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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Super Moon....Super Cropped

Like everyone else with a camera, it seems, I went out last Saturday evening to photograph the "super moon" or perigee moon--reportedly the largest moon we'll see for 20 years or so. Photographing the moon itself (without anything else in the frame) seems kind of redundant after a while, because all moon shots pretty much look the same. But it can be a nice element if used creatively in a landscape (or even as an element in a Photoshop montage) if you have an interesting foreground. I was shooting at the beach, at the mouth of the Housatonic River, and while I had water to use as a foreground (to get that nice silver or gold river of light), the problem that night was that because it was fairly dark when the moon rose, there was almost no way to balance the darker foreground with such a bright moon. 

Did you know that a good exposure for the full moon itself is the same as for a sunny landscape? In other words, you can get a good exposure of the moon (and just the moon) at say, 1/125 at f/16, at ISO 200, which is approximately the correct exposure for a landscape on a sunny day? But think about it, what is the moon but a lunar landscape--illuminated by the sun! 

There are other things you can do with a shot of just the moon though. For instance, you can enlarge it quite a bit and then merge it into another nighttime landscape--kind of cool because you can then have a huge moon over a city, for example. When I have a few minutes I'll combine the shot above into a skyline of Manhattan so you can see how that looks. In order to see how big a moon I could get out of one of my rather distant moon shots from Saturday night (see the shot below--I shot it with a 300mm lens, equivalent to a 450mm in 35mm and still not that big when it comes to moon photography), I decided to just keep enlarging it in Photoshop and sharpening it after each enlargement. The cropped image (at 300dpi) was about two inches square. So I went up in steps: to three inches square, then four inches square, etc. The final size of this file (again, at 300dpi) is about six-inches square. 

If you use the "bicubic smoother" option at the bottom of the resizing window in Photoshop, you can actually get surprisingly bigger images and better image quality by stepping it up this way than you might think--of anything. Use it when you want to make prints bigger than their native size or want to just use a part of the image for an enlargement.

Anyway, I was just playing with this shot, I did it in under five minutes. I cropped it, then blew it up (changed the dimensions) and repeated that three or four times and the moon you see above it the result. Again, I wasn't being careful as I would for a finished image, but just playing. Below is the uncropped photo. Considering how quickly I put this together in Photoshop, the enlarged shot is kind of cool looking.  Try this sometime if you shot the moon the other night (or have any shots of the moon) and see how big you can go. 

By the way, you can now subscribe to my blog postings via email--you'll get each new post in your email. And please help support the blog, start your Amazon shopping by clicking on an ad! Here's the uncropped shot:


susan said...

I knew you'd be out for this moon...! I was at behind the boat launch at the end of Birdseye...missed shooting the orange moon but it was a beautiful anyway. I have so much to learn...OMG!

Jeff Wignall said...

Hi Susan,

I'm not sure the moon looked that orange in person, but the color temperature of the light make it appear that way in a photograph. I didn't warm it up much in Photoshop, either, but perhaps a tiny bit. I did shoot the picture in RAW which let me adjust the exposure after the fact, so I turned down the exposure a bit when I opened he image. How's the shooting going? jeff