18-300mm lens at 300mm with 2x teleconverter @ ISO 100 f/6.3, 30 seconds

After not getting the super-moon on the horizon the other day (stupid clouds), I went out to a totally different spot on Monday and Tuesday night. The moon would still be really close to full, and I was using this as training for the January 1st super-moon.

On January 1st, the super-moon will rise just minutes before sunset (at least it will here, your times may vary), so there will be a really nice glowing ambient light to make the shot look fantastic. So I hit up this spot on the St. Petersburg side of Tampa Bay to see how well I can frame the shot with my camera and lens. It’s a popular spot for taking this kind of shot. Depending on where the moon pops up and where you shoot from, you can get the giant full moon coming up behind the buildings of downtown Tampa (as seen in the header pic), which is 11.5 miles away.

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On Monday, I got this. There were low clouds, so no moon on the horizon. Conditions were pretty crappy overall and the shot didn’t look as good as it could have. The ISO, white balance, shutter speed, and frankly everything didn’t work with the scene this night. It looks like poo. Plus, I was too far north on the road that has this vantage point. The moon was nowhere near downtown when it popped up.

18-300mm lens at 135mm with 2x teleconverter @ ISO 1600 f/6.3, 2 seconds

After coming home with disappointing results I went to work using math, Google Maps, and Photoshop. I determined where I would need to be to make the moon rise next to or behind downtown Tampa.

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I went out again on Tuesday night. Conditions were much better. mostly clear skies, no wind at all, and I knew where I needed to be to line up the moon with my foreground.

This is what I got. If you look at the setting for each shot, Monday’s should have been much better. It was just so blah out, it ruined everything.

18-300mm lens at 300mm with 2x teleconverter @ ISO 1250 f/6.3, 2.5 seconds
18-300mm lens at 300mm with 2x teleconverter @ ISO 800 f/6.3, 2 seconds

If you look at the header pic (taken Tuesday night) and Monday’s pic, you’ll see that the moon still isn’t lined up with downtown Tampa. That’s because I had a little adventure finding the spot I was looking for.

On Monday, I shot near the left edge of the screenshot. That spot is just before a bridge, is open, and easy to work in. On Tuesday, I shot from the #1 spot. Between the water and the roadside are mangrove trees. There are breaks and paths in them that people use to launch small boats and fish from. The further south (to the right in this pic) you go, the denser the mangroves get, but the better lined-up the shot becomes.

I was planning on shooting from the #2 area. Being that it’s really dark out, I ended up going into the mangroves down at #3. Keep in mind that there are people around fishing and whatnot. There were some cars and trucks parked down there and I guessed it was the #2 area.

So I park and start walking through the maze of mangroves. I have my flashlight out as there is absolutely no light in there. It should be about 20 to 40 feet before I emerge on the water side. I’m expecting some surly fisherman wondering what I’m doing. But no.

The mangroves keep going. Finally, I hear some people ahead, so I assume I’m close to the water. Nope. The dense mangrove maze hides a secret. This is where guys come to, let’s say, participate in Deliverance cosplay. And not the banjo part of Deliverance.

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I really don’t care what they are doing out there. If this is where they can go to be themselves, whatever. I get it. Not everyone has the luxury of being open with their friends and family about there sexuality. But the last thing these dudes wanted to see to me tromping through the swamp with a super-bright flashlight, a bag full of camera gear, and a tripod.

I apologized for the intrusion and found my way out of the sexy, swampy labyrinth. I drove further up the side of the road, looking for where I needed to be. The first spot that wasn’t taken by fishermen and that wasn’t a giant mud pit was where I ended up.

An SUV that had been driving around the side of the road when I had been pulled into the spot next to me. A guy got out and walked through the mangroves and over to me. It was still plenty dark, so I couldn’t really see him. He started asking me questions about why I was out there. I recognized the line of questioning. I’ve got almost the same questions from various law enforcement persons that I’ve encountered during various nighttime shooting adventures.

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He has seen me park, go into the bad place, quickly leave, drive up the road, get out, run into the mangroves and quickly run out (while looking for a better spot), and repeating this process a few times before finding a spot that worked. I’m sure I looked plenty suspicious. After questioning me, he got back in the SUV and left.

I don’t think he was out there to bust the naughtiness going on deep in the mangroves, but maybe to make sure that really illegal things, like drugs, weren’t going down. One or two cops in an unmarked SUV aren’t going to take down a few dozen dudes that really aren’t doing anything wrong.

Come January 1st, I’ll be out there when it is still light out, so this whole misadventure won’t happen again.