April Theme Challenge – “The Moon”

Although a bit late, for this month, April 2022, the theme challenge is “The Moon”. This month the assignment is more challenging from a technical perspective and it requires a bit of planning as well as some specific gear. Your goal is to shoot a single image of the moon either on it’s own or in a landscape.

The moon varies in brightness due to the amount of ambient light from the sun. The colour of the moon is determined by the reflected light from the sun including the angle of the sun in relation to the moon and the atmospheric conditions. The best time of day is when the moon is rising as the sun is setting or when the moon is setting just before the sun is rising.

For images of the moon, go out at the edge of twilight. From last month’s challenge we learned that Civil twilight is the most favourable time within the “Blue Hour” to take photos when we observe the most beautiful colourful light.

Here are some specific tips that will help getting a great image:

The location of the moon in relation to the landscape. It is important to pick a landscape that is further away so that you can achieve a sharp landscape and sharp moon.

Choose a longer focal length such as 200mm or longer so the moon will look larger in your image similar to what your eyes see. Also choose a smaller aperture f/8 – f/11.

Adjust your exposure for the highlights which is the moon, the landscape may be slightly darker but if exposed correctly you will be able to increase the shadows in post processing to bring out enough detail in the landscape. Carefully consider your shutter speed because the earth is moving and as a result the moon will appear to be moving so choose a faster shutter speed say 1/60 to 1/125. It may require a higher ISO setting to get the correct exposure.

Shooting in low light and at longer focal lengths such as 200mm etc… it’s important to use a tripod to ensure sharp images. It’s a good idea to turn off image stabilization, however this depends on your gear as some equipment with newer technology may not be required this step so it’s important to know your gear.

Post processing is typically required to adjust the brightness of the shadows to bring out the detail in the landscape.

Let’s look at some image examples.

First we start with closeup images of the moon with no landscape taken with a longer focal length. The first image is taken when the moon is higher in the sky and as a result there is no colour. The second image is an image of the moon that was not at the horizon and a bit higher in the sky but the colour was influenced by the atmosphere due to the smoke dust from the forest fires across Canada that year. The third image is more dramatic due to the clouds and the light off the moon and clouds creating a more dramatic image. Remember to keep an eye on the news and the weather to determine when it is a good time to go out and capture your image.

When choosing a location to include the landscape it’s important to pick a landscape subject that is further away so you can use a longer focal length to have the moon appear larger in your image. You can use the PhotoPills app or the TPE app to help plan. Remember to watch the moon rise/set in conjunction with the sun set/rise during the month to pick the right time to get the best image possible. Each of these images are a single shot and enhanced using post processing to bring out the landscape detail.

Even if you only have a mobile phone and do not have a longer focal length you can get an image where the moon can enhance your image. It just takes timing. In this image I saw the clouds moving and the moon’s position changing in relation to the clouds and was hoping the moon would appear as an eye in what I called the dragon cloud. I took a number of shots so I would not miss the exact moment with the moon in the right position. Although more challenging just be observant while you are out taking images, you never know what you’ll see and capture.

Let’s see what images you create of the moon this month

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

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