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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shoot The Moon

When the sun sets and the rest of the photographers pack up for the night, you can get some of the most stunning and unique images

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Rising full moon. Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, Calif. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III set at ISO 200. Hart used a 2.5-sec. exposure at ƒ/11 and a 3-stop grad ND filter to create the image.

Moonbow and Big Dipper, Lower Yosemite Fall, Yosemite National Park, Calif. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III set at ISO 800, 30 sec. exposure at ƒ/4. Keeping the exposure to 30 seconds or less prevents the stars from becoming streaks.
I started “shooting the moon” in a quest for unique photos, and while I’m certainly happy with my results, I’ve discovered that the actual experience of moon and moonlight photography is just as rewarding as the images I bring home. When the sun departs, so do the photographers and other reminders of a more hectic world—in their void, I can explore landscapes freely, set up my tripod wherever I want and simply relish the solitary wait for moonlight in some of nature’s most special locations.

Gear Up

Darkness, cold weather, night breezes and unfamiliar terrain all conspire to magnify the shortcomings of even the most robust photography equipment. Before embarking on a nighttime shoot, make sure you have the right equipment, it’s in good working order, and you know it well enough to operate it in the dark.

With exposures measured in seconds or minutes, of foremost importance is your tripod. If you don’t have a rock-solid tripod, buy one, rent one or borrow one. Tripod leg warmers and/or carbon-fiber legs will improve both your comfort and dexterity on cold nights in the field. If the wind picks up, adding weight to your tripod will help stabilize it—I attach my camera bag to the hook at the bottom of the center post, but a plastic grocery bag filled with dirt or rocks will do the job, too.

A remote release (wired or wireless) is a small investment that will further minimize vibration, and a locking remote is essential if you plan to shoot in Bulb mode. If your camera has mirror lockup, use it. Depending on your shutter speed and focal length, it may not make a difference, but anything that reduces vibration never hurts. In low-light focusing situations (more on this later), a good quick-release mechanism is helpful.

Batteries don’t perform as well when cold. Make sure your battery is fully charged; in extremely low temperatures, a backup battery is good peace of mind. Store any battery not in your camera close to your body to keep it warm. A photo vest makes this easier. I also appreciate my photo vest because having my lenses within arm’s reach sure beats tracking down and rummaging through my camera bag in the dark.


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