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Thread: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

  1. #1

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    Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    As the daylight hours begin to shorten I thought that I would begin to start looking at low light/night photography. The image below was taken on an area called the North Downs and was looking south. The lights in the far distance belong to Gatwick Airport. When I went up there I thought that the town lights and the lights from the airport made a good composition. I was using a Canon G2, handheld, ISO 50, f/5.6/ 0.4s, focal length 21mm (35mm equivalent @ 100mm).

    It was a clear night and there was a full moon as well. But, any images I took of that came out overexposed.
    I since read that for moon shots you should use a faster shutter speed. But if you want to include some features e.g. trees, buildings then the best option would be to bracket?

    So, that is my starting point and I would be very interested in help and information aboiut night, low light, moon etc. photography.

    Cheers for now

    Gary

    Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

  2. #2
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    With the moon, you're basically shooting something that has the same brightness as reflected sunlight as that is what is happening after all.

    As the moon is moving, you will need a faster shutter speed for another reason - to avoid subject blur.

    With the rest of the sky being so dark a single exposure including the moon will blow out the moon itself and being a relatively small bright light source, the immediate area around the moon will be a white blur.

    So if you're including a moon in your image you can bracket - that still probably won't be enough to capture the moon's detail. You'll probably want to shoot at around 1/200 or faster at f8 for the moon, whereas your landscape may be an exposure of 1 second or more. Therefore I'd recommend taking one shot for the moon and one for the landscape.

  3. #3
    Melkus's Avatar
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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    I found this to be helpful to me what moon shots I have done.
    http://digital-photography-school.co...hy-made-simple

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Gary: you might check out the threat "Post Dark Photography", a number of long exposures, inside, outside, night and some by moonlight.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  5. #5

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Thanks Phil, Paul and Allan for your responses. I will follow up the leads you have given!

    Cheers for now

    Gary

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    Kris V's Avatar
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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Just found this link - Fun with the moon:
    http://www.pixheaven.net/galerie_us.php?id=22

  7. #7
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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    You might find this e-book helpful. It walks through a lot of the issues in low-light photography, including the ones you mention and numerous others. I did a one-day workshop this summer with Mark and got hooked on night photography.

    Shots with the moon and anything else are among the toughest because of the very large difference in illumination. One technique is to take two shots at different exposures and combine them with layers. However, this is complicated if there are other sky details (like star trails) that you want to preserve because they won't appear in a sky properly exposed for the moon. One approach is to take a picture exposed for the background just before the moon rises, and another after it does. Mark's book has links to tools for figuring out when and where the moon will rise and set, and what level of lunar illumination to expect.

  8. #8

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Kris, Dan, Thanks for your comments and references to websites. All useful in helping build up knowledge in this area of photography!

    Cheers for now

    Gary

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    There is a basic principle of photography involved .... you cannot shoot the light source and what it is illuminating .... this applies to the sun, the moon, or an artificial light source .... a possible exception to this appears to be a candle light where we ignore the fact that we cannot see detail in the flame.

    Second consideration is that the usual metering of the moon [ or sun] results in over-exposure of the moon due to the dark surround predominating. The, a. solution here is to observe what exposure the camera gives in a first trial shot and then close down two stops, and then two stops more. This will give you a choice or guide to the correct exposure. In threads elsewhere [ Photo.net ] I have noticed quite a wide range of exposures resulting in great images and can only assume that the moon's brightness depends very much on atmospheric conditions in your part of the world.

    One approach in editing to get detail in the land would be to select the moon without feather, invert selection, and then apply levels tool until you see detail in the shadows. Better I believe is to ignore the moon for the 'land shot' and transfer it from a shot taken for it. There are two shots of this on my website ["2012 Photos" folder]. Here the moon is not its normal size but enlarged to 'look right' I am pretty sure this was done by somebody else with their shot of the moon with the San Francisco bridge ... it looks 'right' while being obviously 'wrong'. Dramatic license?

