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Photographing The Moon Rising Over The Z-Tree At Everglades National Park

Full Moon Over Z-Tree

Around 3 weeks before I took this picture I was shooting sunrise at this same location (see photo below), when it crossed my mind that a photo of this iconic tree with the rising full moon behind it would look really cool. So I quickly checked the PhotoPills app to find out that from this viewpoint the moon would rise just behind the tree.


The Z-Tree, also called N-Tree, is a dwarf cypress and a well-known landmark in Everglades National Park because of its unique shape. However, its location is not really on the map and there is no signage in place for it. I’m actually glad it is this way, as it makes it less prone to vandalism. I saw it for the first time by accident, as I was looking for compositions in the dwarf cypress forest area of the park.

The day of the full moon shot was kind of eventful at the park. I was fortunate to be accompanied by some family and friends. The moon rise was going to be around 8:00PM, so we arrived at the park a few hours earlier to spend some time in the Anhinga Trail before heading south on the main park road to the tree location. While driving, a park ranger vehicle passed us at full speed. Something must had happened, we thought.

We arrived at the tree location around 7:00PM, so I had a whole hour for planning the shot and finding the composition. This was more difficult than I thought. I wanted the moon to look big enough in the picture, so I needed to use a telephoto lens. But then I was too close to the tree, and I couldn’t go back because that would put me in the middle of the road.

As I was struggling with my camera and tripod, going forward, backwards, changing lenses, and battling millions of mosquitoes, dozens of police cars started to pass on main park road going south. At that point, we were sure something big was happening down there, and we were questioning whether it was better to leave or stay. But there were so many cars coming that we decided to stay put as it didn’t seem safe going against the racing police vehicles.

Anyway, back to the photography stuff… After trying many different things, I decided that the best option was to create a vertical panorama. So I chose a focal length that would include the whole tree in the frame (so I didn’t have to take multiple rows of images) while keeping the moon reasonably big. So I ended up taking 4 images at 178mm. Now, the last image which includes the moon, is both a focus and exposure stack. Since I wanted the moon in focus, but this last shot also included part of the tree, I took one shot focusing on the tree and exposing for the tree, and another shot focusing and exposing for the moon, which was brighter than anything else in the scene. I stitched the panorama in Lightroom using the first 3 images (without the one with the moon in focus), and then blended the one with the moon in Photoshop.

I think the image turned out pretty good. Although I have to be honest, on location I thought I had failed to take the shot. But fortunately with the help of Lightroom and Photoshop I was able to make it work.

Regarding the police incident, we later found out that there was an active shooter situation a few miles down the road. The park closed and many people were even stuck between Flamingo and the location of the incident. The good news is that it was resolved without any injuries.

Camera settings:

Tree (3 images): f/11, (61, 92, 181 sec respectively*), ISO 100, @178mm

Moon(1 image): f/11, 0.8 sec, ISO 100, @178mm

* It was very dark and the light was changing rapidly, that’s why I had to adjust the shutter speed with each shot

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A Peaceful Sunrise At Miami Beach

Miami Beach Sunrise

Usually you won’t find the words peaceful and Miami Beach in the same sentence, especially during spring break. The truth is, it’s probably not the best beach for landscape photography, but it’s the only beach that is relatively close to where I live, so I thought I’d give it a try. To my surprise, it was actually pretty quite at sunrise. That’s why this is my favorite time of the day for photography, not many people are out there at this time.

I arrived one hour before sunrise to have enough time to explore the location. And I started looking for compositions as soon as there was a little light to work with. This area is the only one in the beach that has some rocks, that are probably not naturally occurring, but either way, I thought I could use them for my composition since it was also low tide.

I struggled with my tripod for almost half hour moving from one rock to another trying to make it work but I couldn’t find any pleasing composition using the rocks, so I decided to go with something simpler. There weren’t really any amazing colors or drama in the sky, but the ambience light from that glow just before sunrise was really gorgeous. My next plan was to capture the receding waves in the foreground to get a nice texture in the water. So I placed my tripod as low as possible and used a remote shutter release to shoot many many frames. Also, as the sun started to rise, I took some shots exposing for the sky so I could combine them later.

The resulting image is a manual HDR exposure blend of two images. I ended up with nearly 50 photos of the foreground but the one you see here was the clear winner.

Here are the camera settings:

Foreground: f/11, 1/6 seconds, ISO 100 @11 mm

Sky: f/11, 1/15 seconds, ISO 100 @11 mm