Moonrise over Thunderbird Park

The weather forecast for today called for quite a bit of rain, but it turned out to be a sunny afternoon with clouds starting to gather in the west about 4:00PM, so I decided to see what kind of sunset we might have.  I packed up my gear and headed back to the same hilltop that I visited earlier this week in Thunderbird Conservation Park in north Glendale.

I got setup in plenty of time to just sit back and enjoy the breeze and the fresh air from the top of the hill.  Hikers passed by fairly often, some of whom asked some friendly questions about shooting the sunset.  There was a big cloud bank in the west, but it was absolutely clear to the east (which I’m sure made the folks at the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tourney very happy), so it didn’t look too promising for a great sunset.

Sure enough, the sun slipped behind the cloud bank with a minimum of flare and color.  I shot quite a few bracketed series, but I’m not sure that any of them are that exciting–I’ll know more when I start processing them.

BUT–when I started to leave I found that the full moon was rising in the east, right between two mountains.  I took a couple of shots from my tripod-mounted camera with the normal lens, but wasn’t that impressed with the results.  So I packed up everything and headed down the hill.  Back in the parking lot, I packed up my gear, gave Andy a call to let him know I was on my way home for dinner, and then started driving out of the park.

And that’s when I saw it.  As I rounded a curve in the park, I was confronted with the perfect view of the full moon rising over one of the taller mountains with the iconic silhouette of the Arizona saguaro clearly visible.  Without a second thought, I whipped my car into the nearest parking lot, swapped lenses on my camera, mounting the old Quantaray 75-300mm zoom, and sat down at the nearest picnic table to steady my arms as I zoomed in on the face of the moon (I didn’t even bother getting the tripod out of the case!).

And here’s the result:

I’ve done absolutely no further processing on this shot–it’s straight from the camera.  I have to say I’m very pleased with it, especially since it was done hand-held with an old lens (ISO 250, F/10, 1/80s, -2.0EV).

So, tomorrow I’ll go through the sunset shots, but this one image alone made it worth sitting on top of that hill for an hour.

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Sikh Temple and Thunderbird Sunset

I think I’ve mentioned previously on my blog that there’s a Sikh temple just off the freeway that I see everyday on my commute to and from work.  It faces the setting sun and has nine gold-leaf covered domes that absolutely glow when the sun goes down.

Well, today I stopped by there on my way home from work.  The gate was open and there was no one around, so I felt free to grab my camera and tripod for some bracketed shots.  I believe that his facility serves as both a temple and a community center.  I was able to get a nice series of shots of the building with the setting sun hitting the domes, and then I also got a couple of shots that included the nearly-full moon above one of the domes.

There is also one other shot that I got under the archway, but I’m working on some masking on that one.  It’s tedious work, but I think it could wind up being the best shot of the day–I’ll let you know how it turns out.

After I left the temple, I drove another mile west to 59th Avenue and then north to the Thunderbird Recreation Area.  Andy and I have hiked here before, but I was looking for a way to drive to the top of the hill to see if I could get a good view of the sunset.  I found the right road and wound up in the perfect spot, but by then the sun had already dipped below the horizon.  No worries, I still grabbed my gear and set out on a short hike up the side of the hill.  (Note to self: Keep a pair of hiking or running shoes in the car.  Don’t wear your good shoes on rocky, sandy, steep hillsides.)

I was able to get a few shots of the valley under the setting sun that turned out halfway decent:

Although I missed the most dramatic part of sunset, I now have another location in my scouting notebook where I know I can get to quickly.  I would have stayed longer to get more of the blue hour, but I didn’t feel especially confident about hiking back down the rocky hillside in my slick shoes in the dark…so I took the coward’s way out and descended while there was still a little daylight left.

All of today’s shots were done in bracketed series of three (-2.0/0/+2.0) at ISO 100, aperture-priority, with an 18-55mm Nikkor VR zoom lens.  I processed them as HDR’s in Photomatix, and then post-processed in Paintshop Pro X3.

So it was a very Zen-filled evening–a great way to unwind after a busy day, prowling around in the sunset and then watching the results come to life on the computer.  I’ve uploaded the best shots of the evening to Flicker (click here).  Hope you’ll check them out and let me know what you think!

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Wolf Moon

I’ve been waiting for the full moon ever since I bought my new Nikon, and tonight was the night.  Fortunately the skies cleared up, and around 5:45 this afternoon, the moon rose over the eastern horizon, and it was a beauty.  Unfortunately, I was still in my car driving down 59th Avenue on my way home from work after having stopped at Wing Stop to pick up food for tonight’s home movie night.

About ten minutes later I pulled into the garage, dumped the chicken wings on the kitchen counter, grabbed my old Quantaray 75-300mm zoom lens, got back in the car and drove two blocks south to where there’s an open field right across from a neighborhood park.  I was able to park on the side of the road and set up my tripod right behind my car, and I got several decent shots of the moon, although by that time it had lost most of it’s golden glow and was bright white.

This is the last shot that I took:

ISO 200, 300mm, 1/25s, F7.1, -4.0EV

I played around with the settings, using aperture-priority mode, and wound up having to underexpose the shot by 4 stops in order to get a good view of the features on the moon’s face.  Of course, having taken this shot, it has only made me wish for a longer telephoto lens.

Looking forward to a good weekend of shooting, wherever it may be!