Today, tomorrow, and Tuesday are excellent nights for getting outside in the evening and practicing night and low-light photography. Why? The moon (of course)- it’s full tomorrow.
The moon actually provides a lot of extra ambient light that can be helpful for illuminating otherwise dark scenes. Of course, it’s also a beautiful sky/ landscape element in its own right.
I made this double-exposure photo just a few hours ago. It was done in-camera, although many photographers prefer to take the shots separately and then combine them later with their software of choice.
The idea behind using two exposures to capture a scene including the moon is this:
Why in-camera? When using two exposures to include the moon in a scene, I prefer to combine in-camera simply because I find it faster & easier. (Your mileage may vary.) When creating other types of multiple exposure pictures, I do prefer Photoshop or GIMP, simply because they allow more control over element placement, exposure, ect.
To make these types of pictures, you’ll need:
- a telephoto lens with a focal length of somewhere between 70- 400mm
- a wider lens to capture the rest of your low-light landscape: ~ < 70mm
- remote (or cable) release
It’s a good idea to set your camera’s exposure compensation to -1.0 EV if you’re doing two exposures. This allows the camera to combine the shots without overexposing the final image.
Your camera’s EV comp. button should have a +/-and look something like this:
Here’s how my in-camera double exposure process typically goes:
- Adjust the EV compensation: maybe -0.5 EV or -1.0 EV
- Enable your camera’s double exposure mode.
- Set ISO as low as it will go. (This is generally a good practice for reducing noise in night photography.)
- Use your longer focal length lens to photograph the moon. I find anywhere from 100-300mm to be adequate. In fact, 300mm can create too-large-of-moon, although the effect can be fun.
- To expose for the moon, use a smaller aperture- f/11 through f/16 – and meter accordingly. Take some test shots. The sunny sixteen rule also works. The moon in the first image of this post was shot at f/13 & 1/30 of a second; 300mm, ISO100.
- Switch to your wider lens.
- Meter the rest of your landscape normally; this will typically result in a longish exposure- but that’s ok because you brought a remote release, right?
- Voilá - you should now have a lunar double exposure!
- Important: remember whereabouts in the frame you shot the moon! If you don’t, you might end up with a moon sitting on top of a building or car. I like to enable my camera’s alignment grid overlay, and use the lines to help me remember where exposure #1′s moon is.
Here’s an example of a double exposure in which I “placed” the moon poorly:
- Another common mistake is creating a composition with incorrect lunar lighting. Here the moon’s light is seen shining on the water at a very low angle from the left side of the frame:
I placed the moon in a position in which, realistically, it could not possibly cast the light seen on the water.
Now I realize many DSLRs lack double-exposure modes; in those cases, software would be the way to go. As a Nikon shooter, I can tell you that the D80, D90, D200, D300, & D700 do have multi-exposure modes. Consult your manual.
Lastly, here is an awesome websitefor tracking lunar phases, so you can plan your moon-lit photo outings!
Have fun experimenting! The moon is so enjoyable to shoot, it makes me wish we had more than one natural satellite!