exhibited in museums around the globe but it is just one part of his dynamic creative life. This exhibition is the first to feature Bill’s photographs from the Peace Corps in the sixties to the Rolling Stones at Altamont all the way to his newest video work. Bill is a vibrant “people person” who shows us our real selves with wry humor and wit. If you only see one exhibition this year-this should be the one! Learn more about Bill at: billowens.com
Important Note: Medium-sized prints are very reasonably priced at $300-500 unframed. For those on a budget there are signed Suburbia posters for $10, T-shirts for $20, and small prints for $150. The show also includes a folio of 10 prints for $900 that includes 8 silver prints and 2 color.
Bill Owens Books
Many people know Bill's classic book Suburbia, but his other 1970's books are underrated gems, especially Working (I do it for the money), and Our Kind of People: American Groups and Rituals. These two books are highly recommended, and usually available used for $10-15. Leisure is quite good, with a sprinkling of newer work. I haven't looked at last year's hardcover monograph entitled Bill Owens. In addition to photography, Bill is a microbrewery and craft distilling pioneer, heads up the American Distilling Institute, and has a forthcoming book on making whiskey.