The science behind the photo that put a hurler on the moon

A view of the super moon near Croghan Hill, Co Offaly. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie
A view of the super moon near Croghan Hill, Co Offaly. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie

Putting a hurler on the moon, as photographer James Crombie succeeded in doing on Tuesday night, involved a great deal more than a trained eye and quick finger.

Having tossed around in his head for 10 years the idea of capturing this image, Crombie, a couple of weeks back, enlisted the help of his geophysicist friend, Colin Hogg, to map out where exactly he would shoot and where exactly the shot would be taken from.

“Croghan Hill in Offaly was the perfect spot because you wanted a hill with a very flat surface so the hurler could be seen running on the edge of it,” explains Hogg, whose native Castletown Geoghegan is only over the road.

Once the location was settled on, next on the list was deciding where in the vicinity of Croghan Hill James would take up position. The research the Inpho photographer had done told him he needed to be roughly one kilometre from the hurler who would be leaping about on the remains of the long extinct volcano.

This is where Hogg, who works in the geophysics section of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, really came into his own.

“I had to finalise the angle and position James needed to be in so to see the moon rise up on that clean surface piece of the hill. Google Street View enabled me, visually, to go up and down the road on my computer and have a look and see, is this angle right or is it not. Then I just did some Leaving Cert maths, the Cosine Rule, to be precise, which is a way of quantifying the relationship between angles and distances.

“I put James on the edge of a road and when he was there the night before, I had to correct his position by 142 metres. We had our shooting points fixed based on my prediction of where the moon was going to be so the hurler was then directed up to the exact spot on the hill by mobile phone.

“It was a coming together of sport, photography, and a bit of mathematics and geophysics. It certainly worked out well in the end. James captured the image superbly.”

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