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Filming the Super Moon – Getting the shot 2nd January 2018

Filming the Super Moon – Getting the shot

We launched our new film over the weekend and have been super pleased with the response. It has had over 30,000 views on Facebook in 3 days which is fantastic. The film opens with a skier silhouetted against a super moon and the shot took a bit of planning so I thought I would talk you through it.

The shot has existed in my mind for almost a year now. I have a little sketchpad that I draw ideas in and then I try to figure out how I can bring them onto the screen and this was one of those.

A supermoon is about 15% bigger than a standard full moon and I knew that was what I needed to get the effect that I was looking for. A quick Google search helped me to establish when my options were and I plumped for Sunday 3rd December. The previous super moons of the year had not been visible wherever I had happened to be, the weather had just not been favourable.

I did some experimental shoots at home to establish the focal lengths of the lens that I would require and to play around with exposure and focus. On the day of the shoot I knew that things would happen quickly and I needed to know exactly what I was doing.

I ordered a new lens for the shoot, plumping for the Sigma 150-600mm telephoto lens and using it on my Sony A7sii. By filming in 1080p and cropping the sensor I was able to effectively increase the crop so that the moon would fill the frame and get the effect that I was after.

I arrived in Tignes in the French Alps for a week of skiing on Saturday the 2nd December. I used that evening and the following day to recce locations and formulate a plan. Moon Rise on that day was at 17:12 and sunset at 16:49 so I knew that I would be able to get the shot at a nicely sociable hour – no waiting until the early hours of the morning to get the moon where I wanted it. I persuaded my friend Dave to catch the last lift up the mountain with me and we skinned to a small summit that I had found earlier that day. I got Dave into position and then went to find my own spot for the camera and tripod.

Dave in position as the sun sets. We had a wait of about 90 minutes to get the shot in temperatures of -10c – he’s a good friend!

I used the “TPE” App (The Photographers Emeris) to calculate where the moon was going to rise and therefore where I needed to be stood to frame the shot as per my sketch. The ski patrol seemed a little concerned that we would be descending in the dark but not concerned enough to skin over to us and move us on – I am sure they have had worse!

We set up under perfectly clear skies and I dared to believe that maybe this was going to work out. As the sunset and the sky turned a beautiful violet a bank of cloud started to form just where the moon was scheduled to make its appearance – aargh! Clearly there was nothing I could do but keep my fingers crossed. Dave had his legs crossed too but we had been there sometime by then.

As the moon poked its head up above the mountain ridge you see in the background above I realised that the app was slightly out and I was stood in the wrong place. A 150m dash through deep snow had me breathing heavily but I was now in the right place and I started rolling. Judging exposure was hard, I wanted to capture the surface detail of the moon but if I did that I lost the foreground shape of the mountain. On top of that as soon as I focused on the skier I lost the detail on the moon. As ever a compromise was found and I was blown away by the speed at which everything was happening. I had about 90 seconds and then the moon was pulling up and away from Dave. I whooped and hollered, Dave whooped and hollered (probably because he could now move!) and we skied down to town – giggling like schoolchildren as we skied under the super moon, no need for head torches. The moonlit descent was ace – neither of us had skied in the dark like that before – plus we had got the shot!

 

Rob Johnson

I am a film maker, drone pilot, climber, mountaineer and photographer based in the mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales.

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