14 Tips for Shooting the Moon

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One of the first words I learned how to say was, “Moon.” All of my life, I have been fascinated by our natural satellite and I have been photographing it for as long as I have had a camera. My photos have gotten better over the years, but I still search for the perfect photo of the moon. Here are some tips and thoughts for your own lunar photography.

Above photograph: A waxing gibbous moon the day before the full moon. Fujifilm X-T1; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/500-second, ISO 200

Photographs ©Todd Vorenkamp

Moonrise over Ensenada, Mexico, at the end of the Newport-Ensenada sailboat race. The full moon rose the next night. Nikon D1x; Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 150mm (225mm, 35mm equivalent); f/5.0, 1/100-second, ISO 400

1. Plan your shot

There are two basic types of lunar photography:
1. the moon is the main (or only) object in the image,
2. the moon is an element of a landscape image.

A waxing gibbous moon captured. The slight softness is likely a combination of a teleconverter and relatively slow shutter speed caused by the fixed f/22 aperture. Nikon D300; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope with a Nikon Tc-201 2x teleconverter @ 2000mm (3000mm, 35mm equivalent); f/27, 1/25-second, ISO 100 (should have been at ISO 200)

For the first, the main planning you will have to do is know the weather and the phase of the moon and have the right gear. (More on gear later.)

For the second, you need to engage in more extensive planning. Where do you envision the moon in your shot? When is it rising or setting? Again, what phase is it in? There is software, websites, and mobile applications that can help you track the moon’s position at a given location. Sometimes you may stumble on a lucky shot, but there are rewards for being prepared and planning an epic landscape featuring the moon overhead.

The waning gibbous moon sets over the Pacific Ocean, as viewed from Highway 101, in McKinleyville, California, at dawn the day following a full moon. Nikon D300; Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 200mm (300mm, 35mm equivalent); f/8, 1/90-second, ISO 200

2. Moon phases

The majestic full moon is what grabs most people’s attention. Unfortunately, the full moon makes for the most boring lunar photos. Why? Because the entire disc of the moon is illuminated, you get a relatively low-contrast white disc overhead. When waxing toward a full moon, or waning following one, the partially illuminated moon reveals its wonderful texture of craters and their shadows. If you want to capture a “full moon,” photographically, you are better off the day before or after the true full moon period.

You can photograph the full moon, but many find that the lack of texture and shadow on the face of the moon makes the images less visually interesting than non-full moon photos. Nikon D1x; Nikon Reflex-NIKKOR 500mm f/8 with Tc-201 2x teleconverter; f/16, 1/500-second, ISO 125

Gibbous, quarter, and crescent moons all have their places in the world of photography and they can all be visually interesting and engaging. Don’t limit yourself only to when the moon is full.

The crescent moon is difficult to photograph due to the smaller reflecting visible surface area of the satellite. Two things are working in the photographer’s favor: 1. the sky is brighter when the crescent moon is overhead and, 2. today’s digital cameras are getting better and better, with high ISO images allowing faster shutter speeds that will help reduce motion blur and keep the crescent moon sharp. Fujifilm X-T1; Leica APO-77 Televid @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/4-second, ISO 400

3. Moon position

The position of the moon overhead is something to consider. If you are only photographing the moon, you’ll have a better chance at a sharp photo when it is overhead at its zenith. This is because when the moon is lower on the horizon, the light it reflects has to travel through greater distances of Earth’s atmosphere. Of course, if the moon is an element in your landscape photo, its position is critical to your image, regardless of its distance above the horizon.

The full moon rises over the Ocean House, in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. This photo was planned months in advance after I saw a watercolor painting of this scene. I would have preferred to shoot it the day before the full moon, but I could not be in the area until the next day. Fujifilm X-T1; Leica PC-Super-Angulon-R 28mm f/2.8 lens (42mm, 35mm equivalent); ½-second, f/4, ISO 200

4. Clouds

Clear nights are preferred by many photographers. But, on nights with scattered clouds, or thin overcast layers, do not be deterred from attempting to photograph the moon. There are times when cloudy skies can part or be penetrated by the moon and lead to great photographic opportunities.

A thin, overcast layer causes a halo to appear around the full moon prior to the December 21, 2010, lunar eclipse. The constellation Orion is in the lower right corner. Nikon D300; Nikon 20mm f/3.5 AI lens (30mm, 35mm equivalent); f/8, 15 seconds, ISO 200

5. Atmospheric turbulence

There are nights that, at first glance look crystal clear, but on closer inspection, are not. Air is not uniform in density. Because of this, we get twinkling stars overhead. That twinkling is caused by atmospheric turbulence and it can turn any ground-based lunar image into a not-so-sharp rendition of the moon.

The full moon rises over the San Diego skyline. Nikon D300; Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 112mm (168mm, 35mm equivalent); f/5.6, 1/90-second, ISO 200

6. Composition

When photographing the moon alone in the sky, the natural tendency is to center the moon in the image. If you dare, try to mix things up. Center the moon’s shadow if photographing a crescent moon. Use the Rule of Thirds. Rotate a quarter moon 90 degrees. As passengers on Spaceship Earth, we are used to the moon having a certain look and perspective. As a photographic artist, you are not restricted to that perspective.

Be flexible with your lunar compositions. Up and down on Earth does not have to match up and down on the moon. This horizontal waxing gibbous reminds me of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo from lunar orbit. Nikon D300; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/100-second, ISO 100

7. Lens choice

If you are shooting the moon as part of a landscape, your lens focal length will be determined by what portions of the landscape you want in the frame. With a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera, the moon’s size in the photograph will resemble more or less what your eye sees in real life—it will be fairly small. When you go with a wide-angle lens, the moon will appear smaller in the frame.

A US Navy Boeing CH-46D Seaknight helicopter, Sideflare 65, prepares to land on the flight deck of the USS Rainier (AOE-7), in the Indian Ocean, with a waxing gibbous moon rising in the background. Nikon D100; Nikon 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 28mm (42mm, 35mm equivalent); f/7.1, 1/200-second, ISO 800

If you are shooting the moon alone, you can get pretty good results with a 200mm or 300mm lens, but to really fill the frame, you will likely want an even longer telephoto lens or you can use a teleconverter to extend a lens you already own.


135mm

300mm

750mm

1500mm

8. Tripod

With modern image-stabilization lenses, coupled with a fast shutter speed and noiseless higher ISO performance, it isn’t unreasonable to take a handheld photograph of a bright moon with a 300mm lens—or longer. Photographers using image-stabilized 2000mm super-zoom cameras have captured amazing handheld images of the moon.

You do not need expensive gear, heavy tripods, and big lenses to photograph the moon. This is a handheld image from a point-and-shoot super-zoom camera in automatic mode. Nikon COOLPIX P900; 357mm (2000mm 35mm-equivalent); f/6.5, 1/500-second, ISO 250

Minus some steady hands and some electronic luck, you will want to photograph the moon from a steady tripod to get the best results.

9. Mirror lock-up and remote release

When photographing the moon through long telephoto lenses, any amount of movement can soften the image. Therefore, use a remote shutter release (wired or wireless) and, on an SLR camera, use mirror lock-up to minimize vibrations.

Here is a waxing crescent moon, captured a day before the first quarter. Fujifilm X-T1; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/125-second, ISO 200

10. Exposure

There are no hard and fast rules for exposure for the moon because there are many variables. Some charts provide a baseline, but be ready to adjust as you work with your heavenly model above.

ISO Lets start here. When photographing a gibbous, quarter, or even a larger crescent moon in the sky by itself, there is often enough reflected sunlight to allow you to shoot at your camera’s native ISO. Even though you will likely be photographing the moon at night, remember that it is a relatively bright object and will not require higher and noisier ISO settings. More extreme crescent moons may require an ISO bump, as will handheld lunar photography.

For moon-in-landscape photos, you may need to adjust your ISO to help maintain a certain aperture or shutter speed.

Aperture Sharpness is the name of the game when photographing the moon. Because of this, shoot your lens at its sweet-spot aperture and adjust shutter speed and, then, ISO as needed. Shooting wide open may make the moon softer, as will diffraction from stopping the aperture down too much. Shoot in the sweet spot for whatever lens you are using.

