Shooting The Moon


Like many other photographers I captured this month’s full moon which occurred on Sunday August 10, 2014. I’d like to share a few things I learned with others interested in this subject.

Knowing that the moon would appear full, both the day before and the day after the full moon I took a look at the exact times. I saw that the moon would rise one hour before sunset on Saturday and took a ride out to my location. I am working on a Burlington County project titled, ‘Preserved Farmland Visions’ which pairs artists from the county with area farms. The project began in April 2014 and I have been assigned to a cranberry farm. There will be a group exhibit of the work one year from the start, in April 2015.

Going out on Saturday I figured I would scout for the following night and find my composition. What interests me most at this location, this time of year are a couple of reservoirs with dead cedar trees. The scenes can be very busy so I narrowed down the possibilities to three trees that stood taller than the rest. As the moon rose it was still light out and I was able to photograph it higher in the sky while retaining detail. The advantage was that the low, filtered sunlight cast soft light on my subjects and I was not working with a ‘high dynamic’ light range … as is the case when it is already dark when it rises. I like this image for it’s softer, more peaceful feeling.

On Sunday, the night of the full moon, I went out and assumed I would be getting a very similar composition … wrong! I underestimated how drastic the position of the rising moon would be with just one night’s difference and had to quickly adjust my composition. I should have checked the exact position with Photographer’s Ephemeris on the second night. The sun had already disappeared from the horizon and it was getting dark. In this situation it was important to capture the moon soon after it rose otherwise it would be so bright it would be impossible to capture any detail in the scene without blowing out the moon. I also needed to act fast before it disappeared behind the low clouds. This image is certainly more dramatic than the first and I am pleased there is some cloud interest.

Which image do you prefer? Let me know by clicking the ‘comment’ link right below this post.

'Moon Before Nightfall'  © Denise Bush (Captured the night before the full moon.)

‘Moon Before Nightfall’ © Denise Bush
(Captured the night before the full moon.)

'Full Moon Rising'  © Denise Bush

‘Full Moon Rising’ © Denise Bush

56 Responses to “Shooting The Moon”

  1. 1 deb

    I love the second one! Wonderful.

  2. 3 Kathleen

    Full Moon Rising just beautiful!!

  3. Mother Nature is full of tricks. However, you figured her out and have two great photos. I like them both.

  4. 7 davidcollinsfoto

    I prefer the second image. More dramatic sky and interesting colour in the moon. If the lighting stayed right for long enough I think the moon a little higher in the sky would help balance the visual weight of the foreground. Looks like a great location.

    • Thanks David. I would have liked the moon a bit higher too but as you can see there are clouds there. The moon went behind them obscuring the shape soon after I shot this.

  5. The Moon Before Nightfall is the most appealing to me. I love the beautiful blend of delicate colors and the higher position of the moon. The vegetation also has more interesting definition and tone. I love your work.

    • Thank you Season! I am glad to hear you appreciate the same elements as me in the first image. So glad you will be joining us in our Pinelands Photography School, Sunrise Along the Mullica Workshop!

  6. I gotta go with the second one because of the drama in the sky. Also, the placement of the moon out of balance with the cedars gives a beautifully eerie tension to the whole image. I have a friend who is landscape painter named Peter Fiore who also places his full moons in unusual spots in the composition. You figure, as a painter, he can put the moon anywhere he wants but what he does has an amazing result, just like what you’ve got here. By the way, the first one ain’t bad either.

  7. I love the first one for the soft pastel colors in the sky 🙂

  8. While the new location may have been a surprise on the second night, you certainly adapted quickly and made a superb shot. I prefer the second image: better detail and color on the moon, more dramatic scene, better placement of the small bushes in the foreground. As you note, the moonrise doesn’t seem consistent from night to night, due to the fact that the lunar cycle is about 19.6 years whereas the sun is exactly one year. While clouds prevented a decent shot in our location that night, I took the opportunity to check the accuracy of three celestial apps and found–no surprise–that the Photographer’s Ephemeris was dead on while the other two were seriously off. Hope to see another one from you next month;-)

  9. Denise, Thanks for the insight about the moon. As you stated, it is important to do your research ahead of time. The moon changes everyday and makes it difficult to predict without a little help from an app.

    I like each image for different reasons. Well done!

  10. Certainly #2 is more dramatic – both work in different ways – but my preference is the one with the clouds. You really are at the mercy of the elements when shooting nature shots – well done!

  11. I love more the first one because the moon is located more harmoniously (to my eyes) in the blue square of the sky.

  12. Oh,the 2nd one is lovely! 🙂

  13. 26 Emilio Pasquale

    That was a trick question, right? I’m sorry but who would prefer the first shot over the textured sky and the yellow moon of the second? What a great job!

