Super Moon - Take Two
On November 14th, the moon was the closest and brightest supermoon of 2016, but also the largest since 1948. What's more, the full moon won't come this close to Earth again until Nov. 25, 2034. So, I decided to see if I could photograph it, but more importantly, photograph it well. I heard about a photography meetup group that was meeting at Lake Pflugerville, which sounded like a good foreground. With moon or star photography, the foreground is the most important element. It gives the sky a sense of scale and magnifies the size of the moon. I read up on how to photograph the moon and found out that “loonie F11” was the secret…so they say. The experts recommended F11, 125th of a sec and ISO 100 as a starting point. I had good success shooting the Milky Way so I was excited and optimistic.
I quickly found out that photographing the moon is not easy, not easy at all. First of all, “loonie F11” did not work for me. I found it way to dark and went into full panic mode, trying to find the right settings. The moon is much brighter than most people realize, so to make it have detail and not look like a white ball you have to do a balancing act of shutter speed and aperture opening. I clearly went the wrong way. I kept closing the aperture to get detail in the moon but that required slower and slower shutter speed. The other thing most people don’t realize is the moon moves quickly, so the slow shutter speeds result in very blurry pictures. The speed also made it move off the horizon losing my “foreground” so the shooting window is very short. I came home and knew I would be disappointed with the results and I was right…lots of blurry shots of the moon.
So, I spent the rest of the night trying to figure out what I did wrong. I think I even thought about it in my dreams because I woke up with the answer. The trick would be open the aperture wide open and only adjust the shutter speed to get the clarity -- being careful not to go too slow. I decided to try again. It would not be a “Supermoon”, but it would still be 97% of the size and a chance to see if I was correct in my adjustments. I went out and endured an hour of mosquito bites waiting for the moon to arrive. It came up slightly left than the night before, but I was ready. I tried my new technique and it seems to have worked. I shot with my 300mm the first night but moved to my 70-200 on the second try which gave me a little bit more room for composition. In hindsight, I think the 300mm was the better choice. I am happy with the results but not thrilled with the foreground. There will be another “Supermoon” in December, so I will be looking for a new location. I would love to hear any suggestions!
Keywords: super moon
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