Throwing Light Under the Moonlight

As I mentioned in last Wednesday’s post about the moon and in this ancient how-to post, photographing subjects under the light of the full or nearly full moon can produce exciting images, especially if you include the sky. With the right exposure, you’ll get a slightly darkened blue sky, similar to what you’d get by underexposing a daytime photo, but the sky will have stars in it. And if there are clouds in the sky and the wind is blowing, the requisite long shutter speed will record the clouds as streaks.

Cabin under moonlit night sky

Cabin photographed during a half-full moon. Used camera flash with yellow and orange gel filter to create illusion of interior cabin lighting.

Full moon occurred last night, so you have another week until the moon is half full. As long as the moon is at least half phase, there’s enough light to make these kinds of images. Obviously, your exposures will be different when the moon is closer to half than to full. You just adjust the ISO, shutter speed, or aperture as needed as the moonlight changes. But every month, there is enough moonlight for two full weeks to do this kind of photography.

I shot the accompanying image during the half-moon phase. It’s a stack of 2 exposures. One shot was for the sky and overall scene, which was 30 seconds, f/4, and ISO 1600. The other exposure was on bulb (shutter opened and left open until I manually closed it) at ISO 200 and f/11. During that exposure, I walked into the cabin and fired a camera flash 4 times out of the windows and doors. I had a yellow and orange gel filter attached to the flash using a GelGrip™. I call this technique “throwing light.”

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