Super Moonrise – At Last

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At long last, the super moon rose last Sunday evening.  I suppose it wasn’t really the super moon–after all, the moon was officially full nearly 12 hours earlier.  But whether you count it as the full, super moon rise or something less than that, it was dramatic.

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At first, I was afraid the moon would not be visible at all that night.  The low-lying clouds around the horizon threatened to ruin the view altogether.  We watched and watched and suddenly a reddish glow started to show through the clouds.  The glow turned from a faint hint of red to a full moon with a silhouette cloud in the foreground in a matter of moments.  I barely had time to breathe before the scene before me was changing.

The moon disappeared behind a strip of clouds

The moon disappeared behind a strip of clouds

After a quick exposure adjustment, I managed to capture the red-glowing moon.

A second moon rise in the same night

A second moon rise in the same night

It rose a second time–or at least it looked that way.  It passed through a stretch of clouds, appearing to rise all over again, when it crossed over the top of the cloud bank.

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As it rose above the last trace of clouds, I switched lenses.  I’m not that excited by close-ups of the full moon and I was shooting with a 100-400mm plus a 1.4x extender.  There’s not much you can do wide with that combination.  I switched to the 24-70mm lens instead.  It was a good decision.  The extra bright moon over the Market Street Bridge was far more interesting than a close up of the rock.  Plus I got some serious topics to study up on as a result.

A helicopter forms a bright streak in the foreground

A helicopter forms a bright streak in the foreground

 

Switching to wide angle brings the Market St Bride into view

Switching to wide angle brings the Market St Bride into view

 

Sun Before the Moon

A rising cumulous cloud forms a silhouette in front of the setting sun

A rising cumulous cloud forms a silhouette in front of the setting sun

After shooting the moon from the Market Street Bridge the evening before the full moon,  I got to share the view from the common room in our building with a group of photographers from the local photographic society chapter.  A neighbor of mine and I organized a bit of a field trip.  Since the common room has a wonderful view of the river and of the anticipated location of the moonrise, it seemed like the perfect choice of destinations for photographers interested in capturing the full super moon rising over the Tennessee River.

The setting sun highlights the low-lying clouds at the horizon--they don't bode well for the moonrise

The setting sun highlights the low-lying clouds at the horizon–they don’t bode well for the moonrise

The thing about the moon is that it’s not particularly cooperative.  It really can’t help it.  It just has a lot of dependencies.  It’s light is determined by the sun.  It’s visibility determined by the clouds.  It’s appearance above the horizon dependent on the objects between the moon and the viewer.  When you consider that there are nearly 239,000 miles between the earth and the moon, I suppose it’s a wonder that we are able to see it at all.

Back on the other side, the cloud stretches tall in front of the sun

Back on the other side, the cloud stretches tall in front of the sun

But the first problem is figuring out when to expect it.  There are tons of places to find out the time of the moonrise, but none of them are ever right for exactly the place where you might be standing at that given time.  Not unless you happen to be in the same spot the time of moonrise was calculated from.

The second problem is figuring out when the sun will set.  The opportunity to capture the moon in full glory while the surroundings are still visible becomes increasingly difficult as the moonrise falls later and later relative to sunset.

Wispy pink clouds decorate the Northern sky

Wispy pink clouds decorate the Northern sky

On this particular night, the moon would not rise until a good half hour after sunset.  We, of course, scheduled our field trip to begin much earlier.  We probably should have taken the group on a tour of the riverfront while we waited for moonrise to approach.  However, we got to talking and snacking and decided to find a spot to shoot the sunset instead.  Finding a perch on an outdoor staircase with a view of the setting sun afforded some nice views of the clouds forming in front of the sun.

As the sun fades, the pink haze turns darker

As the sun fades, the pink haze turns darker

The sunset is no more reliable than the moonrise from a photographic perspective.  The clouds were interesting, but didn’t quite result in the super-dramatic sunset one might hope for as a prelude to a rising super moon.  After shooting the sunset long enough to end up with many wasted images, we returned to the opposing view to watch for the moon.  The setting sun cast a warm glow across the Market Street Bridge and set some of the clouds aglow as well.

