Photographing the blood moon from the Marin Headlands
The wind had been piercing my puffy coat for three hours straight. From the my perch above the Golden Gate Bridge where spectators normally pass through for their mandatory Bridge-Selfie shots, a handful of moon watchers and camera enthusiasts with a range of equipment spanned the ridge along the Marin Headlands in anticipation of the “Blood Moon”, a total lunar eclipse that was visible in North America on March 16, 2016 where the earth completely blocks the sun except for the rays of light that shim the edges of the world, creating a crimson light shining off the moon. And looking up at the sky at that moment, with the wall of cloud blocking visibility from anything above the top-points of old Goldie, I wondered again why I had departed from the comfort of my couch and wife to literally go “shoot the moon”.
It was my fingers that stopped having any feeling first. I brought just enough to be able to keep my torso warm, but completely neglected the part of my body that I needed most, next to my eyeballs — the things that click the shutter and that hold the camera. I tucked my hands into my jacket arms, and hoped no other extremities would lose feeling as well. I started wondering if I should just walk back down the hill, get in the car, and blast the heater. “Next year, maybe”, I thought.
Then I saw it — my first glimpse of the moon through a miraculous clearing of the clouds.
My hours (and the hours of other faithful moon-observers) of waiting were redeemed. We could all go home without our heads hung in defeat, and have the shots we so eagerly set out for in the first place. Even the biting wind didn’t seem to matter anymore. You could hear the furious snapping of shutters all around Battery Spencer, and saw folks aiming their cameras high and low to get that “perfect angle”. With my 18–55mm kit lens, I wasn’t able to get a proper shot of the full breadth of the gigantic moon with the bridge, but I managed to get a few shots that I was happy with nonetheless: bridge with moon overhead, and crowd of photographers in front of bridge and moon.
The moment lasted for a mere two or three minutes before the clouds again engulfed the view and we were all left again with the question of whether we’d be able to see the moon again or not. And if it was coming back out for an encore, how long would the wait be? Another three hours?
I decided not to wait — my 6am alarm, near-frozen fingers, and exhausted body wouldn’t let me.
The drive back home would take me through some areas that I knew would be clearer (and warmer), however, thanks to Bay Area microclimates, and therefore I had hopes that I’d be able to catch the fabled red moon from some dark side of the road. It turns out, that was exactly the case. I pulled over near an abandoned farm (yes, it was just as creepy as it sounds) and fixed my gaze on the moon just as the earth shimmed past the edges of the sun, and saw it transform from a bright glowing orb to a blood-red behemoth. I didn’t want to miss this moment, so I attached my 200mm to my Canon and began shooting away without a tripod. That, and also wanting to leave the vicinity of the abandoned farm I was standing near prompted me to get my shots quickly, and jump back into the car tout suite.
This resulted in my images being somewhat less focused than what I had originally envisioned, but my night was vindicated still: an adventure taken, a full CF card, and memories captured in the RAW. I wouldn’t change anything — except maybe next year, I’ll bring some gloves along.