There are some popular conditions for landscape photography that every photographer already knows: sunrise and sunset, storm clouds, fog, and so on. But one that doesn’t get mentioned very often is the light produced by a full moon on a clear night. The subtleties of moonlight aren’t always visible to the naked eye, but long exposure photography can lift the curtain. The results may have hints of familiarity, but they also have unique characteristics that make them stand out from typical, daytime photos. Photographing landscapes under the full moon (also referred to as “moonscapes”) is a process with its own set of challenges, so I will explore it in more detail in this article, and hopefully provide some tips for those who are interested in trying it out.
If you have not heard yet, tonight, we will experience something truly magical – the supermoon of a lifetime! That’s right, the moon will be unusually close to our planet at 356,500 km, so close that we will not see another approach like that all the way until 2034! The size of the moon will be 14% larger than typical full moon. The so called “perigee moon” will coincide will the full moon, making it appear not only unusually large, but also unusually bright (up to 30% brighter than usual). Make sure to be prepared to capture this event, since it is such a unique, potentially once-in-a-lifetime moment! In this article, we have gathered all the important bits of information you will need to capture the supermoon, so read on and let us know if you are planning to do it.
The second “How was this picture taken?” series article turned out to be a bit controversial, because some people either did not like the photo, or did not like some things about it. Some complained about the moon appearing unrealistic, with its darker side being darker than the sky (and they were right, as pointed out below), others did not like how the moon arced in the way I made it appear in the image. One of the readers even said “this shot is to astrophotography what a stuffed owl on a branch would be to wildlife photography”. I totally understand and sympathize with such views, because we want to see a realistic world in images. However, when it comes to moon photography, things can get quite difficult when trying to be realistic. First of all, unless you photograph just the moon by itself without any foreground elements, it is quite difficult to yield a good-looking and realistic image. The moon by itself is a small object when viewed from our planet, which means that if one wants to photograph the moon up close and include foreground elements so that they both appear realistic in terms of sizes and proportions, the only option is to use a telephoto lens above 200mm. And in such cases, one would have to time the shot and take pictures at moonrise, while the moon is still very close to the horizon.
This is our second iteration of the “How was this picture taken?” series of articles and this time we have a fun picture to dissect – the Total Lunar Eclipse, a.k.a. the “Blood Moon”, which took place on the 27th of September. I had the chance to photograph the Blood Moon along with a few other Colorado Fall Color workshop participants last week, so after I put together the image below, I thought it would be fun to ask our readers about this one to see if they can figure out exactly how the below image was captured:
It seems like many of our readers really loved our new idea (big thanks to John Bosley for suggesting it!) with the “how was this picture taken” series, since we had huge feedback and lots of interesting discussions. I must apologize for not being able to provide the answer to our first exercise sooner, as I have been swamped with the workshops I am conducting in the mountains. We will try to post answers sooner to such series in the future! Let’s take another look at the image in question and this time I will start off by revealing some useful EXIF data on the same image to kick off the answer:
Going forward, we will be featuring the new “how was this picture taken” series articles, asking our readers to look at an image, analyze it and provide information on how they think the image was captured. When guessing, information could include such data as: approximate exposure variables (shutter speed, aperture and ISO), focal length, camera to subject distance, camera and lens used, what the gear was mounted on, post-processing techniques, composition, cropping, etc. This could be a fun exercise for our readers to practice with and we see it leading to all kinds of fun discussions.
P.S. The answer has been posted here.
Just wanted to share this photo of the Waning Gibbous Moon with our readers, captured with the Nikon D810 and John “Verm” Sherman’s amazing Nikkor 800mm f/5.6E VR monster coupled with the TC-17E II teleconverter. I have not been able to get this much detail from such long focal lengths before, because the shutter vibration on previous generation Nikon DSLRs would shake the camera too much at the beginning of the exposure. We set everything up on a sturdy tripod, then rest the front of the lens on car’s hood, with a soft pillow in between to dampen the crazy vibrations occuring at 1350mm focal length. Set the camera to Manual mode, ISO 800, 1/250s @ f/11, then used camera’s Live View to acquire perfect focus on the moon. With the “Electronic front-curtain shutter” turned ON, we set the camera to Mirror Lock-Up mode, set “Exposure delay mode” to 3 seconds for additional protection, then fired away. Here is the result:
If you love astrophotography, you might want to photograph a unique event called “The Supermoon”, where the moon will not only be full, but will also appear larger than normal. If the skies are clear and you are lucky to see the moon, this will be a great time to get out and try some moon photography. If you have never done it before, you might be wondering what camera gear and settings you should use in order to capture the moon in its full glory. In this short article, I will give advice on how to photograph the Supermoon and explain some of the steps involved in the process.
I intentionally waited on posting this article on photographing a lunar eclipse until it actually took place, because I wanted to document my experience and provide information on what challenges I had during the process of photographing this rare, but stunningly beautiful phenomenon. This was not my first time trying to photograph a lunar eclipse – I tried it once back in 2008, but the weather did not cooperate back then and I did not get any good pictures. My luck was much better this time and although the sky was not completely clear, I was still fortunate enough to capture the entire process, from full moon to total lunar eclipse, then back to full moon. The next lunar eclipse will occur in the summer of next year, so if you missed it this year, definitely try to get out and take some pictures, especially when the moon turns bloody red.
Here is what the blood red Total Lunar Eclipse of 2010 looked like last night: