The Artistic Supermoon

Bright lights, big city, little debate...

Have you seen those incredibly detailed photographs of Supermoon 2012 displayed all over the web by photographers who normally shoot street scenes, flowers, landscapes, buildings at odd angles and what have you? The ones that look like a perfect white or yellow orb suspended on a black background taken with an incredibly expensive lens? The ones that look like they belong in a textbook? They're marvelous photographs that are technically perfect but many of us find them mechanical and uninteresting...how many have you seen already? What about those that the Supermoon is perfectly juxtaposed right behind a bridge with a bicyclist crossing in just the right spot and it is a seemingly natural scene but is too good to be true? They are quite pretty, eye-catching, fascinating and some are inspirational but not very unique.

With all due respect to those photographers that have the knowledge and equipment to take such a clear shot of the moon I see those photographs as technical and scientific records. They are beautiful representations but not artistic to me personally or to many other viewers who these photos seeming to be the same picture over and over again. First before I wade into the raging debate that is the current vogue among digital DSLR "purist" photographers versus "post processors" let me state something. I admire those that have the technical skill and equipment to know exactly which lens to use for a certain type of light and what the aperture setting ought to be. It is a must if you are going to be a wedding photographer, a chronicler of news and social events, do portraiture, advertising, architecture and aerial landscape photography. It is the same as a cartographer must now know GIS to record things as close as possible to how they really are and there is also a beauty in that.

Photography can never replicate exactly what is naturally present but is able to recreate a very close reasonable facsimile. This is done by changing lens, using filters and adjusting settings which by very definition means that the photographer has already edited and processed the end product before it comes "straight out of camera." When anyone who takes pictures in this manner mocks those of us who do a lot of post processing and take a basically solid composition with good color (or lack of color), tone and lighting and significantly alter it by "post processing" editing I secretly mock back. That is due to that I think there is plenty of room for all kinds of photography and visual art.

Why? Because we are doing two completely different types of things and the highly technical photographer is creating one kind of photographic art and the others are creating visual art that is artwork not meant to resemble anything exactly as it appeared. To be snobbish and elitist about one set of technical skills or artistry over another newer set of technical skills that creates a different artistry is as if Van Dyck were to mock Van Gogh. To bring this post full circle I have been over the SOOC ("straight out of camera") or slightly modified editing versus the PP ("post processing") debate prior to it becoming hot and heavy. It's a non sequitur, a dead issue, a futile argument, pick your choice of words.

Having said all that I went out with my most humble little cameras, a Canon Powershot "point and shoot," a Sony hard drive Handycam that takes very good photographs and my Droid X 1 with its little collection of apps and took pictures of the Supermoon. A few days later than when it was at its peak but still impressive and its interesting what happened. I knew the Canon and Sony wouldn't take much of anything I could even work with but I did manage to get some interesting photos with my Droid X 1 and the Pro HDR app worthy of playing around with some post processing in Photoshop Elements 10. I'll let the viewer be the judge of how interesting the visual art that was created from those pictures are to them.


  1. I hadn't heard about the Supermoon...I guess that's what happens when you eschew TV and don't pay attention to any other media for more than a couple hours.

    I DID see the moon several times, but my feelings at seeing it came in a context which a photograph, "manipulated" or not, would never come close to explaining. I just soaked it in (along with the river and the frogs and the dirt and everything else) and am keeping it all to myself, except for mentioning it here. :D

    I cannot imagine why anyone would want to put a static, textbook photo of the moon out there. Do we need more textbook photos? Is there anyone on this planet (other than maybe the blind) who don't understand or haven't conceptualized "THE MOON" well enough that they still need a "scientific" photo to clarify things? If so, would these people be smart enough to know they needed this information?

    I'd be willing to bet that scientists and technicians as a group take less-interesting pictures of the moon than any other group of random moon-photographers. I also think they know this on some level, or they wouldn't be snobs about art (and it's ALL art, really) and resort to naming every bit of equipment they can name, as if it's the means that matters more than the end.

    Take a picture and do what you have to do to it to make it cooler. That's art and it's cool. It might only be art you (or I; I do this kind of thing often enough to know it might be a lonely happiness) get, but that's OK.

    Life is more art than science. At least mine is. You take cool pictures and adjust them in ways you think make them cooler. How do you do this? No clue. And I don't care. Results kick process's butt every day of the year. That makes artistic achievement sound almost capitalist.

    (You know what I mean.)

    Thanks for the pics, JR.

  2. You always have the most interesting insights Mike and I always like when you comment. Actually I didn't know about the "Supermoon" either for the same reasons as you except I kept seeing photos around the web and got curious.

    Life is more art than science and you've given me an inspiration for some verse or writing. I'm "borrowing" it to be returned in hopefully a manner you appreciate and the idea is worthy of.

    ...and yes I do know what you mean!

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment Mike.