Introducing the 2013 Perigee Moon

Words & Photo: Sheldon Reddy

On the beautiful evening of 23 June 2013, a spectacular event unfolded. An event that swings by once a year. An event which; many people fail to notice or even understand. This particular event is that of the 2013 Perigee Moon.

What is a Perigee Moon you may ask? According to Wikipedia, a Perigee moon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. The technical name is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system.


The most recent occurrence was on June 23, 2013, as the closest and largest full moon of the year and the Moon’s closest encounter with Earth for all of 2013. It will not be so close again until August 10, 2014. Supermoons occur about once every 14 full moons in a full moon cycle.


On this evening, stargazers and photographers gathered at several points across Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa at approximately 17h30 (local time) to witness the rise of the supermoon. On this night the moon appeared approximately 14% larger than any other full moon of 2013.


As an engineering student, I get very little time to go out and shoot. I spent the day on campus as usual, studying for exams, which were a week away, however at around 17h00 I set out to the highest building on campus, climbed the fire escape all the way to the top, avoiding security guards and other people in the building. At the top, I was greeted by one of the most spectacular views of the Durban CBD and harbor. I set up my camera on its tripod and tinkered with the settings estimating what would give me the best shot.


What I failed to realise was exactly how fast the moon moves when it rises above the horizon. I was caught in a rut after the moon appeared over the horizon and began to rise. The shutter speed I initially used caused the moon to blur. I scrambled and managed to bump up the ISO and increase the Aperture to help get a fast enough shutter speed. After about a minute or so, I hit the right settings and managed to get some really good shots.


I did a bit of post-processing in Lightroom to help get rid of an irritating haze/mist above the harbour and also to bring out the details in the moon. Lightroom also helped reduce the noise present due to the High ISO used to increase the shutter speed. Photoshop was used very little in this image, only for a boarder and watermark.


The result of the night is this breathtaking composition. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting the 'Supermoon'. Some people ask me why and claim that, "It’s just a moon." My answer to them is, "Have a look through the lens of a camera sometime and you will understand. Any moment in life can be simply called a moment, but when you see it from behind the lens, you live that moment, you turn that moment into an everlasting memory, for those few seconds, you have no worries in the world."
This image is also an achievement for me as it was shot using a Nikon D3200 with 18-55mm kit lens. If you know your cameras you know, this is an entry level DSLR, and boy does it pack a punch.