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Moon riddle - the funcrunch files

Oct. 24th, 2007 08:17 pm Moon riddle

Full moon skyline
Originally uploaded by funcrunch
Photographers among you, please tell me: How do I get a shot of the full moon showing its beautiful detail, and still have other objects in the photo visible and in focus?

I was walking home from work today and saw the moon rising above the Transamerica Building, and thought if I could set up my tripod quickly enough I'd have a perfect shot of it rising directly above the point of the pyramid. Of course by the time I'd set everything up and figured out where the self-timer was (so I didn't jostle the camera) and tried all manner of manual settings, the alignment was off, and it was dark enough that the moon looked like the sun in most of my shots. In the few that any detail was visible, the rest of the skyline was completely black. I later saw that these were set at shutter speed 1/1600; I had thought the 1600 was the ISO setting, doh!

I have a decent camera but I don't have a long telephoto lens; this is the best zoom I could get from my balcony. But I didn't want a tight closeup of the moon anyway, I wanted the skyline, particularly the pyramid, in the shot.

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Date:October 25th, 2007 04:40 am (UTC)
FWIW, I think this is great! I (personally) would crop out the building on the left, though. You'll wind up with a tall skinny shot, but so it goes. I love the way the pyramid and the other buildings look, though. And the color of the sky.
Date:October 25th, 2007 04:59 am (UTC)
Thanks! :-) I tried to crop it out, actually, but was having trouble getting Lightroom to cooperate, and finally just reverted to the original and uploaded as-is.
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Date:October 25th, 2007 05:48 am (UTC)
So it's not just me then? :-D Maybe I'll try again before it gets quite so dark out (which I might have managed had I gotten the tripod set up and the settings figured out faster).
Date:October 25th, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
Back in the mesozoic era when cameras used silver, this guy named Ansel Adams came up with the zone system to deal with matching the dynamic range of the film with the range of lighting in the photograph. You may find reading about it educational, at least for the goals, if not the specific techniques.

Talk to bessie_smith about High Dynamic Range photography. It is a technique that I postulated, then found out that people had already developed. Take several photos, bracketing the exposure, then use software that will blend all three to get a wider dynamic range in a single combined shot.

Shooting the moon, you will have the challenge that the moon moves, so I don't know how HDR software will handle that.

Another option would be to attach a neutral density filter to a slender dark rod that won't show up against the sky. have someone hold it so that it just eclipses the moon when you take the picture.

The other technique, would be to take two pictures. One where the exposure is optimized for the low light subjects, and one where it is optimized for the bright objects and use photoshop to cut out the over exposed moon and replace it with the properly exposed moon.
Date:October 25th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice. boyziggy suggested that last option, but I considered it to be "cheating" somehow, thinking surely there must be a way to capture the detail in a single shot. Actually right now I'm reading some tips on photo.net about the subject...
Date:October 25th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
For what it's worth, if I were doing the picture with film, what I would do would be when I was printing it, expose the paper properly for the buildings. The moon, being overexposed, would be very dark on the negative, and would need more exposure on the paper to compensate. So, I'd take a piece of cardboard with a circle cut out of it, so that when the enlarger was on, only the portion of the frame with the moon was shining through the hole, I'd then "burn in" that section of the print so that the moon wouldn't be totally washed out.

There are a couple other minor details, like moving the cardboard around to blend in the edges, but you get the idea. I expect that in photoshop you should be able to select on the moon, and darken that portion of the image several stops. You'll probably washout a lot of detail due to saturating your sensor, but it may bring the moon in to a more reasonable level.
Date:October 25th, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC)