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8. Moonlight and Star Trails  > Photographing by the Light of the Moon

PHOTOGRAPHING BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON

Full moon night photography is quite different from shooting in urban areas for several reasons. First, to use moonlight as a primary light source, it is necessary to find a location that is away from streetlights and other artificial lights. Ambient light levels are much lower, which necessitates considerably longer exposures. Second, that same lack of artificial light sources makes for much less contrasty lighting situations than are typically found in urban and suburban areas. Finally, longer exposures and lower light levels provide the opportunity to add light—referred to as light painting—in your photographs. Light painting will be discussed in-depth in the next chapter.

A primary consideration for photographing by moonlight should be to establish a baseline exposure for a landscape that is lit by the light of the full moon. There are several rules of thumb you can use to make this determination, such as the Looney 16 rule, which assumes that the Moon is about 250,000 times dimmer than the Sun, or 18 stops less than the Sunny 16 rule discussed earlier in this chapter. Using the Looney 16 rule gives us an exposure of 44 minutes at f16, ISO 100, or 11 minutes at f8, ISO 100. The rule of Three 4’s calls for an exposure of 4 minutes at f4 with an ISO of 400. This is 2½ stops more exposure than the Looney 16 rule! The greater exposure called for by the older rule of Three 4’s is better suited to older film emulsions like Tri-X or HP5 that suffer from severe reciprocity failure.


  

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