While it may not have been the most dramatic of sunsets, it still seemed photo-worthy.

A saucer-like cloud captured my attention

A saucer-like cloud captured my attention

Super Moon

Moon faintly glowing through Walnut St Bridge

Moon faintly glowing through Walnut St Bridge

I made it back from Monaco and Nice just in time for the super moon.  The super moon refers to when the moon is closer to the earth than usual, resulting in an extra large moon.  The point when the moon is full is the point when it appears the largest.  I’m not sure if this is because the moon is actually the closest to the earth at that point or just the effect of it being a full moon. In any case, I have now chalked up a couple of years of experience shooting full moons.  I remember the words of advice I got from a fellow photographer when I first started shooting full moons.  They were, “Don’t.”  He went on to explain that the full moon is too bright to make an interesting image.  It simply looks like a flat, smooth circle with some gray areas in it compared to the much more pock-marked, three-dimensional moon one can get when shooting a crescent moon.

Moon over the heads of unsuspecting lovers

Moon over the heads of unsuspecting lovers

I experimented with this advice.  I found that he was absolutely right that if you just shoot the moon, once it’s much more than half full, it becomes a very flat, uninteresting rock.  However, I also found that if you shoot the moon rising at the the horizon or going through architectural features or clouds as it rises, it’s much more interesting. Since this discovery, I have attempted to pay attention to when the moon is full (or close enough to full) and where and when it will rise in the hope of getting interesting moonrise images. I’ve gotten a few I like, although there’s always room for improvement.  The hardest part about shooting moonrise is how fast it goes.  While the moon is usually quite late appearing in the sky compared to when the official moonrise is supposed to start, once it appears, the period of time when it’s most interesting to shoot lasts only a few minutes.  The moon moves so quickly that you have to watch your shutter speeds–too slow and you start to get motion blur from the movement of the moon.

Moon over the bridge

Moon over the bridge

On this night, it was a pre-cursor to the actual full moon.  While the moon was fullest the next morning, it was still close enough to full to get a full moon effect both the night before and the night after the moment of total fullness. I decided to walk out to Market St Bridge in the hope of catching people walking in front of the moon on Walnut St bridge.  Unfortunately, low-lying clouds along the horizon prevented the moon from being visible until it was too high for people to be in front of it.  When it finally appeared, it was barely a glow through the haze with the sun still relatively high in the sky (although it was headed towards sunset). It was still beautiful, though.

Wide view of moon, bridge, water, and boats

Wide view of moon, bridge, water, and boats

Good Eating

The moon over Nice as we entered the restaurant for dinner

The moon over Nice as we entered the restaurant for dinner

After the first long day of the conference in Monaco, a group of us made our way back to Nice for the evening. One of our group was familiar with a restaurant in Nice where he had had his anniversary dinner a few weeks earlier.

He was an interesting guy.  An American fluent in several languages in and of itself makes him an anomaly.  Reminds me of the old joke:  What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages?  Trilingual.  What do you call someone who speaks 2 languages?  Bilingual.  What do you call someone who speaks 1 language?  American.

He was living in Europe for about the third or fourth time and moved from groups of people from Italy to groups of people from Germany to groups of people from France with an ease that I envied.  Going to dinner with him was an experience.  He was able to understand food in another language.

An old church just outside the restaurant in Nice

An old church just outside the restaurant in Nice

Translating a menu is one of life’s biggest challenges.  Unless the exact same dish exists in one’s native country and the person who translates knows the correct name in both languages, most translation is lost.

Even when I hadn’t forgotten 90% of the French I once knew, I couldn’t understand a French menu.  I knew if it was fish or chicken or beef, but not what they did to it.  When I started learning Italian, I didn’t even get far enough to determine whether I was ordering tomato soup or tomato sauce (that led to some interesting surprises).

Sitting with someone who could actually understand and describe what a dish was was quite refreshing.  Although, in the end, after much discussion about the menu, we decided to order a 5-course chef’s pick dinner.

