How the hell is this photo of the Moon even possible?

Can we all just sit and marvel at this ridiculous shot of the Moon for a second? Because that would be great. Seriously, people. Just look at it.

The image is by Switzerland-based photographer Philipp Schmidli, and came to our attention by way of Camilla Corona SDO (the intrepid mission mascot of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory), who writes:

It took a lot of preparations and planning to make this happen. He wanted to find the perfect hill, needed to know the precious location where the Moon would rise over the hill and then had to place his friend strategically to make this shot reality.

Schmidli writes on his blog that he spent months scouting out the perfect vantage point for this shot, conducting much of his reconnaissance with Google Earth and a handheld GPS.

How the hell is this photo of the Moon even possible?

You've surely noticed that the moon illusion is working overtime in Schmidli's photograph. To achieve this effect, he had to station himself more than 1000 meters away from his friend on the bike, and employ a staggering 1200 mm focal length. (Remember this epic footage of a New Zealand moonrise, captured back in January? Astrophotographer Mark Gee had to set up 2 kilometers away from his foreground subjects to achieve that shot.)

How the hell is this photo of the Moon even possible?

Schmidli's long telephoto configuration allowed him to exploit an effect known as perspective distortion, wherein distant objects look significant larger relative to their foreground counterparts (see here for a more detailed explanation). When it comes to photographing the Moon, most photographers will recommend using a 200mm+ telephoto lens for precisely this reason. Schmidli uses his setup to great (and jaw-dropping) effect:

How the hell is this photo of the Moon even possible?

How the hell is this photo of the Moon even possible?

How the hell is this photo of the Moon even possible?

For the full story on how these images came to be, check out these two blog posts [1 /2] over on Schmidli's website (it's in German, but Google translate does a pretty decent job), where you'll also find many, many more images from his extensive – and captivating – portfolio.

[Philipp Schmidli via Camilla SDO]