The Agony and the Ecstasy... of being a Professional Photographer that is.

September 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

A Short Personal Story...

Did you see the amazing super blood moon/eclipse the other night? If not, you undoubtedly saw the pictures posted all over social media. I knew it was happening, but I had already scheduled a family portrait session and new client consult during that time, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to shoot it.

As the day went on, I couldn't stop thinking about how photographing the moon has been on my list of things to try for a very long time. The closer it got to the big event, the more anxious I became. This is the fight that goes on inside the head of a pro photographer. Do I drop everything to get the shot, or do I let the opportunity go?

I finished my portrait session in Oakland and began the drive to my consult in Marin. Once I crossed the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, I could see people standing around with their iPhones and iPads pointed up to the sky behind me. I knew they were trying to photograph the moon, but I couldn't see it.

Then it happened - I turned onto a dark road high above the bay, and suddenly the view opened up to a wide open clear sky with the huge blood red super moon hanging over the water right in front of me! The words that spewed out of my mouth... you don't want to know. There I was with one of the best views in the San Francisco Bay Area of this once-in-a-lifetime event. I wanted to stop SO badly! Then I remembered... I had a client appointment to get to AND I had no tripod with me. Even if I wanted to photograph the moon, I couldn't.


Another Opportunity

The next night, I was blow-drying my daughter's hair when she said, "Mom, look at the moon! Why don't you take a picture?" Right outside my window was the coolest full moon illuminating a sea of clouds in a warm glow. That little fight inside my head began all over again. It was 10:30pm on a school night. I needed to get my daughter to go to bed. But how could I pass up another opportunity right outside my door?

My daughter rarely asks me to photograph anything when I'm with her. She hates it when we go somewhere together and I have to stop every so often to take a picture. And she knows it's never just one picture. I linger to work the scene until I get what I want. That night however, she actually encouraged me to take some shots of this amazing skyscape, so I grabbed my gear and went for it. This is the result...

Full-Moon-in-the-CloudsFull-Moon-in-the-CloudsPhotography of a bright full moon illuminating the clouds surrounding it, casting a warm glow. Photographed in San Ramon, CA by Cheryl Bigman Photography.


Worth it? Absolutely! I think my daughter was as amazed as I was by how clearly we could see the details in the moon. I can't think of anything better than the feeling of photographing something I've never tried before, and learning from it. That's what fills my cup. That's what ignites my passion for photography over and over again.


For all you photography enthusiasts, here is how I got the shot...

Gear: Canon 5DMarkIII, 100-400L IS II, Gitzo Tripod

This is actually two shots of the same scene combined in Photoshop. One is exposed for the moon, and the other is exposed for the clouds. Because the moon was so bright, there was no way to get both the clouds and the moon exposed correctly in the same shot. The clouds were also moving fairly quickly across the scene, but I decided to show some motion blur as I thought it would add a more artistic feel to the shot. Here are my settings:

Moon Exposure: ISO 100, f/5.0, 1/320, 214mm, manual mode

Clouds Exposure: ISO 250, f/5.0, 1/5, 214mm, manual mode

In order to get the moon tack sharp, I used Live View mode and zoomed in 10X on the back of the camera. I then focused manually. It was literally like looking through a telescope!


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