Tricks and tips for capturing earth’s baby brother
The first thing you’ll need to know is when the moon will be in the night sky and ensure there are no obstructions hindering the field of view where you intend to position it rising. Use the PhotoPills app to plot out the exact time of the moonrise alongside its exact position; the app will also help you calculate the time of the moon passing over high landscape features such as mountains.
While normally the presence of cloud spells the end of an astro shoot, the moon semi-obscured by a bank of cloud can lend the shot real atmosphere.
Remember, the moon moves fast, so quick shutter speeds of no more that two seconds are needed to capture its surface detail. It’s quite bright too, so you can get away with a narrower aperture of around f/5.6 and a low ISO of 200-1000.
Ensure the tripod is sturdy, and if using a longer telephoto, that the lens and camera are mounted to the tripod via the lens collar.
While you can photograph the moon on its own by zooming in to show its distinctive crater-marked surface, it’s generally more interesting to show it in the landscape. Naturally, this presents its own set of problems – do you go for a wider shot and reduce the size of the moon, or zoom in with a telephoto lens, in which case you’ll need a relatively distant point of interest to compress perspective and have the moon bigger. There’s also exposure – the moon will usually be much brighter than the land – so you could let the moon blow out, or use a narrow aperture to give it a star-like appearance.
If trying to shoot the moon and incorporate the landscape, consider using dusk or twilight, as opposed to complete darkness, as this helps render the landscape alongside a well-exposed moon.
If your shoot is within the hours of darkness, use a neutral grey card used for correcting white balance by holding it over the enough of the lens to expose for the landscape whilst blocking out the moonlight, then within the last split second of the exposure, move the card and allow for the exposure of the moon. This is a tricky technique to attain results, but after some practice, it’s a valuable technique when working on moonlit landscapes.