I started to admire the lunar light because I am fond of the mountain. In summer, it is common to use full Moon days to make hiking trails, since at night do so hot, and the light of our satellite a clear day can allow us to guide us without flashlights.
With this unique, full moon light, We see a side of nature, unusual and spectacular. The senses, at night, wake up, and our eyes pick up nuances of the landscape that we could never see direct sunlight.
That is why I started to interest me, timidly in the task of capturing the light that emits the moon on our planet. Practicing, reading, and making mistakes, I started to get my first night photos. And this gave me the opportunity to better understand the operation of the light, because of night rules change, and you discover that reality contains other sensory aspects aside from what we are accustomed to seeing during the day.
In this article I will try to give you a brief introduction to the parameters to take into account, when assessing the exposure, when we want to photograph a landscape with the only help of light which is being broadcast at that moment our satellite when it is in its full moon phase. Is the subject of another article learn how to use all this in other phases of the Moon, but I advance that it has much to do.
That exposure does the Moon?
Once I read that the lunar surface bears enough resemblance to grey medium. This idea, which is fairly accurate, helps us to understand how to properly expose this astro photograph it from our planet. In fact, this article is about how to take advantage of its light, but I thought it appropriate to discuss this question first of all, because the first temptation that one has when photographing landscapes at night is the include Moon in the frame.
Suppose a clear day. Since light emitting our Moon is not merely the reflection of the light of the Sun giving squarely on its surface, we can deduce that the exposure of the moon when it is at its peak should be similar to that of a landscape or an object at noon and subjected to direct sunlight. For example, ISO100, 1/125 and f16 (Sunny16 rule).
As you deduciréis, the correct exposure of the moon differs enough that need a night landscape undergoing its light. Therefore, if you want to photograph a landscape including the Moon in the frame, will not have no choice but to perform two or more shots and then combine them with Photoshop. Except, obviously, you want to take Moon overexposure or underexposure of the rest of the landscape.
If you are one of those purists who are against of combining several shots, then forget it. You can not properly expose a moon landscape without overexposing the moon. The difference in brightness is too large.
Tower lit by the full moon (photo: Sergio Perea)
This is one of so many rules that help us to have references of the required exposure of a landscape with moonlight. It’s very simple: says that the light of the Moon is 250,000 times less bright than the Sun.
This is the same as saying to expose with full moon is to remove 18 diaphragms with respect to exposure to half-day with clear weather.
This idea gives us a series of generic values. For example, ISO 100 and f16 44 minutes of exposure time we need to get the same exposure to daylight.
Considering this particular value, we should only apply the law of reciprocity to calculate the time of exposure to other f. A simple example: If we want to shoot at f8 and ISO 100, would have to use an exposure time of (44/2-> 22/2->) 11 minutes.
We already have a reference to begin setting up our camera. If we now want more accuracy and working in digital, we could combine this law with the test at high ISOS. This is: get exposure to the higher ISO which allow our camera (to not waste so much time), and starting from there to do several tests to adjust the histogram where we want. Once we have it, we apply the law of reciprocity to adjust our values to the ISO that you want to.
Decide what type of light to reflect on the scene
Photo: Sergio Perea
Here’s a nuance to the rule which I have mentioned before: the Looney 16 method is going to give a small underexposure, because it is based on a theoretical idea which does not consider that the Moon is much more smaller than the Sun. In fact the brightness difference in practice is not 250,000, but 400,000.
But this issue can benefit us, because the exposure resulting from applying the rule Looney 16 gives us an image of a landscape with no daytime and night appearance. We need to burn a little to get a little more real appearance, with very dark shadows. Therefore, this standard, in practice, it is quite accepted.
However, It could be that you want to derechear the histogram, then define the shadows your way by moving the exposure in the computer. This would serve us for a night scene more brightly lit, with more detail in the shadows and a greater “cleaning” of the image.
Choose a mode of proceeding, or otherwise, is only based on your creative decision. Experience and shape your working method to get what you want. This type of photography requires practice and practice.
The white balance
Photo: Sergio Perea
It is said that the Moon emits light of 4,000 K. This will perhaps shock, because it means that it is slightly more warm white light (5.600 K which is the light of the Sun in “ideal” conditions).
The explanation is a limitation that we have human beings in our eyes. When the light is Dim, it costs us much less capture the cold to the warm tones.
A good value of temperature of color during a session with moon would therefore be around 4000 K, then processing to adjust the white balance and obtain a result more like what they are able to capture our eyes. In the event that your camera does not allow you to insert a custom WB, the closest thing to what you are looking for would be in the default”tungsten light”.
Perhaps this conclusion you disappoint a priori: these tips you will not say unequivocally as perfectly exposed a night scene with moonlight. The reason is that they are based on theoretical foundations. The photographic technique may prove to be very accurate, but photography, like art, is not an exact science. We play with more elements that gives us our camera and even our five senses.
Now, to wait for the moon to take pictures
The moon does not emit the same light at any latitude, or at any time. Of course, the weather and the season of the year are determinants. In addition, there is a fixed rule about how you must expose a night landscape: might want to darken it to highlight this sense of darkness, or rather trying to mimic daylight. Creative criteria that have nothing to do with formulas or rules.
However, we have a reference to begin practicing. And with this practice, go internalized a working method that will allow us to forget all those technical details so that once we are experts in this type of photography, we can limit ourselves to enjoy photographing these nights of full moon and make the most of them. So I hope you like this little introduction to encourage.
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