A super sight: Photographer captures super blue moon as it ascends over campus

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 09-14-2023 10:47 AM

Three years of monitoring and tracking moon patterns, and finding just the right place to photograph Earth’s satellite rising behind the University of Massachusetts, paid off for a Northampton resident, who recently captured the super blue moon as it ascended over the campus and the 26-story W.E.B. DuBois Library.

With the Aug. 31 super blue moon being a celestial body that comes along only about once a decade, David Jeffway, who earned degrees at UMass in 2018 and 2023, wrote in an email that the picture is “my favorite photo I’ve taken to date, over a place that’s really special to me.”

A super blue moon is defined as the second full moon in a calendar month at a time when the moon is at its closest point in orbit around Earth.

Jeffway was able to get the photograph after making a decision in less than 24 hours to scrap a trip to get a similar photograph of the Statue of Liberty, due to concerns over weather.

Jeffway started photographing landscapes and nature about four years ago, becoming fascinated with the moon rise and watching it happen. When there are clouds, they will begin to glow just above the horizon, he said, before the moon slowly reveals itself with a pink and orange glow, appearing large and silhouetting what’s in front of it.

“If you aren’t actively monitoring the time at which the moon rises above the horizon, you’ll typically only see the moon when it’s higher in the sky, and it looks just about the same each night,” Jeffway said. “But watching the moon rise is one of the most fascinating natural events to see.”

The Pioneer Valley’s trees and hills make it difficult to find places where the UMass campus is visible with a clear view of any of its buildings and the horizon. Jeffway said he has found two places that meet the three criteria of being ideal places to take photographs of the moonrise, those sites being at least 1.5 miles away, so the moon will look big in comparison to the campus, having a clear view of the campus and the horizon, and facing east, which is where the moon rises.

One of those locations is in Hatfield, while the other is in Hadley, where he photographed the super blue moon.

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Technologically, Jeffway has also used an app that shows where the moon will be relative to desired shooting spots, allowing several years of advance planning. He had planned a similar shot in 2022, but canceled last minute due to a previous commitment.

This year was different.

“Ultimately, the low clouds weren’t looking promising, but they started to glow a pinkish orange and sure enough the moon became visible,” Jeffway said, adding that they add real drama and a glow. “My Dad was with me with his film camera, and we were both cheering when it became visible.”

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