Interview: The Story Behind This Perfect Photo of a Full Moon Surrounding an 800-Year-Old Church

Full Moon in Front of Church by Göran Strand

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Astrophotographer Göran Strand is known for photographing unique moments that few are able to capture. His latest work is no exception, as a little creativity mixed with careful planning and a bit of luck made for another extraordinary image. In Strand's photo, an incandescent full moon perfect frames an 800-year-old Frösö church in Sweden, giving it the appearance of a halo.

By mixing the perfect composition with his technical skill, Strand's photograph is a whimsical vision of the perfect evening overlooking this small village. Of course, none of this would be possible without the photographer's foresight. Strand was able see how the picture could come together well before the evening he snapped his shutter. In this way, the photo is not only a triumph artistically, but a testament to the tenacity and patience that successful photographers must possess.

We had a chance to ask the astrophotographer about how he came up with the idea and the process for executing his vision. Read on for our exclusive interview.

 the 800 year old Frösö church by Goran Strand

What gave you the initial idea for this photograph?

I'm always on the lookout for new foregrounds to my moonrise photos. In May 2018, I was wandering about on Andersön, a nature reserve located on an island 5 kilometers southwest of Frösön. During that walkabout, I came to a spot where I could see this church in a distance and later that day I got the idea of taking a photo of a full moon rise behind the church.

How did you go about conducting research to figure out when you'd have the composition you were after?

I have different apps and computer software I use when planning photos like this. For my phone and tablet, I'm using PhotoPills, TPE (The Photographer's Ephemeris), PlanIt!, and SkySafari. On my computer, I'm using Starry Night Pro and Google Maps. Back in May after my walkabout, I found out that on November 22, the full Moon would rise perfectly behind the church.

Full Moon in Front of Church by Göran Strand

Photo: YouTube

After waiting so many months to get the perfect shot, what were your biggest concerns leading up to that evening?

My biggest concern is also the one I can't do anything about, and that's the weather. If it's cloudy, you're stuck back home handling the frustration that your plans are ruined. When the weather is clear, it's important to be at the planned spot in time, get your gear up and ready, and do one last check that your framing looks as planned.

What was your technical setup for the photograph?

The still photo was taken using my Nikon D850 on my Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4 D IF-ED II lens. The real-time footage of the Moon rising was shot using my Nikon D500 and Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8 D IF-ED with a Nikon AF-S TC-20E III teleconverter.

Full Moon in Front of Church by Göran Strand

Photo: YouTube

How did you feel when you realized you'd been able to capture the image?

Usually I'm very excited if I feel that everything went as planned, but I know that I can't celebrate until I've checked the photo/movie in my computer to see that everything is in focus and well exposed. When working with such a long focal length, good focus is really critical.

What do you hope that people take away from the photograph?

The reason why I did the video was to show people that it's possible to plan photos like this. I often get asked if I was just lucky to get the photo or if it was planned. And it's the planning of these photos that is so much fun. We know exactly when and where objects in the sky, in this case the Moon, will appear, which makes these shots possible. And it's always so exciting standing there waiting for the Moon to rise. Am I in the right spot? Will there be clouds blocking the Moon? Do I have the correct settings on my camera etc. It all boils down to just a few minutes and then it's all over and if you missed anything, you have to wait a month or even longer.

Full Moon in Front of Church by Göran Strand

Photo: YouTube

What's next?

At the moment I'm finishing some really big prints for an upcoming exhibition that runs from January to May 2019 in Borås, Sweden. Really looking forward to seeing all the photos in place.

Full Moon in Front of Church by Göran Strand

Photo: YouTube

Watch this video to learn how Göran Strand was able to photograph the full moon behind an 800-year-old church in Sweden.

Göran Strand: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to publish photos by Göran Strand.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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