If the moon is a part of a landscape, and you need shallow depth of field, by all means, shoot with wide apertures, but know the moon will not be sharp in those images.

Shutter Speed Short shutter speeds are used to freeze action. The moon orbits the Earth at approximately 2,290 miles per hour. That is fast. Luckily, because it is a mean distance of 238,855 miles, it doesn’t streak overhead at more than three times the speed of sound. However, it is moving, and shooting with a slow shutter speed will cause the moon to blur in your images. A good rule of thumb is to keep your shutter speed at a 1/125-second minimum.

The moon heads for the horizon over the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York City. Nikon Df; Tokina 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 30mm; f/8, 14 seconds, ISO 200

11. Metering

When you point the camera skyward to catch the moon, depending on the metering mode selected, the camera is going to take the inky black of space into account when exposing your image. You want to expose for only the moon because it doesn’t matter if the blackness of outer space remains black in your frame. Therefore, it is best to use center-weighted or spot metering to tell the camera to expose only for that really bright section of the frame.

The moon rises over a fog bank, in Kneeland, California. Fujifilm X-T1; Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 lens (52mm, 35mm equivalent); f/5.6, 8.5 sec., ISO 200

12. Focus

Guess what? This is usually a part of lunar photography that isn’t challenging at all because the moon is bright and modern autofocus systems should have no problem locking good focus on the moon. For manual focus, use electronic focus guides, viewfinder prisms, and/or live view and focus peaking. 

Literally standing in a heavy fog bank in Northern California, I spotted this moon-bow behind me while waiting for a break in the fog. The colors of the moon-bow are not as vibrant as the sun’s rainbows, yet it is still a beautiful phenomenon. Focusing this image was far more difficult than focusing an image with the moon in the frame. Fujifilm X-T1; Fujifilm 14mm f/2.8 (21mm, 35mm equivalent); f/2.8, 60 seconds, ISO 200

13. Dynamic range

When shooting at night, the moon may very well be the brightest object in the frame. If you are including landscape in your image, it will be relatively much, much darker than the moon. This will make it difficult to properly expose the moon and still retain some detail in the landscape. This is why silhouetted landscapes are prevalent in images where the moon shows contrast and definition. The dynamic range of digital cameras is getting better all the time, but many lunar photographers use composite images, or allow the moon to go pure white to show the foreground.

A US Navy Boeing CH-46D Seaknight helicopter maneuvers above the ocean with a waxing gibbous moon overhead. Nikon D100; Nikon 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 98mm (147mm, 35mm equivalent); f/7.1, 1/750-second, ISO 800

14. Bracketing

Regardless of the type of moon photos (alone or landscape), you may want to try bracketing your exposures. Digital photography gives you the opportunity to take “free” photographs, so when you are photographing the moon, shoot a lot and shoot some more. In post processing, you will find that some photos are sharper than others taken with identical settings, due to atmospheric interference and other factors. Bracket or adjust your exposure to see if you get better results at different apertures or shutter speeds.

The Palomar Observatory under moonlight and a lot of digital noise. Nikon D100; Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 lens @ 18mm (27mm, 35mm equivalent); f/3.5, 3 seconds, ISO 1600

My grandmother used to call it “Todd’s Moon,” but I will gladly share it with you. What other tips and techniques do you have for photographing the moon? Tell us in the Comments section, below!

Waning gibbous. Nikon D300; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/500-second, ISO 200

Stay tuned to B&H Photo’s Explora blog for more articles on astrophotography leading up to the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017!

: : :

Here is my $0.02 on sharpness of solar, astronomical, and lunar images:

The sun is a mean distance of approximately 93 million miles away and the moon is a mean distance of 238,855 miles away. Neither the moon’s cratered surface nor the sun’s explosive surface make them perfectly smooth spheres.

When I pixel-split my solar images, be it the ones captured with a sharp Nikon 300mm f/4, a sharp Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope, or any other optic, regardless of whether I am using a glass or metal-type solar filter, the sun is only, at its best, "kind of" sharp.

