Full Moon and Pagoda
Photographing a full moon at night is not an easy task, since photographing the moon is essentially photographing the sun (I think my wife just smiled because I say that quote often). The full moon’s albedo (percentage of light reflecting the sun) is roughly 7%, which is an extremely bright light source when photographing at night.
Even though it can be a wonderful light source when photographing a night time landscape (CLICK on link, Yosemite Falls under Moonlight, to see an example) the moon can create havoc with your camera’s sensor if you’re trying to include it within your scene.
Below are a few things that will help you include the moon within a night time scene without over exposing it:
- Select the longest lens you have. A longer lens (above I used a 200mm) helps compress the scene, giving the moon a larger portion of the entire image versus using a wide angle lens and the moon being just a spot in the sky
- Bracket the scene with several images to ensure the moon doesn’t turn out as an overexposed white spot within your final image. And not just your normal 2 stops below the ‘average’ exposure for an HDR image. You’ll need to bracket many stops below to ensure you maintain detail in the moon. In the image above, the moon above is roughly 7 stops below the ‘average’ exposure of the scene
- First, focus and photograph the moon with the settings that expose the moon appropriately. Then refocus on your main subject and photograph the scene like a normal HDR image (-2,-1,0,+1,+2)
- Blend the images using an HDR software (I tend to develop for a photorealistic HDR image) and then make any necessary adjustments using layers within Photoshop