  14. Hi Denise, I prefer the first one, it is more mysterious with the beautiful different colours in the sky, and that makes the trees stand out more too. Great post!

    • I will rephrase, the trees do not stand out more (that happens in picture 2), but because they are less defined as in picture 2 it makes them more part of the whole and also a bit weird, which I find quite nice.

  15. 31 bigbird34

    The second is my fav!

  16. 33 Russ Hunt

    As both are beautiful I prefer the second one. I think the colors are richer. The dead cedar’s stand out much better against the blue sky.

  17. 35 Chuck Aitken

    Denise, while both are nice I have to go with number two. Color and composition are spot on. Interested in knowing what lens and settings were used.

    • Thanks Chuck.
      #1: 70-200mm at 100mm, 1/4 sec., f/16, ISO 200
      #2: 24-105mm at 84mm, .6 sec, f/16, ISO 400
      You see in the second one I boosted the ISO to 400. The shutter speed needs to be fast enough to freeze the moon or it will blur due to the rotation of earth. I used f/16 to get maximum depth of field.

  18. The second one, by far.

  19. As of now the votes are:
    #1: four
    #2: eleven

  20. I like the second one. 🙂

  21. Errrgh… sorry it took me so long… kinda isolated with no svs. Great info on shooting… I wish more club members would read this. I am partial to bold colors and contrast… but my fav is the first one. It seems more balenced when viewing even though the other makes more of an initial impact.

  22. Haha, I love the comment that this must be some sort of trick question. Both appeal, but I like the first best for the soft light and position of the moon. Thanks for sharing what you learned!

    • There are a few of us who prefer the first … I think that’s my favorite. Thanks for the visit and comment. It’s always nice hearing from you. See you Sunday.

  23. i like the first. I like the colors better on the second, but I like the moon higher.

    • Nice to hear from you Fred. As the moon gets higher and it gets dark, it is very contrasty and difficult to get detail in the moon and landscape. I was able to get the moon higher with the first one because it was before sunset.

  24. I really like both the images. I love the serenity, softer colors and moon’s position in, ‘Moon Before Nightfall.’ And I love the deeper colors, especially the moon’s color, and darker mood of, ‘Full Moon Rising.” Just wish the moon was higher, dang clouds. Both are beautiful and thanks your insight.

    • Thanks Rachel. Even if the clouds weren’t there … as the moon rises when its dark out, it becomes increasingly tricky to get detail in the landscape and not blow out the moon. It gets very bright against a darker sky. It was still daylight in the first image so it was not as contrasty. In that situation I was able to retain detail in both the moon and landscape.

  25. 50 Joe Perno

    The Second one. Just wish the Moon was a bit higher. Love the color of the Moon and Sky.

    • Thanks for your comment. Photographing the moon higher on the second night would have been tricky. See my explanation in my reply to Fred above.

  26. I’m quite late to the party, I see, but since you asked…while I prefer the general look of #2, the position of the moon in #1 makes that composition so much stronger (IMO–and by “stronger” I really mean “better balanced) I have to cast my ballot in favor of the first image. Basically, if the moon in #2 was positioned as it was in #1, that would be my choice. Obviously there was nothing you could do about this, short of creating a composite where you “moved” the moon…always a dicey proposition.

    Some years ago, I posted the image at the following link ( on an Internet critique forum, and one person said that while he loved the image, his only wish was that the moon had been in the upper left-hand quadrant of the window, to achieve the perfect offsetting balance with the butte in the lower right. I agreed completely, and had reached that conclusion while I was in the field making the photograph…but the moon WASN’T in that position in the sky. It would have been a simple matter for me to “reposition” it with a Photoshop layer mask…I have no doubt it would be a stronger image. But my photography is about a visual presentation to jog memories of a moment in time, and during that moment in time, the moon was where it appears in that image, not where it ideally could have been. So, it stays put, in all its imperfection.

    I guess that’s my long-winded way of saying that, while as a viewer I prefer the balance established in the first image, as a photographer I greatly appreciate both renditions.

    • Love your thoughtful and thought provoking comment. I also love your image. I will be exploring photographing the moon further and especially moonrise, moonset accompanied by low daylight. Thanks for taking the time to share your viewpoint.

  27. Sorry it took so long to reply. I think the first image, Moon Before Nightfall, is outstanding. It’s my favorite.

  28. 56 Ted Harper

    I like the suttle photo, has a light pastel colors in the sky with a luring moon. Reminds me of the super moon we did last year. Gives the impression of quiet serene feeling before dark.

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