The moon has always fascinated the man, who showed his admiration through music, poetry, drawings, until one day, Edward “Buzz” Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong landed there, an achievement that was marked in history and forever changed our perspective. One thing is certain: humanity has always kept an eye on the moon. In fact, our initial conception of a month was directly dependent on the moon’s cycle, and many languages reflect this (i.e. moon-month).
The moon is one of the favorite themes of landscape photographer Zach Cooley, and most of the time, he tries to get a shot of the full moon, if possible. Some people say that his photos are “fake” and Photoshopped, and the artist is often offended by the uneducated remarks. The photos are real, though they’re enhanced by a few camera tricks, like zooming, and, rarely, double exposure. In this collection, only zoom is used. Here’s a glimpse behind how the artist does his magic, as explained by him: “I wanted to start by clarifying a few things about them. While done in-camera (no Photoshop or anything like that), it is two photos merged into one. I’m much more proud of the single-exposure photo, though, because there is no camera trick involved there, nobody can call it fake. I’ve so far seen that it’s much less confusing for people to just talk about either the double or single, and when asked for media publication I’ve always provided the single exposure photo. This is understandable since most people don’t walk around every day with binoculars or a zoom lens. But if they did, they could certainly see the same things they see in my photos, at least with some planning!”
Last October, he nailed it by capturing an image of the moon by opening a natural arc in Arches Natural Park in Utah, USA. With humans resting on the edge of one of the arcs, it looks like a god’s eye looking down on its creation. The image went viral across many platforms, and it piqued the interest of the person behind the monumental photo worthy of becoming wallpaper, and more.
The artist gave an exclusive interview for Bored Panda, and he talked about his background in photography: “I started to get into photography about 8 years ago, and I remember at the time having thought back to an old memory of when digital cameras were fairly new and my dad tried taking a photo of the full moon straight above us. It didn’t turn out at all. He captured the same thing so many today do with their cell phones—just a white disc, lacking the details that we can see with our eyes. Well, since I was learning photography, I figured surely I could learn how to take better pictures of the moon. Since then, I’ve continued to learn and practice, and I’ve especially enjoyed finding interesting compositions with the landscape.”
Zach explained the enlarged moon phenomenon in layman’s terms: “Many still can’t believe the moon could even appear so large, though, and so I usually ask them: “If you move a mile in the opposite direction of the moon, does it seem to change size? What about 5 miles?” Hopefully they answer correctly, “No.” Then I ask, “And what about if you move a mile away from something on the ground, say a friend, do they seem to change size?” The correct answer is “Yes.” Hopefully, at this point, they’ve put those things together and understand the “trick.” These are two simple concepts that we don’t normally think about, but once you do, you realize that it’s all about making things on the ground smaller by moving away, so that the moon will appear larger by comparison. One thing I’ve learned about photography is it is good to capture different perspectives, to get viewers’ attention by taking photos of things we rarely or never see. It’s another reason I love shooting the moon with landscapes, since most of the time, when we see the moon, it’s high in the sky. People don’t really go out to watch the moon rise or set.”
Here are a few fun facts about the moon: Monday is “moon’s day,” just like Sunday is “sun’s day.” The moon always shows Earth the same face, as they have synchronous rotation. The effect is called tidal locking. The moon is probably a piece of the Earth itself, and it was created when a rock about as big as Mars crashed into it 4.5 billion years ago. The distance between the moon and the Earth is so great that you can fit in all of the planets in the solar system and still have room to spare.
Here’s a gear that he uses: “I’m currently using a Canon EOS R camera, and for most of my moon photos, I use a Tamron 150-600 G2 lens, which can magnify up to 12x. To plan out alignments, I use three different apps (PlanIt!, The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE), and PhotoPills), as I like to cross-check, and I’ve also found that each app has different advantages.”
His plans for this year have been abruptly stopped by COVID-19: “I had plans this year for a week-long backpacking trip in Colorado, but was forced to cancel that due to a COVID-19 transportation shutdown. I began looking for other possible trips, and along with that, searched for potential moon alignments. Once I realized I could capture it with the arch, I began planning my vacation around that. If it weren’t for COVID-19, I wouldn’t have taken this photo, at least not this year!”
Yet he’s optimistic about the direction heading in, and has a few ideas in mind: “It’s really only been the last year or so that I started getting more serious about photography, so I feel I’m just scratching the surface. I continue to look for compelling moon compositions and my next big one will be with a red rock formation in Sedona, Arizona. I’ve also started to look into ways to educate others on how to take photos like this so I may be starting something soon for that!”