Shot Planning for the Strawberry Moon

Last month I missed the full moon by a day. The following evening I watched it rise an hour after sunset into darkness. It was quite magical. I determined I would go out on the next full moon, rising mere minutes before sunset in the hope of something interesting.

June's full moon is called the Strawberry Moon. Not, as it happens, because it turns pink as many are led to believe. Rather it's the name given by Native American Indians because it marks the start of the strawberry picking season (see here or here).

I've spent a lot of time back on the beach at Angourie since that night, mostly around Mara Creek. My first inclination was to return to there. I have  something in mind for a rising full moon with the creek rippling in the foreground. Yet I was concerned that with so much time spent there recently I might end up making something derivative of the rest. I almost felt like I'd gone too far down a tunnel and might be becoming blind to other possibilities.

Deciding that a change is as good as a break, I chose to go to a different location. I say different but it still a familiar location as I tend to revisit the same half dozen places local to me that I've developed an affinity for.

I thought back to an image I made in March that I titled Eternity. This was made just a bit further north, on the rocks by what are known as the Blue Pools. The shot then was of a near new moon just before sunrise, sitting above the channel through the rocks. I wondered if I could use these rocks and that channel in a similar composition with the full moon rising. The key question of course was would the moon be in the right position this time around?


Tip: if you use TPE ( on iOS you can "Add to calendar" in the Sharing options (the box with the upwards arrow in top corner) to set a reminder in your calendar for a particular shot you have planned out.

I like to use The Photographer's Ephemeris ( on web and iOS to help me plan my photographic outings. However on anything but a grand scale the maps lack the resolution to see a particular composition. Typically I use TPE to give myself a high-level understanding of where the sun and moon will be, and so how it might interact with the landscape of a location.

Normally I know the location, and can fuse the knowledge from TPE with my experience of a place to reassure me of its potential. I think of myself as a 'finder'. By that I mean I like to go out and find things for myself. I find it can be difficult to repeat shots I've made before as so many elements tend to be different - light, weather, tide, my mind - and so try to find fresh things each time.


Screenshots of TPE showing the sun and moon positions on 19th March (top) and 2nd June (bottom). In the top image, the line of interest is the thin dark blue line above the yellow one which shows the moon’s position at the time I have selected (06.14). In the bottom image, the light blue line towards south east shows where the moon will rise.

But on this occasion I wondered if I could improve on or, more accurately, create a complement to Eternity. I decided to use TPE to reverse engineer the photograph to see if a recreation might be possible. The photograph's metadata in Lightroom told me that I made that photograph at 06.14 on 19th March. TPE lets you see the sun/moon position for any time & date in the past or future, so I rewound the TPE clock back to 19th March. This told me that the moon was 90.1 degrees. Fast forward to Tuesday 2nd June, and the moon would be rising at 109.7 degrees - almost 20 degrees difference which I knew meant the same shot wasn't possible.

[A less instinct led and more scientific based approach would probably consider the angle of view (Aov) of the lens I was using (Zeiss 21mm) to determine quite where the full moon would be in relation. But remember, I'm a finder!]



As another check, I opened up another photograph from this spot, this time looking further south. In TPE I dropped the secondary pin on Angourie Headland which is visible on the horizon. TPE told me this was at 137.8 degrees. So the moon was going to rise towards the left hand side of this photograph. With the channel still prominent in the foreground here I was reassured that even if my initial idea wasn't going to work that I could make something of it.

My final part of planning was checking the tide. Whilst there are many possibilities in the rocks at this spot, given I was after a 'certain look' I wasn't sure I could fulfil my own brief. More importantly, these rocks are prone to getting battered by the sea and rogue waves occasionally wash right up the rock slabs. Angourie translates to "Noisy Ocean" and is a surf reserve for good reason! If the sea didn't behave, I might not be able to get to the rocks in question and even if I could I might not be able to move freely on them.

The tides on 19th March (top) and 2nd June (bottom). The tide was lower on the 2nd but with more of a swell there were some decent sized waves washing up the rocks.

Comparing the tide tables for 19th March and 2nd June I could see that the tide would be lower and that I should be ok. I packed the car and drove the mere 5km down the road to Angourie.

Upon arrival, I noted a layer of cloud on the horizon that would assuredly block the moon's initial rise. Despite clear skies forecast and above me it's always what's on the distant horizon that catches you out.

I managed to get onto the rocks I wanted without problems, and started setting up. I checked out the channel and there were a few potential compositions as well as confirming that my original composition wouldn't work (using TPE on my phone I could see the moon would be out of shot).  I don't tend to get too fixated on a certain composition, set-up and wait. When photographing by the sea possibilities come and go by the minute and you may even find your position swamped by the time the 'big moment' arrives. I tend to spend time looking about to find different possibilities rather than fixating on one shot.

Part of my finder instinct is that if something catches my eye I go for it. Quite often I go out with one idea of what I'll photograph and return with something quite different. So it was here as I watched the big waves rolling in, the light of the setting sun catching their spray as it filtered through the palm trees behind me. I pulled out my 100-400mm lens and started adding to my series of "Waveforms", a combination of "short long exposures", panned and ICM wave portraits.



As the moment of moonrise approached, I switched back to the 24-70mm and started to re-check compositions along the edge of the channel, paying particular attention to the sea. The tide may have been further out but with a bigger swell than in March the waves were still coming some way up the rocks, ruling out some shots I had sighted close to the rock's seaward edge.




