Every 29 or 30 days -- weather permitting -- the natural rhythms of the sun and moon, plus the glassy exteriors of San Diego's tallest buildings, deliver a visual feast to those who are in the right place at the right time. What I'm referring to is the rising of the full moon over San Diego's glowing downtown skyline, an event that looks dramatic whenever the atmosphere is cloud-free. Our clearest evening weather begins about now and typically continues through March.
The full moon always appears directly opposite from (or nearly opposite from) the sun in the sky. Therefore, the full moon's rising in the eastern sky happens nearly at the same time as the setting of the sun in the western part of the sky. The sun has a seasonal variation in its setting position: somewhat north of west in late June (summer solstice), due west in late March (vernal equinox) and late September (autumnal equinox), and somewhat south of west in late December (winter solstice). The full moon's rising position depends on the season, too, because it lies on the horizon opposite to the sun. This means that you must travel to different places in different months to see the moon rising over the skyline.
During most of spring and summer, the place to be for the rising of the full moon is Harbor Island. Go to Shelter Island during the months September through early November (this year, the upcoming dates of full-moon rise are Thursday and Friday, October 12 and 13, and November 11). Station yourself at the northern end of the island in September, mid-island in October, and at the southern end in November. The full moons of December and early January can be seen rising above the convention center area if you position yourself as far west as you can normally go along Coronado's north shoreline (without entering the North Island military base). A good access point is Bayview Park at 1st Street and I Avenue in Coronado. During February and March, Shelter Island again is the place to be.
Sometimes the full moon rises over the skyline just before sunset and hovers like a squashed yellow egg in the pink or purple eastern sky. At other times the full moon appears in a sky already darkened by twilight, and the glitter path of reflected moonlight stretches across a mile or more of bay water. If you want to photograph scenes such as these, use a telephoto lens (a 200mm or longer lens on a 35mm camera), mount the apparatus on a sturdy tripod, and use a cable release to trigger the shutter without excess vibration. It's best to "bracket" your exposures by using a variety of shutter speeds or exposure times, which may last into the several-second range if the moonrise takes place well after sunset.