Any Tips on Moon Photography?

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This topic contains 41 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  James Staddon 3 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #8188

    SarahLeePhoto
    Participant

    I just took this picture of the moon, and would appreciate any feedback – the moon had a gorgeous yellow glow around it, but I could not capture that light without overexposing the moon itself, which washed out the surface texture of the moon. Any tips on moon photography?

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    #8190

    Mr. Quebec
    Participant

    It was a problem I had too. I had a full moon and beautiful clouds around it. No matter what I tried, it wasn’t possible to take both the moon and the clouds. Whether the moon was overexposed, or the clouds disappeared. I heard Photoshop would be needed to have a well-exposed moon with a well-exposed scenery.
    I like to set a very high shutter speed. However, my experiences are based on trials and errors, and I would be glad too if someone could give tips.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by  Mr. Quebec.
    #8194

    Ezra Morley
    Moderator

    Moon photography is something that I have done quite a bit of, and a lot of what I learned was also through trial and error. I also saw the lovely yellow moon tonight, but I didn’t get to take a picture, we were rushing off to have a musical program at a local nursing home…

    The yellow moon is a lot harder to capture properly. For one thing, the only time it’s yellow is when it’s low on the horizon, which, incidentally, is the worst time to photograph the moon as you’ll get a lot more atmospheric distortion. The best time is when it’s high in the sky on a cool night, when atmospheric conditions are the best. However, if we want a picture of the “yellow” moon, we have to do the best we can!

    I remember when I was in Africa, the day we visited the wildlife park, we saw a gorgeous full moon coming up over the horizon just after a gorgeous sunset! I missed the sunset since we were driving, but I did manage to get few pictures of the full moon. They aren’t very great, the atmospheric conditions were really bad as you can see. This is the ‘detail’ shot, taken at 250mm. I needed my 300mm, but I was several thousand miles away from it! 🙂

    EXIF:

    Shutter Speed: 1/80th
    Aperture: f/8
    ISO Speed: 400
    Focal Length: 250mm

    Yellow Moon Detail

    Now compare the detail in that shot to this one taken in a clear sky just 2-3 days later…

    EXIF:

    Shutter Speed: 1/100th
    Aperture: f/8
    ISO Speed: 200
    Focal Length: 250mm

    Regular Moon Detail

    @sarahleephoto, I think part of your problem is that you don’t have enough zoom to see much detail. I have a 300mm lens, and even with that, I have to crop so severely that there’s hardly anything left! I’d love to have the new Tamron (or Sigma) 150-600mm, but, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”!

    @mr-quebec, You’re right, there’s no way to get a properly exposed picture of the moon with clouds. Well, I take that back, there can be special conditions, where it’s possible to get a halfway decent photo… It’s definitely not stock photo quality, but it’s a photo!

    I’m afraid that you have 2 options. Either you overexpose to capture the yellow glow, and blow all the craters of the moon to white oblivion, or you underexpose, and show every crater in the moon, while darkening the clouds to nothingness. Like @mr-quebec said, you could use Photoshop. Technically, you could expose for the clouds, and get the “look” that you want, then expose for the moon, to get detail there. Then pop them into Photoshop (or GIMP) and combine the two. That would be the only way to get a “natural” looking picture.

    Just for fun, here’s one more picture of the “yellow” moon in Africa, taken at a much wider angle…

    EXIF:

    Shutter Speed: 2 sec.
    Aperture: f/3.5
    ISO Speed: 400
    Focal Length: 18mm

    Wide-Angle Yellow Moon

    Attachments:
    #8206

    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    I’m glad you brought up this question about the moon because it happens to be one of the most elusive subjects I’ve ever tried to shoot. In fact, I would say that I have taken 0 pictures of the moon that I feel have turned out.

    This means I can not claim to offer any real advise, but I can tell you my conclusions and plans for my next “full moon” shoot after experimenting over many years.

    As @buddingphotographer said, and as you now know from experience, when exposing for the moon, the sky goes black, and when exposing for the sky, the moon goes white. You either have detail in one or the other. Never both. For one thing, this shows the amazing dynamic range that God has made possible with our eyes. It’s incredible how limited the camera is!

    There are only two ways I know of for overcoming this problem.

    1. The first way is to simulate double exposure using a program like Photoshop. It’s not that hard to do, and probably the most common way people do it. But it’s fake. And it totally obliterates the real thrill of landscape photography. There is a better way, an authentic way, but it is one of those things that you have to plan for.

    2. There are slivers of time around the time of the full moon where you can including the natural moon in a landscape image with getting detail in both moon and sky. I do not know exactly when those times are, I’m still experimenting, but I would trust what Royce Blair says in his helpful article Into The Night Photography. His conclusion on the slivers of time you can do this are: “1. The night before the full moon, the moon rises just a few minutes before the sun sets; and 2. the morning of the full moon, the moon sets just before the sun is starting to rise. During these two periods, there is just enough ambient light from the setting and rising sun to give detail to the surrounding landscape — otherwise, it is too dark, and the contrast range is too great to record anything but blackness around the moon.”

