Photographing the Moonrise at Epcot

When my family planned a visit to Epcot on the night of the July full moon,I went into planning mode. Unlike Carina Smyth from the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales movie, we do not have to use a book full of tables and a watch to determine the location of when and where the moon will rise. When planning a moonrise or set or a sunrise or set, I start online at The Photographer’s Ephemeris webapp (see below).

The Photographers Ephemeris Webapp
The Photographer’s Ephemeris webapp showing the times and locations for Sun and Moon events on July 16, 2019 at Epcot in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. The Red arrow indicates the time of Moonrise and the Gray arrow indicates the direction of the Moonrise.

After selecting the date and location, I move the red pin around until I find an interesting foreground location along the moonrise line (gray line). In this case, I found a spot in front of the Friendship boat dock (near Canada), which lined up with the China pavilion. Next, I needed the time of the moonrise (indicated with a red arrow), which was 20:28 or 8:28 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. This added a little complication as I knew IllumiNations was scheduled for 9 p.m. and I would need to get to that spot about 8 p.m. to make sure I got it. Being an obstructed view of the lagoon, not many people wanted to be there.

Once there I used the LightTrac iOS app (also for Android) to track the moon’s location in real time.

LightTrac App
Showing the Moon tracking information on the LightTrac App for iOS. The Moon’s location is along the Red line. The Yellow line is where and when the Moon started to rise on July 16, 2019 in Epcot, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

When photographing the moon, one must keep a few things in mind. First, even if moon looks big, it is still more than 222,000 miles away, which is why I used the Nikon 80-400mm lens. Second, it is very bright in comparison to the sky so using spot metering is a must. And lastly, the moon is a moving object as it orbits the Earth and a fast shutter speed is a must. I used 1/250th of a second.

Then there are uncontrollable things like weather or fire torches around the World Showcase Lagoon sending up heat waves.

Moonrise Heat Wave
The Moon rising through the torch heat waves behind the China pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D500/80-400VRII, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 4500, EV 0, 360mm (540mm FX) Focal Length, Tripod.

A few minutes later, the moon had moved away from the heat waves and I got a clearer photo.

China Moonrise 1
The Moon rising behind the China pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D500/80-400VRII, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 260mm (390mm FX) Focal Length, Tripod.

Below is the last shot I took before I had to rejoin my family to watch IllumiNations for our last time.

China Moonrise 2
The Moon rising behind the China pavilion before the start of Illuminations at Epcot’s World Showcase in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D500/80-400VRII, 1/250s, f/8, ISO 6400, EV 0, 230mm (345mm FX) Focal Length, Tripod.

To illustrate the moon’s motion here’s a visual timeline.

Moonrise Timeline
Moonrise timeline from July 16, 2019 as the moon rose behind the China pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

You can use the tools I mentioned in the beginning to plan ahead for any location on Earth for a sun or moon event.

Have you tried shooting the full moon at Disney World? What were your results? Let us know in the comments.

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Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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