View Full Version : TR: Moon Seekers

03-10-2009, 06:06 PM
Normally one thinks of a Trip Report for a hike. Well, this was like a hike - it had detailed planning - gathered tools to make sure we were ready - there were extreme weather conditions (at least for Corey since he was all bundled up for some reason) - and beautiful mountain views - if we were to be successful.

But, one must start a TR at the beginning. Corey came to Maine for a few weeks of "opportunity to hike and such". So, today was to be full moon at 10:38PM and the weather forecasts were consistently saying today's weather would be clear. Therefore, the plan was to take pictures of the full moon setting over - something. Like Mt Chocorua or Mt Washington or something besides just a moon shot.

Last week we got into the planning and tools part. What time would the moon set - over a mountain at 5,000 to 6,288 feet high? In what direction would it be setting? Where should we be at the right time Tuesday morning to get The Moon Shot? The location needed to provide some flexibility in angle to make sure we can handle a true north heading or magnetic north. We might not know what data we would find. Corey started searching on the Internet (he is a web geek anyway) and found several tools. One said the time of moon rise and moon set and the azimuth for each. It was not clear if it was magnetic or true. This was a good start. Using my topo software we printed out the areas around east of Mt Chocorua and east & west of Mt Washington.

Sunday we hit the car with printouts, compass, water for the dog, laptop with GPS attached to tie in with the topo software, and a cell phone with Google maps and GPS running. We were set to find The Spot.

I think we found every back road, pond, private road (as long as it was not labeled private), mud puddle, ditch and hill around the area. We drove and drove with no real luck of finding a good view spot of something at a 276 degree heading for the moon set today.

Sunday evening (I told you there was a lot of planning for this expedition) Corey found some more web sites. One integrated the moon rise, GPS coordinates and Google map to show what stars (and moon) would be seen from a specific location looking in a specific direction at a specific time. He picked the NE corner of the Wildcat ski area parking lot at 5:00 Am today looking 276 degrees (almost due west). That had a good chance of working out - if the weather was clear. He did not tell me till after the photo shoot the mountains in the image were bogus. So, I believed him - since it came off the Internet it must be right. The weather web sites were starting to say Partly Cloudy on Tuesday which became a big concern. We did not have the right equipment to handle Partly Cloudy.

At 3:00 Am this morning I picked Corey up and we drove to N Conway. We were going to stop in and say good morning to Scot, but figured he might not be in the office that early. Our first stop to adjust the plan was at the Visitor Area north of N Conway. Would we be able to see the summit of Mt Washington or not? If we could, we would continue north to Pinkham Notch. If it was in the clouds, we would set up the cameras right there at the Visitor Area. We had a 60% probability of having clear skies.

How would we know that? We pulled a trusty MW Observer into the planning. Ryan was called upon on Sunday to see what the chances of a clear summit would be on Tuesday morning. He thought it was looking pretty good and would check again on Monday. We got our weather update Monday saying 60% probability of clear summits at 5:00AM Tuesday. So, if it was clear he would only be 40% wrong.

Back to live action Tuesday morning - we drove past the Visitor Area and did not even stop to check the visibility. We knew it would be clear and we were running out of time depending on where we stopped for the pictures. No time to stop at N Conway - on we went.

As we are heading up route 16 (the going was getting tough at this point it was a lot steeper) and the bright full moon was hiding behind the trees off to the west. It was low and we might not get a shot after all. We had to find The Spot. We did slow a bit as we passed PNVC - it was the wrong angle. On we went to the Wildcat parking lot. The SE corner would have a good view as we drove around the empty lot. Then we went to the base of the Auto Road and their parking lot. But Mt Washington summit was not viewable from there. Good angle - wrong view.

So, back to Wildcat - out of the car - set up 2 tripods and cameras and gear (walked the dog) - and waited for the moon to swing over Boott Spur and Tuckermans. This may be where Corey thinks it was getting cold. In either case we got pictures of the moon setting over the ravine.


We got the stars as they passed by and the moon's glow was still coming up over the headwall.


