Friday, 4 November 2016

Photographing the super moon on November the 14th

On the 14th of November this year there will be the biggest ever supermoon that the world has ever seen since records began etc etc, again.
Nevertheless it will provide (once again) fantastic opportunities to take some great pictures. However, you should probably start snapping now. The difference in diameter will be negligible and the weather, clouds conditions on the 14th may not be as favourable as they may be on the 13th, or the 12th. So my advice, is get snapping straight away, but bear in mind the 14th is when it's 'full' but that doesn't always mean more photogenic. The other thing to bear in mind is, if you want to get a natural shot of it looking supersize, then you're going to need a foreground, and peculiarly, light. It's actually much easier to photograph the moon during the day. So thinking about what time the moon rises is going to be important as well.
Without the use of photoshop or an equivalent photo editing program, if you want to get the classic giant moon shot, you're going to need a hefty telephoto lens. 300mm should be sufficient, in order to compose something reasonable. The shot (left) was taken at extremely short notice, I was in an open air restaurant in kefalonia when it cropped up, although it's acceptable, there are a number of things we can learn by studying it. On the night, the moon looked huge, but as you can see from the photo, It's not really done it any justice. The reason is because the scale of the foreground object is too large. The chimney is larger than the moon. Whilst the 250mm focal length ensures the moon fills a fair portion of the photo, the foreground objects are simply too close. The solution to creating the super-moon illusion is to ensure that you can frame the moon as close to the horizon as possible. Next to buildings looks great as the 'supermoon' will dwarf them.
This thinking gives us two problems.
1) Focus and aperture; and
2) Exposure and ISO.
The photo above was taken (in a panic) handheld. Although the Canon IS really helped out, the shutter speed had to be dropped to 1/13, which is a fair challenge to hold handheld. The f stop was thus, as low as the camera could handle and the lowest ISO I could get away with was 400. Which under the circumstances felt like the best compromise. You've got to remember as well, the moon doesn't half shift when you're zoomed in close, so planning beforehand is vital if an impressive supermoon shot is your goal. Given the same challenge, there are a number of things you can do to prepare.
1) Know where the moon is likely to rise, think about your composition and don't forget the rule of thirds.
2) Expect your best photos to come from night 2.
3) Use a tripod and leave it in situ overnight (if you're doing 2 nights and it's possible), or mark clearly where the legs were fully extended.
4) Use night 1 to experiment with camera settings and review the photos for clarity and exposure.
5) Consider HDR methodology, and set your AEB to +/- a couple of F stops. (I use HDRtist - it's simple).
6) If 5 isn't appealing, use as low an ISO as you can get away with.
7) Use a middling to high aperture, 9 or higher should be sufficient. You want the edge of the buildings sharp as the moon. Bear in mind higher aperture will mean longer shutter speeds that could show the moon blurry as it does move pretty quick.
8) Use a shutter release if possible, or 2 seconds timer delay if you can't, to keep things as still as you can.
9) Concentrate your exposure on the detail from the moon. The contrast of the moon is far harder to pull the detail from (because of the high contrast) than the simple flat silhouette of the building and the flat colour of the sky behind it.
10) Bear in mind, the finished photograph is definitely going to need some post production tweaks. If HDR isn't your thing, then your going to want to look at balancing the contrast, ensuring the highlights aren't overblown and the darks too lost. Ensure your screen brightness is set to full before you start playing.

If you're not sure where the moon will rise, have a look at Google's sky map app for android and iOS there are also plenty of apps that will tell you what time the moon will rise. Currently it's quarter to twelve, in the morning. Which would be ideal. 

Have fun, good luck and share your best pictures below.

Here's my best photo of an eclipse, but wait..... thats no moon.

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