  10. #10
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Gary

    For what it might be worth in terms of usefulness, my last 'moon in the landscape' shot, here, and the story about it are in this thread. Basically it makes the point about going for two exposures (some time apart if needs be) for such a shot.

  11. #11
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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Hi, Gary;

    As others have noted, the very large difference in the amount of light coming from the moon, and from whatever it is lighting, makes it very difficult to obtain detail of both the moon's surface and terrestrial objects. The full moon has an albedo (reflective value) of 0.12; so 12% of the sunlight falling upon it is bouncing back to use. Think about it a moment: that is 12% of pure sunlight, and there is no atmosphere to speak of on the moon to diminish the intensity of that light.

    Others here have suggested several tried and true approaches for photographing the moon and capturing its surface detail along with details of things down here on earth; but I have a slightly more 'taoist' approach I would like to share with you. By way of illustration, I offer one single frame example; and while it is not as elegant or as spectacular as Donald's beautiful photo, it does nicely display the results I consistently achieve with the technique I use.

    Moonrise over American shore, St. Lawrence River, New York State:

    Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    You might be surprised by how much the time at which the moon rises shifts from one day to the next. I was, way back in my university astronomy class when we were assigned a project where we would keep track of the moon's position over the course of one lunar cycle. Now at it turns out, near when the moon is almost completely full, it tends to rise very close to the exact time when the sun is setting (at least where I am and I suspect this would be true for everybody everywhere; but maybe not, or maybe just at certain times of the year: best to actually check where you are).

    This happens on one day each month, where there is a difference of minutes between moonrise and sunset. On that day:

    1) The sunset colors still bathe the earth, adding a little something extra into your photographs.

    2) The moon picks up some sunset color, which is always nice.

    3) You are not dealing with direct sunlight, so the sun's illumination has dropped to the point where objects on the earth are now lit with very close to the same amount of light that the moon is reflecting: suddenly, and for a short period of time, it is very easy to get details in the moon as well as in terrestrial objects in just one exposure.

    4) The moon is in a sunset sky so it is not surrounded by complete darkness and can be metered much more accurately for exposures that capture its surface detail.

    5) As an added bonus, the moon always looks largest when it is closest to the horizon - because objects and features on the ground provide perspective for the eye - so catching the moon as it rises just as the sun sets also gives photos in which the moon looks as large as possible.

    I just use "The Weather Network" and their Sun/Moon calculator, but that's just for Canada:

    http://www.theweathernetwork.com/moo...roduct=moonsun

    In any case, you'll want a tripod (although it can be done hand held) for such photos, since the amount of light you are working with quickly drops as the sun sets; you'll need to know exactly where the moon rises, as well as the time (so you can actually get the moon peaking over the horizon); and a light scattering of thin cloud works best, as it catches the sunset colors around the moon. Any significant amount of cloud makes the exercise pointless, though, since this obscures the atmosphere over the horizon and masks the moon until it rises over the clouds - which is often too late for this technique to work well. Once the moon has risen to a significant degree, there is no longer enough light on terrestrial objects for the detail of the moon's surface to be captured as well as objects on the earth - the moon is just to bright, relatively speaking, for that to work in a single exposure.

    HDR techniques can help with that but there are always issues to be resolved when going that route. Here is a photo of a Women's Monument Against Violence taken during this year's "Super Moon" that uses both HDR techniques and a 'two exposure' approach (more for achieving focus in both foreground and background); but there are issues here, not the least of which is the halo around the monument (a product of the out-of-focus statue in the moon series of images, not [exclusively] an HDR artifact; but luckily, it works with the subject matter enough for me to actually consider enhancing it rather than removing it):

    Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

  12. #12

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Jcuknz, Donald, John thanks for your comments. Your own photos certainly show the creative possibilities!