Waiting on the train the next morning in Nice Ville train station

Waiting on the train the next morning in Nice Ville train station

This turned out to be a great decision.  If I were a food critic, I could probably describe the meal in terms that would make your mouth water.  Since I am only a food enjoyer, I can only say that each course seemed to get better.  However, 5 courses is a lot, even in France (where the portions are smaller than in the US).  By the time we were done eating, I felt like the easiest way back to my hotel would have been to have someone tip over my chair so I could just roll my way down the street.

As it turned out, I might have been right.  There were no taxis to be had and we had 4 people going to 3 different destinations.  In the end, the two colleagues going to the same place were driven by the owner of the restaurant while the 3rd colleague walked me back to my hotel where a taxi had been ordered to meet him when available.  We sat in the lobby a long time waiting for that taxi–it was after 1AM by the time it came.

I was very happy I’d planned to take the train to Monaco the next morning–it gave me 2 extra hours of sleep.

The sun setting behind office buildings at the end of the day in Monaco

The sun setting behind office buildings at the end of the day in Monaco

 

Nice to Monaco

Street scene between Monaco train station and the conference

Street scene between Monaco train station and the conference

One of the challenges of having a conference in Monaco is getting there.  While the conference was relatively small–less than 2000 people–there wasn’t sufficient housing (at least not within most corporate budgets) for everyone to stay in Monaco.  As a result, those of us who booked late had hotels in Nice.

The solution was to send large tour buses to the hotels in Nice to pick up those who were staying there and then drive everyone over to Monaco.  In the morning rush hour traffic, the drive took a good hour and a half.  The bus had little A/C and most of us were feeling like we needed a second shower by the time we arrived at the conference site.

Lovely view while stuck in traffic on the bus

Lovely view while stuck in traffic on the bus

The really sad part of the bus ride was that we didn’t take the coastal road, so we didn’t get to see some of the best views.  At one point, we were stuck in traffic for a good 15 minutes while overlooking a lot that looked like it was used for industrial waste.  Not exactly the kind of thing you hope to get to see when you go to the French Riviera.

We did get an occasional glimpse of the sea, but it was infrequent.

Looking for things to take pictures of through tinted bus windows resulted in creating some really strong vignetting in the images.  I don’t know how much more pronounced this effect was due to the camera being an iPhone vs using a DSLR, but all of the images through the bus windows were the same.

A quick glimpse of the sea from the bus

A quick glimpse of the sea from the bus

When at long last we reached the conference site, we got to experience modern office buildings butted up against the rising hills of the landscape.  There is not much about Monaco that makes you think there should be office buildings there.  It created a surprise effect.

In the end, what i learned from the bus ride was to take the train.  The next day, I slept in instead of getting up extra early to catch the 7:15AM bus.  I caught a train much later–a 10 minute walk from my hotel.  I rode in comfort along the coastal tracks, enjoying views of the sea the entire way (except when we went through the many tunnels).  It cost 3.70 Euro to ride the train.  The entire train trip took 20 minutes.  And, I happened to sit next to 2 other people attending the same conference who knew how to get there from the train station, so I made it there on time without getting lost.

Office buildings in Monaco

Office buildings in Monaco

Nice Dinner

Almost a view of the beach from a cafe in the afternoon

Almost a view of the beach from a cafe in the afternoon

Are you tired of my Nice-as-in-pleasant vs Nice-as-in-France puns yet?  I’ve got a few more up my sleeve . . . 🙂

My first day in Nice, the name of the game was to stay awake.  Unfortunately, on my walk around town in the afternoon sun, I got hot.  This led to stopping in a sea-side cafe and having a beer.  Even more unfortunately, the only food I could get mid-afternoon was a bowl of olives.  While beer and olives are actually tasty together, olives are not very filling.

City street - lots of pedestrians

City street – lots of pedestrians

I sipped my no-longer-cold-beer for nearly an hour as I slumped gradually lower and lower in my cafe-style chair.  Eventually, I decided I needed to walk or I would be sound asleep on the cafe floor.  But once I started walking, I didn’t know where to go.  I decided it was a good time to return to my hotel room to check email now that the US was getting into work.

