The moon was extra bright last night, and the clouds rolling across it was just too compelling for me to ignore. If you’ve tried to photograph the moon before, you’ve probably realised that the moon is actually quite bright, especially when compared with the sky and clouds. In order to properly expose the clouds, I had to use a shutter speed of around 1 – 2 seconds at ISO 200. To get the details of the moon, I had to use something like 1/100s at ISO 200.
I thought I had the perfect plan! Set up the tripod, use my longest lens (the Tamron SP90) and take a minimum of 4 exposures per scene with bracketing. Unfortunately, I hadn’t factored in the following:
- The clouds were moving fast! From the first exposure to the second, the clouds would’ve moved 1/5 the diameter of the moon as seen from my window. Which meant I had to work fast, and the 4 exposures would be vastly different confusing any HDR software or at least muddling the end result.
- My tripod isn’t nearly as rock solid as I thought it was, especially when photographing a bright yellow disc in the sky.
- 90mm on a DX sensor isn’t useful for moon photography, unless you plan on cropping alot (see last image below).
- I couldn’t get my camera to bracket 5 frames (back to the user manual!).
True enough, the results in HDR weren’t even close to acceptable (although I’ve yet to try Photoshop’s HDR solution). I tried out Oloneo’s Photoengine beta and it was quite capable, but the subtle differences in clouds and minor variances in the position of the moon due to me nudging the tripod made the end result look a little too artificial. I couldn’t even get a proper image in HDRsoft’s Photomatix demo. Don’t think any of the software mentioned is at fault though…
So, the shots you see here are all improvisations in Photoshop. Crop the moon (with all its details) from a 1/100s shot, align it to a shot exposed for the clouds and set the moon’s layer to Pin Light.