Then we had time to wait for the first sun rays to shine into Tuckerman Ravine. Back to PNVC to see if the sunrise would be better there - nope. Slowly drove along route 16 north checking for good view spots - none. So, back to Wildcat and off in the corner to wait for sunrise. Fed the dog and waited. From there we did get good pictures of the sun coming into the ravine


And almost got a shot of the Observers on the summit


Once we packed up we went back to N Conway and the view area to get the long shots.


And headed home for breakfast. Some where in there Corey warmed up.

Thanks to Ryan for helping pull this off - it was exhausting. He was 60% right.

The full set of pictures are at

03-10-2009, 06:55 PM
Totally awesome pictures Brad. I really like the ones with the moon setting behind the mountains. Thanks so much for sharing.

03-10-2009, 06:57 PM
Awesome report Brad.

The next goal is to get the picture of the moon setting right behind the summit buildings. I have all the software to tell me the when and where and angle and illumination. The problem is the real world has things in it you just don't see in Google Earth / Google Maps / My Sky. Trees, other ridges in your line of site, buildings.

Does anyone here know of a spot that is relatively easy to get to in the middle of the night (you can assume it is a clear night as we wouldn't bother otherwise) where you can:

Set up a tripod (this means not too much wind - we need long exposures)
Sit for hours waiting and not freeze ;-)
Avoid manmade light sources
Clearly see the summit buildings
Be facing a somewhat westerly direction
Have several hundred yards of 'wiggle' room since we won't know until the very last second where the moon will go behind the mountain.

We can probably handle a distance of up to 15-20 miles away. N. Conway is 10-12 right and things still look good from there with a long lens?

That's not asking too much is it?

I still think we need to ask the Wildcat folks if they'll give us a lift to the top with the gear and someplace to hide out from the wind where we can aim the lens out of a window. ;-)

03-10-2009, 07:15 PM
Great. We are almost there. We have the times, the direction, the mountain. All we need is a location to set up AND a perfectly clear morning with no summit clouds - like today - AND the moon set at the correct angle to make it all work.

This is like Corey asking why the camera can not take a picture with a long exposure to catch some detail in the mountain and a short exposure to get the moon clearly - all in one shot.

See what I had to deal with while waiting out there?

03-10-2009, 07:45 PM
In case you wanted to use this process yourself to set up a shot with a specific night time object(s), I've added the sites and some quick instructions.

The online software I found to show where a moon rise/set will occur and its phase are shown for some specific future dates below. These examples were chosen with Wildcat in mind as the camera base and the summit/moon as the target.

These seem to be the next best bet for a moon shot over the summit buildings from Wildcat parking area:

Dec 1st or 2nd 2009 both look pretty good for a full moon and angle to get it behind the summit buildings (http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=1081&month=12&year=2009&obj=moon&afl=-12&day=1)

April 2nd or 3rd 2009 give you your next good angle for the Wildcat -> Summit view (1Q moon) (http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=1081&month=4&year=2009&obj=moon&afl=-12&day=1)

Aug 13th and 14th 2009 have daytime moonsets (2pm and 3pm) with a 3Q moon at the correct angle (http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=1081&month=8&year=2009&obj=moon&afl=-12&day=1):

The above dates/info were all arrived at by starting here:

To see what the horizon will look like I found the site Yoursky:

WARNING: Objects in mirror are closer then they appear. ;-)
The scene's are fake - the cows, pigs, and mountains are added for fun. ;-)

You have to input your lat/long.
You can get this from Google Maps by right clicking on the spot you want and saying "center map here". Then click on "link" in the upper right corner of the map. Copy/Paste the URL and the last "ll=" piece will contain your lat/long. For the Wildcat parking area, I used:

Lat 44?15'53" N
Lon 71?14'20" W

from a URL that looked like this:


Don't worry .. the web software converts the decimal into degree/minutes/seconds perfectly.

You also have to input the date and time of night you want to see (time is in UTC which is currently 4 hours ahead of EST). For this morning at 5am, I used:

2009-03-10 9:00:00

You also input the direction you are looking. We were looking west, so we had 270.

Select "Horizon View" and you'll see what is in the sky if you were standing "there", looking "in that direction", on "that date and time".

