Tag Archives: Lunar

How Large is the Moon in a Photograph?

During the early morning of Saturday, 28 July, 2018, a special celestial event was to occur: a total lunar eclipse, resulting in a red moon — one like this:

Red Moon

Red Moon

I captured this particular red moon on 28 August, 2007.  Incidentally, it was the first and last red moon I captured!

For the most recent total lunar eclipse, I planned to rise early and capture the moon.

Unfortunately, due to cloud, I barely caught a glimpse of it, so no images were forthcoming.

The night before, however, I captured some images of the rising full moon in the early evening.

Now, there are different ways of photographing the moon.

Some people like to place the moon in the context of a broader scene, depicting trees, city architecture, animals or people.

Other people like to capture the moon in and of itself, with a view to depicting as much detail as possible.

I have historically fitted into the latter category, and I have photographed the moon numerous times with it being the only subject.

Naturally, when using only DSLR equipment and no telescopes or other space observation equipment, I like to use the longest focal length possible so that the moon in all its glory is more prominent, and therefore larger in dimension.

The maximum focal length I can achieve is 1,120mm by attaching both a 2x tele-converter and a 1.4x tele-converter to my 400mm lens.

People often wonder which focal lengths to use for capturing the moon.

Which focal length to use depends on the kind of image desired.  In my case, I want as long a focal length as possible.

Once a focal length has been decided, the next question is as follows:

How large will the moon appear in my image?

The answer is that it depends on several factors; namely:

  1. the focal length;
  2. whether the camera is a full-frame, APS-C or APS-H model (the latter two of which crop the view a full-frame lens natively provides on a full-frame camera); and
  3. the distance between the moon and the earth.

The short answer is that the moon is not very large relative to the frame.

If an APS-C camera is used, there is a distinct advantage, as the moon will appear larger relative to the frame than it would when captured with a full-frame camera.

In my case, I have only full-frame DSLR cameras.

Today I decided to explore and compare the size of the moon relative to my camera’s frame size, when shot at different focal lengths.

The night before the total lunar eclipse, I went outside to capture some test images.  I happened to capture images at both 1,120mm and 800mm.

Both focal lengths are considered extreme super-telephoto focal lengths in the DSLR world, but there is a surprising difference between them.

In both cases, the moon is not very large, relative to the frame.

I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which produces a native image size of 6,720 x 4,480px (30,105,600px).

Let us take a look at how many times the moon can fit into that frame size when captured at the two focal lengths I used.

This is an image measuring 6,720 x 4,480px (the exact image dimensions a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV produces), depicting the size of a full moon relative to the size of the frame.

Moon Captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 1,120mm

Moon Captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 1,120mm

The full moon was captured in Sydney on 27/07/2018 at 17:50:13, using a focal length of 1,120mm.

The moon, when captured at 1,120mm at this particular time, measures approximately 1,751 x 1,741px (3,048,491px).

With a frame size of 6,720 x 4,480px (30,105,600px), this means that the moon occupies approximately 10.1% of the frame.

Equipment used:

This is an image measuring 6,720 x 4,480px (the exact image dimensions a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV produces), depicting the size of a full moon relative to the size of the frame.

Moon Captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 800mm

Moon Captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 800mm

The full moon was captured in Sydney on 27/07/2018 at 17:54:19, using a focal length of 800mm.

The moon, when captured at 800mm at this particular time, measures approximately 1,267 x 1,258px (1,593,886px).

With a frame size of 6,720 x 4,480px (30,105,600px), this means that the moon occupies approximately 5.3% of the frame.

Equipment used:

As can be seen, despite using long focal lengths on a full-frame DSLR, the moon is still relatively small within the frame.

Here are those key figures again:

  • 1,120mm: 10.1% frame coverage
  • 800mm: 5.3% frame coverage

In this case, the size of the moon nearly doubled with the use of a longer focal length, despite that focal length not being twice the size of the shiorter focal length.

It is not quite an exact science, particularly when considering that the image shot with the 800mm focal length was captured just over four minutes later, by which time the moon had risen marginally higher; but it is a substantial difference.

In both cases, while the moon does not dominate the frame, it is certainly large enough to show very pleasing details.

Photographers desiring even more prominence and detail would be likely to attach the camera to a telescope, but if, like myself, a photographer does not have a telescope, but does have long focal lengths, a very pleasing result is certainly possible.

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2014 Retrospective: Low-Output Year, but Such is Life

While we’re not quite done with the year 2014 yet, it’s close enough to publish a retrospective of the year from a photographic perspective.

Firstly, it was my most low-output year on record; but with other commitments and interests, and a waning interest in photography, I can live with that.

I only published 32 images shot this year.  2013, despite two overseas trips, was also low in output, with some 50 images online.  In the years before, I had a much higher output rate.

