Education Guide

Supermoon April 2020: A Photography Guide for Doha, Qatar

on
April 8, 2020

2020 began with a boom. By boom, I don’t mean anything worth celebrating. It has been a difficult start and as the world was getting used to the bitterness, an alien invasion happened. Coronavirus, medically known as COVID-19 took the world by storm. And now we are all indoors, spending unlimited time in front of digital screens of smartphones, tablets, computers or smart TVs and binge-watching even those TV shows that would have never appealed to us in normal days. Staying safe indoors is a thousand times better than getting infected while meeting with a friend or attending a social gathering.

Talking about indoors, this year’s supermoon is going to present some serious challenges to us enthusiast gearheads. Going outdoors is not ideal for several reasons, one of them is getting caught and jailed. Nonetheless, this guide would serve you in your hunt for the supermoon.


When and Where to Look

The supermoon will reach its peak size at 5:37 am local time or 02:36 GMT. Ironically 5:37 am is also the time of moonset so citizens of Doha won’t be able to experience the phenomenon in its entirety. Well, don’t be sad because there is nothing “super” about the full moon. In reality, the size difference is only 7.7% bigger compared to the average full moon on regular days of the year.

Supermoon peak time

As you can see from the above snapshot of Photopills, the peak time of the supermoon is the same as its setting time, which poses a question: “how would I be able to see it when it’s setting?” The answer to the question is simple. Just shoot it a few minutes before it sets and you should still be ok. My suggestion is to capture the moon between 4:30 am to 5:15 am, if you have an obstructed view of the horizon. For those lucky ones among you who have a clear view of the horizon in the direction of the moonset, you may continue to capture the moon until it sets which is at 5:37 am.

The direction you should be facing is West South West, or to keep things simple, just look toward the West.


Best Viewing Spots in Qatar

Since the direction of the moonset is towards the West, the best spots for viewing it will be from the areas located to the west side of the peninsula.

Umm Bab Beach

One of the best spots to see an unobstructed view of the supermoon as it sets. By chance, if you happen to live nearby, grab your gear and be there while making sure you adhere to the social distancing guidelines.

Dukhan Public Beach

Another beach that is located around the west coast should offer the same quality of experience as Umm Bab. Again, if you live in Dukhan, you have this rare chance of capturing something unique considering the circumstances.

Other spots located around the Western part of Qatar

There are many other potential locations to view and capture supermoon, all of those located on the west side. Some of them are Zekreet, Mystery Village, White Sand Beach, Galactic Core Bay, Zubarah Fort, Zubarah Town ruins, Al Jemail Fishermens village, etc.


Huge Bonus – Calculated spots for the best Supermoon shot

Let’s say you get an opportunity to head out, here are two properly calculated spots to get a great composition against the supermoon.

Plan 1: Progression of the setting Supermoon against the minaret of the Grand Mosque

Get a 500mm (full-frame equivalent) lens, and be at the following spot. If you rotate the camera to portrait orientation, you should get a diagonal field of view of 4.95 degrees which gives you a frame that is 39m in width by 58m in height. The minaret is between 40m to 45m in height so you’ll still have plenty of space in the frame to capture the path of the setting supermoon. Make sure to start shooting at 5:00 am (or as early as you see the moon in your frame) and continue to do so every 2-3 minutes until the moon is no longer visible in the frame. The exact spot where you should set up your camera is below:

Below is a snapshot of the plan from the PhotoPills app so you can be sure that everything is properly calculated to get the shot right.

PhotoPills plan: Capturing the progression of the setting supermoon against the Grand Mosque Minaret

If you are an advanced user of PhotoPills, you can learn a lot from the above screenshot. But even if you can’t, don’t worry. I have done the hard work for you. Just be there and get it done. Before moving to the next one, here are the settings checklist:

  • Focal length: 500mm
  • Orientation: Portrait
  • Aperture: f/8
  • ISO: 100 should be fine (increase it if you feel you have to)
  • Vibration reduction: Must be turned on
  • Shutter speed: faster the better to avoid shake. Make sure to trigger the shutter remotely or use time delay aka self-timer to keep the vibrations away.
  • Shooting format: RAW

What if you only have 200mm: Keep all settings the same but start shooting at around 4:40 am (or as soon as you have the moon visible in your frame) and keep shooting until the moon is no longer visible in the frame.


Plan 2: Progression of the setting Supermoon against the Torch Hotel

Dealing with the Torch Hotel is a bit easier because as per this plan, you don’t need a lens above 200mm. In fact, the plan is calculated with a 200mm (full-frame equivalent) in mind. Why? It’s because the Torch Hotel is a much bigger subject, and because the shooting spot is not at a long distance from the subject. Here is the set-up spot:


And here is a snapshot of the plan from the PhotoPills app. Once again, it’s all calculated and ready to be executed.

PhotoPills plan: Capturing the progression of the setting supermoon against the Torch Hotel

As per the calculation, you would be able to start shooting from 4:20 am (or early if you can see the moon in the frame), and continue taking a shot every 2 – 3 minutes till the moon is no longer visible. That should give you a nice progression of the setting supermoon in a slight curve. Please note that your frame could be partially obstructed by the giant canopy of the Khalifa Int’l Stadium but since the Torch Hotel stands at 300m in height, you should still be able to see a good part of it against the supermoon.

Let’s wrap it up with the settings:

  • Focal length: 200mm
  • Orientation: Portrait
  • Aperture: f/8
  • ISO: 100 should be fine (increase it if you feel you have to)
  • Vibration reduction: Must be turned on
  • Shutter speed: faster the better to avoid shake. Make sure to trigger the shutter remotely or use time delay aka self-timer to keep the vibrations away.
  • Shooting format: RAW

If all else fails

There is not much we can do these days to capture the moon while staying indoors, the following suggestion should still come in handy depending on where you reside within Qatar. All you’ll need is rooftop access, or if you don’t have one, a window should suffice, if, it is in the right direction, and, if, there isn’t another building obstructing the view through that window. That’s a lot of ifs, unfortunately, but what can we do. It’s quarantine times after all. I wish you good luck in your hunt for the supermoon’s super shot. Don’t forget to tag me if you happen to capture one using the plans I shared.

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HAMMAD IQBAL
DOHA, QATAR

Hi, I am Hammad Iqbal, a professional photographer based in Doha. Welcome to the "HI Blog" where I share tutorials, tips and techniques about shooting and post-processing images using Lightroom and Photoshop. Follow my updates by subscribing to my newsletter and discover with me the art of photography and post-processing!

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