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The moon offers some of the most pleasant views here on Earth and it only seems right for amateur and professional photographers to do their best and capture its beauty. Because it’s night photography, some people avoid it because they feel it could be too complicated. It’s simpler than you think, as long as you follow some guidelines.
Photo credit : Rafael Cucu
What will you need?
First of all, the moon is light by the sun and it is a lot brighter than we are tempted to believe .That means that long exposures typically required in night time photography will not be necessary. Some suggest adopting the “sunny f16 rule”. It might work, but I would definitely recommend experimenting with different shutter speed and aperture values. Start with a basic 1/125 @ f5.6 and take it from there. Even though exposure times may not be long, you will need absolute stability. That’s because the shortest focal length for having a real chance at photographing the moon is 300mm. Ideally, you should have a 400-500mm long lens. If you own a zoom lens with constant aperture, like a 70-200mm, teleconverters could be a good solution. A 2x TC will turn your lens into a 400mm, but it will come at the cost of reduction in maximum aperture. Back to stability, a tripod is the best option. If you want good detail you have to keep the camera as stable as a rock. However, a beautiful , clear full moon could catch you some place where you have no access to a tripod. It might be a good idea to consider investing in a portable stability solution , like a Gorilla Pod that you can carry in your photo bag.
A remote trigger is not essential, but I do recommend using the camera’s self timer when releasing the shutter. Even the slightest vibration can cause loss of detail. To be fail safe, use the mirror lock as well.
How to do it?
It would really helpful to know moon phases. You could get good images of a gibbous moon or a crescent moon, but I recommend going out only when the moon is full for best results.
Choosing the right time to do it is also crucial. Twilight is by far the most recommended time because you can capture a certain, special atmosphere. You have the remaining sunlight, which is very soft and pleasant , and the moon that shines clearer and brighter with each minute.
You can also use moonlight as a backlight in contrast with silhouettes to create beautiful images. Also, if you know your way around Photoshop or Corel, you can create surreal landscapes by adding the moon to a photo with totally different lighting.
Moon photography is potentially very rewarding. It will take a little bit of practice , just like everything else, but besides having the chance to take great photos of a universally beautiful subject, it can be great fun as well.