In 1974, 16 people died in Phnom Penh when soldiers shoot their guns in the air during a lunar eclipse to frighten off the monkey that was thought to be eating the moon...
psst... This isn't the topic that you're supposed to write about...
Oops... Take 2...
Shooting the moon is when you try to take all the points in a hand when the object normally is to avoid... why are you looking at me that way? Oh... photography... right... Take 3...
Photographing the Moon
The first thing that people think when they look at the moon in the sky is 'black sky, long exposure'. This is not the right thing to think in most cases. The key thing to realize is that the moon is a sunlit object (and direct sunlight at that)... just the sun isn't in the picture (or sky) most of the time. As a sunlit object, the the rule of thumb for the proper exposure is that similar to the sunny 16 (the proper speed to photograph a sunlit object at f/16 is 1/ISO).
The sunny 16 often gets you in the ballpark for photographing the moon. The moon has an albedo of 11% (reflects 11% of the light that hits it) making it slight darker than the 18% gray card (standard tool for metering light). Realizing this, the rule of thumb becomes the "Lunar 11" after the camera has been opened up a stop to compensated for this.
Photography by the Moon's light
This is the exposure most people think of when they are photographing the moon. By the light of a full moon with a clear sky consider an exposure of 4 minutes at f/4 for 100 ISO film. Others recommend a 1 minute exposure at ASA 400 at f/1.8. This is just a starting point though.
Photography by moonlight is something to try, though it takes patience. There are only 36 days/year where the moon is bright enough - and thats given that its a clear sky (do not try this in Seattle).
Realize, that the light of the moon is on the order of one millionth (thats 1/1,000,000 or 1e-6) as strong as sunlight. This is the range where the light meter on the camera has absolutely no clue at all about light at this level. You have to guess. The estimates at the top are good places to start and work with the assumption of your first photos won't come out at all. Furthermore, bracket these photos. When doing a 5 min exposure, also do a 10 and 15 minute exposure. This takes time, but it helps assure that at least one photo turns out. Being off by a minute or so is not a big deal here - it's less than a third of a stop.
Photos of this type have glassy, beautiful water. The light is often cool, the shadows are blue tinted. Even though all that we see is shades of gray, there are just as many colors at night if one was to wait around long enough to expose them.
Ever see those prints where there is a city scape with a giant moon rising? These are done with double exposures (I know, I've shot a city scape with a rising moon and its not that big unless you have a very long lens.)
These days, the double exposure of the moon can be done in three different ways:
- On film
- In the darkroom
- In Photoshop
- On Film Double Exposure
In camera, the first photograph should be done with a wide lens. Key in mind to keep the black sky in the location where the moon should be. The scene should be one with enough light so that the exposure is metered correctly - cityscapes work well. After exposing the first frame, switch lenses to a long lens and take a picture of the moon placed in the frame where it is in the previous dark area. The second frame should be shot with the lunar 11 rule mentioned above. Make sure to compensate for the multiple exposure - again, this may take some practice.
An alternate method is to use a mask to mask out the sky. This doesn't require any adjustment mentioned above beach each segment of the film is only getting lighting for one photo.
- In the dark room
Many photographers have rolls of film of just the moon in the frame - various placements in the sky and phases. When needed, the photographer can pull out a frame of the moon and place it in the print quite easily - a bit of darkroom magic and there are two frames.
- In Photoshop
This is really the only choice for digital photographers - only a few of the highest end cameras allow for multiple exposures on the same frame. This is mostly a matter of selecting the image, copying it to the new image, and pasting it in while doing some cleanup (dodge and burn).
Be warned that with double exposure you have to be aware of the moon and its phase compared to the placement of the moon in the sky. I have caught some photographers doing this... "You've got a full moon at the horizon near the sun... thats not the way it works". To which they admit that yep, I got them. Furthermore, some people don't like absurdly large moons in a photograph - others do (I am of the first group).
For information in taking photographs of the Lunar Eclipse and more data regarding focal lengths and exposure times, see Lunar Eclipse.
(There are a large number of sites out there on photographing the
moon with double exposures - do a Google search for "moon double exposure")