Man and the Moon – Lee Mansfield

Mission: to understand the Moon’s phase and position allowing me to photograph a big moon over subjects such as towers, buildings and landmarks.

During early 2020 I had seen a few moon photos with the moon being large over buildings and landmarks which looked impressive.

I spent a good few weeks understanding the moon’s position, azimuth and direction using apps such as Stellarium, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, PhotoPills and Sun Surveyor.

I knew I would need a good lens so I decided to buy the Sigma 150-600mm lens with a x2converter making the lens capable of up to 1200 mm if I needed the distance.

I attempted to plan a few moon shots from July2020 – failing miserably due to the amount of cloud, I kind of doubted myself and the apps. Spending more time understanding the moon’s position, azimuth, direction and also spending more time on the apps I managed to capture my first ever moon photo August 2020 (a rare one too).

Knowing the full moon date is Monday 3rd August which would be at 100%, there are a few days either side to try and capture this astronomical body.

Saturday 1st August would be approx 95%waxing gibbous, which although not classed as a full moon but with the right conditions I knew it would look good.

I set up my apps to plan a test shot for the date 1st August to prove to myself that being in the right location and knowing where to be exactly to create amazing moon photos would work.

Planning is a must and can take time. You need to know the following;

• Position of shooting location which you cansee the tower, building or landmark

• Any obstructions such as trees, houses, pylons etc

• Access to the location and parking

• Focal length from shooting location

• The elevation of your subject in this case

Darwen Tower is approx 85ft

To have the moon look big over any subject you need to be at least one mile away – scouting locations before is a must.

Saturday 1st August, during the day I was monitoring the cloud movement and weather conditions which was hit and miss. Unsure if I was going to drive to the location as there was a lot of clouds up to 7pm, checked at 8pm and still quite a bit of cloud.

I decided to take the risk and test my apps hoping the cloud would be very little.

I arrived at my planned location about 8.30pm with the subject being about 1.5 mile away, I was quite negative so I left my gear in the car.

No way had I thought I would capture this photo, at 8.51pm (still day light) I was standing at the exact spot where I planned the photo and all of a sudden I saw the tip of the moon rise from the left of Darwen Tower – yep it was happening!

OMG I thought! My gear is in my car I ran to my car got my gear out setup as quick as I could. I knew my settings already, I had to be quick because I knew I had about five minutes until the moon moved away from the tower

I did it, all the hard work had paid off! I know now planning a moon shot over other locations or from different angles can be achieved. On this photo the moon appears orange, this effect is caused by the the moonlight passing through more of the earth’s atmosphere, filtering out blue light and leaving only yellow, orange, or red.

Having managed to capture the full moon at 95% I wanted to try capture the full moon again over Darwen Tower but at night. This image again was fully planned with my apps.

Knowing I now had captured the full moon day and night over Darwen Tower, I wanted to try other local landmarks. I set off scouting for a shooting position to capture the full moon over directly over Stoodley Pike. (3)

My next photo was from a different position of Darwen Tower, I also wanted to try capturing the moon in day light but showing 80% lit, a little different from a full moon. This was almost not achievable as I had a gap of about five minutes in and out of rain. Locking the focus on to the moon to create a silhouette of the tower as the night goes from civil to nautical. (4)

My next photo I planned to get the full moon over the big white Church at Lytham, St. Anne’s. When I turned up the wind was very strong for the position I had originally setup, this was on the beach. Due to much wind I had to make changes to my plan and take cover in front of a wall this was blocking most of the wind. As I moved positions my plan of the moon over the church did not happen, but I watched the moon rise from above the houses and this was the best shot I could get before the moon went into the clouds.

This photo is a very early one being up at 4am to see this set about 5am, approx 1.5 mile away to get the big moon. My plan was to get the moon direct above the tower but as cloud came in at the last few minutes I could only get the moon at the side of the tower (6)

The last full Moon of 2020 is the cold Moon which spanned over 2 days @ 100%, 29th and 30th December giving me two different photo locations of the cold December full moon. This was my first moon photo on the 29thDecember 2020 over looking Haslingden. It was taken by accident as I was taking a sunset over Darwen Tower as the Sun set I looked opposite and the moon was rising, this only happens on absolute full moons, quite rare to witness too. (7)

The second full moon at 100% was planned and taken over Stonyhurst College. I had two opportunities to capture this moon shot. The first one as it came up from the horizon was quite orange as the moon travels through the Earths atmosphere. The one below is much brighter as it rises above the college making the moon much brighter. (8)

Kit used: Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3, Sigma x2 Converter, Manfrotto MT055 tripod