Full Moon Silhouettes is something that I’ve been wanting to capture for a over a year now. The video is a real time capture of the moon rising over the Mount Victoria Lookout in the capital city of Wellington, New Zealand. On the evening of the 28th January 2013, after a lot of planning and many failed attempts, I finally managed to pull it off.
There were numerous factors I had to consider and get right to capture the footage. The weather, moon phases and finding a suitable location where I could actually get the moon rising directly over the lookout. Finally it all came together – I found the perfect location, and the weather in Wellington was amazing! Luckily there were people watching the moon rise from the Mount Victoria Lookout. I didn’t know what to expect with the performance of everyone up there, but I couldn’t have directed it better myself, even though they had no idea I was filming them. I shot 8 minutes of footage between 9.14pm and 9.22pm and the finished edit shows about the first 3 minutes of that.
Technically, getting the shot was quite difficult. I was 2.1km away from my subject, and there was no room for error. I only had one chance of getting the shot right on the night. Thankfully it all came together, and what I ended up with was this wonderful performance of total strangers silhouetted against the full moon as it rose above the lookout.
Technical details – The footage was shot with a Canon 1D MkIV in video mode, with a Canon EF 500mm f/4 lens and a Canon 2x Extender, giving me the equivalent of a 1300mm focal length when taking into account Canon 1D MkIV’s 1.3x crop factor with the APS-H sensor. The camera was mounted on a Sachtler tripod with a Sachtler FSB 6 head.
Music – I’ve also had a lot of comment on the music I’ve used. The music is a royalty free track which I licensed for this short. It’s Tenderness by Dan Phillipson, and you can find it here: http://premiumbeat.com/royalty_free_music/songs/tenderness
So is it real? – I’ve had some wonderful and amazing comments and support, but as expected you do get your skeptics that say this is a fake. I assure you this was shot all in camera and not fake – I guess that’s the biggest compliment of all!
So how is the moon so big and people so small? – Well it’s all about optics and distance from the subject. I shot this video on a DLSR camera with a super telephoto lens, so it’s just like looking at the moon with binoculars or through a small telescope. The people in front of the moon are small in comparison because I was 2.1kms away from them. I couldn’t see them with my own eyes as they were so far away, but when looking through the camera, they look exactly as they are in the film. If I was to move closer to the subjects, say only 1km away, they would have looked twice as big. The moon would have still been the same size in frame, but because the people look larger and you can use them as a point of scale reference, then the moon would have looked smaller in scale, even though it’s not. It’s the same concept as in the ‘moon illusion’ – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_illusion
Hang on a minute…the moon is upside down and rising in the wrong direction? – Well to us in the Southern Hemisphere, this is exactly what we see when we watch a moon rise. But if you happen to live in the Northern Hemisphere, the moon in the film will look upside down and rising to the left, rather than rising to the right. This link explains it a little better: http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/time/moon/hemispheres.html
Has the rising of the moon been sped up? – I can certainly explain the optical aspects of the shot and why the moon appears so big, but I’ve also had comments that the moon is moving way to quick to be real…well this is real time and hasn’t been sped up at all, but apart from my simple reply of you guys should go watch the moon rise sometime – astronomer, lecturer, and author, Phil Plait the creator of the Bad Astronomy website, has a pretty solid scientific explanation of how fast the moon is moving in Full Moon Silhouettes. Go check out his blog about my video on the Bad Astronomy website.
Why does the moon look soft and out of focus? – The moon is actually in focus, as the focus on the lens was set to infinity, but looks soft due to the effect of atmospheric refraction – you can see the edges and the details on the moon shimmer as it’s rising. Once the moon gets higher in the sky, the details become sharper due to the lesser influence of atmospheric refraction. In fact, I shot a photo of the moon a little later that night. It was much higher in the sky, and I used the exact same focus settings as I shot the film with, and the details on the moon were tack sharp. This is why if you want a really sharp image of the moon, you should shoot it when it’s higher in the sky.
Watch the film below, and feel free to share and leave comments further down the page. Maybe one of these silhouetted strangers will even recognise themselves!
Hope you enjoyed the original Full Moon Silhouettes – in April 2015, I was joined by Japan TV who came to New Zealand to follow on a shoot to re-create my 2013 Full Moon Silhouettes. There was certainly a lot of nerves as I attempted to pull off the shoot in front of the cameras – you can watch what happened in this video below.