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Hawaii Supermoon, 2013

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This past weekend the moon was the closest to the Earth that it will be for all of 2013. At the same time, it was a full moon. That combination of events is called a perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system.

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I guess most people just call it a supermoon. I went out on Saturday and Sunday evening to try to shoot it. The supermoon was the most difficult thing to I’ve ever tried to shoot.

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The location I picked was Kawaikui Beach Park in the Aina Hina area.

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This place is popular among wind surfers.

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A few surfers were out as well catching an evening and full moon surf sesh.

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From this beach park, I had a view across Maunalua Bay to China Walls.

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I have an app on my phone, called The Photographer’s Ephemeris, that shows the directions of the sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset. Using the app I was able to pick a spot where I could see the moon rise over a hill. The hill I was targeting was Koko Head. (The hill with the stairs people hike up is called Koko Crater.)

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I was really hoping to catch the moon rise right behind this little radar or cell phone tower at the top of Koko Head. Because of the cloud cover I wasn’t able to get the shot, but that was the plan.

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The first day I was here, Saturday, I arrived a hour before the moonrise so that I could scope out a few angles. I found this spot under a tree that looked nice. But as the sunset, the sky turned pink and I started to realize I was totally facing the wrong direction.

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I turned around and looked West and found out that I was missing one incredible sunset. The sky was bright red. I packed up my gear and ran down to try to get a shot. But by the time I was set up my camera, the moment had passed. This evening was not turning out to be very unreal.

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I returned to my spot under the tree and waited for the moon to rise. The clouds had foiled my plan for the night. Small cracks in the clouds showed me where the moon was and teased me. I also noticed that my spot under the tree wasn’t going to work for any long exposure photography. The wind was blowing hard and it made the leaves all blurry.

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Frustrated, I packed up to leave and as I was walking to my car, I made a crucial mistake. I turned around to see if the moon was showing. As it turned out, a small gap in the clouds had formed and the moon was partially in view. Also, more gaps appeared to be forming. So, I set up my camera and tripod again and decided to wait for a shot. This misstep cost me another hour of my time as I waited and waited for a clear shot of the moon which never presented itself.

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The clouds teased me oh so much. You could see just how bright the moon was behind them. It was like, crazy bright. But it was long past dinner time and I had to go home.

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The great thing about Hawaii (well, Oahu) is that you can get to scenic spots very easily. Kawaikui Beach Park is only a 15 minute drive from my apartment. I returned the next day, Sunday, to see if I’d get lucky and see the moon. The low clouds did not have me optimistic.

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At 7:50pm, the moon started to rise. The view was crazy. The moon was so bright you could see a golden hue at the horizon and the blue of the sky. But alas, clouds. I can only imagine how this must look on a clear night.

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But then, a break. A tiny break in the clouds emerged. The dense fog turned into a thin veil for just a moment and I was able to see the moon rising over Koko Head. This was not the shot I was looking for but at this point, it was good enough. And in person, the view was unreal. A camera (at least not my camera) cannot reproduce what this looks like in real life.

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If only the clouds had separated earlier, I could have seen the moon cresting over the top of Koko Head.

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But at the end of the day, we were very lucky to have been able to see this sight. A 15-minute drive took us to an empty beach park where we had a view of the supermoon rising over the crater that forms Hanauma Bay while it reflects over the ocean. It was a slightly better than watching two tall ambiguously gay Canadian twins remodel homes on HGTV (which is what I probably would’ve been watching had I not ventured out to check out the moon).

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Lucky we live in Hawaii.

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This story was last modified on June 25, 2013. (Originally published in June 2013.)

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