Moonlight Photography – read all about it! The Story Behind – 35 Minutes at Sunrise
So this is an occasional series where I give a full account of a particular image. In this case it’s all about trying to take a moon-set image, and ending up both failing miserably, and also succeeding spectacularly. Read on!
My original photo story went something like …
So, I had Grand Plans to shoot the last Super Moon setting when I looked out of my window. There was the mist in the valley below, and the moon shining silvery above. A very surreal scene, and one that I needed to capture! I jumped in the car and drove to my local escarpment (many have local pubs or cafes, I have an escarpment). The light levels continued to rise just a little. It dawned on me (no pun intended) that it really was getting a little brighter than it had been earlier, in terms of pre-daylight rather than moonlight. A couple of bracketed frames later, and my LCD camera-back images made me realise I was indeed maybe 10 minutes too late.
At this point, it wouldn’t have been unusual for me to pack up and get on with my daily commute (the ledge faces north-west so no sunrise potential), however, something made me hang around. And then the reverse sunrise started, and the magentas grew. A couple more frames. And then the mist really came in, so I changed angles and shot in a different direction. And then the clouds started to colour, very subtle but a myriad of colours above me. Finally, the first rays hit the land…
An amazing morning. So different, so unexpected, and so many images taken in such a short space of time that all looked sooo different.
A few more details:-
What you don’t see. Well, the mist really did move that morning – much more so than it usually does – I had a real feeling of being alive, a real feeling of being part of the Start of a New Day. When a bank of shimmering white mist moves toward you from below then and creeps up a valley side, well, have you ever had it happen to you? That’s nature photography truly coming to life for you!
There really are a lot of dense trees around that spot. I know it’s close to my home, but it really is a one-shot wonder spot. There is little space to move, and to truly set up a good shot with a front, a middle, and a back, takes a lot of thought (and time). So, some of the interim ‘move around’ shots will certainly show mistakes in composition. If you do landscape photography – one of the classic landscape photography do’s and don’ts – do you take just one, a good one, or several lesser images?
So whilst I had thought relatively(!) long and hard on the composition for the moonlight photography images that included the moon with the pre-dawn blue lighting, I had even less time to compose the later images.
Oh, and you are very close to a sheer drop. Injury certainly, death a maybe if you are unlucky, if you take one step too close.
What I saw Afterwards
Back at home, well, I actually wasn’t back at home, I was in a mad rush to get the next commuter train! Off to the city to work for me. I have to say there was a good rush of adrenaline to get me going for my work day, though.
The Setting Moon
So I waited a while. For once, I almost had too many variants to know where to start processing. I ended up processing and socialising the super-moon shot first.
In my early-morning rush found I had not reset the lens-focus to ‘auto’ from a previous shoot. Hmm, photography tips #1 or is it #1 through #10 – make sure the image is in focus – THEN switch to manual, whenever you are using a tripod. So the image above is not usable, save to see on a small screen or to use as an example of what not to do. If anyone wants to buy landscape photography off me – I won’t be selling this one(!). My moonlight photography image with the mist will have to wait.
And despite me trying to take my time and compose properly, the moon is actually too close to the tree for my subsequent liking. That’s one thing I can’t change!
The First Pink Glow
The pink hues start rising to the west. This shot morphed from the previous shot, and I didn’t really move the tripod and camera too far. I usually blend all my images for sky and foreground, and then use channel masking rather than basic blending, for more seamless results. In this instance though, I ended up not using the blend – the pinks were too harsh. A single image with a little pumped vibrance was much more pleasing. For me, this is classic bush-style Australian landscape photography.
The Distant Ridges
And out came the telephoto lens. If I think the light is any good and there might be some photos for sale on my website at the end of the shoot, I’ll try to mix it up a little more. Today it was just really an autopilot blur.
The Mist Rolls In
Then the mist started coming in. I was shooting almost directly west to start with, but then the mist started moving. It was coming down from the north, so I had to move and shoot northwest, or maybe even north-northwest. So – all my original composition elements went out of the window! I quickly was able to use the rule of thirds and made sure there was foreground, though.
This, to me, was the shot of the morning – I have never taken anything like it in Berowra in all my years. The combination of mist and the pastels in the sky makes it a winner. For a bush image, if I was looking to buy landscape photography online, this is the sort of image I would go for. Say on a nice large 50″ landscape photography on canvas. A nature photographers dream.
Even if I do say so myself :-). How much do I like it? – well, I have had this one as my Facebook banner image.
Seconds Before Dawn
Then I took the pano – very difficult indeed to get one of these to stitch around Berowra. I do a lot less panoramic photography than I used to do. Part of that is that I blend almost all of the images – a combined blend and stitch in Photoshop I haven’t mastered yet! I’m really pleased with this – it has balanced composition with the tall trees to the left. Also it has the focal point of my most-photographed tree at the rule of thirds.
Seeing this, it’s time to take more panoramic landscape photographs, methinks!
Am I Happy?
I’m ecstatic about these. I didn’t really do any workable moonlight photography, but all good! The series was a real eye opener, hence me writing this, and the icing on the cake is the ‘photographic art’ feature image. A cross between a photo and a painting.
Canon EOS5D Mk III ~ Canon 24-70 ~ Various exposures
The Australian Bush Photographer.
Landscape photography prints for sale – you can buy all of these photos (well, except the first one!) in our online shop. We pride ourselves on our beautiful landscape photography at affordable prices.