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How I made "Moonset over Detroit"

Published April 10th, 2012

This is a shot I have been working on for over 5 years. Honestly, 5 years. It seems extraordinary, but the fact is that Detroit is surrounded by both a river and a foreign country on about 60% of its border. Getting a moon shot like this is terribly rare because the southern and much of the eastern border is inaccessible for photography. Therefore, the planning had to be thorough and incredibly accurate.

The moon sets in the western sky, give or take 25 degrees, and the proper angle to get it from a very narrow eastern shoreline only happens maybe twice a year -- so, the weather has to be perfect and the time of day is critical.

Now, the azimuth is one thing; the altitude of the angle is another thing altogether. 4 degrees above horizon is about the proper angle to get the moon just above the buildings as I did. Therefore, the moon needs to be at 258 degrees azimuth, 4 degrees above horizon, at dawn when the sun is peeking above the horizon to light the moon a bright yellow. Easy!

A great app to get the correct info is LightTrac, available for the iPhone and iPad. Brilliant app, worth every penny. Also, the charts available through the US Navy's web-based calculations engine for sun & moon azimuth is invaluable.

I've never seen a moon pic with Detroit's skyline like this, which makes this shot extra rare. I must admit, I love doing these types of shots... but I love sharing it just as much. Hope you enjoyed it.

Moonset over Detroit III

A bit lower...

More Moonset shots in Detroit

  • April 7th, 2012
  • 340mm / f/10 / 1/25 sec

Moonset/Sunrise in Detroit

The simultaneous sunrise & full moonset in Detroit, Michigan, an occurrence that only happens once a year at an angle that can be photographed from land along the Detroit River.

Just to be clear, I did NOT change the color from the RAW file. This is honestly how it looked.

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