shooting the moon w/LF : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I recently bought a house on a lake. Once a month I have a beautiful moon rise across the lake from the house. I have tried to capture a shot of the moon rising with the reflection on the water but so far I have failed. I have tried metering the moon and using 100 speed film all I've gotten is a picture of the moon but the trees are so underexposed it doesn't print. I know if I go to a real long exposure i"ll get movement in the moon and i don't want that. What i would really like to have is a sharp picture of the moon and it's reflection in the water with the trees in the forground silhouetted. Can anyone offer any suggestions? Thanks LH Nichols

-- L. H. Nichols (, July 26, 2000


Either catch the moon soon after sunset (while there's still a glow in the sky), or else be prepared for a double exposure or multiple exposure printing exercise.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, July 26, 2000.

Is the reflection as bright at the moon itself? If not, maybe an ND Grad filter to equalize them would also bring up the trees a bit. Is this color or B/W? If the latter, maybe N-x development to lower contrast would do a bit more to bring everything in range.

-- David Goldfarb (, July 26, 2000.

What if you pre-exposed the film to 3 or 4 stops below the exposure? (Just started playing with this myself so I don't guarantee it will work but I got some good results) -- I don't do colour, but I read that if you use the neutral gray it works with that too. Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (, July 27, 2000.

Out of the few photographs I've taken of the moon, my best results, and there a long way from being what I'd like, came from using a 20 and a 300mm lense/two exposure shot in Hawaii. For whatever the reason ,Nikon doesn't believe in offering a multiple exposure function on there amatuer series cameras(N70). You'll need to purchase a film puller because leaving the leader on the film roll after rewinding is another feature that gets left out. I don't get it, anyone who's taken more than two rolls of film would welcome such features. I'm not writing this to bash Nikon, everything I own is Nikon, their optics and quality are unbeatable. Just makes me wonder why????

What I've found works for me is the following: Zoom in and spot meter on the moon but set it to 1/2 or a full stop less than what it's reading. I've found when I underexpose by a stop I get allot more detail. Use the built in timer shutter release and use the the weight of your backpack to load down the tripod for added stability. Take the shot remembering where you placed it. Keep it down to a few exposures at a time, I had the moon coming out of a building one time because I lost track of what was where. Rewind the film, fish the leader out with your leader puller, place the camera in a dark bag or whatever you deem will keep the light out. Advance to the frame in question, recompose the shot allowing room for the moon and wala-your done. Someone sugested using a grad neutral density filter and that could work if the moon turned out to be a couple of stops brighter, it wouldn't work at night when the moons brightness over powers the scene. Keep a log and keep experimenting. I was onced asked why I go through the trouble of shlepping around this huge backpack when I'm using my 4x5, and out of know where came " because one of these days I'm going to bring it home " . One of the greatest things photography has given me is the appreciation for sights and places I once never thought much of. If you've ever photographed a great sunrise or sunset, you'll from that day on, have a greater apprecitaion for the ones that follow. Let me know what works best for you, were fortunate to have a forum like this to exchange ideas.

Good luck, Albert


-- Albert Martinez (, July 27, 2000.

You could try getting a solid exposure of the landscape before it gets really dark, right around dusk, cover up your lens and wait until it's really dark and the moon is where you want it. Then do a second exposure on the same piece of film for the moon only. As it will be really dark, the moon exposure shouldn't affect the landscape exposure much, if at all.

Please post your efforts when you have them.


-- Richard Coda (, July 27, 2000.

The next three or four full moons (Northern Hemisphere) will rise shortly after sundown giving photo opportunities where there is more ambient light for the landscape than other times of the year. Following two links are courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory where you can compute rise/set times as well as compass azimuths at your specific location--it won't rise at the same azimuth each month! Also, the timing may be better on the day before the actual full moon, but check the Naval data for your location.

< a href =

< a href =

As far as exposure, this is one that you want to plan carefully as you may not have a lot of time when the moon is in the specific spot. Remember Ansel Adams' story of his misplaced meter at Hernandez? I like to make the landscape exposure first before the moon rises, then expose the moon as a second exposure. With large format this is easy and you can make bracket exposures with other holders and mark the ground glass for the moon position--not so easy with roll film!! For the moon exposure with relatively clear sky I have had good luck with 1/Film Speed @ f:8-11. The moon (and earth) are moving pretty fast so long time exposures of the moon give an elongated blur with no detail. Much more than 3 or 4 seconds is too long. I like 1/30 or higher. You can practice in advance with the data from the enclosed websites and be ready. This is great fun--the perfect meld of science and art!!!

Best regards & Good Photography! C. W. Dean Practicing Professional Photography since 1972 Photography Samples:

-- C. W. Dean (, July 27, 2000.

When I shoot this in color I go one day before the full moon and shoot it when the sun is just setting. This is of course a very different look than a full moon at night over a lake.

I use a 4x5 Crown Graphic with a 500 Schneider Tele Xenar on a special extention tube.

Right now I am experimenting with doing a shot like that in black and white. The trick is to use the zone system, expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. But I am thinking it will take a reduciton in development in the ball park of 25% to 40%. Remember that development affects the highlights far more than the shadows. Henry Horenstine's book Beyond Basic Photography has a great explaination of this.

I will let you know when I try this again.

-- John Schadl (, July 27, 2000.

Fake it with a double exposure, or black off the moon with a piece of card for part of the exposure.

-- Pete Andrews (, July 27, 2000.

You could try painting the landscape in, using a powerful torch for a slightly different effect - try red filter on torch if using I?R or B+W film.

-- David Kirk (, July 27, 2000.

Ive done this many times over the years and I can identify with your frustration. Multiple exposure has always worked. Timing the exposures is very important for success. Remember that the full moon is reflected sunlight so you need to treat exposure of the moon as you would normal exposure under daylight conditions ( IOS 100 film will record the moon fine at 125thsec at f11-16,as an example). Its important to make your first exposure at the right time for the landscape portion of the photo as this will determine how well the moon records over the first exposure. Underexposing the first exposure maybe 1/2 -1 stop will help as well. I usually wait untill the sun has set and watch the overall light with in the scene to determine when and how exposure takes place. There seems to be that majic moment when the light is just right. If the sky portion of scene is too light the moon will wash out. As far as getting the reflection of the moon in lake to regester without losing the other elements in the photo, I think may be only be achieved in the darkroom. A single exposure here may be all you'll need followed by lots of darkroom prowess under the enlarger. My first successes were achieved this way. Goodluck and let us know how it works out!!!

-- Scott A. Wells (, August 09, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