Any Tips for Moonlit Shots?

I am planning to head out for a full moon shoot tomorrow night and was wondering if anyone had some tips to share. I'm planning on standing in the middle of a road (hopefully with few cars) so I won't have much time to fool around with my settings and such. I'm planning to do it as follows - any suggestions you have are appreciated.

-There will be no artificial light here other than minor light pollution, and it will be in a heavily shaded area in terms of trees. It is a full moon tomorrow night (well Saturday morning around 8am) at my location.

-Using Kodak's guide of full moonlight exposure (30s at f/2 & ISO 100) and extrapolating that to ISO 25,600, I plan to take some test shots on the side of the road at f/4 for 0.5s. I'll tweak it from there and then calculate the exposure at ISO1600 or 3200 & f/11. DOF is important for this shot. I'll opt for the 1D X on this, but might bring the 5DIII along as well if the exposure time is under 30s at ISO1600 or lower.

-I'm shooting for a medium exposure - not full ETTR, but not overly dark, either.

-I'm timing it so the moon will be roughly 30-45 degrees above the horizon (~2 hrs. after moonrise). This is a little higher than the recommendations I've seen (~1hr. after moonrise), but I need strong shadows for the shot and the trees may block the light until it's 20 degrees or so above the horizon.

-Composing/focusing via headlamp/LiveView. Not confident about this one at all.

-Setting manual white balance to 3000-4000K. From what I've read that should give it a slightly cooler look more closely representing the "look" of moonlight. Any other thoughts? And yes, I know it's reflected sunlight...

Any suggestions on shooting in the dark - and avoiding werewolves - would be much appreciated.
 

mb66energy

EOS 5D Mark IV
Dec 18, 2011
1,526
380
Germany
www.MichaelBockhorst.de
Some ideas:

(1) wear reflective clothings/light so that you are visible on the streat during night time
(I bought a green flashing LED dog collar ... for my back pack to be visible in dangerous conditions ;)
(2) use a lens where you can see and set the distance in MF mode ... perhaps use a mark on white tape
and "calibrate" it during day time using subjects in the right distance on location.
I love my EF 2.8 40 for its quality and flare resistance but I hate it for having no distance scale! Another
reason to convert my FD 1.4 50 S.S.C. for EF bayonets ...
(3) shoot RAW (I am sure you do it on a regular base for these situations!) to fix color temperature and
some color fine tuning in postprocessing

No experience with werewolves but a large flash might help to irritate them. Perhaps add some fresh garlic to repell vampires ...

Best - Michael
 
mb66energy said:
Some ideas:

(1) wear reflective clothings/light so that you are visible on the streat during night time
(I bought a green flashing LED dog collar ... for my back pack to be visible in dangerous conditions ;)
(2) use a lens where you can see and set the distance in MF mode ... perhaps use a mark on white tape
and "calibrate" it during day time using subjects in the right distance on location.
I love my EF 2.8 40 for its quality and flare resistance but I hate it for having no distance scale! Another
reason to convert my FD 1.4 50 S.S.C. for EF bayonets ...
(3) shoot RAW (I am sure you do it on a regular base for these situations!) to fix color temperature and
some color fine tuning in postprocessing

No experience with werewolves but a large flash might help to irritate them. Perhaps add some fresh garlic to repell vampires ...

Best - Michael
Thank you for the advice and a good laugh! I plan to be as safe as I can, and fortunately it's a country road with good visibility in both directions so I should hear the car and see the headlights well in advance. Getting long exposures might be a little tricky, however. I always shoot in RAW, but like to get a good WB setting on scene to make sure my exposure is as good as possible. Also, my plan is to use the 11-24 f/4 so focusing shouldn't be too bad, but f/4 isn't exactly bright when viewed through the viewfinder!

Maybe I'll throw some garlic in my pockets and put holy water in some squirt guns like in Lost Boys :)
 

arjay

EOS M50
Oct 17, 2012
47
0
Last summer I shot this by the light of the full moon
24mm, f8, 20 sec, ISO1600.

Best advice is to get focus figured out beforehand (and bracket if you can)

mb66energy said:
Some ideas:

...
(2) use a lens where you can see and set the distance in MF mode ... perhaps use a mark on white tape
and "calibrate" it during day time using subjects in the right distance on location.
...
(3) shoot RAW ...

