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Tuesday, 15 November 2016


I certainly hope I am not the only one that enjoyed you describing your fascination with the moon as lunacy.
"mid 16th century (originally referring to insanity of an intermittent kind attributed to changes of the moon)"

Reminds me of:

"...so the brightness range of the whole subject—called, not surprisingly, the subject brightness range or SBR..."

Thanks! I was unaware of the term that describes that—even though I use the concept all the time when I photograph the moon. I guess you don't have to know what it's called to know what it is.

During the last supermoon, I found it was more interesting to take landscape photos using the light from the moon rather than taking shots of the moon itself. It's a very interesting light/effect.

I also learned a very valuable lesson: bring a flashlight to illuminate the subject you want to focus on. I had to take 20 second exposures so trial-and-error (unfortunately with no success) was a lengthy process.

Unfortunately, last night I was driving home late from the airport and was unable to go out with the camera.

I'm glad to know that I"m not the only one with Moonshot problems. Just got a new RX100/5 and trying it out -- every shot was just an overexposed blur until I finally shot on Manual exposure setting and manual focus.
My ancient Canon t2i got it on the first shot set on "Program" and auto-focus.

Of course the position of the moon only reinforces the "gravity" of the situation we are in.

* - really?
** - REALLY?
Have we gone so far around the bend that you feel compelled to footnote those two words? Hopefully your journalistic tongue is planted firmly in your cheek. Now, back to our scheduled program - I really enjoyed seeing Mr. Carson's photo. Thanks for posting.

[Several readers got into a huff and told me they were never going to read TOP again because I titled a post "Shooting Trump" the other day. The post linked to an article about four photographers who had, yes, shot portraits of Trump over the years. I changed the title and added an explanation that I have never agreed with those who are squeamish about the use of the words "shooting," "shoot," and "shot" in photography (and no one thought I was advocating the murder of children when I once titled an article "Shooting Children.") But the complaints kept coming, so I had to remove the post altogether.

I'm still a little miffed. I understand that everyone's upset, but it's not *my* fault. I didn't cause all the sturm und drang. --Mike]

"with photo technique you learn to do what you want to do, and the rest you let go"

This is a great statement, one of the best I've ever read from you. Many photographers would be helped greatly if they could absorb this lesson that you don't need to know it all, you only need to know what you need to know to do what you want to do.

Judging by your two pictures in this post, it's perfectly clear that you need to buy the Sony 6500.
That camera, as we all know, can handle 13 stops of DN without breaking a sweat. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Mike, your tribulations over proper exposure reminded me of an exhibition here in the Bay Area several years ago. Contributors to the show were asked to do riffs on Ansel Adams' "Moonrise Hernandez" photo. If you remember, Adams once explained how he only had a few minutes to get that shot, including setting up all his large format gear and then, in a flash, calculate the proper exposure (without meter if I remember the story correctly). So, Mike... come on; you're an old pro at this sort of thing. You could have done the 'Jedi Knight' thing... Let the Force Be With You! Put that camera in manual mode and trust your intuition. :-)

"*Not with a gun.

**Not murdering or assassinating. I turned it off."


"I'm still a little miffed."

Somebody needs a hug.

Been shooting the sky for decades, both day and night, so the "SBR" issue is quite familiar to me. Getting that Full Moon shot when there's still light on the landscape is harder than it sounds, since we control neither the subject nor the lighting. If the Moon rises too early (relative to sunset), it and the sky are washed out. Too late, and you run into the problem described in this post.

Of course, with the advent of digital, we have other options. HDR exposures, like you described, are one solution, but I find it useful to shoot the foreground when that last remaining sliver of light is still illuminating it (perhaps underexposing somewhat), and then to shoot another, exposing for the Moon, once it has risen. Combining the 2 shots "in post" is something even I can do.