Its pretty cool, actually. Here is the output from one I ran using my example settings above:


Have fun - I hope you are better at capturing night skies with ground features then I am. I can get you there .. I just can't get the shot.

KD Talbot
03-10-2009, 10:10 PM
Looking for something like this? :)



03-11-2009, 06:27 AM
Yes, that meets Corey's requirements. Except for the easy access.

03-11-2009, 06:41 AM
Great stuff guys. The moon set shot and the stars over the ravine are awesome. The "instructions for playing along" are excellent Corey. I'd really like to get into some night sky photography. Unfortunately the location counts too and being up there is a whole lot better than here. Then there's the timing for Kevin's shot. Don't get a chance for that one every day. Was this during a volunteer week?

03-11-2009, 09:02 AM
Great story :D

a few thoughts:

-to make the moon loom larger relative to the buildings, move father away and use a larger lens. This will make the moon relatively larger than the buildings. The buildings will get smaller with distance but the moon will not (since a few miles makes no difference because it's 300,000? miles away). What about the Baldfaces or Speckled/Caribou Mtns.?

try thet S&T Interactive Sky Chart. It's the best one I've found. Once you know the exact compass point of your view ( ex. the summit from Wildcat platform) then you can see exactly what the sky will look like at that exact point at any time. Using this tool, I learned the exact declination(how high in the sky) of the Boott Spur wall from the floor of Tuckerman Ravine.


Orion just clears it in late January. From this, you can learn exactly what that view will look like at any time with the Interactive Chart.

Just go to your spot, say the top of Wildcat, and see exactly what star appears and sets right behind the buildings and record the star and exact time. Then go back to the start chart and plug in the same time.

RI Swamp Yankee
03-11-2009, 12:39 PM
Fantastic, Thank You Brad :D

03-11-2009, 01:46 PM
Photography used to be so simple before the Internet was around. Point the camera and shoot.

03-11-2009, 03:23 PM
Here's the moon coming up behind the Eiffel Tower tonight.

http://bimmermail.com/eiffel-moon.jpg (http://www.parislive.net/eiffelcam3.jpg)

03-11-2009, 04:51 PM

Hope you had a nice trip to Paris. The picture is nice.

03-11-2009, 09:03 PM

Hope you had a nice trip to Paris. The picture is nice.

These days webcams are the only way I do get to travel. :p

03-12-2009, 06:27 AM
another try at posting the link to the S&T Sky Chart...



03-12-2009, 06:30 AM
another try at posting the link to the S&T Sky Chart...



I tried it in both IE and Chrome with no success.

03-12-2009, 06:45 AM

Scroll down to moon image...Click on image for better view

I shot this in May 2003. This is in Photo Journal from May of 2003. It's from the film days as you can see. I shot this from somewhere on Wildcat Mtn., but I don't remember where. I think it was about halfway up the mountain. Whenever I hike the ski slopes I always stay to the right/south at every trail junction.

So, at some time moon will set directly over the summit. I would guess that from this location it would set over the buildings a few months later because here it sets north of the buildings. The Moon moves south in the summer(opposite of sun, which moves south for winter)

Also, as you requested, you can move around on the slopes to juxtipose moon as desired.


03-12-2009, 06:51 AM
Thanks, Brad...another shot...


03-12-2009, 08:47 AM
Patrick, do you have a subscription and are therefore logged in?

Or they use a cookie and we need to start at the top and you give us the clicks to follow.

03-12-2009, 11:14 AM
Thanks, Brad...another shot...


That's a link to a small gif file that's just a tiny gray square. You can download it and open in in a picture editor. Maybe they do that to keep people from hotlinking?

03-12-2009, 11:19 AM
Stellarium (http://stellarium.sourceforge.net/) is a cool and free app which allows you to see what the sky will look like for any location at any given time. Might help here.


03-12-2009, 01:43 PM

Nice application. With the mountains there in reality it is hard to judge when the moon will go down behind the ridge with this application. But, it will be interesting to work with.

03-12-2009, 08:10 PM
a little late but very nice pictures Brad and Corey
i wish i can take two weeks off and go ride around with Brad and his dog :(

03-12-2009, 09:09 PM
The beauty of that plan is having the flexibility to pick the days for hiking and taking pictures.