For a number of years, seascape photography was my main interest.  This year I didn’t shoot a single seascape, and I’m not too bothered by that.  I did it for years; everyone’s doing it, and I cannot be bothered any more.  It’s always there, and I can always return to it if the interest re-ignites; but for now, it’s dormant.

The year 2014 started with a trip to Adelaide and the McLaren Vale wine region — it was a wine trip, not a photography trip; but I shot a few images at the Penfolds Magill Estate winery.

Penfolds Magill Estate Winery

Penfolds Magill Estate Winery

Also early in the year, we headed to the Australian Reptile Park, where I shot one decent image of a Tasmanian devil.  It was more of a fun day out with some close friends, but I dragged a camera and a few big lenses along, and shot in dreadful light.

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Around Valentine’s Day, the macro lens came out of hibernation, and I shot some very pleasing images of Xenedette’s rose.

Petals

Petals

My next photographic adventure was a weekend-long landscape photography workshop with Peter Eastway and David Oliver, where I shot some pleasing aerial images of the Hunter Valley.  The trip was organised through the Focus Photographers group, and it was a great weekend away with like-minded photographers.

Hills of the Hunter

Hills of the Hunter

In May, Xenedette and I headed away to Jenolan Caves for a mini-getaway, where we toured six caves, and where I opted for low-light hand-held photography using my fastest prime lenses to capture the ‘ambient artificial’ light highlighting the magnificent decorations in the caves.  I also got in a bit of architecture photography during the trip.

Shawls of the Lucas Cave

Shawls of the Lucas Cave

In August I headed away with the Focus Photographers group again, also to the Hunter Valley, for a weekend of landscape and natural-light portrait photography with David and Clare Oliver.

As always, there is something to learn from these masters of photography, and I gained an appreciation for natural light from south-facing windows, which produces very soft, flattering portraits, and which is consistent throughout the day, making shooting very easy, as the light is always soft and even.

Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter

Finally, I bought a new 400mm f/2.8 lens for next year’s wildlife safari in Kenya, and in the mean time, dabbled with a few images of near-full moons in September.

Waxing Gibbous Part II

Waxing Gibbous Part II

All in all, 2014 was undeniably a low-output year in terms of photography, but I did gain some new images, new experiences and new contacts; and delved into some of the photographic genre I shoot, as well as a few other less-frequent subjects.

Photography is a pursuit I view as one which can have its peaks and troughs, and for me, I’ve been in trough territory for much of the year.  That’s completely fine, as it’s always there, and I learned long ago to read the signs and go with the flow, seeking images and experiences when the desire makes itself known to me, and not forcing productive output when it’s just not in me.

Photographically, next year will be quite different, with the trip to Kenya being the highlight, but who knows what other photographic experiences I will gain…

And so ends a retrospective of my 2014 photographic year.

The Moon Isn’t Made of Cheese

The night after I photographed the recent September moon during Waxing Gibbous phase, I headed out the following night and shot it again.

Here is a closer view of the moon’s craters during its Waxing Gibbous phase on 7 September, 2014.

Craters

Craters

In this more recent image (24 hours later), more of the moon was visible.

This time I’ve gone for a different composition, and focused more on the craters and shadow-laden edge of the moon.

Again I captured the moon with the longest focal length I have — 1,120mm — by stacking my 1.4x and 2x tele-converters onto my 400mm lens.

Waxing Gibbous

Having recently bought a 400mm f/2.8 lens, I have been somewhat keen to use it.

I bought it to photograph wildlife during our next African safari, but for the lack of any local leopards or lions, I decided to use this lens for the next best subject: the moon.

Here, on 6 September, 2014, the moon is in Waxing Gibbous phase.

I headed outside earlier this evening to photograph the moon, which was a challenge given the heavy cloud cover that was blowing over.

During one of a few short windows of opportunity, I captured this frame.

Waxing Gibbous

Waxing Gibbous

Ignore the focal length of 800mm; I actually shot this at 1,120mm as a result of having stacked both my 1.4x and 2x tele-converters; but when stacking more than one tele-converter, the focal length and aperture are not transmitted to the camera, so it appears that I used only my 2x tele-converter.

 

Partial Lunar Eclipse – 26 June, 2010

As I type this, the moon is undergoing a partial eclipse.

I don’t often shoot the moon (it’s been done to death, and I had great success during the 2007 eclipse), but given the easy opportunity and the lack of effort required, I went outside with 600mm of focal length and captured this image of the partial eclipse:

Lunar Eclipse on 26 June, 2010

Lunar Eclipse on 26 June, 2010

I used my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM, Canon Extender EF 2x II, a tripod, remote cable release and mirror lockup.

Photographed at 9:16pm on 26/06/2010 with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II at 600mm for 1/160 sec at f/8 and ISO 200.