Best - Michael
 

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mb66energy

EOS 5D Mark IV
Dec 18, 2011
1,526
380
Germany
www.MichaelBockhorst.de
arjay: Good example shot! Really nice to see stars on the sky inYour 2nd shot above a landscape that is sunlit (indirectly).

mackguyver: Just made a quick and dirty shot under "90% moon" ... 30 sec @ f/5.6 and ISO1600 gives very bright but usable results, it's +1EV compared to Kodak's values which seem to me quite a good starting point. AF on some distant lights worked well with my 5Di and the EF 40/2.8 .

Michael
 

dcm

It's not the gear. But it helps.
CR Pro
Apr 18, 2013
960
536
Colorado, USA
Here's an excerpt from my old Nikon School Handbook. It should provide a good starting point and some changes depending on the situation. The section also includes shooting the moon and combining the two on a single frame of film with a double exposure and lens change, but you can do that in PP. ;)
 

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Hillsilly

EOS R
Oct 16, 2010
1,100
2
I assume you also know it is also a lunar eclipse night. Depending on where you live, you might get a cool looking red moon. Just doing some research, too. This site is useful: -

http://www.mreclipse.com/LEphoto/LEphoto.html
 
I appreciate all of your responses!

arjay, thank you for the great examples and information on your shot last summer.

Michael, thank you for your quick shot - I appreciate the effort and your exposure information. I'll give the focus a try, maybe LV will work if nothing else.

dcm, that's excellent and it looks like the sidelighting (moon will be due west), dark subjects, and humidity will conspire to make my exposure longer! Nikon's numbers are within a stop of Kodak as well, so these should be good starters.

Hillsilly, I'm down in Florida, so no dice on the eclipse from here, but I'm hoping for some interesting conditions all the same. Thank you for the interesting link!
 

sanj

EOS R5
Jan 22, 2012
3,886
791
Shoot the moon separately with a telephoto, expose it properly. Then composite it back over where it was in the wide shot. Beautiful...
 
Sanjay, I'm not sure if I'll be able to see the moon, but it's probably a good idea to take the 70-200 along just in case, so thank for the tip.

Keith, that's a cool photo of El Cap! That exposure looks good and other than the open sky, should be about right.

I think I'm going to grab a reflective vest this afternoon - and I can't wait to give this a shot tonight.
 

Marsu42

Canon Pride.
Feb 7, 2012
6,314
0
Berlin
der-tierfotograf.de
mackguyver said:
-There will be no artificial light here other than minor light pollution, and it will be in a heavily shaded area in terms of trees. It is a full moon tomorrow night (well Saturday morning around 8am) at my location.

I've been out yesterday for the full moon, freezing my behind of at 1 degree celsius ... unfortunately clouds were there too quick again to do good shots. My advice (and what I do):

* Dynamic range is the most important thing, so use Magic Lantern and dual_iso for 14+ ev, i.e. to boost the shadows while not blowing out too much of the moon corona... this makes a *big* difference if the moon is in the frame.

* Focus is an issue the dark, so I usually do f4 to f5.6 and exposure time 10-30s. If that isn't sufficient for the dof you want to capture, use ML's bulb timer to get exposures of 1-2 minutes.

* Find a good scene, because in my experience properly exposed moonlight can look just like a cloudy day and thus rather boring.
 

Marsu42

Canon Pride.
Feb 7, 2012
6,314
0
Berlin
der-tierfotograf.de
mackguyver said:
Marsu, thanks for the tips! It will be warm here ~25C when I shoot, so that should make it a little more pleasant. They are predicting 20% cloud cover, so I'm crossing my fingers that the clouds won't be an issue.

Actually clouds can make it much more interesting - you've got a bit of a moon corona (otherwise it's essentially a white spot) and if you do a long exposure you've got a nice "smear" effect... though you need to do ~3min+ exposures for that if the clouds aren't moving very fast. The main issue with clouds in front of the moon that it might prevent you to autofocus, even with the -3lv sensitivity of modern cameras.
 
Marsu42 said:
mackguyver said:
Marsu, thanks for the tips! It will be warm here ~25C when I shoot, so that should make it a little more pleasant. They are predicting 20% cloud cover, so I'm crossing my fingers that the clouds won't be an issue.

