Full moon rising over Wellington

July 22, 2013 • 4:49 am

You haven’t appreciated the Moon until you’ve seen this short but absolutely stunning video sent to me by reader Stan. It’s by Mark Gee on Vimeo, and is a single unmanipulated take. Gee gives the details below. And be sure to watch it on the biggest screen you can.

Full Moon Silhouettes is a real time video of the moon rising over the Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand. People had gathered up there this night to get the best view possible of the moon rising. I captured the video from 2.1 km away on the other side of the city. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to photograph for a long time now, and a lot of planning and failed attempts had taken place. Finally, during moon rise on the 28th January 2013, everything fell into place and I got my footage.

The video is as it came off the memory card and there has been no manipulation whatsoever. Technically it was quite a challenge to get the final result. I shot it on a Canon ID MkIV in video mode with a Canon EF 500mm f/4L and a Canon 2x extender II, giving me the equivalent focal length of 1300mm.

Music – Tenderness by Dan Phillipson premiumbeat.com/royalty_free_music/songs/tenderness

For photography/video buffs, Gee gives all the technical details at this site.

Stan added these remarks:

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this video – from the magnitude of the visuals, to the intimate stories playing out with the people, to the sheer humbling nature of seeing the awe-inspiring reality of this giant rock in the sky that we so often don’t stop to appreciate.

One thing I encourage you to do is watch this on the biggest screen you have.

The little ripples on the edge of the moon are due to density bubbles in the atmosphere, and we’re looking through a lot of it at this low elevation angle. You’ll notice that the silhouettes of the people are pretty sharp, since there is a lot less atmosphere from the camera to them than it is from the camera out to the moon.

If you’re a Kiwi, get yourself to the Mount Victoria Lookout; and if you’ve been there to watch this spectacle, weigh in below (and I’m jealous).

46 thoughts on “Full moon rising over Wellington

  1. As Stan says, the interaction between the silouhettes really adds nicely to the atmosphere and invites the viewer to think about what the dynamic is.
    What I also like about the perspective is that it looks “wrong” because the moon is much bigger in comparison to other objects than usual, and I have to keep telling myself that what I see is not the same that these people see. Ironically, the view shown in this video is just as “correct” as the usual every-day one with a tiny moon.

    The only thing I find annoying is the music, the usual generic piano plus “strings” that attempt to add McEmotions, and thus to me are the equivalent of pouring ketchup over a three star meal.

    1. I guess we can blame the camera for the choice of soundtrack since “The video is as it came off the memory card and there has been no manipulation whatsoever.”

  2. Ironic timing, since Wellington just had an earthquake. Fortunately, though it was (IIRC) half a magnitude bigger than the one that caused so much death and destruction in Christchurch, it was (unlike Chch) at a more reasonable depth and distance, so just caused some relatively moderate property damage.

    Actually, it was really Seddon’s earthquake, Seddon being a small town in South Island, Wellington the nearest big city. (The Las Vegas News reporter who announced the quake had been felt all the way from Seddon, Victoria to Napier, West Australia, 3300km away, hopefully now knows not take the first name he finds on Googlemaps; but he really should have smelt a rat at a 6.5 quake being felt 3300km away…)

    Awesome video, by the way, and I felt the musical accompaniment was entirely appropriate.

    1. Indeed – Napier, New Zealand is my home town, and is on the east coast of the North Island – about 315 km North of Wellington.

    2. And a suburb 7km west of Melbourne, 20km west of the epicentre, being more worthy of mention than Melbourne itself, presumably 13km from it.

    3. It was not only the depth and distance that saved us from worse, but the structure: Christchurch was built on a swamp (and the building that suffered worst at the confluence of two former rivers, though its construction was also substandard) and the ground liquified – in fact water poured up and streets were flooded.

      Wellington’s worst damage was on the reclaimed flat that makes up much of the CBD. A weaker earthquake did much worse damage in China this morning, probably because the houses were not constructed to resist it. Wellington, like San Francisco, has long been expecting a Big One. The Christchurch earthquakes revealed an undiscovered fault line, and may even have made a new one.

  3. Beautiful. When you see things like this, it’s little wonder our ancestors living in a pre-scientific era naively exclaimed things like “Lift up your eyes and see who created these,” and “How great are your creations, Yahweh.”

  4. Grr. Don’t have streaming bandwidth, and thus can’t view Vimeo. Youtube lets those of us who live out of town download.

    1. Try this.

      (right click on the HD vid link when it comes up and save the resulting mp4 where you want.)

      I just googled “download vimeo” and it got me to that site, and now have another tool in the arsenal. Seems to work for me in the US.

  5. The first thing I noticed is that the moon is upside down – crater Tycho is at the top, not the bottom! Then it dawned on me that this was shot in New Zealand and I was being northern-hemisphere centric.

    It is an absolutely sensational video.

    1. Orion is upside down when you’re their which is amusing for me having lived seeing his shoulders at the top in the northern hemisphere.

    2. I was flying from Sydney to Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago and I saw the ‘bottom half’ of the moon – I assumed it was a full moon and the top half was cut off by a layer of cloud. But this persisted for half an hour. This puzzled me for weeks, trying to figure out what high cloud formation could be so precisely shaped as to ‘keep up’ with an A340’s track.

      I finally realised we had been near the equator and the half-moon must split horizontally in that region. Here in NZ, and in e.g. USA or UK, the half-moon must ‘split’ at around 45 degrees, but since this is only obvious near the horizon, not when we’re looking up at an angle, and since conventional diagrams of the half-moon always depict it split vertically, I guess we tend to subconsciously assume the split must always be vertical. At least I do.