And if you can "add" one Moon to that foreground shot, why not add several? For example: https://www.facebook.com/AstronomyPictureOfTheDay/photos/a.1121198131248980.1073741894.147511511950985/1121200537915406/?type=3&theater. Rising "Supermoon" on Sunday night. Four minutes between exposures.

Link in that previous comment should have been to the third image (of 9). Worked once, but now I can't seem to force it to go there!


The moon over St. Louis, moon behind the Soyuz rocket, actually all of them are very good photos. I really liked the palm-like tree in front of the moon next to the Almodovar castle. Let the news photographers loose and you get some really interesting photos!

The Newseum's website has a nice selection of moon photos on their "Top Ten" front pages (http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/?tfp_display=topten).

Being an unreconstructed pixel-peeper with no easily recognized foreground objects to shoot the moon against, I went out to see how many pixels I could put behind the moon's image. With either the Fuji 400mm (with OIS!) and the newer 24 MPx chip or the Leica 280 Telyt plus 2X extender on the Leica SL (also 24 MPx), the moon fits nicely into about a 1200x1200 pixel square. With the Fuji and autofocus, I could hand hold a shot at 1/2000 sec. With the much heavier Leica gear and manual focus, I needed a tripod. The clearest picture comes with the moon overhead (less atmosphere in the way). With the equipment of today you get to see the edges of the big craters. The Fuji shot is at https://flic.kr/p/AHvSkG , the Leica shot at https://flic.kr/p/P85GNy . There is not much difference between them, but I found the Leica shot a little clearer.

Though not the profoundest words you have ever written - I still found the basic tenet behind your words regarding not caring to learn the HDR technique of merging multiple exposures, "...(because in general it's beyond my interests—with photo technique you learn to do what you want to do, and the rest you let go)", a really important statement which matches my own philosophy.

I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned early on - performing digital photography as I care to - was my decision to stick with just a few processes I came to like, and improving upon them over time, rather than download every new software "gadget" out there. It has kept my hard disk lean and my head mean - OK, more relaxed!

Mike, there are always those looking to take offense, they have an easy time finding it.

I kind of remember that now. I'm your polar opposite when it comes to politics, but someone should shoot me if I ever get to the point of assuming that you or anyone else would actually mean something other than the obvious in a headline using the word "shoot" on a photography blog. Context is important.

Intuitively the subject brightness range for the moon and the scene would equal the subject brightness range for the sun and the scene in daylight. Maybe a tiny bit less to account for starlight, but still 8500 to 1 sounds in the ballpark* for both. Funny but no one complains about the sunspots being blown out in daylight photography.

Reminds me of a job photographing in a bar by the light from a Budwiser neon sign where the bar interior, the sign, and the model standing next to the sign all had to hold detail and the client insisted that we not "use any extra lighting because i know what i want it to look like so just take the damn picture!"

On ektachrome. Fortunatly triple exposures and a realy talented dye transfer guy made it work.

*Assuming you want to massivly underexpose the scene and overexpose the moon/sun the way you did.

Living here too in Upstate NY, even if my own photographic skills don't permit me to show,it is nice to enjoy.

[It's funny, I'm finding it better in person than in photographs, generally. Not that there aren't nice pictures around, but somehow the experience is more than just the visuals. I think it's the changing nature of the light and clouds and sky, the shifting air and the smell of the air. The views are nice but there's more to it. --Mike]

The latest supermoon event makes me feel like giving up photography altogether!
I watched the moon rose just above the city skyline, still a warm orange blob, and shot a few snaps with some highrise apartment buildings next to it. I carefully exposed to make sure that the moon still had that orange glow and the fine details in it, while the apartments lighted inside were still recognizable. I adjusted the levels in post to make sure that what I wanted to show were still showing up. And I thought I had a very nice picture of the supermoon.
Then 2 hours later, people were sharing a picture of the city night scene with the moon hanging lowly above the highrise buildings - bright and detailed with all the craters on the moon, at a size probably 10 times what it should be if taken together with the city scene. I know it because I live here. And people were captioning the picture - my friend just took this.....
I was so mad I spent 5 minutes at my computer and found a picture of the moon and a picture of a night scene and put them together and share the picture with the caption - is this big enough??

