Stare out at the moonlit sea, and come and take a photograph with Claire Gillo’s guidance…
As winter kicks in and the light begins to drop earlier in the day, now is the perfect time to try your night shooting skills. The beach is a wonderful location once the sun has set: the moving body of water, the curves of the bay and the natural surroundings create a match made in heaven!
For our photo shoot we were down at Blackpool Sands near Dartmouth, Devon. We decided not to photograph the moon as our main subject, but use the moon’s light to illuminate our seascape. The result is wonderful, as the light is much softer and has a different tone to sunlight.
We opted to shoot when the moon was full, and luckily the conditions that night were perfect! We had no clouds, the temperature wasn’t too nippy, and there was no wind.
Despite these perfect conditions, shooting in the dark is no easy task, and requires a bit of forward planning and thinking. Knowing your location well will help: do a recce in the daylight so you have a composition in mind.
A head torch will definitely come in handy when you shoot at night – although in the rush to get down to the beach for moonrise, we forgot ours! A mobile phone saved the day: its torch setting meant we could see what we were doing to alter our camera settings.
Plan your shoot 1
To ensure you have the perfect conditions, you’ll need to plan your shoot well. First check the weather forecast and what the moon phase is.
It is possible to shoot a few days either side of a full moon, but you’ll get best results with it being a complete circle.
To find out the moon’s position and when it will be rising, check out The Photographer’s Ephemeris (www. photoephemeris.com). There is an app or web version where you can pinpoint your exact location to see its position and at what times it’s rising and setting. This is a great tool. We got down to the beach just as it was rising, and it was a spectacular sight.
Camera setup 2
Mount your camera onto a tripod and secure it in place. For shots like this, a wide-angle lens will get you the best results. We used a 15-30mm zoom and shot mostly at 15mm. To ensure our tripod didn’t move, we pushed it down firmly into the sand and avoided walking nearby after we’d released the shutter to take an exposure.
Avoid camera shake 3
Camera shake occurs when your camera gets touched or moved during an exposure and creates a blurred effect, in this case spoiling the end result. As you’re opening your shutter for such a long period of time, you really want to avoid this technical issue. A remote shutter release will come in handy, as it means you can avoid touching your camera altogether. If you don’t have one, you can set your camera to its self-timer mode, and you could also engage the mirror lockup feature.
Open the aperture and push the ISO 4
When it comes to capturing the night sky and stars, you want to avoid shooting for long periods of time unless you’re after a star trail effect. So to keep the stars twinkling in the sky as small dots, don’t go past 30 seconds! To ensure you do this, use a wide aperture and push your ISO up. Modern cameras are much better at handling noise, but do some test shots so you know the limitations of your camera. Our camera settings for this scene were f/5.6, 30 seconds and
ISO 800. Go into Manual mode and try variations on the exposure until you’re pleased with the results. LEARN MORE ABOUT MANUAL mode: See page 40
Shooting the moon 5
When the moon is full, it can be tricky to shoot directly. This is because the moon is kicking out a lot of light in comparison with the surroundings, and will overexpose. If you want detail in the moon, your landscape will be dark; or if you want detail in the landscape, the moon will be overexposed and appear like the sun. You can shoot two separate exposures, but they are hard to blend naturally; in the end this is the best result we could get using two exposures.