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Moonlight
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Moonlight

Opportunities for shooting a landscape by moonlight only occur a few nights a month as the moon waxes into and then wanes out of its full phase. When these moments occur, it's nice to know how to capture them. You can photograph two types of moonscapes: those that feature the moon itself (both full moons and crescent moons are nice) in the frame and those that are simply landscape exposed by the light of the moon. Shooting the latter requires a very bright cooperative moon and a relatively high ISO (probably 800 or higher).

The best time to shoot landscapes that include the moon is shortly after the sun has set, just as the moon is beginning to rise: The moon appears largest at this time because of the visual land reference of the horizon and the refraction of the earth's atmosphere. As lighting is predominantly from the twilight sky, you'll still get a sufficient amount of foreground detail. Look for simple scenes you can compose with a telephoto lens of 300mm or longer; remember that the longer the lens, the larger the moon will appear. Exposure can be based on meter readings of the foreground, but be careful to avoid exposure of more than a few seconds or the moon's shape will become elongated.

If your camera allows you to make exposures of several seconds or longer, landscapes illuminated exclusively by the full moon but not including the moon can make eerie, ethereal pictures. The technique works best with snowscapes or beaches, because light reflected from snow or sand brightens the entire scene. Exposures will still be quite long: even with the ISO set to 800 or 1000, start with exposures of two seconds at f/2.8 and them make several additional exposures, doubling the time for each successive shot (if you have a manual-exposure mode) or adding extra light with your exposure compensation feature. You'll need a tripod.

If you want to be really creative, consider taking two exposures: one of the moon with a very long lens (300mm or longer) and then a landscape with a normal lens and combine the two shots in editing. The moon will appear huge in the landscape.

Next: "Dramatic Lighting"

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