The “Slaughter Moon!”

Moon and old fort
Moon rise over “Slaughter Bay” in St. Augustine Florida.

In the almost 30 years I’ve lived in Florida, my favorite place to visit is still St. Augustine. I first visited as a child of 9 or 10 while on a family vacation from my native Kentucky, and the place has left an everlasting mark on me. One of my favorite things to do is photography here, and I always try to do a little nightscape work if we are staying overnight. The Saturday a week before Halloween was a great night for this.

I planned the Moon rise time using TheSky astronomy software and an iPhone app called PhotoPills. I recently picked up a 1.4 tele-extender used from a friend and was really wanting to try one of those Moon images you see where the photographer is a good distance from some famous landmark and catches the Moon coming up behind it. I had wanted to use the St. Augustine lighthouse, but the Fort seemed a safer venue, and indeed it was. I was surround by MOBS of people well after dark. It was now a week away from Halloween and the walking ghost tours business was booming. I’d setup in a lonely location, and then there’d be a huge crowd around me in no time as I had inadvertently picked a station on someone’s walking tour! This happened three times. Really.

People were friendly though, and many took note and were respectful of my gear and obvious pains I was going through to get this shot. Most pulled out their cell phones and took a few pictures themselves as the Moon came up behind the old fort (Castillo de San Marcos National Monument). I hadn’t planned it this way, but the clouds shrouding the Moon just really set the atmosphere for a spooky photo. They really were this red and orange low on the horizon, and I realized only afterwards that I had captured this directly over the “Matanzas Bay”, which means “Slaughter Bay” in Spanish. There is a bloody story behind this name that I’ll leave to you to research on your next trip to St. Augustine!

Tech stuff — This was two exposures on a tripod layered together with Photoshop. They were seconds apart at ISO 3200, with the only changes in settings being focus and exposure time. The fort exposure is 3.2 seconds and you can see how well-lit it was from the surrounding lights. The Moon however was much brighter and was taken with a 1/80th second exposure. The focal ratio for both was also f/8. The camera was a Canon EOS Ra, the lens a Canon 300mm F/4 L lens, and the Mark II 1.4 Canon tele-extender. I used the camera’s self-timer to avoid camera shake. Pro tip: Always remove your UV/IR filter that protects your expensive lenses when doing nightscapes!

 

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