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Full "Buck" Moon and dramatic clouds

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#1 Tom Glenn

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 09:48 PM

The sky had been fairly boring last night, and I hadn't planned on imaging, but then I looked out the window and saw a striking arrangement of clouds around the Moon.  I raced outside and grabbed a few photos, some of which turned out to my liking.  This was at 200mm with a Nikon D5600; a single handheld exposure of 1/25s at f/2.8.  That tells you how much the clouds were reducing the exposure of the Moon.  Normally, a Full Moon at f/2.8 would be about a 1/1000s exposure with this setup.  This allowed very interesting cloud details and color to be captured in the same exposure.  


Edited by Tom Glenn, 24 July 2021 - 10:07 PM.

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#2 terrypaula


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Posted 24 July 2021 - 10:06 PM

That's nice.

#3 DSOs4Me


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Posted 24 July 2021 - 10:55 PM

Very Cool !!

#4 Jim Waters

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 11:28 PM

Real nice image Tom.

#5 Borodog



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Posted 25 July 2021 - 10:42 AM

That's a magnificent photo, Tom.

#6 james7ca


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Posted 25 July 2021 - 10:32 PM

Tom, as you know (from your comments in my thread) I managed just one image that was usable on this same evening. These are the kind of shots that generally take some luck or patience to capture.


As you know you have to get just the right blend of thickness in the clouds with some thinning and clearing in other parts of the frame to provide contrast between the moon and the clouds. Then, during the processing you need to really "push" the color saturation with tweaks to the gamma, levels, and curves to highlight the clouds. However, you can only go so far before you start to introduce noise and if your original capture didn't have the right mix of clouds it may be difficult (or impossible) to get a good effect.


There have been times when I've spent a good hour or more taking hundreds of images to capture only three or four really good candidates. Unfortunately, during last night's event only the very first image that I took (what I'd normally call a test or setup image) turned out to be usable.


In any case, you captured a really nice result and your processing seems to be similarly good. Thanks for posting.

#7 Tom Glenn

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Posted 26 July 2021 - 02:29 AM

Thanks for the comments everyone.  James, you raise many interesting discussion points.  Yes, it is purely luck to get the right conditions.  I've started keeping my Nikon with 70-200mm lens ready to go at all times, so that if I see something materialize out the window I'm ready to go outside.  I looked back at my image files, and I was only capturing images for a ten minute period, during which I took 26 images.  I was very selective in the images that I took, because most of the time the Moon was either too free of clouds, or completely blocked by them.  As you say, the cloud cover has to be just the right amount to bring the exposure of the Moon down to the level that simultaneously exposes the clouds.  Even then, most images produced are fairly uninteresting.  Out of my 26 images, two were interesting.  The one I posted above was my first choice to process because I liked the interesting ring of blue clouds that surrounded the Moon.  I have spent a good deal of time processing that image and have created multiple versions.  It is hard to decide which to post, because my feelings towards each version changes depending upon the lighting conditions in the room (day or night).  This is related to the point that came up in one of your recent threads, where I said that films are edited differently depending on the expected audience viewing environment.  


The other image that was worth processing is posted below.  This one used a 1/8s exposure.  My method here was to keep aperture constant at f/2.8 and then adjust the shutter manually according to what produced an image of the Moon that was as far exposed as possible without saturating.  It's worth noting that a 1/8s exposure of the Full Moon is highly unusual, and indicative of heavy obscuration.  A typical exposure at f/2.8s of the full moon would be 1/1000s, which is 7 stops (128x) greater than 1/8s.  




If we look at the raw file without any editing, we see the image below. 




Although dark, we can easily see some clouds, which is a good sign that the exposure was optimal.  In ordinary circumstances, a proper exposure of the Full Moon at night will render any foreground elements completely black.  But here the clouds have reduced the brightness of the Moon.  If we analyze the histogram of the Moon itself, we see that the exposure was essentially perfect for these conditions, with the average intensity of the Moon at a tonal value of 117, which is middle gray, and no pixels are saturated.  This means we can adjust the exposure up by 2-3EV easily in processing, and then bring the highlights back down to achieve a result that balances Moon and clouds.  And this doesn't require any manual selections or layer masks, but simply global edits in Photoshop.  



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#8 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 28 July 2021 - 12:36 AM

That's a striking image!

#9 hlee


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Posted 28 July 2021 - 07:44 PM

A great shot.  Reminds me of the Eye of Sauron.

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