The same applies to images of the moon. I get sharp images, but never as sharp as I really, really want to get.

This got me thinking.

When you photograph something outside of our atmosphere, there is a fair amount of air between you and the subject. The thickness of Earth’s atmosphere is approximately 300 miles, with most of the dense air in the lower altitudes (obviously). Light is transmitted from the sun (or stars) or reflected from the moon (and planets) and it travels through the vacuum of space until it reaches earth. Once it arrives in the atmosphere, all your sharpness bets are off.

If you took a photo of a building, mountain, or person miles and miles away, especially on a hazy day, you probably wouldn't really expect a super-sharp image, right? Now, think about an image of something captured on the far side of dozens of miles of air. Sharp? Probably not.

So, if you are wondering what lens or filter is the sharpest to photograph distant things, or if you are wondering why your lunar craters or sunspots are not tack-sharp, even though you spent a ton of money on a super-sharp lens, just be grateful that earth has a protective shield around it that gives us air to breath and protects us from the harshness of outer space. And, also remember that there is a reason they try to put telescopes in dry places at high altitudes—or in orbit above the atmosphere!

133 Comments

Check out the Android app "Moon Locator", it predicts the Moon position and displays it in the Augmented Reality view. It's very helpful to prepare for a photography shoot.

Thanks, Rainer! Another good one is PhotoPills.

I use iso 100 and simply stop it down 3 stops from the automatic exposure metering. Exposure time can't be more than several seconds to 12-15 seconds before you get "star trails" movement of the moon. (It moves prety darn fast!) So the shorter is clearer. Works great. Oh, tripod is mandatory; do everything posible to stop vibration. Mine come out looking like they came from an observatory. I used to have a Celestron C8... that telescope made the surface of the moon blindingly bright. You got lost on the moon. 500mm or so is plenty.

Hey bruce,

Thanks for the tips! What kind of camera are you using? 

5D4, A7R3 and PhaseOne XF 100Mp

Nice quiver there! I try to keep my shutter speed over 1/125th for moon shots to keep the blur from happening...bumping up ISO if needed. Thankfully, our sun is bright, and the reflection of that light off of the Moon is bright, too—average albedo of 0.12! :)

Some great information in the comments.  One tip I do not see comes from an astronomer I talked with some months ago.  He noted that there was software available that would determine "a moment of clarity" within a video of the moon or planet and extract a photograph.  He showed some examples he had of the moon and Saturn that were crystal clear.  The software he used was supposedly public domain (free) and simple to use.  Unfortunately I did not write down the name of the software and have yet to find it, or similar software.  

Bruce,  There is a family of techniques for getting around atmospheric turbulence that collect 'lucky frames' or 'lucky patches' from video or a burst of frames.  M. A. Voronsky at the 'Intelligent Optics Lab' of U of MD has done a lot of work like this if you want to do some recon on the subject.  My understanding is that sections of an image are analyzed for sharpness and then a collection of 'lucky patches' are stitched together similarly to extended depth of field stitching.  (Typically using a pyramid method.)  Anyway, if there's software out there, make sure it can register your series of images before it operates on them because the moon will shift between frames.  Good luck!

Thanks for the assist, David! I might try image stacking the next time I do a lunar shoot!

Hey Bruce,

If you find it, let me know! David is correct about folks using image stacking. I have never tried it, but should!

Sometimes, the atmospheric turbulence will leave some craters on the surface super sharp while others are lost in blur. In the very next frame, things have shifted. It is frustrating! Darn that atmosphere that protects us from dangerous space stuff!

Thanks for reading!

The free software you are talking abot is called RegiStax, it works by using video captures (or a large number of individual frames), registering the individual images, stacking them, picking the best ones out of the batch and then running through the NASA drizzle algorythm.  The results are nothing short of amazing.  Currently version 6.1 I believe.

Thanks, Patton!

I might be missing it, but do you know of a Mac-compatible version of RegiStax?

