I cradled my 'Frankenstein' photo...

Two things before we get started:

1. This is a composite of two photos, so let's deal with the photo on the left first.
2. Please excuse the quality of the image on the left - it's a photo of a newspaper cut-out.

Many moons ago (pun intended...1990, in fact) when I was a staff photographer on the now defunct (Brisbane) tabloid, The SUN, I was working the late shift one night. It was dead quiet and I was getting bored when I remembered it had been one night off a full moon the previous night. Not only that, the moon had appeared to be hanging over the Brisbane CBD.
That night a full moon was due and I thought that if it was hanging over the city like it had the night before, it would make a great photo.
I threw my gear into the car and headed to Mt Coot-tha, about a 15 minute drive. I pulled into a gravel area just below Stuartholme, a girls school sitting atop part of Mt Coot-tha, that had a spectacular, uninterrupted view of the city (now there is a high fence where I pulled up and a large block of apartments on the hillside below where I had been. There is no view like there had been 20 years ago).
The view of the city and the moon that night was, indeed, spectacular. The only problem the city was where it should be but the moon was waaaay up in the sky. My idea of a spectacular photo of the moon hovering over the city was looking shoddy at best.
Not to be outdone, I got the camera and tripod out and took some nightscapes of the city and a couple of the moon on its own. I also took some portrait (vertical) photos of the city with the moon waaaay up above it. I knew they sucked but I didn't want to think I'd come all that way for nothing. Perhaps they'd look better when I got back to the office.
I was wrong and when I got back to the office and processed the film, they still sucked. What's more, the photos of the moon were way over-exposed (too much light) and it looked like a big, round white blob surrounded by black. None of the moon's detail - the craters etc - that was normally visible, was present.
I was about to ceremoniously run a pair of scissors up the middle of the film when one of the other photographers still working reminded me that photographing the full moon is like taking a photo in the middle of the day because it is the middle of the day on the full moon we see. Hence, I should photograph the full moon with my camera set like it was the middle of the day i.e. bright sunlight. It all made perfect sense.
'Hey,' he said. 'You've got a perfectly good nightscape of the city...all you need to add is a moon. Why don't you go up onto the roof of the office and re-shoot the moon. Then we'll make a sandwich.' He grinned broadly when he mentioned the word 'sandwich'.
I grabbed a telephoto lens, took the lift to the top floor and walked up and onto the roof of The SUN building. I then proceeded to re-photograph the moon like it was the middle of the day. Twenty minutes later I was admiring my handiwork on the lightbox in the photographers room three floors below. The moon, as predicted, looked splendid.
With a little help from my 'mentor-of-sorts' we got one of my perfectly good nightscape negatives and one of my simply splendid moon negatives and 'sandwiched' them together so the moon was aligned majestically over the Brisbane skyline. I slid my sandwich into the enlarger and hit the timer.
A short time later I cradled my 'Frankenstein' photo in my hands. My dream had come to life and I almost felt inclined to murmur, "It's alive!"
Now, I'm going to get a little bit technical here, so bear with me.
I'd photographed the city nightscape on a 200mm lens. When I headed for the rooftop of The SUN building, I had a 300mm lens strapped to my camera. The perceptive ones among you will have worked out that for the nightscape and the moon to look the same they both needed to be photographed using the same lens. A 300mm lens has more magnification than a 200mm lens, so the moon in my sandwich - the photo you see before you - is a tad larger than it should be. In fact, probably a lot larger. At times like this one needs to fall back on the old addage - why let the facts get in the way of a good story.
If it makes you feel better as you sit there rolling your eyes, I did feel a little bit guilty at the fact I'd screwed with nature (twice), not to mention my ethical responsibility. But the end result, you have to admit, was pretty damn good, and this was all I cared about as I slipped a large print of the photo into the top drawer of the boss' desk (as tradition dictated in the 'old' days), with a note explaining what I'd done.
I slept well that night and when I arrived at work the following afternoon, I was amazed to see the photo splashed right the way across page 3! Obviously no one had minded what I'd done - ethics, who needs them?!
So, all's well that ends well...except for the fact the story doesn't end here.
A week or so later the boss received a letter from an elderly gent, Norm Crew. In it he stated that he'd been so taken with my photo, he'd recreated it in the form of a painting (time to deal with the photo on the right). The boss, not one to pass up an opportunity, rang Norm and asked him if he'd mind it if the photographer who took the photo of the moon over the city came out and took a photo of Norm with his painting and an actual copy of the photo of the moon over the city. Norm was over the moon (once again, pun intended).
And so, a week or so after 'Moon over Brisbane' had been published, I trapsed out to Norm Crew's house and got a photo of Norm holding a large copy of my photo next to his painting. It was pure tabloid. I even got a photo of me and Norm with my photo and his painting (as you can see). In fact, I can't even remember if that was the photo they ran in the newspaper.
Anyway, what had started out as a simple 'that might look good...' idea for a photo one night had given birth to a Frankenstein and inspired a bloke called Norm to pick up his paintbrush. If only he knew...

Gear used - Nikon F4, Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 lens (city), Nikkor 300mm f2.8 (moon), city exposure (1-2 seconds, from memory), moon (1/500 f8 or f11), film - probably HP5 400ISO


  1. this is a really interesting photo. is there a higher resolution one available to view?

  2. Unfortunately not Penny. I only have a cut out from the newspaper.