    Cheers for now

    Gary

  13. #13

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Ok, I know this is not the greatest picture and you need to phone up NASA to use the hubble telescope to see it! But, I actually manged to get a picture of the moon which was not overexposed and shows some detail. I think this is pushing the Canon G2 to its limits! F/2.5. 1/500, ISO 50 and FL of 21mm (35mm equvalent somewhere around 100mm.). Also, plenty of PP work with cropping and noise reduction.
    I also found that I needed to focus off to one side of the moon otherwise the camera wouldn't focus. Anyway, I guess that I have proved that with the G2 I would be able to do the two takes and merge together to make a complete image. As posted by the folks on the forum.

    As the late Neil Armstrong would have said One small step............

    Cheers for now

    Gary

    Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

  14. #14

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    At the moment the biggest problem I seem to be encountering is focusing. With low light the G2 seems to have trouble in 'locking on' to the subject. I have been experimenting with a 1 second shutter speed (no tripod so images not very sharp) f-stop around f/2.5 and ISO 50.
    To try and overcome that I have been finding a nearby light source and managing to get the camera to set the focus then re-compose and shoot the original subject. Not sure if thats ideal and also a 'bright' light source is not always available. I guess its another limitation of a compact style camera? Is this a similar problem with a DSLR? Or are the camera/lens combinations better suited to handle this?

    Cheers for now

    Gary
    Last edited by oldgreygary; 6th September 2012 at 07:33 AM.

  15. #15
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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Hi, Gary

    Check out this link. It's what I refer to as a standard, and the best moon shot I've personally ever seen (taken from Earth of course) Note the focal length and the shutter speed. The moon is shockingly bright and very fast. Take your shots at less than a full moon phase so you get some nice shadowing and contrast, and shoot when the moon is as high in the sky as possible so you dont get so much atmospheric interference- it's the difference of about 60 mi. when the moon is straight overhead, vs about 230 miles at the horizon. Good luck, it's a lot of fun to experiment with. And, you've got to use a tripod to get anything you'll be happy with.

    Kevin



    Practice for lunar eclipse

  16. #16

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Thanks for your reply Kevin. The link shows a beautiful shot of the moon! I think that trying to do the low light/night/moon photography has shown me that I am under resourced in terms of camera equipment. But, what the heck I will keep going and do the best I can with available resources!

    Cheers for now

    Gary

  17. #17

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    My first serious shooting of the moon was with my Nikon 5700 and its x8 zoom, 280mm equivalent. The camera has PASM so manual control is possible. It was a cold winter's night so I was reluctant to mess around with my tripods so I simply held the camera firmly against the corner of an out-building....I was merely trying to shoot the moon itself and after getting the starting point from AE I changed to manual and closed down two stops twice to give me a range of exposures. Though I would admit with even 280 AoV I had to crop considerably, so likely the most economical solution would be a super-zoom camera.

    The point is less your equipment but how you use what you have ...it would be nice to have a powered tripod to match the earths rotation speed but I'm not an astro-geek

  18. #18

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post

    The point is less your equipment but how you use what you have ...
    Yes, although the equipment can limit what you do, it doesn't stop you from having creative ideas and a vision of the sort of images you would like to produce!

    jcuknz you suggested checking out images on your website in a previous post, but I cannot see the link to that? I would be interested to have a look at them.

    Cheers for now

    Gary
    Last edited by oldgreygary; 7th September 2012 at 01:14 PM.

  19. #19

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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Here's another attempt at the scene in the first post only this is at the beginning of the day pre-dawn. There was a low lying fog in patches and in the far distance are the airport lights which are being muted by this. Any thoughts or comments? I think it was f/2.5, 1 sec, ISO 50, resting the camera on a bench!

    Cheers for now

    Gary


    Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

  20. #20
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    Re: Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

    Here's a shot of the moon I took about a year ago.

    I'm going to look for opportunities to use John's technique above - some really good tips there.

    Low light, Night, Moon photography etc.

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