Todd, my understanding is that Registax will run pretty well under Wine on Mac and Linux.  Alternately you can use parallels or other VM to run it.  A google for "registax mac" will get some results that look like a good starting place.  I also see that there are some other stacker programs out there that I am unfamiliar with.  ("DeepSkyStacker" and "Autostakkert")  As with any such software, careful of sources, etc.  Our computers security is our own responsibility!

Thanks again, Patton! I recall searching last summer to try to stack some solar images, but did not find anything that was too user-friendly and fast...maybe I will search again!

I appreciate the tips!

Thank you for this very helpful article and for sharing your beautiful images. A few years ago I started shooting a series of night images with a medium format 6x7 film camera. With it, I did the opposite of trying to get a sharp image of the moon: I left the shutter open for hours. This allowed me to get images that show the trajectory of our beautiful satellite (which are also not that common), along with cityscapes full of rich details. I would not know how to do this with a digital camera, but surely there is a way.

Hey Dante,

Thank you for the kind words! You are very welcome! Sounds like a cool idea, Dante! I am sure you can do it digitally, but instead of film reciprocity, you will have to deal with uncool amounts of digital noise! Were you using ND filters for your shots?

No, I did not use any ND filters. Mostly shot Portra 160 NC as iso 100. And then the longer you expose the film, the sensibility is lowered.

Very cool! Thanks, Dante!

Thank you for this useful article.  I was taking pictures of the full moon as part of a landscape (with a few distant lights in the scene) setting on a night when one could see the details and shades of the craters on the moon particulary well.  I was using my Sony A6500 with a Sony 16-70mm lens (cropped to 24-105mm) with my ISO set at 400, aperture at different settings between F4 and F8 and shutter speeds between 0.4 and 4 seconds, to try and nail the details of the moon.   (I also used a tripod and the camera's 10 second timer.).  I was disappointed that not one picture showed any of the detail I was after.  Should I have been using a much faster shutter speed, or was the lens I was using unsuitable?

Hey Esther,

So, there could be a few things that kept you from getting the shot you wanted...

1. Lens. That is a fine lens, but shooting the moon with a normal-ish telephoto lens will generally not show you a lot of detail on the lunar surface. As big as the moon is, it is far away. In order to get exquisite detail on the surface, you need to get much closer (virtually) to the moon. Your mind's eye sees a lot of detail on the lunar surface because we have all been exposed to close-up images of the moon, but, remember, only 400 years ago, scientists had never even seen the moon with enough magnification to know there were craters on the surface.

2. Dynamic range. The human eye has a much better dynamic range than a digital (or film) camera. That means your eye can see those details on the moon as well as the details in the foreground much more (and longer) than the camera. Unless you are shooting the moon as it rises or sets during relatively bright dawn or dusk, the camera is going to have the option of exposing for the foreground (leaving the moon super bright in the frame) or the moon (leaving the foreground super dark).

How are those two hypotheses working with what you experienced? Standing by for follow-ups and thanks for reading!

Good info. As others have already mentioned, I always shoot with my D800 in full manual mode when doing moon shots. I usually shoot at ISO 100, @ f8 and start with 1/200 second shutter speed and see how my exposure comes up. I adjust up or down depending. I have a 150-600mm f5.6-6.3 zoom that is my primary lens for moon shots, shooting at 600mm. Unfortunately I can't use a teleconvwrter on it. I want the new version which can be used with TC's. I also tend to shoot my exposures slightly to the low side. I can always bring it up in post processing. It is much easier to bring out detail in a slightly under exposed shot than it is one that it very well exposed to border line over exposed. 

Hi Paul,

Great tips and thanks for sharing your experience! I also shoot a bit underexposed, but one needs to be careful not to shoot the moon so dark that you induce noise into the image as you compensate for the dark exposure in post processing!

Thanks for reading!

This was VERY helpful. Thanks for going through it. 

You are VERY welcome, Evan! :)

Thanks for stopping by!

PLAN your shots first and foremost. Use Accuweather or whichever weather forcasting website you trust most.

Decide the phase of the moon you wish to capture... full moon, crescent, waxing, waning percentage etc and then compare the moon phase you wish to image with the local weather prediction.

