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How Was This Picture Made #02: The Answer

The second “How was this picture taken?” series article turned out to be a bit controversial, because some people either did not like the photo, or did not like some things about it. Some complained about the moon appearing unrealistic, with its darker side being darker than the sky (and they were right, as pointed out below), others did not like how the moon arced in the way I made it appear in the image. One of the readers even said “this shot is to astrophotography what a stuffed owl on a branch would be to wildlife photography”. I totally understand and sympathize with such views, because we want to see a realistic world in images. However, when it comes to moon photography, things can get quite difficult when trying to be realistic. First of all, unless you photograph just the moon by itself without any foreground elements, it is quite difficult to yield a good-looking and realistic image. The moon by itself is a small object when viewed from our planet, which means that if one wants to photograph the moon up close and include foreground elements so that they both appear realistic in terms of sizes and proportions, the only option is to use a telephoto lens above 200mm. And in such cases, one would have to time the shot and take pictures at moonrise, while the moon is still very close to the horizon.

Sounds relatively easy, except it is really not. Unless the moon happens to rise at the horizon during the day, while sun rays are still illuminating the foreground, you run into a rather big problem – differences in exposure between the moon and the foreground. The darker the foreground, the more the moon will overexpose. If you expose for the moon, the foreground will be dark. That could be a good option for a silhouette shot, but what if you want to show the foreground? While one can certainly attempt to capture a well-lit foreground (cityscape or a brightly lit object) with the rising moon, planning for such events requires quite a bit of preparation and even then, it might be difficult to get both the moon and the foreground looking good in a single image. The easier solution usually involves taking two shots, with one exposing for the foreground and one exposing for the moon. Then the two can be blended together, provided that the conditions are right and the sky is completely clear. If haze or a light layer of clouds are present, the moon will create a pretty nasty “glow” around it and it will be quite difficult to blend the two images together.

Take a look at the below images, which were capturing using this particular technique: