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Thread: Shoot the Moon

  1. #1

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    I stepped out the door today about an hour before dawn. I was on my way to work out before heading into work. It was crystal clear down here (San Diego, CA, USA) due to a mild Santa Anna wind condition and the nearly full moon was large and incredibly sharp. I usually carry my camera bag with me but got lazy today and was leaving it at home. Nevertheless, I almost dropped my gym bag and ran upstairs to grab my camera and a tripod.

    Now, I know my lens is borderline for good moon pictures (a Nikon 70-300 ED) but I should be able to get a good shot. I have, however, never tried a moon picture before although I have been thinking of it for some time. So, 2 questions:

    1. To get just the moon picture, my plan was to spot meter on a bright part of the moon and overexpose by about 2 stops. I'm shooting print film, actually the camera has 400 speed in it at the moment which is probably too fast for this but, when opportunity strikes, you use what you have available or miss out.

    So, I guess the question is, what film speed (I'm thinking 100 would be much better for this) and exposure compensation for a shot of the moon?

    2. I have been thinking of trying to get a nice doulbe exposure with the moon and a skyline. I have read how to do this (Take a picture of the moon with it placed where you will want it in the final print, then repeat with the skyline leaving the moon portion as dark sky). My question is how careful do you need to be with light pollution into the portion of the skyline that will hold the moon? My idea for trying a natural skyline at dusk won't be much of a problem but I am also thinking a city skyline could be interesting as well. Lots of light polution there, especially living so close to the coast (lots of moisture in the air to scatter the light).

    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2

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    To answer your questions, the moon itself is subject to the sunny F16 rule. If you want to make a shot of just the moon itself with 400 speed film and have the ability to spot meter as you indicated, I would meter the moon only at the reading indicated for the 400 speed film and give 2 -3 stops more exposure. This would give you an exposure that would render detail and the value representive of what the moon would be. So, typically this would be 1/125 second at F16 in the use of 400 speed film. For 100 speed film this would be typically 1/25 second at F16.

    For your second question since you are using a double exposure the exposed value of the sky of the moon only exposure as well as the second exposure will be additive. So you would be best served in shooting a double exposure in a situation where the light contamination from external sources is limited so much as is possible. In the case of a double exposure one would normally reduce the exposure of the second exposure by one stop since the film would have broken exposure threshold with the first exposure.

    I hope that this gives you some direction. Good luck and have fun.

    Regards,
    Donald Miller
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    I usually expose the moon using the "moony 11" rule and find that works--1/ISO at f:11. If you spot meter it, I would put it about 1-1/2 stops over middle grey for color slide film or 2 stops over for color print, and you could probably get away with another half stop for B&W neg, depending on what else is in the scene.

    The hardest thing to do is to photograph by moonlight with the moon in the frame. An ND grad is usually not enough to bring it in line with the landscape. I've been thinking of making some sort of mask to double expose for that situation.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  4. #4

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    Beautiful moon again tonight. I think I'll go out and try a few shots. I'll post results.

  5. #5

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    real bright moon in this part of the world tonight...

    last night I actually took a pinhole pic of the moon...

    I happened to be printing, so thought I'd point my pinhole camera out the window and expose a piece of paper. It didn't really work!

  6. #6

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    Update:

    I waited a little to long for my experiment last night. The moon was pretty high in the sky but I went ahead and took the pictures anyway for practice. I used Aperature Priority, set the camera at f11, and bracketed at +1, +2, and +3 over the metered reading (spot metering on the moon). Just so you know, the exposures came out to be 1/500, 1/250, and 1/125. When I get the prints developed, I'll let you know how they turned out.

  7. #7
    c6h6o3's Avatar
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    There is an excellent discussion of this topic in _The Making of 40 Photographs_ by Ansel Adams. In the text accompanying "Moonrise, Hernandez, NM" he recounts how after setting up his camera to capture this remarkable scene he couldn't find his spot meter, so he computed the exposure in his head using the luminance of the moon and the exposure formula. (At a shutter speed equal to the reciprocal of the luminance of the subject - 250 candles per square foot in the case of the moon, the correct aperture is equal to the square root of the film speed.)

    He also talks about this in the text accompanying "Moon and Half Dome". The problem for the photographer is that the moon is of constant luminance while the illumination of the sky and scenery around it varies all over the map. The foreground of the moonrise photo was grossly underexposed as a result.

    Jim



 

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