Tonight’s the Best Night to Photograph the Moon, How and Why

by on March 19, 2011

in Learn

In the eastern sky at sunset tonight, a super “perigee moon” will rise and be the biggest full moon we’ve had since March 1983.

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon’s orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other (apogee)… Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon’s orbit.

“The full Moon of March 19th occurs less than one hour away from perigee–a near-perfect coincidence1 that happens only 18 years or so.” -NASA

How to Photograph the Super Perigee Moon

1. Use a telephoto lens.  The longer the better so that you can fill the frame with the moon.

2. Use a tripod.  This isn’t action or sports.  Lock your camera down on a sturdy tripod and head.

3. Use a remote trigger or self timer. If you don’t have a remote, you can still get a relatively quick shutter response by setting the self timer to 2 seconds instead of the normal 10 seconds.

4. Shoot in Manual exposure mode.  Start with these settings: ISO 100.  Aperture at f/11.  Shutter speed at 1/125s.  Adjust as needed based on your own taste and evaluation of your exposures.  If you don’t understand these numbers and how they affect your exposure, take a look at the respective links under Photography Basics.

5. Focus manually at infinity.  Capture a test image and zoom in on the image preview to confirm sharp focus.  Once you’ve confirmed that you are in focus, there’s no reason to touch the focus ring again.

6. Mix it up.  Get your big close up shots of the moon in the sky, but don’t forget to mix it up and grab some unique shots of the moon with objects in the foreground.  Capturing the moon with other foreground objects will help to set your shot apart from all of the other “moon shots” on Flickr and elsewhere.

7. Share your shots.  If you’re on Flickr, be sure to add your shots to the Photography Bay Flickr Group.

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{ 1 comment }

1 forkboy1965 March 19, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Man… I hate to be a party pooper, but traditionally it is better to photograph the moon when it’s in a phase other than full.

Many consider this to be true due to the increase in shadows during non-full moon phases (either waxing or waning), which help give the moon a more three-dimensional look in a photograph.

Not that I didn’t go out and look at it tonight…

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