Super Luna de Cuenca

Oct 24, 2019 | 28 comments

My phone began to ring as I exited another building. I was empty handed and frustrated in my search for permission and access to an elevated vantage point to record the rising of the Super Luna that evening. I quickly answered and was thrilled to hear that another scout had obtained permission at a nearby building for my planned shot. Most folks that I asked for roof access acted like they didn’t understand what I was going to do and so were not interested in letting me get on top of their buildings. There were few building choices that could answer my needs. Many had good views but the scenes were tainted with obstructions between my camera and me and the domes and the Super Luna. Some of those could be removed in post-processing but I prefer to avoid that if possible.

By using astronomical tables, I knew the time and degree of position from where the super moon would break the eastern horizon that evening. I had been searching door to door, checking appropriate buildings, for permission to get on the roof of a building in order to make a photograph of the occasion. The domes of the New Cathedral were my chosen foreground for the planned composition. The moon was going to crest the eastern horizon at 92 degrees around 6:30, just about dark. After checking the elevations of some mountains directly east of Cuenca, I did some quick mental math. I determined that the moon would rise past the obscuring range and be in the correct relation to the domes for my composition at about 7:06 p.m.

I had given my caller this same data so his call was an informed one concerning shooting possibilities. He told me that he had just met a fellow who had a rooftop apartment in a nearby building and that it seemed the location met all of the necessary criteria. It was late afternoon and time was of the essence. I asked him to snap a couple of phone pics of what he was looking at and email them to me right away. I began to walk to the address he had relayed to me; it was very close. There, I met the scout who had found the spot and the host, a fellow I didn’t know yet named Marty. A quick check proved the scout correct. Marty’s rooftop apartment provided the vantage point that met most of my requirements for the composition I had planned. I couldn’t say it was the perfect location since they hadn’t all been scrutinized but it was definitely workable.

It seems there are a million variables to planning these type shots and one of them is always weather. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived with my gear to the shoot location about an hour and a half later, clouds had rolled in. They are always a part of making or not making photographs. I saw it was going to happen but had gathered my things and proceeded anyway as if departing for a well paid shoot. I always treat things concerning photography like they’re going to work out perfectly. I’m an experienced planner and photographer and if I do my part, less falls to chance and more to success.

But, there are times when our best plans are thwarted. At 6:30, I was in position with camera and tripod amidst the cold dampness of a cloudy night. I nursed a lukewarm cup of coffee supplied by Marty, my new friend and host. Wisps of blown fog had robbed it of its earlier heat. We visited quietly, somehow afraid to make much of a sound as the fog first enveloped then released us from its mists.

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About 6:50 a breeze arose from the south. The clouds thinned and began to break over the next ten minutes. The breeze picked up and became a moderate wind. The clouds were thinned and then torn apart by the aerial vectors. The Super Luna was revealed in its stark white splendor as the clouds scudded by partially obscuring its pitted surface. The pale light created a beautiful moonscape revealing part of the Andes and other phantom-like clouds in the distance. The domes had a soft yellow glow from the light of mixed incandescent bulbs striking them. I released the cameras shutter and the results are before you.

Today, the domes have a new look. They are being lit by bright blue LED’s on most evenings. They are beautiful anyway you view them but I much prefer the way they were before this change. With an older structure like the New Cathedral, I find the original lighting more in keeping with the expression I wanted to make. Architectural designs that celebrate greater than centurion birthdays often seem to gain a personality of their own as time passes … even if they are inanimate objects. For me, these old assemblies of mortar and stone have a certain cloak of mystery that settles around them. I wanted to enhance that aspect of the structure with the Super Luna. The wispy clouds juxtaposed with the Super Luna provided a compositional element that strengthened my interpretation of the scene.  I was well satisfied with my efforts.

There’s an old photographer’s adage that’s meant to point a photographer to creating better photographs time after time. “F8 and be there!” is the expression. F8 refers to the cameras aperture which controls depth of field. “Be there” refers to occasion and/or place and moment. I didn’t use F8.

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