The Magic of Moonlight


Full Moon, March 2011 (taken in Bangkok, Thailand)

A full moon makes magic. The scene above would have been a popular subject that night. This was closest the moon had been to Earth for eighteen years although, ironically, it’s size representation in a photo is entirely dependant on your focal length of lens and composition.
The first few shots could simply be concerned with filling the frame and adjusting your exposure to render good detail on moon’s visible face ( I have many of these). Your next few might attempt to bring out the moon’s aura – as I did here. Another example below.
Further ideas could be photographing the night environment lit by the moon – buildings by the sea, a mountain lake or indoors. The downside to photographing in such an extreme range of light levels is that some level of detail must be sacrificed depending on the dynamic range specs of your SLR.
If this is the case, try sandwiching a well exposed shot of the moon taken at the same size in two differing compositions for a near perfect range of detail that is sometimes just out of reach. The moon (top), is blown out to capture a good exposure for the aura and throw a silhouette of the leaves for the strong graphic effect I wanted.
Photographing these shots required a sturdy support for the fantastic Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom, a super pro quality lens, that weighs in at 3.2kg. I travel with a mid-weight Benbo Trekker Tripod which covers most of my requirements. However, the 90-250mm requires a sturdier support ideally, but to get round this I attempt whenever possible to place the Benbo on a higher surface for more stability with the legs contracted. A cable release or self timer is essential for the average 2 second exposures at 100-160 ISO.
I prefer manual focus if time allows for the exacting detail of the moon’s surface. I use the live view focusing aid which magnifies the detail 5x, 7x or 10x. The image moves around significantly at this magnification so I move in and out of focus a few times and trust my eyes. I’m probably repeating myself here when I comment on the importance of focus, but it’s never a bad thing to enforce technique. I seem to find that if all else is spot on with a shot (exposure, choice of lens, depth of field, colour, composition) it’s likely focus will be up there as the first fault.
Another favourite time of day for the moon is late afternoon when the sky still has color and the moon is fainter. This image below was taken in South Australia whilst on an Australian Geographic assignment – my favourite rendition.
Image top: Olympus E-3, f11, 2 seconds, ISO 100, 250mm with EC-20 2 x teleconverter (1000 mm film equivalent), Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom, white balance auto, manual exposure, manual focus with live view 7x, vivid mode, tripod, cable release.
Image below: Olympus E-3, f16, 1/125, ISO 100, 250mm with EC-20 2 x teleconverter (1000 mm film equivalent), Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom, white balance auto, manual exposure, manual focus with live view 7x, vivid mode, tripod, cable release.
© Warren Field 2011
Taken on OLYMPUS E-System Cameras and Zuiko lenses.
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One thought on “The Magic of Moonlight

  1. This is a very good tip particularly to those new
    to the blogosphere. Short but very precise info… Many thanks
    for sharing this one. A must read post!

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