Rent a 600mm, or 800mm, prime lens from your local camera shop. It's a very simple process and not intimidating at all (despite the fact that a Nikon 600mm prime costs over $12,000). Renting a lens like the Nikkor 600mm costs about $95/day or $285/week. Rent a 2X Teleconverter... a QUALITY teleconverter.

Place your camera in fully automatic mode whatever that might be, set it to capture iamges in .raw mode (Nikon is .dng) and write down the settings it recommends.

Use a rock stable tripod, place your full frame DSLR in APS-C mode (DX mode on a Nikon full frame), and adjust the ISO (as low as possible if shooting a full mooon). Your 600mm rented lens, combined with a 2X teleconverter, in APS-C mode, is now approximately an 1800mm lens.

Place your camera in MANUAL mode and enter the settings you recorded when your camera was in fully automatic mode. See what the image looks like in Live View and adjust focus/brightness from there. When you're happy, set your camera to capture images with it's intervelometer or a remote shutter release.

In Lightroom or Photoshop, depending on the image sensor capabilty, you should be able to crop at least once, perhaps twice, adjust contrast and highlights as you see fit. 

I bet the images you captured will amaze you.

Hey Chris!

Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

I have had great luck with keeping it simple -- i.e. my Canon Powershot SX50 HS has been a great little camera for 'shooting the moon'.  I usually zoom out to the max in Auto, and alternate that with shooting in P mode at 200 ISO.  I am strictly an amateur photographer but have been pleased with my moon shots.  I especially love shooting the full moon low on the horizon as it sinks behind the trees.  The contrast of the tree limbs against the moon make a neat picture.  I live on the water on the Eastern Shore of MD, and also like photographing the moon far enough above the horizon the capture it reflected in the water.  As you said in your comments, trying to get landscape in the shot makes for a fuzzy moon.  You have some great tips that I plan to try.  Thank you!

Hey Susan,

Yeah, I might be jealous of you superzoom shooters! I have to break out the spotting scope, remove the eyepiece, attach the camera adapter, attach the camera, find the moon, focus and shoot. You just point and shoot! Yep, jealous!

I am glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks so much for the compliments and good luck shooting the moon!

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Fabulous article as always Todd!

Thank you, Karla! Glad you stopped by!

Any hint on White Balance?

Hey Mongkhol,

Thanks for that question. My answer: white balance is what you make of it. If I am shooting the moon in the sky alone I will generally put the white balance dropper (in Lightroom) on the lunar surface in a gray area. That usually removes any color cast. With the moon in a landscape, you can white balance the scene on the landscape, or the moon. It is really up to you.

Another trick? If you are only shooting the moon, you can switch to black and white. The moon is colorless, so black and white really isn't too unrealistic.

Thanks for the question and thanks for reading!

Use the Moony 11 rule to get a great picture of the moon with fantastic detail. This rule says to set the aperature to f/11, the ISO to whatever setting you want and to set the shutter speed to 1/ISO. You ignore the light meter reading. I set the aperature to f/11, the ISO to 400, and the shutter speed to 1/400 and get great, super detailed pictures every time. It does need to be dark outside when you take the shot.

That's what I have always done also.

You guys are way more advanced than I! Thanks for reading!

Thanks for sharing that trick, Jack! 

I did not know of the moony 11 rule, but the sunny 16 - 1/iso (ASA) was my guide since the moon is lit by the sun the same as any object on the face of the earth, it applies the same. Back in the seventies before I bought my first Pentax KX semi-pro SLR I had to do things the hard way. Use rules of thumb and unexpensive equipment, like a Praktica SLR with no meter and a Siratone 500mm lens that still sells to this date under many brands including Vivitar, Opteka and Bower because of the quality of the glass formula. I would use the reciprocity law to convert these settings. Also the 1/focal lenght, for handheld exposures rule. That would be my starting point if I wanted detail on the moon. Now with DSLRs and Post, you can auto bracket and stack.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Carlos! Do you still have that lens?

Why at some times shooting the moon I get a double exposure or ghostly appearance in my shot?

Hi Janis,

There might be a few possible reasons for your ghosting.