Courtyard on way back to hotel

Courtyard on way back to hotel

I sat down on my bed, logged in, and made it through the emails that had arrived.  The next thing I knew, I was startled awake by a sunbeam that had found its way through a crack in the curtains.  The sunbeam had managed to make its way into my eyes in part because the sun was now low in the sky.  I discovered I’d nodded off for a couple unexpected hours.

Views as the sun sets

Views as the sun sets

Concerned I wouldn’t be able to sleep through the night if I didn’t get up and get some dinner, I splashed some water on my face and made my way back down to the seaside.  With the wind blowing across the French Riviera, the evening called for outdoor dining.

Back at the seaside area, I stopped and read menus at each restaurant across from the beach, hoping to find something appealing, but even more, hoping to run into one of my colleagues so I wouldn’t have to eat dinner alone.

Courtyard at sunset

Courtyard at sunset

In the US, I don’t mind eating dinner alone.  If I want company, I sit at the bar and usually end up in conversations with interesting people before the meal is over.  If I want to be alone, I sit at a table.  In Spain, France, and Italy, there don’t seem to be restaurant bars to eat at.  Eating alone at a table seems to be the equivalent of painting a sign on your face that says something like, “I am lonely and desperate and will be amazingly receptive to even the tiniest bit of attention.”  (To put it in G-rated terms.)

Dramatic dinner preparation at a nearby table

Dramatic dinner preparation at a nearby table

On this evening, it was my waiter who was overly attentive.  He was actually quite sweet, but it got awkward when I wanted to leave and he kept delaying bringing me my check.  Once I was safely on my way, I was glad I’d made it out regardless–it was a lovely night to be out walking and I did sleep through the night.

Night lights.  Notice the purple glowing man on top of the pole

Night lights. Notice the purple glowing man on top of the pole

Nice Views

The lovely "beach" in Nice

The lovely “beach” in Nice

If yesterday I attempted to make you feel sorry for me for having to travel to Nice and Monaco, today I might make you jealous.

I arrived in Nice around 9AM on Monday morning.  When I arrived at my hotel, my room wasn’t ready yet, but after only a few minutes in the lobby, I was given a key and sent upstairs.  This was a good thing because having not slept a wink on the flight over, I was about to nod off in the lobby.

Interesting building on my round-about way to the shore.  Using HDR created ghost of a pedestrian in my shot.

Interesting building on my round-about way to the shore. Using HDR created ghost of a pedestrian in my shot.

I climbed into bed and set my alarm so that I’d get in a nice 2 hour nap.  Or should I say a Nice  2 hour nap?  In either case, I have found that it’s best not to sleep more than 2 hours when I arrive in a new time zone, especially when traveling in an Eastward direction.

I woke up before my alarm went off.  I jumped out of bed feeling panicked that perhaps I had missed a meeting.  I logged in immediately to see what emails I’d gotten since falling asleep.  Given that it was only 7AM back in the Eastern US, I hadn’t received much of anything.

The fake peninsula (created by shooting panoramic with iPhone default camera app)

The fake peninsula (created by shooting panoramic with iPhone default camera app)

After convincing myself I hadn’t missed anything, I jumped in the shower to discover it was one of those weird adaptations of a tub with a curtain on hooks shooting out from the post the shower head was installed on like a star.  I pulled the curtain around me, but it only went about ½ way around.  I did my best not to spray the entire bathroom.  This might explain why the toilet (and toilet paper) were in another room–it could be the only way they stay dry when someone showers.

Fake inlet (also created by shooting panoramic with default iPhone camera app)

Fake inlet (also created by shooting panoramic with default iPhone camera app)

Feeling wide awake and fresh, I threw on some casual clothes and went out to take a walk along the shore.  Unfortunately, I was somewhat disoriented and walked the wrong direction.  By the time I found the shore, I wasn’t feeling so fresh anymore.

But, the beach was lovely.  The wind was blowing and the air was fresh.  What more could an American on a business trip ask for?

A plaza along the way to the beach

A plaza along the way to the beach

I experimented with panoramic shots on the shore with my iPhone.  I ended up creating a peninsula out of the rocks I was standing on and turning the shoreline into an inlet because of the effect of shooting panoramic.  It was kind of fun.

A more realistic view of the beach

A more realistic view of the beach