Seeking the Supermoon Eclipse

Like people everywhere in the city, in fact, across the world, I went looking for the supermoon eclipse last evening. The moon was going to rise, red and already eclipsed, around 7 p.m. – a “blood moon.”  Totality would be7.47 p.m.

I thought the best place to watch would be Twin Peaks, and at 6.45 pm, that’s where I headed from the Portola Avenue side. But I got there to find a line of cars jammed all the way up Twin Peaks Boulevard. I did a U-turn, carefully avoiding a skunk. (It got safely across the road. All the cars in both directions waited for it.)

Time to go to Plan B: leave my car at home, and walk up to Tank Hill.

pics31 001 tank hill 7.35 pmClearly, a lot of people had the same thought. I’d never seen it so crowded, not on the 4th of July, not during the Blue Angels performance. Many had come much better prepared than I, with telephoto lenses as long as my forearm, rugs, chairs, and reflective clothing.

pics31 005 tank hill 7.37 pmWe were all a little worried. The fog was prowling around the western side of the city, and knowing San Francisco, could blow in any minute.

pics31 008 fog rolling in from the west 7.38 pmEveryone watched the eastern sky intently. “Did we get the wrong night,” I heard someone joke. “Maybe we should have read the science pages instead of the news.”

I was unsure how much we’d actually see, whether the haze low on the horizon would turn into a vision-blocking fog.

Waiting for the supermoon eclipse 7.39 pmSomeone raised a shout, and everyone looked for the moon. No sign of it. “Just a bunch of people trying to get a buzz going,” commented one of the would-be spectators.

Quite suddenly at 7.47 p.m. there it was, a dull red disk visible through the trees. Just in time for the peak of the totality.

supermoon eclipse 7.47 pmPeople gazed at it. Some took pictures, including me.

supermoon eclipse 7.51 pm

Next to me, a man holding a dog said, “I hope you have a telephoto on that.” I didn’t, but I would get some pictures anyway, I said. They won’t be great, not like the real photographers photos, but they’ll record the event. We chatted briefly about eclipses past.

watching the supermoon eclipseThe crowd thinned out. Parents with small children left quickly. The kids had seen the moon, understood the color was different, and they were ready to play or go. So did a lot of people who’d driven in. They wanted to leave before more traffic jams started up.

still watching supermoon eclipseHere’s how it looked at one minute past 8 p.m. (still through the trees).

supermoon eclipse 8.01 pmI left, too, a little later. From the foot of the Tank Hill steps, I got a clear view of the moon. This was a picture at 8.22 pm.

eclipsed supermoon 8.22 pmAn hour later, I went for a walk. The fog had started blowing in, but the moon was visible. It looked like a traditional eclipse now, a crescent that could be mistaken for a waning moon.

And even later than that, the eclipse was over and the fog was crawling over Twin Peaks.

fog over twin peaks 27 sept 2015It was beginning to drift down to the Bay.

fog by the bay sept 27 2015Overhead, the full supermoon was back to normal.

full supermoon 11.55 sept 27 2015

This is a Picture. Really.

Years ago, I saw a reproduction of a painting: The Kanchenjunga Hidden By Mist. It was a piece of truly minimalist art, a pure pearly-white canvas with not even a hint of the iconic mountain visible through it. Readers of this article may think I’m emulating that painting, only in black, not white, and as a photograph not a painting.

I hope I’m doing better than that, if only marginally. In case you miss them, I’d like to point out the red dots at the bottom left, and the white crescent at the top right.

What this is (really!), is the lunar eclipse over Sutro Tower. It was taken at 11.23 p.m. on Dec 20, 2010.

Peekaboo with the Lunar Eclipse

No one expected the lunar eclipse to be visible, even though it was an important one. It was a total lunar eclipse on the night of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The forecast was for clouds and rain.

Miraculously at 9.30 or so the clouds broke. The portents were good as the full moon shone through the eucalyptus onto Forest Knolls.

Full moon, December 21 2010

11.24 p.m

So we waited… maybe this would be an eclipse we actually could see! (I missed the last one, a partial, because San Francisco was fogged in.) By 11.30 p.m., the eclipse was well under way, and it was still clear. It was exciting. I kept switching between my camera and my binoculars. Of course  I knew full well the camera doesn’t have what it takes for good moon photographs, but I couldn’t resist documenting the moment. And the binocs are like a mini-telescope — I could see the lunar craters, I could see the shadow on its surface.

And then the clouds came back. By the time of the totality, our place was blanketed. We could see nothing of the moon.

I waited a while, then grew impatient. We jumped in the car, and drove in the direction of the clearest sky. I thought perhaps we’d have some luck near the ocean.

By the time we got to the bottom of Clarendon Avenue, the moon was clearly visible, just past the totality. A white rim shone over a duller yellow disk.

21st December, 1.29 a.m.

Photographing it was a problem. A thin drizzle kept blotching my lens with rainwater, since I was pointing my camera straight up.  I tried from inside the car, which gave a somewhat better result, but multiple images (perhaps from the glass through which I was shooting, perhaps from a movement of the camera).

Back in Forest Knolls, I found a good spot to moon-watch for a while, and took a bunch of photos anyway. It was nearly 2 a.m. when I called it a night. The clouds were taking over again. Still, it was a gift: The Unanticipated Eclipse.