Sometimes I have gotten flare from the UV filter in front of my lens. The next time you see flare, unscrew your UV filter (if you are using one) and see if that solves the problem. Another culprit may be dirty optics. Make sure both the front and rear elements of your lens are clean. The last possibility would just be that your lens is prone to flare. Sometimes you can eliminate this by placing the moon dead center in the frame.

What kind of glass are you using?

Thanks for reading and thanks for your question!

I love this article!

I've been afflicted with lunar see for several years now and love shooting the full and crescent moon as it's rising or setting.

Some things I've learned

As other have said:
The earth rotates much faster than you'd expect so the moon changes position quite rapidly as you view it through a telephoto lens.  It's ever changing, so every day it will rise (or set) in a different location.

Apps such as LightTrac, The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE) and PhotoPills help you know where to be and when to be there

It's important to know what the weather is like.  I often search for remote cameras to see if it's clear where I'm going.  The San Francisco Bay Area was socked-in during the recent transit of Mercury across the sun; the Mt. Tamalpais view cam showed it was clear at the peak, so we headed out from Berkeley and captured the transit after driving through the thick fog.

The most interesting moon is as it's close to the horizon and behind a landmark.  In the US, the moon travels south (or to the right) as it rises (might be different in the southern hemisphere; I'm not sure) so if you want to shoot the moon behind a landmark, prepare to move north (or to the left) as it rises.  Just think of the landmark as a "pivot" point to grasp the concept.

Nautical twilight is an ideal time to capture a yellow-orange moon against a cobalt blue sky.  The moon is still pale just before and after sunset; it's extraordinarily bright when the sun has long set, and it's difficult to expose for the moon without greatly underexposing the foreground.

Still trying to figure out the optimal distance and lens to use to capture a large moon with a distinct landmark (i.e. tower or bridge) in front of it.  I'll scour my photos to estimate that, but I'd guess that a 400-600 mm focal length and a distance of 1-3 miles could be a winning combination. 

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, Frederic Larson hosts a monthly full moon meetup.  He always knows where to be and when to be there and I always feel better taking moon photos when surrounded by like minded people.

http://www.meetup.com/northbayphotography/

My favorite moon photos here ... 

https://serkes.smugmug.com/NightLight/

https://serkes.smugmug.com/Moon

I often plan trips around the phases of the moon, and/or note where the moon will be when we're travelling.  That's how I captured moonrise of Algeria on our recent trip to the Moroccan desert.

I tend to prefer the telephoto shots of the moon with large depth of field over wide angle photos where the moon is small on the horizon.

Happy shooting!

Hi Ira,

First of all, awesome moon photographs! I absolutely love the SF Bay Bridge "V" shot. Amazing capture! Nice work!

It looks like you could have written this article for me! Great tips and experiences. Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your stuff!

Truly my pleasure ... I've learned so much from others I wanted to give back and help other photographers..

I'm now learning HDR B+W Photography as taught by Harold Davis (who happens to be a neighbor of mine)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/serkes/28112454653/in/album-72157670838661...

https://www.flickr.com/photos/serkes/28112455073/in/album-72157670838661...

https://www.flickr.com/photos/serkes/29371087914/in/dateposted-public/
 

Good stuff, Ira! Thanks again for sharing!

Great article. Seeing the moonbow shot reminded me of hearing some information about being able to pick up more color in the moonbow with adjustments being made. All the colors are there, just hard to capture.

Hey Pat,

Thanks for the comment! Yep, all the colors are there, but definitely subtle. When I post-process my images, I try to get the final image to look just like my mind's eye remembers the scene, therefore, I didn't crank the saturation up to illustrate the effect. Got to stay true, more or less, to what the eye sees!

Thanks for reading!

Good article.  I offer another trick:  to make the moon relatively bigger in an image that includes a foreground subject [without Photoshopping it], move further back from the foreground subject & use a longer focal length lens (or plan to crop more).

And this works best when the moon is closest to the horiizon,  Else as you move back, the moon moves relatively higher in the sky.

Great tips, Tom! 

I am not a fan of the post-processed moon composite photos, myself. So, a bit of planning (and luck) can go a long way to getting the Moon shot you want.

Thanks for reading and sharing your tips!

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