Shoot for the moon

Whether as a stand-alone sub­ject or used in a wider land­scape, the pull of the moon is strong for pho­tog­ra­phers

Amateur Photographer - - Technique Shooting After Dark -

Mankind’s fas­ci­na­tion with the moon is un­de­ni­able and this ce­les­tial won­der presents plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for pho­tog­ra­phers. From close ups and wider land­scapes to more spe­cial oc­cur­rences like eclipses, the moon can be a use­ful source of il­lu­mi­na­tion for a night-time scene or a spec­tac­u­larly de­tailed sub­ject wait­ing to be cap­tured.

Like the north­ern Lights and star trails though, noth­ing with as­tropho­tog­ra­phy is ever that straight­for­ward, and in this case, pho­tog­ra­phers are at the mercy of not only weather and light pol­lu­tion, but also the moon’s cy­cle. again, re­search time can be slashed by us­ing an app like Pho­toPills, which will en­able you to plan ahead and not only know ex­actly when is moonrise in a cer­tain lo­ca­tion, but pin­point the ex­act phase and per­cent­age of the moon that will be vis­i­ble as well.


Two com­mon pit­falls that pho­tog­ra­phers make when cap­tur­ing im­ages that in­clude the moon are the fo­cal length needed for a de­cent close-up and just how bright the light from the moon can be. Let’s start with fo­cal length; it’s gen­er­ally ac­cepted that the min­i­mum fo­cal length needed to cap­ture an im­age that will show real de­tail on the moon is be­tween 300- 400mm. This is where crop-sen­sor cam­eras have an ad­van­tage, giv­ing a higher ef­fec­tive fo­cal length (1.5x nikon, 1.6x Canon), but there is an­other op­tion too. Pair­ing your lens with an af­ford­able tele­con­verter will give you even fur­ther reach – in fact, a 70-200mm used at its long end on a aPs- C Canon cam­era that’s paired with a 1.4x tele­con­verter af­fords the pho­tog­ra­pher a max­i­mum fo­cal length of 448mm. Re­mem­ber, dsLRs or mir­ror­less cam­eras aren’t the only op­tion when it comes to cap­tur­ing pic­tures of the moon. su­per­zoom cam­eras like nikon’s Coolpix P1000 fea­tures a 125x op­ti­cal zoom, giv­ing a fo­cal length of 24-3000mm!

Pho­tog­ra­phers can strug­gle to bal­ance am­bi­ent light in the scene with the bright light of the moon. shoot­ing dur­ing twi­light as dark­ness is still fall­ing can be a good so­lu­tion as there will be less dif­fer­ence in light lev­els be­tween the moon and the rest of your scene. What’s more, the moon will be lower in the sky, al­low­ing you to frame up more imag­i­na­tive com­po­si­tions, such as the moon placed in the arch of a bell tower. all that bright light from the moon can be used to your ad­van­tage, how­ever, as it can pro­vide il­lu­mi­na­tion for a wider land­scape scene that would have oth­er­wise been dark or needed an ul­tra-long ex­po­sure.

Cap­ture a close-up of the moon to re­veal the tones and tex­tures of the moon’s sur­face Nikon D800, 80-400mm, 1/250sec at f/8, ISO 200

A cres­cent moon makes a great shot Nikon D800, 80-400mm, 1/200sec at f/5.6, ISO 800

Use the Pho­toPills app to plan your photo shoot ac­cu­rately

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