How to Shoot the Moon

Posted by Gary Ramey on March 23rd, 2011

Photo taken on February 19, 2011.

Reality Check: Most of the time, you can’t take a properly exposed photograph of the moon and the landscape/seascape being illuminated by the moon at the same time. If you expose for the foreground, the moon will be blown out and appear white. If you expose for the moon, the foreground will be much too dark. The answer is to take two separate photographs then use a photo editor like Adobe Photoshop CS5 or Gimp to copy and paste the moon from the properly exposed moon picture into the properly exposed foreground picture. This may seem like cheating but it is done all the time. The moon in the photograph on the right was copy and pasted from another photo. I then used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to convert the photo to a Cyanotype. There are very few times that the moon and foreground can be exposed properly in the same photograph. During the recent moonrise of the “super moon” the lighting was perfect because sunset was about fifteen minutes before moonrise. Below is a photograph that I took during the “supermoon” on March 19, 2011.

Supermoon 2011
Photo taken on March 19, 2011

Both photos also show one other trick – the shape of the moon was retouched. The actual shape of the moon was slightly oblong and lumpy. Everyone thinks of the moon as being perfectly round so I used the Elliptical Selection tool to select the moon. I held down Shift while selecting the moon in order to make a perfect circle. For the photo above, I simply copied and pasted the moon into another photo. For the photo on the left, I inverted the selection then used the Rubber Stamp tool to clone the sky. By the way, I really was lucky enough to have the moon rise over ships on both dates. That part wasn’t retouched.

Notice the color of the sky. Because the sun set within fifteen minutes of the moonrise, the sky was a deep blue.

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