moonlight photography




I was up late a few nights ago, around 1am, and noticed the light of a bright full moon coming into the house. It's surprising how bright it is once your eyes are adjusted to darkness. I didn't feel like going to bed so I took the chance to experiment with photography by moonlight. I chose a local churchyard as my location. It is set in forest and has no lighting on the site.

churchyard by moonlight

This was my first moonlit shot and I was intrigued by the result. I hadn't expected to see so much color. This is because our eyes need stronger light to register colors, giving the impression that moonlight makes everything grey. But it's not so, and the colors are there, they just look a bit different. There is a special quality to the light. I have photographed this church many times in daylight and it's been difficult to balance the tones - the shot needs a blue sky and then the high contrast of sunlight makes the foreground and te shadow side of the church very dark. However in moonlight the balance is there with no adjustments needed. It most resembles watery sunlight on a winter's day.

This shot was taken at 30s, f2.8 and ISO 200 and was two stops underexposed. I'm afraid I wasn't familiar with the Bulb exposure setting on the camera at the time, and couldn't get an exposure of more than 30s. The Canon 5D's Bulb setting requires you to hold down the shutter button, which is not convenient, but fortunately the cable release ( RS-80N3 ) allows you to lock its button in position. An alternative setting would then be 8 mins at f8 ISO100. A long time to wait, and also it's much more likely that a car will pass by and mess everything up with its headlights. Furthermore a long exposure will leave star trails instead of sharp stars ( even on the 30s exposure you can see short star trails on a full resolution image ). The star trails will become fainter with a long exposure since their light is being spread out over a larger area.


hot pixels

Exposures of longer than 30s start to show up considerable numbers of hot pixels on my 5D. I normally use the Canon software for converting RAW files, but for long exposures I will be using the Photoshop raw converter. It eliminates hot pixels for you. It doesn't  affect the stars in the sky, these must be registering light on several pixels allowing the software to tell the difference. for photography