Shooting the Moon

Shooting the Moon

I have had several people ask me if I photographed the moon last night. I didn't but I have a lot of moon photos. I thought I might share some of my favorites.

Photographing the moon is something I get a lot of questions about. It can stump a new photographer. To start with, it is moving fairly fast. Seriously fast, 2200 some odd miles per hour. It is only the distance that makes it seem slow.

The other thing is the night sky contrasted against the moon fools a camera's light meter so it's pretty close to impossible to get an accurate meter reading. And in fact, the moon is really bright.

The other issue is a psychological one. Because of the contrast of the moon to the sky, it appears much larger than it actually is. Put your arm out some time and hold a finger up to the moon. Last night with the moon 14% bigger than normal, it is still smaller than your pinky fingernail. Yet it dominates your attention and your photos can surprise you as to how small it seems.

The age-old photographic problem arises. Expose for the moon and your landscape is way underexposed. Expose for the landscape and the moon is way overexposed and has no detail. Every photo here has been doctored pretty heavily and is comprised of several photos. Usually, I will do several exposures of the moon so I can pick the best and I will zoom in on the moon to get the most detail I can. What I have found is the night sky isn't just black but rather the tone and intensity vary a lot depending on clouds and light pollution. So I will do several exposures where I expose for different parts of the sky but trying to get the stars as bright as possible. Then I expose for the landscape. Again what I have found is that the moon will light up the landscape and create a lot of values of light. So I will expose for the darkest parts and the brightest parts.

The photography is easy for me. The challenge then is to take those 12 photos and combine them in a realistic manner so that you not only experience what I saw (the camera just can't mechanically do it in one frame... YET) but to infuse that single image with enough artistry that you feel the majesty of the night sky and magic of the moon.


To me a photograph is just a thing unless it makes you feel something, then it becomes art.