One doesn't need to photograph the supermoon itself in order to take advantage of the photographic opportunities it presents.

For example, I photograph mostly at night and the additional light provided by the moon over the past few days has made it possible for me to photograph scenes I otherwise couldn't or wouldn't, by raising the shadows and reducing the exposure range my camera is required to capture.

Here is an example: http://www.canyonero.com/files/1479252431.jpg ... without a brighter-than-average moon overhead illuminating this scene, the highlights would blow-out and the shadows plug-up, making a single-exposure photo impossible to take. (I know this for a fact, because I've tried to photograph it many times before, always without any success.)

So rather than fret about not having the proper equipment, think outside the box a bit and before it's too late, get yourself outdoors tonight and take some photos! A little sleep is all you stand to lose... 8^)

You seem to find the moon far more problematic to photograph than I, and I imagine many others, find to be the case.

You have inspired me to collect some of my moon shots in one gallery.

I hope the range may inspire you to see that there are many ways to capture the moon.

None of these images involve exposure bracketing or HDR software; all done with appropriate exposures and what may be done in PS (sans HDR).

One taken with a now ancient Fuji F30 P&S. One uses the OOF moon's brightness as an asset. One is a panorama from two 18 mm eq. shots, so approaching a 180° view. At the other extreme is a 1,600 mm. eq. for a 1.5° -ish AOV (the 2012 Supermoon).

One uses focus bracketing to maintain focus on the moon and a near object, but the exposures were the same.

Most of the focal lengths used are, I think, outside the range you like, which may in part explain your frustration with 'shooting the moon'?

There was brief gap in the clouds where I managed to view the event with my own eyes as I was travelling, but it didn't last long enough for anything photographically. I had planned, weather permitting, to do multiple exposures to describe an arc with the moon and light paint the foreground. The resultant image is now only in my minds eye - stunning, of course :-)

It's a creative problem, depending upon many variables, this shooting of the moon. Most of the variables are beyond your control, so you do what you can with what you're given.

We had clouds and fog, so I was given this to work with:


I think they used a flash ... or the sun was setting.

I wonder if there was a location from which Carson could have photographed the moon _through_ the arch. (The moon doesn't rise in a vertical line, so it's not clear that that would have been possible from the location he actually used.) At any rate, if I were in St. Louis, I'd like to try.

Ever since I learned that, on the night before the actual full moon, the full-moon-for-all-intents-and-purposes always rises in a blue hour sky, I've tried to shoot my full moons on those nights.
In Florida, my problem is a suitable foreground. There are no interesting tall buildings around Palm Bay, so I look for bridges and whatnot.
Luckily, I got a few I liked this past night-before-the-night-of-the-super-moon, because on the actual night, it was wall to wall overcast clouds.

Here's a link to the video explaining how David Carson took the moon-Arch shot:


He was on the Compton Hill water tower [1]. To shoot through the legs of the Arch he would have had to be a little to the northeast and lower, from which point the view would have been blocked IMHO

[1] One of 3 remaining in St. Louis; originally served the same purpose as the better known Water Tower in Chicago

David Carson's moon shot is fabulous. Thank you for calling it out, Mike!

The "tricks" to making such images are actually in plain sight in David's image.

1. Don't wait for darkness. That is, if possible, take the image before the sky is black and before the moon is at full brightness. Just after twilight is best for the sky if the moon will cooperate.

2. Realize that the moon is among the dullest of all subjects by itself. Put it in some other context or make a visual gag of it. But, like sunsets and sunrises, it may be fun for the photographer but it's the ultimate in trite subjects.

2b. The far better approach, suggested by your experience and others' remarks, is to keep the actual moon out of the frame and just use its unique light and shadows.

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