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PHOTOGRAPHING THE FULL MOON

There are some great photo opportunities to shoot compositions that include the full moon.

In the days before the moon is completely full, the moon rises before sunset. That means you have an opportunity to get a big moon in a deep blue sky during the last bit of daylight. The best time to take pictures of the moon itself is as it rises over the horizon. Well, that is unless you have some super telephoto gear that can really zoom in on it. Although, it can be really cool to get some "moon only" shots so you can Photoshop some moons into your other photos.

When to shoot
Lots of times the best day is the day before the actual full moon. You can check the date of the full moon and the times of moon rise/moon set on www.sunrisesunset.com. Remember, before Dec 31 your opportunities will be for moonrise in the afternoon or evening before sunset, after Dec 31 your opportunities will be for moonset in the morning after sunrise.

There are lots of things you can try with the full moon. You can include the rising moon in your shots. You can also shoot moonlit shots. Once the moon gets up in the sky and the snowy landscape is illuminated by it there are some cool shots to be found.

You will have to break out the tripod for longer exposure times after sunset. If you are shooting moonlit scenes your camera is going to try to give you a normal exposure so you will want to shoot in Manual mode. If you are lucky enough to have snow, the moon will be reflected off the snow.

For shots taken after twilight, you will need to use a tripod and if you have one, a cable release. This will help reduce camera shake. Shoot in manual exposure mode with manual focus. Start with an ISO of around 400, an aperture of F/8 and set the shutter speed accordingly. Of course these settings are only a guideline as it will depend on how much light is in your scene. Be sure to bracket your shots and look at the back of your camera to see what you are getting. These settings will vary greatly depending on how big the moon is in your photo. The moon is surprisingly bright.

Use a tripod and cable release or the self-timer
Support is the key to success for nighttime photography. A good, sturdy tripod will make shooting at night much easier. Using a tripod keeps your camera steady. If you don't have a cable release, use your camera's self-timer to trigger the shutter. You can't push the shutter with your finger for a long exposure because the vibration will jiggle the camera and give you a blurry photo. Use a sturdy support and keep your hands off for sharp photos using long exposures.

Shoot some moons
Take some shots of just the moon with your longest telephoto lens. Make sure you are get a correct exposure for the moon and that you have no blinking (blown out) highlights. These moons are great for Photoshopping into your scenic photos. You can't get a large moon in your photo with a wide angle lens! The only way to have a scenic photo with a large moon is by using two images to make a composite.

Another tip...
You can drop your ISO if you want to keep your shutter speeds slower. By shooting with longer shutter speeds at night you will start getting blurry clouds or stars that begin to look like streaks because the earth is moving. Sometimes this can be cool if that is the effect you are looking for.

You might be interested in knowing the names and folklore that go with each full moon. The Farmers Almanac is a good place to read about the moons and their symbolism. http://www.farmersalmanac.com/full-moon-names

More links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_moon
http://www.earthsky.org/tonighthome/2009-12-31/url

Here are some of our best ever full moon shots.


This is a front lit moon shot taken in January 2009 at 5:24am. I walked down into the field and shot back towards the barn. This put the moon at my back so I was able to get more stars and some beautiful blue sky. The moon was added in Photoshop. Manual exposure, focal length: 17mm, ISO 400, 30 seconds at F/8


Here is how I made this image. With my camera on the tripod I made one exposure just for the moon. 1/500 at f/8, 800 ISO. Then without changing anything I dialed the shutter speed down to 1/15 to expose for the barn. That gave me a correctly exposed moon to put into my photo. You don't have to go through all that but then your moon is not blown out. I made this picture at 7:12 am just as the sun was coming up behind me and the moon was setting in front. It was a great scenario because I had some light on the barn. Yay, light! I had a ball out there in the freezing, wet, dark, windy morning! Settings: 1/15 at f/5.6, 800 ISO, 125mm (moon is 1/250 at f/5.6)


Here is my best ever full moon photo. This is actually taken in the summer. The tide was so high that it flooded the docks. I will tell you the secret that this is two photos. I shot the marina wide angle then the moon with my longest telephoto and combined the two in Photoshop. The starbursts in the dock lights are from the small aperture of f/22. I was on f/22 because I wanted everything in focus, front to back. 18mm focal length with an aperture of f/22 will get you there!

Go take some pictures!

Get out there and take some photos! Take photos of the New Year's Eve Blue Moon and enter them in the Challenge. We would love to see your photos so please post a couple on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/learntotakephotos or in the student forum.



 

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