Shoot for the Moon

Lunar power entices us.  A variety of powers are attributed to the moon in mythology.  Cultures have worshiped the moon.  It controls the tides of the waters that cover our planet. Most people cannot resist the pull of the moon’selemental nature, sometimes appearing regal and other times seeming to portend doom.  A beautiful engorged moon is capable of stopping traffic as it emerges from the boundaries of the horizon.  It is reason to pull off the road and silently applaud it and ponder its appeal.

Last night, one of our photography clubs, James River Camera Club, congregated to shoot the moon at Messick Point (Poquoson, Virginia).  We worried all day about the cloud cover and the weather forecast.  Then we slogged through traffic, many fearing that they would miss the wondrous event.  We made it, though, and standing on the shore and out on the boat dock in the wind, we shared our oohs and excitement as we began to glimpse the glow of the moon below the horizon.  Dark red, the moon began its ascent.  It appeared cumbersome; its somber redness slid quickly and easily above the horizon towards the clouds, transforming from red to yellow to white as we watched it rise into the embrace of  clouds.

I have learned some things about capturing the moon’s image with my camera, but I am by no means an expert or even very good at photographing this celestial body – yet.

1.  The moon is very, very bright and you have to meter for the moon.  We can be fooled by the darkness around us, and the moon itself may not even appear all that bright so we tend to set our cameras for longer exposures  and wider apertures.   Such adjustments may introduce blur in your image.  The moon is reflecting sunlight.  That light is very bright and you lose definition in your image if you over expose it.  This is the difference between a photo where you can see the craters and one that looks like a great ball of white light.

2.  The moon is moving.  This is another reason to keep your shutter speed fast.  Longer exposures will show the movement of the moon from where it was when you hit the trigger and all of the space it’s moved through until the moment the shutter closes again.  It may seem that the moon is moving slowly, but you have to consider how far it is and that what looks like only a little movement to our eyes here on earth is really a great deal of movement in the moon’s orbit. Be sure to remove your filters which may slow down your shooting speed.  It seems to me that a rising moon moves faster than a moon that is higher in the sky, and I get more clarity with the later moon, although I realize that the moon does not change its speed.  You have to find that balance among aperture, shutter speed, and ISO that is right for your lens, your camera, and your environmental conditions, that allow you to shoot fast enough to avoid blur while keeping depth of field and details in your image.

3.  The moon does not wait for you.  You need to know where to be, which direction to be facing, and, of course, when the moon will be full.    Be in place and ready BEFORE the moon rises.  Try to find a place that does not have a lot of lights.  A location without trees, buildings, poles and wires, etc. is important if you are wanting to capture the moon as it rises over the horizon.  Will there be parking lot lights on, sports field lights lit at night that may interfere with your photo?  Visit the location both during the day and at night to determine if its suitability.

4.  Although the moon is viewable during the day, we prefer seeing adorn our night sky.  That means that it will be dark when you are shooting the moon.  Consider what that may mean for the location where you will be doing your shooting.  Is it a safe place at night?  Perhaps you should bring someone with you.  What kind of wild life might you encounter?  Will there be other people in the area for other reasons?

You have a full moon each month, and sometimes two, for ample practice opportunities.  Of course, you don’t need the moon to be full to shoot it.  I plan to continue shooting for the moon with my photography and expect to see improvement in my images.  Please share your lunar images!

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This entry was posted by Crouse Photography.

3 thoughts on “Shoot for the Moon

  1. Im not a pro, but I have found that it is good to have something in the frame besides the moon, for contrast etc. Unless you just want the moon itself with no reference. Just my two cents. Nice article. Thank you.

    • True! You are right, Jim, about having something else in the frame: branches, bridge span, people, skyline, etc. These items give the moon some context and adds visual interest. Thanks for reminding us!

  2. I appreciate these considerations about lassoing the moon. I finally just captured some satisfactory images after some experimentation. So far, I seem to get clearer images in daylight but the “white ball” effect in darker skies.

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