Do you notice difficulty sleeping when there is a full moon? I don’t know about you, but I can feel my brain become energized with curiosity and adventure. Lack of sleep is just the side effect!
Scientists indicate brain activity associated with deep sleep decreases around the full moon, saying that it has something to do with the gravitational pull –which has the power to affect our feelings and behavior, but they don’t really understand how it affects us on a deeper level; Just that it does.
I guess it is no surprise that I’ve found myself under the glow of our moon time and time again, and over the last several months, sometimes I’ve brought cameras with me! My moon photography has improved and a few people have reached out to me for tips after seeing some of my recent work. I decided to share my experience here for those that want to learn from it.
It started with time lapses. The idea of seeing stars, moons, planets, galaxies, in general, has always fascinated me. It is something we all acknowledge, but often don’t really understand or appreciate. Seeing the movement of outer space with our own planet’s landscapes just makes me realize how small we really are.
I started recording some rough night lapses with my Go-Pro. I am still shocked at the quality you can get on these things when you really have your settings dialed in right. It’s nice that it’s weatherproof, and if I hook up an external battery like ANKER POWER, I can basically set it and forget it overnight!
After hitting the limitations of the GoPro, I started trying time-lapses with my Panasonic GH5. This is definitely not an Astro camera, but it has a bigger sensor and gave me much greater detail.
Once I got my hands on the A7RIV, I had a field day with it! Get it?! ?
Seriously though, this thing is referred to by Sony as “The Resolution Beast” and allows for so much detail, dynamic range, and lots of room to crop in and/or enlarge images.
Using a motorized slider, I started trying to calculate my time-lapses to follow the moon a bit.
It wasn’t until the supermoon that I decided to see how far I could zoom in and how much detail I could capture. If you don’t know, a supermoon occurs when the moon is at its closest point to the Earth making it appear 6% bigger and much brighter than a normal full moon. The next one is April 27, 2021.
In retrospect, it wasn’t the best day for photographing it. The moonrise was late and heavy clouds just started to roll in as it became visible. I was able to set up my A7RIV on a tripod and start interval shooting, but the clouds were blocking a good shot. Just as I thought it was hopeless, a break in the clouds allowed me to take about 30 clear images. Woot!
Using Sequator, I combined these 30 images in a stack in order to reduce noise and make a more detailed image. It was the best shot of the moon I had to date, and I decided to combine it with a timelapse I was taking at the same time with the Panasonic GH5 and the GVM Motorized Slider. With a little bit of editing, I was able to create this:
Yes, the moon really was that color!
Months later, I was walking through a park near my home when the moon caught my eye around dusk. The sky was this perfect blue and was clear enough for me to forget about my walk. I went back for my camera and was able to capture about 100 images using my Sony A7RIV, 70-200 G-Master, and the 2x teleconverter on a tripod. I processed these using Sequator and absolutely love the final image!
I’m proud of my progress, and at the same time, I love learning from those who are better than me. I am part of many astrophotography groups and see a constant flood of the most amazing photos on a daily basis! It inspires me to get better!
One style that has caught my eye is composites, where you basically layer different photographs and blend them together tastefully. This is an entire niche in itself and is an intimidating arena for amateur astrophotographers. The next clear night I had I went to work on my first composite. I went a little overkill and stacked over 600 images of the moon in Sequator, plus several other layers for clouds, glow, darks, lights, and details. It took a couple of hours of editing in Photoshop and, ta-da! Here is my humble first attempt at a moon composite!
I believe in progress, not perfection, and strive for “constant and never-ending improvement”. Although I am not where I want to be yet, I am better today than I was yesterday, and I will be better tomorrow than I am now!