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Shooting the Moon

Aug 27

In On Location at 2:29am


Hey gang…couple of questions from yesterday. The combo of the 600 plus TC1.7 was, frankly, all about, uh, size. Bigger lens, bigger moon. The above is shot with a straight up six. Below, I’m at about 170 zoom on a 70-200.


Figured we’re all up here in north country, howlin’ at the moon, so might as well shoot it. Above is lit with an Elinchrom Quadra, running through a Deep Octa soft box. Way up top, same deal as yesterday–line of sight TTL, raw flash, SB 900, hand held, camera right.

You get the moon and the lens big, what suffers? DOF for sure. The shot from yesterday was racked out to f11. Otherwise the moon looks like an out of focus blob in the sky, which it sorta does even at f11.


Have had notions of doing stuff like mixing flash portraits and the moon for years, and I suspect I’ll just keep after it. One of these days, might just nail it….you never know….more tk….

Simon Fleming says:

on August 27, 2010 at 2:46 am

Great shots & insights as always Joe – would love to be up there howling with you… one day. This guy looks like an Icelandic cousin of an Aussie rocker named ‘Kram’ from a group called Spiderbait – he looks like he would enjoy their kind of music too.

Geoff says:

on August 27, 2010 at 2:52 am

Nice stuff Joe. I particularly like the portrait of the boy. Lovely ambient and nice soft lighting.

Pat Delany says:

on August 27, 2010 at 4:51 am

Ideal situation for an in camera two exposure picture, moon then model?

Ranger 9 says:

on August 27, 2010 at 7:05 am

Okay, I was taught that since the moon is a sunlit object, correct exposure for it is via the ol’ “sunny 16” rule… which (at 100 ISO) would be 1/100 @ f/16. Open up a couple of stops to get it to look white-ish instead of gray, and you’d be at 1/100 @ f/8.

But the only EXIF I was able to see (on the 70-200 image) said 1/125 @ f/2.8, I think, which would have overexposed the moon by about three stops… but it doesn’t look that overexposed, so obviously what I was taught was wrong! How are you determining your flash-vs-ambient exposure balance in these situations?

Matt says:

on August 27, 2010 at 7:15 am

Really cool shots, and the bit about the DOF/focal length relationship really is a good one to keep in mind. Hmm…

Heather says:

on August 27, 2010 at 7:16 am


Tim Skipper says:

on August 27, 2010 at 8:01 am

Joe that is what I appreciate about you, your work, and your teaching. You don’t approach anything like you know everything. You openly admit to mistakes, frustrations, and the “I just hope it works.” philosophy. There is alot of great photography instructors, but most just act like they never make a mistake and that makes them untouchable. Your frankness about what you can do and what you’ve yet to do makes learning from enjoyable and most importantly hopeful.

Dave R says:

on August 27, 2010 at 8:06 am

Love it, Joe. Really interesting to see how the size of the moon changes as you use different focal lengths. Thanks for sharing, as usual!

Great pics as well – that guy looks FUN. Erm…

K Hemmick says:

on August 27, 2010 at 8:16 am

I like the way you light up your subject with the moon in the background . . . . . .
What is that in that hackers pockets???

Darrell says:

on August 27, 2010 at 8:23 am

Since you’re doing a slow sync on the flash, what if you racked the focus to the moon when it was burning it in for the exposure? It would still have a soft glow to it but wouldn’t you get the detail back. I know you’d have to have the lens locked down on a tripod, but wouldn’t that make it look more detailed?

Claudia Dowling says:

on August 27, 2010 at 8:38 am

You did a pretty good moon shot with that Mir astronaut down in Texas. . .

Rich Charpentier says:

on August 27, 2010 at 8:51 am

Very cool Joe! Now there’s one more thing I need to add to my list of “try this sometime soon….”

John Leonard says:

on August 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

Surfing youtube….made me think if Joe:

Pete says:

on August 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

Great shots, but I think the axe shot might have had more impact if the lighting had come from below and the ambient was knocked down another stop or so.

Paul Hara says:

on August 27, 2010 at 11:14 am

You must have been quite a distance away with the 600mm lens. I would think the new CLS compatible PocketWizards you were testing would have been put to good to use in this instance.
How are they working out for you?

schabu says:

on August 27, 2010 at 4:13 pm

awesome combination of lens, TC and perception :)

Kim says:

on August 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Joe, thanks to your blog post I now know where my fair skin and red curly hair fits in. I shall have to convince my family to move to Iceland! But since I’m the only one I doubt it’ll fly though.

josefrancisco says:

on August 27, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Hi! I recently took some test shots of the Moon with the Nikon 200-400 and the 600, with and without the 1.4 TC. These are the results; the black background represents the full (FX) frame. Cheers!

John Batdorff says:

on August 27, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Sweet shots…

RC says:

on August 27, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Im just going to go ahead and say it.. but I couldve SWORN that was you with a wig and a prosthetic suit on. I was waiting for the moment you’d take the glasses off and be like.. THEYVE GOT ME!! I’m not coming back!

rock crusher says:

on August 28, 2010 at 3:24 am

Yeah.Doing what you love to do

minimodi says:

on August 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm

great shots. have to say the middle one is my favorite. really nice light you’ve got there.

Rick Lee says:

on August 29, 2010 at 9:10 am

I’m assuming these were shot on a full frame camera. I carry a D300s body at all times when I want more DOF. It makes a huge difference.

james says:

on August 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Two words … double exposure.

Will Foster says:

on August 30, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I’ve been working on a boat for a week or two. Last Tuesday we just shot a great pink sunset and were heading west back to port. The pink sky created the most awesome red moon rise I have ever seen. How about if I could borrow your 600mm and 1.4x converter, this September? I’m sure I could get a great boat silhouette, on the water, directly in front of the moon rise.

Omar D. Rivero says:

on August 31, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Was that Axl Rose? Yikes, he’s let himself go.

James Clark says:

on September 2, 2010 at 9:15 am

Joe, That guy looks like your cousin. Or, is that what you turn into on full moons?

Rikki D. Dy-Liacco says:

on September 6, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Great tips and incredible shots you got here. How about a lighting diagram? 😀

M. Clay says:

on September 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm

How freakin neat are these !!! I can never get moon shots to turn out right.

Geoff says:

on October 17, 2010 at 2:01 am

These images are unreal, more than just moon images. Superb.

Fritz Liedtke says:

on December 16, 2010 at 1:08 am

Thanks for the location lighting photography inspiration! Great combination of the leftover illumination of the day, with location lighting, for some beautiful (and hilarious) portraits.

Cassandra Sasse says:

on April 5, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I love the middle one, I think the standing on the water really gives it a cool look.

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