Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Story Behind my Supermoon shot: The Viral Image

OK …. now it is time to share the real story and effort behind my most viral photo so far ….. "Supermoon".

Like any other day i also got to learn last month from Facebook & several other resources that on Nov 14th its going to be a biggest Supermoon in last 70 years or so going to happen and its related attributes was also shared on NASA and different websites. Facebook was the most discussed media for such news frankly speaking. Since last month i was literally in thought day and night how to take photo of the Supermoon which can stand out among the millions of others. i was literally searching & looking the places and calculating the travel time …. foreground elements and its combination ….. and other related logistics. But the most difficult part was for me to select the location and quite frankly i was not happy as i have not many options in the list because Supermoon was happening during the weekdays which is my working day (not weekend) 

Fast forward Nov 12th, Saturday, i short listed 2 locations. One was in Sharjah & other was Burj Khalifa to shoot form Palm Jumeirah. On Nov 12th i went to my desire location in Palm Jumeirah and start scouting the point. The moon rise on that day @ 4pm exactly. 

And this was the shot i had. 

I had to make above image B&W to bring out the details of the moon because it was 4:30pm in the broad day light. So yes i got some idea what to do and what not to do. Then the big day came Nov 14th. I went to the location on Palm Jumeirah around 5pm as the moonrise was at 5:35pm local UAE timing.

While i was driving to the desire location i was having this feeling that there will be many people on the location ….. and this it turned out to be true. 

Now it was too late for me to change or select my location. There is a saying in my local language ….. "Marta Kiya Na Karta" (means have to stick with the only available option). Now the only thing was making tense is to get the "different" shot among all these photographers standing in above image as all of them are having long lenses. Not to mentioned some of my friends who literally open challenged me on Facebook to do some thing different. 

Now the biggest concern for me is to choose the right gear for the shot. Now it may sound strange to many but gears depends on what kind of shoot you like to do. If you wanna do only Moonrise then you need the longest lens u have and put with crop body to get more reach and shot the moon. If you want to add some foreground element then you need zoom lens like 70-200mm which probably work better with Full Frame because you need to accommodate more frame and foreground elements into the frame. I put 70-200mm f/2.8 on a full frame body and put it on making time lapse video which i will be releasing soon. Then coming to the biggest question …. what camera and lens do i have to choose to shoot the moonrise. As per my limited experience, i decided to go with Nikon D500 & Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG APO Sports lens. Why ???? ….. because of the 2 reasons. 

1- Nikon D500 which is a crop body with 20MP sensor and supports higher ISO upto 51,200 along with 10 FPS which means that in case if i need to go in burst mode to shoot some birds or boats passing in front of the sea, i will have more chances to get the desire frame. And another major reason to go with D500 is ….. it provides more Mega Pixel per square mille meter then mighty D810 36MP sensor which means i will have more higher resolution image then D810 even if i crop the image. Another reason is the incredible Dynamic Range of the D500 which i already checked. Last reason is the amazing ISO performance of the D500 which perform like a full frame under some scenarios.  

2- Nikon f/2.8 lenses are very expensive at higher focal length. Some how i got a great deal of Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG APO Sports lens and i decided to use it because of the flexibility of the zoom. And it gives me f/2.8 which will help me in low light when the moon rises and sunsets. 

So i used the above mentioned gears and waited for the moon and moon start getting visible around 5:40~5:45pm ….. I was among those who sighted it first and then there was non stop action and clicks by many photographers. I tried many composition by zooming in & out …. included the moon with foreground and without ….. some frames of moon with Burj Al Arab hotel ….. but every body was getting the similar frames. Another issue was to get the right exposure of the moon with the foreground elements which almost all photographers encountered. If we exposure the moon, everything goes dark. if we expose the foreground then moon get over expose. 

I saw below image long time back which of course is composite. I don't know who's image is this else i would have take the permission to utilize it in my blog for the reference. My intention is to take some thing like this …… BUT ….. without any Photoshop tricks or doing composites. 


Frankly speaking …. i have lost many chances to get cool frames because i don't have the camera with me some times ….. and i also don't want to do composite because my photography foundation is build on pure photography skill set. I have learn photography from people who spends many many $$$$ to get the desire exposure right from the camera rather then digitally manipulated in post process using Photoshop. I consider and call all photo shoppers who do composites as an "Digital Artist" rather then photographer …. And both are doing great jobs BTW. 

My goal was to get some thing like above image but without Photoshop. When Supermoon was announced, at the back of my head i was thinking to try this kind of image. While every body was clicking when the moon rise ….. i was trying different frames at different zoom length and at different exposure bias. My camera was set on Manual mode. ISO was Auto. i set the aperture f/2.8 because i need to have maximum light so i can lower down my ISO as much as i can. I set the shutter speed at 1/60 of sec. Put the camera on MONOPOD so i can quickly change the position if required which exactly happened. If i would have tripod then i probably not easily move around to get my desire angle. 

While people was clicking and move left and right ….. I was also moving left and right but at one point i start moving up & down at the right side wall of the below image. I was the only one who was standing at the wall clicking. When i was standing on the wall with Monopod, i really found some interesting angle which was not possible by standing on the ground. That outer portion of the hotel in Burj Al Arab was only visible as a silhouette with moon behind when i was standing on the wall because moon was constantly rising in the form of a arc and positioning the famous Burj Al Arab hotel and with rising moon requires me to go left-right-up & down.   

As i got the right angle by stating on the wall, now the most difficult part is to get the right exposure. I was in Matrix metering the hotel building. Of course result was over expose the moon. To bring down the moon exposure I quickly dialed -1EV exposure compensation to get some details of the moon as i knew that i can recover the hotel details in post processing ….. thanks to the amazing Dynamic Range of the Nikon D500g. But Moon was still very bright. Then i had to dialed -2EV exposure compensation which gave sufficient moon details. Ones i saw that i an work with this image, i quickly packed my stuff and went home. At home, in post processing. i quickly looked all images and realized that many frames are useless because of the over expose moon ….. of course they will be because i want all right from the camera with no composite ….. right :) ….. then i started working on the under expose images and i selected this image of mine. Did all post processing and shadow recovering in Lightroom CC and final signature & hotel building sharpening in Photoshop only. You can see below the original image right from the camera and how i able to recover details in post processing …. All thanks to the amazing sensor & SNR firmware of the Nikon Flagship DX body D500. 

And thats how i made my most viral photo yet ….. is this is the best photo of mine? …… Nope ….. My best is yet to come :) 

The reason i am writing this experience and sharing with you all is to emphasize only one thing ….. HARD WORK ….. Hard work never gets wasted no matter what. I waited for this kind of shot for a very very long time and finally i did it without doing composite. People do composite of airplane silhouette with moon ….. i literally tried for 3 long years for such kind of shot and finally did it …. not ones but twice. So yes …. if you really work hard and consistent in your efforts …. for damn sure you will get your desire shot without the help of composite or Photoshop ….. But again …. thats only thought. You are free to do any thing you like but then don't feel angry if some one put their finger on your image and say "it is photoshop" ….. "yeah to Photoshop hay" ….. You will get the results for what you do …. it is that simple. And yes .... this is my most calculated shot yet.

I wish you guys happy learning.