Actually clouds can make it much more interesting - you've got a bit of a moon corona (otherwise it's essentially a white spot) and if you do a long exposure you've got a nice "smear" effect... though you need to do ~3min+ exposures for that if the clouds aren't moving very fast. The main issue with clouds in front of the moon that it might prevent you to autofocus, even with the -3lv sensitivity of modern cameras.
Thanks, Marsu, and my real concern is if I have clouds obscuring the moon and lowering the amount of light. The trees will block the detail of the clouds where I'll be. It's something called a canopy road because of the trees that grow over it. Here's a really old shot of the general area I'm going to - taken way before I had a clue what I was doing with a DSLR :) but it should give you an idea of the shot I'm planning.
 

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serendipidy

EOS 5D Mark IV
May 7, 2012
1,911
1
This thread has me interested in trying to capture tonight's eclipse. So I did a trial run last night with my 5D3 and 24-70 2.8Lii (to capture a big moon halo). At 24mm settings were ISO 360, f 8.0, 25-30 seconds on a sturdy tripod/head with mirror lockup and remote release. Shots came out OK but I noticed some bright red points of light that were always in the same place in the frame. I finally thought these might be hot pixels so I took the same shot with lens cap on and they are still there. In fact, I can see them better...there are about 20 or so scattered across the frame. Is this normal and how can you minimize or get rid of these ( I don't have or know how to use PS, I just use DPP).
Thanks in advance for any advice or help. :)
 

Marsu42

Canon Pride.
Feb 7, 2012
6,314
0
Berlin
der-tierfotograf.de
mackguyver said:
but it should give you an idea of the shot I'm planning.

Hmmmyes, that's your problem, right there ... if you wouldn't write that this is moonlit, I'd simply take it for a cloudy day.

In my experience "moon-tuning" in post helps, i.e. lower the overall exposure to make it more like night even though of course it's the shot is exposed "properly". But what is really required are some visual clues to the situation or time of day, i.e. stars in the sky, the moon corona, I dunno ... it's not like these shots aren't nice, but they don't look like it's as much hassle to take them as it actually is.

serendipidy said:
Is this normal and how can you minimize or get rid of these ( I don't have or know how to use PS, I just use DPP).

Try the long exposure nr setting, the camera takes another shot to detect these spots and get rid of them.
 

serendipidy

EOS 5D Mark IV
May 7, 2012
1,911
1
Thanks Marsu42.

Just tried what you said and it worked great. All the 20 or so hot pixels disappeared.
Is there a certain exposure time above which one should use the long exposure nr? Also, to get the best IQ, is it better to use shorter exposure times by raising the ISO or to use the lowest ISO and longer exp. times?

Cheers :)
 
So there I was, standing on a country road under the full moon. Dogs barked in the distance, and the whippoorwills and owls layered their calls over the sounds of chirping crickets. The bright light of the full moon quickly disappeared as I walked under the patchwork of tall tree limbs and Spanish moss. The 1D X laughed at me with black exposures when I attempted the recommended exposure times. In the shade of the moon, I needed 3 or more stops of exposure.

Unfortunately it was Friday night and every country boy and girl was out on the roads making even a 2 minute exposure at ISO 6400 all but impossible. The 4+ minutes I needed never materialized and after setting up over a dozen times only to see headlights in the distance, I packed up and went home with a few desperate shots. It turns out that long exposures at ISO3200 and above are a bad idea. Dark frame subtraction seemed to make it worse. And composition with a f/4 lens was a joke, especially with my headlamps sitting on a shelf at home.

At home, Photo Mechanic showed crushed black covering the majority of the frames on every shot :(. DxO PRIME laughed at me as it made the noise look worse. Apparently it is not built to handle long exposures at high ISOs... Photoshop choked on the files and ACR curled up in a ball and cried. Then DPP made an appearance, with it's brand new 11-24 f/4 profile. It managed the noise better than the rest, and ALO managed to brighten things up a bit without unleashing the pixelated trolls hiding in the shadows.

In the end, it was:
Cars 25 - Photographer 0.5 (half a point for effort)

If I had to do over, I'd have brought my headlamp(!), shot at whatever ISO I needed to get the right exposure in 30s or less, and done it very early in the morning or later at night. I think the 4000K white balance worked, at least.

Here are two shots that kinda, sorta turned out. Hopefully the next full moon won't be on a Friday night!

1D X + 11-24 f/4 @ 11mm, f/4, 30s, ISO 3200. This was actually a test shot - the only time I had more than 1.5 minutes between cars, ironically...
Moonlit_Canopy_Road_20733-XL.jpg


1D X + 11-24 f/4 @ 11mm, f/4, 120s, ISO 6400 (note the taillights in the distance...)
Moonlit_Canopy_Road_20744-XL.jpg