As the moon breached the distant blue cloud and moved into the pink sky, I took a few telephoto snapshots with my Fuji XT1 before returning to my Canon set-up on the tripod. I made a series of shots as I worked up and down the channel, until the sea pushed me back and the colour faded from the sky. The resultant shots were not quite what I had originally envisioned, but made for a worthwhile trip. I've fallen in love with moonrise, it feels like a truly magical moment. Next month I shall probably try my luck down at Mara Creek.

Success! Scottish Nature Photography Awards 2014

It's with great pleasure that I can announce that I have come 3rd in the 'Scottish Landscape Sea and Coast' Category of the Scottish Nature Photography Awards 2014. My selected image, "Incoming Tide, Loch Sunart", was chosen in what I'm assured was a very fiercely competitive category and the one from which the eventual winner - "The Boy" by Donald Cameron which is a lovely image - came from. It's always a great feeling to have one of your images recognised in this way and, as a Scot, having success in my 'home' awards means even more. I also had an image shortlisted in the 'Land' category.

My image will be included in the national exhibition which will be touring the country as well as the book of awards. I'll post more details about those when I have them.

You can see all of the winners and their images on the Scottish Nature Photography Awards website.

I'll write a 'Making the Image' post sharing the backstory and my approach to the image shortly. In the meantime I'll leave you with the 2 images that were recognised.

3rd in the 'Sea and Coast Category': Incoming Tide, Loch Sunart


Using Lightroom with a NAS Server

Earlier in the year I bought a NAS (Network Attached Storage) Server and started using it to store my images on.

I've since had a number of people ask me about my set-up so here's a short post about how to use a NAS for Lightroom and your images.

There are lots of NAS models on the market so I'm not able to cover set-up and configuration in this post. The most popular ones have quite a lot of information about them on the internet already. I have a Synology DS413 and the Synology website has good information about setting it up.

How Lightroom Works

Usually the Lightroom catalog and image files are on the same machine

You may be aware that a Lightroom catalog is a database that stores the locations of your images and all of the changes that you've made to them in Lightroom.

It doesn't actually store the images within the catalog. Instead when you import images into Lightroom, it puts them somewhere on your computer that you ask it to and then stores the location within the database. When you view an image within Lightroom it goes away to that location to load the file up.

Most of the time Lightroom and the images are on the same computer so it's not something that we care about - though when we run a backup we need to make sure that we include both the catalog location and the image location.

Lightroom Doesn't Like Networks

When it comes to using a NAS the first reality to deal with is that Lightroom doesn't like networks. To be more specific you can't open a Lightroom catalog that's stored on a network. This is due to the way that Lightroom has been designed and its underlying, single-machine technology. To be honest even if you could open it from a network location then the performance would be frustratingly slow anyway.

However the good news is that Lightroom can reference and use images that are stored on the network. So when it comes to a NAS our strategy is to have the Lightroom catalog on our local machine and store the images on the NAS.

Before doing anything please make a fresh backup of your Lightroom catalog and image files in case something goes wrong!

Copying your Images to the NAS

Assuming that you currently have your images on the same machine as your Lightroom catalog, the first thing that we need to do is copy the images to the NAS. On my NAS I created a dedicated 'shared folder' which looks just like any other volume on my Mac. This way I can make sure that all of my images are in one place and without any other junk on the drive.

I always advocate having a single top level folder ('Photos') with a date-based hierarchy of sub-folders underneath. This makes management of image files much easier - backing up, locating and in this case moving images. All I need to do is copy the 'Photos' folder from its current location to the dedicated shared folder on the NAS.

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Tell Lightroom to use the NAS Images

Once the image files have been copied over to the NAS we need to tell Lightroom to to look for the images on the NAS instead of their old location. Again having the images under one folder makes life easier - we just tell Lightroom to look in the 'Photos' folder on the NAS rather than on the local drive. To do this follow these steps.

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Lightroom will now load images from the NAS, and that's that. The Folders pane in the left hand panel should now list your NAS volume rather than your local hard drive.

It's worth checking that you don't have any missing files at this point to make sure everything has transferred properly (go to the Library menu and then 'Find All Missing Photos').

One thing you must remember to do is update the destination when you next import files otherwise they will be imported to the old location. When in the Import dialog, change the Destination folder to appropriate location on your NAS.

Accessing your Images Over the Internet

One great advantage of storing your images on a NAS is that you can access them over the internet. Obviously this is going to be much slower than on your local network, but it's a workable solution if you need them.

The first thing you need to do is make your NAS visible to the internet. The steps required to perform this vary from NAS to NAS so you'll have to check the manual/internet for your particular model. This is a key feature of all NASs however so should be pretty straightforward. If you have a Synology NAS you can find the instructions here.

Once you've done that you need to connect to your NAS. On my MacBook I go to Finder and then Connect To Server (Cmd+K).

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Type in the address of the NAS that you will have created in the previous step and press Connect. All being well a new volume appear in Finder for the NAS, and you can browse and open files over the internet.

To then get Lightroom working with the image files on the NAS, we follow the same steps as above. In Lightroom use ''Update Folder Location' on the top level 'Photos' folder. When the 'Update Folder Location' dialog appears we choose the 'Photos' folder on the NAS volume that we've just connected to.

This will again update Lightroom to use this location when it tries to find any image files.


When you get back home remember to repeat this step to update the folder location to use the local NAS volume rather than the 'NAS via internet' volume.

As a final point though the above works fine and is the simplest way of using a NAS I found the performance disappointing compared to what I was used to with local hard drives. Instead I've implemented a hybrid system whereby I store some images on my internal SSD drive, my image archive on an external RAID drive and then back all of that up to the NAS which then gives me access to my images over wifi or the internet.

It's more complicated and requires some more technical knowledge so it's really not for everyone. I'll write a follow-up post outlining how my set-up works (including the system of backups I use) for anyone that's interested.