So You Want To Photograph The Supermoon

December 12, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Did you miss the supermoon earlier this month like I did?  The good news is 2018 will have 2- both in January!  A supermoon may appear up to 14% and up to 30% brighter than a regular full moon.

        -The Where and When

The logical first step is to look at a moonrise/moonset and sunrise/sunset chart (more on that below).  It's important to understand light values and why these times are important.  Firstly, the moon is lit by the sun- so if we want to photograph the moon to match the light value of our landscape, it's necessary to be aware of when the rise or set times are closest to the sunrise or set time.


Sounds like a given here, but it's imperative that you have a relatively clear evening/morning to ensure success

-Use Long Glass

Trees or buildings are reference points for us.  By placing a moon next to them, as we can just after it crests the horizon, it an give us an immediate sense of scale.  In addition, by using a telephoto lens (200mm or longer), you have compression working in your favor.  As you all probably know, the more telephoto the lens, the more compressed objects appear.


Goes without saying- the sturdier the better, especially with a longer and heavier telephoto lens which can cause a lightweight ball head to sag.  An essential piece of equipment!

-Apps & Software

Two of the more well known software programs to make these calculations is The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE) and PhotoPills.  The calculations are all based on a level horizon (such as coastlines).  You must factor in elevation gains from where you are shooting to the elevation of where your moon will be rising.  Another app I recently discovered is Planit.

-Determine Your Correct Exposure

Enable your Highlight Alert in your camera. As the moon will be 30% brighter you want to capture all the detail in your moon and not have it blown out.  When you place objects in front of the moon you may want to use a smaller aperture such as f/8-f/11 to assure sharp focus. It's important to keep your shutter speed in fractions of a second to ensure the moon is sharp. You can always increase your ISO. If you really want to get technical and calculate the correct shutter speed, Nikon has a table online to help you do this (link below). The gist is that the soon and stars shift one degree across the sky every four minutes or a quarter degree every minute.  Then determine your lens field of view (FOV).

Hopefully this covers it, with proper planning and a telephoto lens of 200mm or longer you should come away with amazing supermoon images!



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