Mid-Autumn Dawn at Hospital Point

With remnants of tropical storm Kay still being “active” in our area, I decided to switch our photo club’s monthly activity and we went to the tide pools of Hospital Point in La Jolla, Sunday morning*. I was hoping that Kay’s clouds would take on nice color at sunrise, but unfortunately, that plan was spoiled by smoke, which had drifted out over the ocean from the Fairview fire, which was burning near Hemet, in Riverside County.

Once the sun illuminated the clouds, they showed a beige, sandy color, which revealed that it was actually smoke. The best color was the soft dawn pink early on:

You might wonder about the mid-autumn moon. It is related to the Mid-Autumn Festival (also called Moon Festival), which roughly corresponds to the “harvest moon” and/or the autumnal equinox and is celebrated a little bit like Thanksgiving, in East and South-East Asia and the Chinese culture. The precise day was September 10 in 2022, and the full moon was setting over the ocean in the morning of September 11, of course. The evening before, we ate some luxurious moon cakes with a gooey “lava truffle” filling that our friend Kevin treated us to. :)

Tech Notes

When I inspected this photo on the camera’s display, to see whether the moon held any detail, I noticed that the shape of the moon was quite distorted. It looked like an elongated pill at 20 mm focal length. Dang. Typical for ultra wide angle, the moon was dwarfed while the foreground was (desirably) overemphasized. I decided to make another photo of the moon, placing it more in the center of the frame, and at 35 mm focal length, with the intent of blending it over the distorted, tiny moon in the 20 mm exposure.

This technique is called focal blending and it is occasionally frowned upon in landscape photography. I too have mixed feelings about it, especially when large parts of the background are magnified that way, to make mountains etc. look bigger and more impressive than they would be in an ultra wide angle photo with an extreme foreground.

But now that I’ve done this with the moon, it leaves me scratching my head: the resulting image, with the 35 mm moon replacing the smaller and distorted moon in the 20 mm exposure, looks not just better, but actually more accurate. It is how I remembered the scene with the moon… or perhaps how I now think I remember it?! 😅

I guess for now, I’m okay with my little moon-blending here. What matters more to me is that the use of this technique is disclosed.

*) followed by breakfast at Richard Walker’s Pancake House; a tradition that my friend Joe started a few years ago when he still lived here. :)

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12 thoughts on “Mid-Autumn Dawn at Hospital Point”

  1. Gorgeous image. Nicely balanced tonality, quite complementary. As a rule, I’d rather have my moons round vs. pill-shaped. One can appreciate your decision process vs. photographing it with a 500mm lens and putting it up there. :)

  2. The moon can really present a dilemma when as shot it looks lousy, not how one perceives it and is a distraction. I’ll admit I have occasionally cloned it out. A very restrained focal length blend such as yours here feels fine to me, making the moon into an attractive but not dominant element, more in line with what we experience. Of course, that “what we experience” concept seems to be a slippery slope for some. In general, though I don’t do them myself (too much trouble), I feel like focal length blends are defensible in terms of reproducing the way we see the world, but they sure seem easy to carry too far.

    • Good thoughts, Jackson (and good to hear from you!). I had to smile because I occasionally also cloned out the moon when it is just a little white speck. :)

      I agree that the “what we experience” idea can be problematic — too often, this concepts seems to get used to justify things that are precisely NOT possible to experience by anyone else but the photographer (in their wildest dreams;-).

  3. I guess restraint is what it’s all about and if the technique helps create an image that’s more what you want and more what you experienced, then OK. This moon certainly looks natural! We’ve had smoke since Friday-Saturday and it took until today for it to clear out. This morning when I got up I noticed that even though it was cloudy like the last two days, there was more light – that had to be the lack of smoke in the air. I know it can create interesting effects but what I notice more than anything else is the deadness in the air, a peculiar kind of lack of definition. But we have to figure out ways to work with what we have, and you did. :-)

    • Luckily, the smoke was only out over the ocean, and the clouds on the right side of my frame are in fact actual, real clouds. :) I am relieved to hear that the smoke is clearing out in your area and I agree that it somehow alters the light and the perception of the air. People sometimes mention how soft the sunsets are, and like the strange color that the smoke adds — I just can’t warm up to it…

      • Can’t warm up to it :-) – the weathermen on TV love to talk about smoky sunsets but no thanks.


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