Sometimes, photography can be like fishing. You gather your gear together, often leave the house in total darkness and, sadly, come back empty-handed. Sunrise photography can be hit and miss.
Other times, it can be like shooting fish in a barrel. One such occasion was when I headed downtown to the moonwalk, which is actually a pathway along the river’s edge between the Algiers ferry and the wharf. I pulled my ticket to raise the crossbar and parked as close as possible to the moonwalk.
As I approached the bank of the Mississippi river, where I intended to set up my tripod, I noticed a few other photographers had already arrived in anticipation of what the local news was calling a super moon. Since there is a lot of talk about a super moon this week, I wanted to share a photo of a recent super moon. I knew the moon would be there. It was just a matter of pointing my camera in the right direction and having few enough clouds to be able to actually see the moon. On this day it was overcast when I arrived, but the clouds did manage to clear just as the moon got into position. I love it when things work out!
If you’ve ever tried to photograph the moon, you may have noticed that it isn’t as easy as one would think. Usually, you’re taking the photo of the moon when the sky around it is much darker, or even completely black. Most cameras are set up to meter the full scene that you’ve pointed your lens at. So, your camera sees mostly darkness and it tries to brighten everything up. So you end up with a bright spot on your photo that looks nothing like the moon! The fix to this is really easy. First, if possible, change your metering method from full screen (whatever your camera manufacturer calls it) to more of a spot metering system. Now the camera will see mostly just the moon and expose for that. The moon my still be too bright, but you’ll be getting closer. If the moon is still too bright, underexpose by a full stop, sometimes maybe even two…. or even three.
In order to make these changes, your camera can’t be in an automatic mode. Some people panic at the thought of taking control of their camera, but it needn’t be so stressful. When you look in your viewfinder (again, it depends on your camera type), you’ll see a horizontal line with vertical make along it. The tallest line, or hashmark if you will, in the middle of the line will be what the camera determines is a properly exposed image. To underexpose the image, adjust whichever dial or knob your camera uses to change the exposure value. Move the meter indicator towards the left. Each smaller vertical line, or hashmark indicates one stop. I’ll usually underexpose until I can see the moon with the markings on it, like the craters and such. This is where digital photograph is a god send as you can see what you have and make the adjustments on the fly. With film, you’d have to take several photos and hope that at least one of them were properly exposed.
Another thing that you’ll notice is that the moon looks much smaller in your photograph than it does to your eye while you’re standing there looking at it. This is a problem when you want to include other, land based, items in the same shot with the moon. The land based items need a wider angle lens, but the moon will need more of a telephoto set up in order to be able to display it closer to the size that your eye sees it. Then, it’s just a matter of combining these images in post production so the scene matches what you saw at the time of capture.
Thats a topic for another da and one that gets people fired up!