Has anyone seen the moon?

The moon can be a powerful photographic element. It can add weight and balance to just about any scene. The problem is figuring our exactly where it’s going to be. I often talk about how important is is to be properly prepared when out photographing but I have to admit that I’m often a “seat of the pants” type of guy.


Several years ago I first met Gary Hart during a weekend workshop. One of the goals was to shoot the rising moon over [wikipop]Half Dome[/wikipop]. We all followed to one of his “secret” locations because he had already done the homework and knew where the moon was going to rise. We watched and photographed as the sun went down and then we waited, laughed and talked about the day. After a few minutes someone yelled out: “Is that the moon?” We all spun around and the sound of our talking was replaced by a flurry of shutter clicks. He knew where the moon was going to be and where to place us in order to get the shot. He’s since taught me his technique of retrieving and plotting the moon’s coordinates but the caveat is that you need to do that work ahead of time.

Many of the trips that I make to Yosemite are on fairly short notice.  I often don’t have time or simply forget to check the position of the moon before leaving town. Using my [wikipop]iPhone[/wikipop] I am able to connect to the Internet and download coordinates but sometimes cell reception in Yosemite can be less than reliable. A month or two ago I discovered Focalware in the iTunes App Store.


Focalware is the best $9.99 that I’ve ever spent.  It’s an iPhone application that calculates the time and position of the sun and moon from the palm of your hand. Best of all it doesn’t require an active cellular data connection. You can enter a location or use the phone’s built-in GPS to determine your location.  Set the date and time and  it gives you a table for altitude and azimuth of both Sun and Moon. All you need is a compass or map to see where the moon will be.  The new iPhone 3GS, due out this week, even has the compass built right into the device. You can even save locations to a list to use later, when you have the forethought to check before you leave town.

If you’re a nature photographer that has been wondering if the iPhone is a good idea, this should help swing the vote.


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