Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Photography by the light of the moon

I noticed as I drove home last night that it was a full moon again, strange how it happens with such regularity, anyway it was so bright I started thinking about making images just by the light of the moon. I quickly realised that in any town or city there might be too much light pollution to just use the moon as a light source but that might not be a great disadvantage.  At this time of year if there is a full moon it usually means it is going to be cold and it was last night so I put the idea on hold but this morning I wished I had been more hearty and put up with the cold. So researching how best to achieve pictures by the moon I found some interesting sites with tutorials and tips that if you are interested might help.

This is one site that you might want to look at, a blog by The Discerning Photographer and this site lists phases and times of moon rise from what seems to be most locations in the world Time and Tide

There are obviously some absolutes, take a tripod, use either a remote release cable or use the self timer function, set the maximum aperture your camera has and work around the 30 second shutter speed, you can use the ISO settings to increase or decrease exposures, start off at about 400 ISO and see how that does. Using such long shutter speeds will eat up your battery and as it is so cold this will also reduce battery capacity so you may need a spare or two depending on how long you plan to be out, also take a torch/flashlight.  This site offers a string of tips and although it is primarily written for film users all the relevant information can be applied to digital capture this is another link you might find useful.

Photographing by  moonlight can easily spring some fascinating results that are as unexpected as beautiful, movement somewhere withing the images, whether clouds or water adds to the dreamy, ethereal quality of the image and on clear nights and long exposures you may capture star movements.

Perhaps the most famous moon lit image is Ansel Adams Moon Rise Over Hernandez, New Mexico, this must have inspired many to get out after dark

This link gives more insight into the creation of this image and asks questions that you will find interesting.

3 responses to “Photography by the light of the moon

  1. David Thomas January 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Interesting subject… I’ve always loved ‘Moonrise over Hernandez’ and it’s always puzzled me slightly – it’s daylight up on the moon, so you need ‘daytime’ exposure times to get any detail on the moon’s surface – so how do you get all that detail in the village – even if there’s a setting sun?

    The other issue with moonlight photography is how quickly the thing moves across the sky! If you include the moon in a picture with a 30s exposure time it’ll blur… I reckon even the 1s of ‘Hernandez’ was pushing it.
    Cheers!
    David

  2. oxfordschoolofphotography January 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Hi David, this link gives much more technical detail about how the image was created, I am not sure it will answer all your questions but might give an insight into AA working methods and thought process http://www.anseladams.com/Articles.asp?ID=145

    • David Thomas January 20, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      The answer seems to be expose for the moon and leave the rest to developing and printing genius… maybe just as well he couldn’t find his exposure meter… I have a Weston Euromaster lightmeter somewhere or other… must dig it out…

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