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TOPIC: Shooting the moon

Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #1

  • blackcloudbrew
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Recently, MikeSF and I attended an evening workshop put on by a local pro photographer - Marty Knapp on how to photography the moon. I had been drawn to this workshop after viewing some of Marty's works at his gallery. He is a classic black and white landscape photographer and his use of the moon in a number of his images is just wonderful. So...seeing that he holds these workshops, I was hoping to tap into his experience and resolve some of my issues with achieving presentable images with the moon in them.

Now I have to say that I'm aware that one can always put the moon into an image by taking one properly exposed image of the moon, then another with the rest of the image and combine them but I wanted to learn to get it all in, in one shot in the camera. So to that end here is what I learned from the workshop.

1. Plan your shot - duh! The principle tool here is a nice piece of software called the Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE). I'd heard of this and ... when this came up in the work shop, OF COURSE, Mike had a copy of it on his home computer as well as on his Android phone (with some other really cool stuff too no doubt). Anyway, TPE is a free piece of software (throw the developer a few bucks if you can...) that interacts with Goggle Earth to provide you with the times of sun and moon rise and setting times for any point on the earth. TPE allows you basically know where to point your camera and also map out what features should be visible with the moon on a particular date. To use TPE effectively in the field, you need a compass (or that really cool app on Mike's phone) to point towards the moon from the azimuth info from TPE. TPE gives you a planning tool. I'm learning it now and I can see that it will be some time before I start marking the calendar off on days (and nights) I'm wanting to go shoot on.

2. Plan the shot time - the point of this workshop was to work the moon into the landscape without blowing out the moon to get the landscape or reducing the land to dark shadows to get the moon exposed properly. I've tried to do this before with very limited success. The suggested way to do this is to aim for a 20-30 minute time window just a bit after moonrise right around sunset or so when there is enough sunlight to light up the landscape without overpowering the moon and vice versa. This will work whether the moon is full or even a crescent.

3. Exposure - for those of you who remember the Sunny 16 rule for daylight shooting (in daylight use f16 and set your shutter speed = ISO) the lunar equivalent is the 'Looney 11' rule where you put your camera in manual, set the aperture to f11 and set your shutter speed = ISO. If the moon get's a bit higher in the sky you may modify this to the so called Crazy 8 rule where you set the aperture to f8 and set your shutter speed = ISO. In our workshop, our instructor said that he feels that the Crazy 8 rule tends to work better for him as a starting place and he brackets a bit to compensate for changing conditions. Bracketing +.5, +1, +1.5ev is a good tactic here regardless of the Looney 11 or Crazy 8 rule.

4. Equipment - tripod (of course), cable release - always good with a tripod, and lens - this can depend on the scene but something in the 100-200mm length is in the ballpark,

Note: One very important item I got from all of this is that you can't trust your camera's light meter. While I had gathered that from my previous failed experiences, now I know why. The moon's disk is 1/2 a degree or so and your meter can't separate a source like that. The pro said he'd tried to do it with a 1 degree spot meter and still missed the exposure so for our friend Mr. Moon, we have to use the exposure rules and tell the camera what to do in manual mode.
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Re: Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #2

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Results:

Visible Light

_IGP8348_49_50 by blackcloudbrew, on Flickr

In IR

IMGP3952-Edit by blackcloudbrew, on Flickr

Side note here is that there was a lot of haze/smog in the air and these images aren't the best compositionally. However, they do reflect the balancing of the sun and moonlight.

Please feel free to comment or share any things you know on this topic.
Last Edit: 5 years 3 months ago by blackcloudbrew.
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Re: Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #3

  • mikeSF
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Tim,
thanks for posting this thread and sharing the salient points of moon photography! I did enjoy getting out there with a couple of great shooters to chew the fat about Mother Luna.

BTW, the app i use in conjunction with TPE in the field is called "Smart Compass". You point your phone cam at the scene and smart compass overlays azimuth bearings with a crosshair, so you can conceivably determine where the moon/sun will rise/set and then precompose your shot by adjusting your position until the desired bearing is placed in the frame as desired. In practice, i find the app to be a little glitchy, however, as it will stick or jitter sometimes. regardless, as a free tool, it is very useful.

My biggest takeaway from the class was to shoot lunar moonrise the day before the "optimal day" in order to balance ambient light with moon crater detail. Tim's posted images are a good example of this and Marty's vast collection of moon images really show off his incorporating the moon as a compositional element.
Last Edit: 5 years 3 months ago by mikeSF.
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Re: Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #4

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Thanks Mike for the follow up and your insights too. Ah ha!, I think your last sentence is what I'd been trying to put to words. This was about using the moon as a compositional element as opposed to just getting a picture of the moon. That was the point. Well stated.
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Re: Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #5

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That's some great information! I might just feature this topic on the front page.

I use Sundroid on my phone for the same purposes as TPE. It shows times for sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, as well as azimuth for those and many other celestial bodies, all with a nice graphical display. It can set alarms for specific events, too, among other features. But it's not free :( And I'm pretty sure it's an Android thing only (the name kinda implies it)
Photons are your friends! :-)
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Re: Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #6

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As I recall, Mike said that the TPE app for his Android was around $10. The PC version is freewhere.
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Re: Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #7

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TPE costs $4.99 for Android, Sundroid is $2.99. I now have both :D
Photons are your friends! :-)
Last Edit: 5 years 3 months ago by Friendly Photon.
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Re: Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #8

  • mikeSF
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i also use an app for tides and another for wind speed...and another that gives a live animation of the fog movement around the bay. wouldn't it be cool to have one app that could do it all?
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Re: Shooting the moon 5 years 3 months ago #9

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One app to rule them all?!? Madness...
Photons are your friends! :-)
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