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Behind the Photo: Boston Moonrise
June 19, 2020
Erik Dresser,

This is a photo of Kristin Hedstrom sculling in the Charles River Basin on the eve of the 2013 Head Of The Charles Regatta with the full moon raising over the Boston skyline. While this is a fairly simple image, it took an extraordinary amount of work to capture.

Step one, a week or so before the regatta, check the Photographer's Ephemeris app to check the general sunrise/sunset and moon phase during the regatta to see if there is any potential for something interesting and/or unique (or to check how early I need to get up). The 2013 regatta happened to line up with a full moon on Friday evening and showed it lining up with downtown Boston.

Step two, check the long term weather forecast. It looked decent, so time to continue planning. Step two would be revisited at an increasing rate until that Friday evening.

Step three, find a skilled sculler that would be willing and able to do a row in the Basin at dusk the night before racing starts. My first thought was Kristin Hedstrom since she was from Boston and had just won a silver medal in the LW2x at the World Championships in Chungju, KOR. I emailed Kristin and she was available so now on to logistics of shoot.

Step four, based on the moon alignment, the best angle was going to be from on the water so I needed to score a launch and permission to be out on the course late in the day. Fortunately row2k staffer Amanda Milad, was well connected in the Boston rowing scene and with HOCR, so one text message to her and everything was approved and we had a launch from MIT to head out on the water.

Scullingfool and the moon
Scullingfool and the moon

Step five, test out alignment on Thursday. Just to get an idea of what the framing may look like and to make sure I had the right lens ready to go for Friday. I asked scullingfool himself, Igor Belakovskiy if he could be available to do some laps in the Basin around the time of moonrise on the day before. He was, and was able to get this image (at right) of him from the north shore. Pretty solid, but the moon isn't very bright. Friday would be better if the clouds cooperated.

Step six, double check all logistics and confirm with control commission that Kristin would be allowed to be out on the water after sundown as this is normally not allowed. Control Commission needed to know what type of shell she'd be in and what color her oars were painted. Also needed to confirm meeting Kristin near the start line at 5:45pm. Moonrise was at 5:45pm, but it would take a few minutes to clear the buildings.

Step seven, execute. Amanda was our driver and Kristin was already in the basin ready to go. We said hi and waited until we first caught site of the moon so she could get an accurate point. Then steady pressure and clean rowing straight ahead. Amanda put the launch in a great spot and after about 30 seconds I got this frame at 5:55.


Technical specs for this shot:
-Canon EOS 5D MK III
-Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II
-1/160 sec at f/8.0, ISO 1000

Normally, since it was so dark I would have shot wide open at f/2.8 but due to the extreme depth of field between Kristin and the moon, I stopped it down to f/8.0 to reduce background blur. 1/160 sec is pretty slow but for this image everything looks pretty sharp, including the bladework!

Hedstrom's thoughts on the evening run down the HOCR course, "Anyone who’s rowed on the Charles the day before racing begins knows how absolutely jam packed it is. You go in with the best laid plans for that practice (“I’m going to do 10’s around Magazine Beach, through the powerhouse stretch, and work on my point around Eliot…”) but it quickly gets thrown out the window when you see just how many boats are around you. That night, the course closed for practice at 6 pm, when we were in the Basin. Erik had pulled a lot of strings to allow me to row back down the course to FALS afterwards. I’ll never forget that: the eve of the Charles, in my single, in my hometown, rowing down the course with literally not another boat on the water. It was surreal."

Link to gallery from that evening here.

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