Category Archives: Nature

January 31 – Trifecta Celestial Events

Super Moon / Blue Moon / Blood Moon – Trifecta!

Photographers, sharpen your F-stop and tune up your long lens, as a trifecta of celestial events take place on January 31, 2018. Those of us in North America will have the unique opportunity to experience a rare viewing the Earth’s moon as a blue moon, a super moon, and experience a total lunar eclipse (blood moon).

Blue Moon

A blue moon occurs when there is more than one full moon in a given month. Indeed, the January 31 full moon will be the second full moon in the month of January 2018. And, it will be the only blue moon of 2018.  The last blue moon was May 2016. After this month, the next blue moon will take place in March 2018. While not a rare occasion, a blue moon only happens … well, once in a blue moon. See the list of future blue moon dates.

2018   –   March 1, 2018    /  March 31, 2018
2020   –   October 2, 2020 /  October 31, 2020
2023   –   August 1, 2013   /  August 31, 2023

Super Moon

The orbit of the moon around Earth is not a perfect circle. Instead, it is an elliptical orbit where the moon varies in distance from the Earth during its 27 day orbit. At its perigee, the moon is closest to Earth and appears 14-30% larger than the moon typically appears. Conversely, at its apogee, the moon is furthest from Earth during a given orbital cycle. For a super moon to occur, the moon must be at its perigee and must be a full moon. Though a super moon can occur either during a full moon or new moon. For the purposes of this article, a super moon is a full moon at its perigee._MG_0806 co - signature

While the moon does not occur differently to most people, it is best noticed when the moon is closest to the horizon. Therefore, photographic opportunities of the super moon are best at moon rise or moon set. For those following the super moon, the closest super moon in over 60 years occurred on November 14, 2016.  After January 31, 2017, the next several super moons will take place the following dates.

  • 2019  – January 21
  • 2019  – February 19
  • 2020  – March 9
  • 2020  – April 8

Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the Earth completely blocks the light of the sun. Viewing an eclipse was especially heightened during the popularity in the United States as the total solar eclipse of 2017. But, what about a lunar eclipse. For starters, those of us in the United States will be able to view a full lunar eclipse on January 31, 2018.

_MG_8603 stack crThe phenomena of a blood moon occurs during a total lunar eclipse as the moon continues to be visible at lunar totality but has a reddish brown appearance. Without going into an expose about the wave-length of light and light bending (which this author does not intimately follow), the short of it all is that the light remaining during a total solar eclipse is absent of blues and greens. What remains are reds and oranges leaving the appearance of what some call, a blood moon. After January 31, the next lunar eclipse visible from the United States will be as follows:

  • 2019  – January 19

January 31, 2018

Plan your viewing and photographic trip early and plan to catch a rare lunar event on January 31, 2018 as those in the United States experience a super moon, full moon, and lunar eclipse (or blood moon). And most importantly, share photos for the world to see!



Editing a Dark Photo with PicMonkey for Hobbiest Photographers

Getting Started Using PicMonkey to Edit a Dark Photograph

Editing photographs is a certain fact with digital photography. Once mastered, editing can be just as fun and rewarding as taking photographs. Let’s look at a photograph that may have been lost to poor conditions and or camera settings and use to salvage to would be tossed out file.

  1. Navigate to from your browser.
  2. Select EDIT in the menu window. (PicMonkey has many editing tools that are available for free.At some point, you may be interested in using the free 30 day trial upgrade which gives you access to all tools.)pm start
  3. Upload a photograph of your choice. _MG_1881.jpgIn this case, we will be using a photograph of a yellow wildflower that that I took when traversing back roads in Texas. This image is very dark, but I have delayed tossing it to the trash.
  4. When in PicMonkey, you will see several menu options on the left. The first menu option is Basic Edits. In Basic Edits, we will use Exposure, Sharpen, and Crop. 1_Original
  5. First let us start with Exposure. This dark image can most benefit by adjusting the sliders to increase the brightness. Adjust the sliders noticing the changes to the image as adjustments are made. When the exposure is as you like, select Save. At any time you do not like the results of your adjustment, select Cancel to being that setting all over.2_Exposure
  6. Next we will select Sharpen and then select Unsharp Mask. 3a_Sharpen
  7.   After selecting Unsharp Mask, adjust the sliders to achieve the desired effect.3c_Sharpen
    • Radius means only the pixels next to the edges will be sharpened. It is often effect to select only 1 to 2 for this slider. Otherwise, the results will be a weird halo effect.
    • Threshold determines how much contrast there needs to be between colors for them to be sharpened.
    • Clarity is used to adjust local contrast.
    • Select Save when finished sharpening the image.
  8. Next, we are going to select the Effects menu and scroll down to Camera Effects and select HDR. HDR stands for high-dynamic range and basically pulls out the light, medium, and dark tones in images. In the case of PicMonkey, this filter allows us to use one image. Select Reverse Effect. Apply the HDR filter with a medium to large size brush to the petals of the flower only. Then select Save. 4_HDR_reverse effect
  9. While still in Effects, under Basic, select Boost. Selecting a small brush size and applying Boost only to the anthers of the flower will provide for the desired effect. Always save changes. 5_Boost_pistils
  10. The final adjustment to be made will be to Crop the image ideally placing the flower off center which is more pleasing to view. We will again select the Basic menu and choose Crop. Crop as desired, and Save. 6_Crop
  11. Now to complete our PicMonkey experience, it is necessary to save the image back to your computer. At this point, you can rename the image if desired.
  12. Notice the comparison of the original image and the final edited image. FinalComparison
  13. The final image:

Disclaimer: These adjustments are arbitrary and used on the particular image as indicated and only for demonstration purposes. While this author does not claim to be the expert on PicMonkey, sharing this tool with other hobbyist photographers might allow for alternatives for creative manipulation of images.