Shoot the Moon — But you’d better hurry!

framed full moon through trees On Saturday 3/19/2011, the full moon will be the largest we’ve seen in nearly 20 years, according to this article from CNN .  That’s because the moon will be at perigee, the point in it’s orbit when it’s closest to Earth.  In fact, this moon will be “about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur” when the moon is at it’s furthest point.

This should be of great interest to Photogs who have reasonably clear skies Saturday night, and who know how to “shoot the moon”.

Here is a full moon I shot in 2009 with some how-to information on shooting:

handheld full moonTo many people’s surprise, you need to shoot a full moon at a pretty fast shutter speed, since it’s reflecting the sun’s light and is actually very bright in that otherwise dark night sky.   That will be especially true with tonight’s perigee moon.

If you are shooting at a fast enough speed, you might be able to handhold.  Just remember the rule of hand holding only if your speed is 1/focal length or faster.  Otherwise a good tripod (turn off your VR or IS) and remote or cable release will be needed to provide maximum anti-shake protection.

Manual exposure is necessary and typically many shots are needed until you get the right exposure.  You’ll find it’s very easy to over or underexpose the moon.  Try bracketing your exposure by +/- 1 EV and go from there.

How I shot the moon (shown above):

  • Nikon D90, 18-200 VR lens
  • Handheld, VR on
  • Focal length 200mm (300mm equiv)
  • Manual focus
  • Manual exposure mode
  • 1/320 second (fast enough for me to handhold)
  • f11
  • ISO 200
  • Increased contrast in post-processing to bring out details and darken the sky, added a bit of sharpening but be careful not go overboard.
  • Cropped

I hope you’ll get out there tonight and give it a shot.  Try taking the moon through the trees, coming over a tree line, or through the clouds if you have any.  Email me your shots and we’ll feature them in a follow-up post (

One last note, if you don’t take advantage of this “supersized” full moon tonight, you’ll need to wait until 2029 for another chance.  So charge up  your batteries and get out there!  Happy shooting.    –  Posted by Ed


About Ed Spadoni "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
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4 Responses to Shoot the Moon — But you’d better hurry!

  1. Carrie Conte says:

    Great instructions and reminder, can’t wait to get a shot of it tonight! As I have been practicing all week.

  2. Howard says:

    Thanks, Ed. Appreciate the heads-up and the how-to but unfortunately here in “sunny” southern California there’s rain forecast for Sunday and Monday and it’s cloudy as I write this : ( . Maybe I can try my luck with the next full moon!

  3. Gerry says:

    Ed – when will we see your results from last night?

  4. Pingback: Return of the Supermoon!! | 2 Guys Photo

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