    That’s the best advice that I can give . . . and as soon as I can fit it into my schedule to be at the right place at the right time for this natural phenomenon, and come out with something that is presentable, then I’m sure you’ll know about it. 🙂

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 6 months ago by  James Staddon.
    #8222

    SarahLeePhoto
    Participant

    Thanks all for the thoughts on this. It is interesting to learn about the atmospheric distortion. I’ll have to try it again later at night, and also try the tip on taking it the night before the full moon just before the sunset. @buddingphotographer, have you had much success with blending two images (with two exposures) together? If so, how did you actually do it in photoshop, so it looks natural?

    Different note, but has anyone here tried star photography and had any good pictures turn out? I find it fascinating.

    #8223

    Ezra Morley
    Moderator

    I actually have not done any compositing/blending of moon exposures that I can think of. I’m not so much of a ‘landscape’ photographer, so I’m more interested in getting as much detail as I can from the moon, which means I’m always at the highest focal length I can get a hold of, which right now is 320mm on a 1.5x crop sensor camera. I could tell you how to do it, but I don’t own Photoshop, so it wouldn’t be the same as doing it in GIMP. The basic principles are the same, but the actual method would be slightly different.

    I also find astro-photography interesting! You might be interested in my post about shooting the stars in Africa. I still haven’t gotten a chance to try for the stars with my new Pentax, all of my previous attempts have been with lower end cameras: Canon Rebel T3 and originally the Canon Powershot S3.

    Attached are some of the very first long exposures I ever took, taken with our old Canon Powershot S3 with CHDK. I was so excited at the time, but when I look at them now… 🙂

    Attachments:
    #8226

    Ezra Morley
    Moderator

    Oh, by the way, here’s a picture I took last night. It’s actually a stack of 21 pictures stacked with Registax, and sharpened in GIMP. I’m not really happy with it, it looks over-sharpened, I’m afraid it wasn’t focused quite right, but I can see a few craters, so I guess it could have been worse…

    Exif:

    Focal Length: 320mm
    Shutter Speed: 1/200
    Aperture: f/8
    ISO Speed: 125

    Taken from a tripod with an infrared shutter release. At 7 fps, it doesn’t take long to get 21 photos! 🙂

    Attachments:
    #8229

    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    These posts you might find helpful @sarahleephoto:

    Adding a Moon to your Landscape Using Photoshop Blending Options
    What I Learned on my First Star Photoshoot by Matt Kloskowski
    How to Composite a Moon or Planet into a Photo with Photoshop

    I do not have any personal experience at this time because I try to do all of my work naturally.

    #8232

    Sarah.Brown
    Participant

    Hey Sarah! I went out one night out in Kansas to shoot the stars! I too found it to be quite fascinating! I haven’t experimented with since but would LOVE to further my skill in that area! I just have to wait for a time to be in the right place, we are pretty heavily wooded around my house so its not always the best location 😉

    #8235

    SarahLeePhoto
    Participant

    Interesting! @buddingphotographer, why did you chose to stack 21 different images for that moon picture? What is the advantage of stacking in that situation?

    Thanks for the links @James Staddon. One article said “For most star photo shoots, you want to choose the lowest f/stop number that your lens will give (widest aperture).” Thoughts on aperture? Noticed most here were at f/8.

    #8236

    SarahLeePhoto
    Participant

    @sarah.Brown you’ll have to show us your star pictures when you try it sometime!

    #8239

    Rachel L
    Participant

    Enjoy reading the night-sky photography conversation and tips. Something I have wanted to learn more about myself!

    #8242

    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    Yes, moon photography is a fascinating topic. I’m looking forward to your answer, @buddingphotographer, on the stacking. I had the same question!

    As for aperture, I have heard the same thing, @sarahleephoto. The understandable factor here is that the wider the aperture, the more light it allows in; at night it’s dark so you need something that can capture more light. But another reason for the wide aperture is so that I can reduce my ISO. Remember the idea behind ISO, “as low as possible while as high as necessary”? The more light I let in using a wide aperture, the lower I can bring my ISO which would result in less overall grain which would be considered a higher quality picture.

    A wide aperture also results in a shallow depth of field, but that doesn’t play into astrophotography much because the stars are so far away the focus can essentially be set to infinity.

    #8408

    Ezra Morley
    Moderator

    I was really just stacking for fun, it was an experiment. You remember what I said earlier about atmospheric conditions affecting the image quality in this thread?

    For one thing, the only time it’s yellow is when it’s low on the horizon, which, incidentally, is the worst time to photograph the moon as you’ll get a lot more atmospheric distortion. The best time is when it’s high in the sky on a cool night, when atmospheric conditions are the best. However, if we want a picture of the “yellow” moon, we have to do the best we can!

    The same principle of stacking star photos also applies to moon photos. Stacking “averages” each exposure, and only the parts of the image that are the same in each image will be shown in the final image. Theoretically, the atmospheric distortion is random, so if you take 20 images and average them, you will “theoretically” average out some of the distortion resulting in a sharper/clearer image. I don’t know if it actually made any difference though. I just read recently that stacking doesn’t do any good on focal lengths less than 1000mm! Yikes, I don’t even have half of that!

    #8543

    timtam
    Participant

    Nice to see so much interest in the moon.
    I think James is right and that the best way to do work with the moon with other elements in the shot is to do a composite image in PS.

    That said I don’t have PS or know how to use it. This is the best I have done in camera with a single shot.

    The moon shot is at 1/15 sec the scene shot is at 62sec.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by  timtam.
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