      1. At quarter phase, the moon’s terminator (shadow line) is more or less perpendicular to its direction of motion across the sky. At latitude 45 south, the moon rises at a 45 degree angle from lower right to upper left (as in this video), so the terminator runs the other way (upper right to lower left). When it’s at zenith, crossing the meridian, the terminator appears vertical because the moon is moving right to left across your line of sight as you look north at it. When it sets again, it’s back to 45 degrees, but on the opposite diagonal.

        Similar considerations apply at the equator, except that now the moon rises and sets vertically. So in its third-quarter phase, the terminator is horizontal at moonrise, with the lower (trailing) half lit. At the zenith, the terminator is aligned on a north-south axis, if you want to call that “vertical”. As it sets, the terminator is again horizontal, but now the trailing, lit half is on top. Only it’s not the moon that has flipped; it’s you, as you turned 180 degrees to follow it across the sky.

        1. Well, at zenith, since you’re looking straight up, ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ have no meaning since it all depends which way you’re standing (and north and south is not self-evident whereas ‘up’ and ‘down’ are).

          All this is quite easy to follow once you think about it the right way; the reason it puzzled me so much is because (not living near the equator) I’ve never seen the moon split horizontally before.

  6. Great video! Normally I curse atmospheric turbulence when I’m trying to look at/photograph with my telescope but here it adds to the video!

    1. Yes now I want to try something like that but I’d have to go somewhere and equipment is heavy and I am weak/lazy.

      1. You’ve got a 300 f/4 and a 7D, right? That’s walkabout gear. Without a teleconverter you won’t fill the frame with the Moon the way Mark did, but you can get more of the landscape in the picture, at the cost of less compression of the foreground.


        1. Yeah it’s pretty good but pretty much the limit for me I think. I’d be able to go bigger with a rifle stock because then it’s more stable.

  7. Lovely video. I may be being dim here but why is it suggested that you need to “get yourself to the Mount Victoria Lookout” to see this spectacle? I appreciate that it may not be easy to find a viewpoint at the right distance from a group of people watching the moon rise to get exactly the shot Mark got, but the people depicted in the film (who are the ones I presume we are being exhorted to join) are just watching a moon-rise which can be done in lots of places – or am I missing something?

    1. Correct, though Mount Victoria (600 feet high) does offer a great viewpoint over the suburbs and the Wellington harbour entrance, and I guess the people on Mt Victoria could watch the moon rise over the Rimutaka ranges (2-3000′) on the east side of the harbour.

      But I agree the photographer’s carefully chosen viewpoint is what makes the video.

  8. What’s the big deal? It’s only the moon, which we see all the time. It just appears big in this picture because of the contrast with the people. If we were actually there, it would just be another full moon rise.

      1. +1 for the point, mentioning Baryshnikov (because he is a fabulous dancer) and also for making me remember how he looked in tights. 🙂

    1. Well the video evoked reactions in me that are probably the precise equivalent of the emotional experiences that believers take to be evidence of the “divine.” In the ancient craters pockmarking the moon and its ceaseless pattern of motion relative to the earth, I see the immensity of time and space and the pervasiveness of the physical forces that work without purpose and without heed to our puny existence. This evokes awe. But an equal measure of awe is evoked by the silhouettes of the bipedal forms of the social creatures that patrol that mountaintop for the sole purpose of appreciating the moon, by the artistry of the photography and the technology through which it is shared with the world, and by the evolutionary and cultural processes that led to an ability to understand and manipulate the world to a degree unmatched by any other species.

    1. The original 500 f/4 weighs about the same 8.5 pounds as the new 400 f/2.8. It’s basically at the limit for something you can hand-hold. Not that you’d do a lot of hand-holding with it, but it’s a lens that you can put on a Black Rapid shoulder strap and go for a walk looking for birds.

      If you’re going to be doing more shooting than walking, you’ll want a monopod. And, of course, a tripod if you’re not going to be moving about.

      But not many ballheads can support a Great White Lens, so a tripod really means a gimbal head like the Wimberley. But the good thing about a good gimbal head is that, once you’ve got the lens balanced, you can effortlessly point the camera in any direction with just a finger, and it’ll stay pointing in that same direction without you having to tighten any clamps.


      1. Yes, I have a nice ball head on my Manfrotto & I picked the video one because I find the levers easy to use. I have a different ball head for the monopod but I don’t like it as much as I find the twisty nobs hard to deal with.

        I would like a set up that is like a rifle stock that basically hooks up the depression of the shutter to a trigger. It would be very stable and I think they used to be common but I can’t find anything like it now.

        1. Hmmm…I think I might have seen a picture of what you’re describing, but I’m sure I’ve never seen anything like that in person or noticed it for sale.

          …but…well, that’s basically how I hold the camera, especially with long lenses: left hand, palm up, thumb forward, cradling the lens at its center of balance; right hand on the camera, not supporting anything and just operating the controls.

          What you might look for is a DSLR video rig, one of those inspired by the Steadicam. I don’t have any experience with them, but that should move the weight from your arms to your hips and / or shoulders.

          Or, you could always hire a teenager to haul your gear and hand it to you when you see a shot — a photographic caddy / sherpa / whatever.


  9. Beautiful video and I loved the music too. Maybe, considering the appalling music so often attached to videos, my standards aren’t high but I thought it was very appropriate.

  10. The stationary human-like figure to the far right is a pou whenua or landmark recently erected to signify the relationship between the Māori and the land. (The Te Ati Awa have been here since about 1822, and were promised 10th of the city when it was being subdivided. For a long time they were diddled of their share, and the pou are tokens of the ongoing reparations.)

    Here is a daytime shot looking the other way. The video would have been taken from the hills opposite. The green strip is a Town Belt girdling the city, where building is in theory forbidden. The circular park is Basin Reserve, so called because until 1855 it was intended as a harbour basin, but the land rose in an earthquake that pretty much flattened the then small town.

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