Including the moon in a landscape can sometimes add a nice sense of balance or contrast to an image, like in the photo above (taken in the Colorado Desert of California).
But, photographing a landscape with the moon is a little tricky and requires some patience.
One of the problems is that the moon won’t always be where you want it to be. And, since the moon is so far away, sometimes it’s hard to get both your foreground AND the moon in sharp focus.
So, here are a few tips for dealing with these problems:
#1 – Wait until the moon is nearly full
The best time to photograph a landscape with the moon is when the moon is nearly full. During this time, the sun will rise as the moon is setting (and vice versa). This is perfect because the moon will then be low on the horizon during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.
To photograph a landscape to the WEST, plan your shot for the day AFTER the full moon at sunrise. The moon will set as the sun rises.
To photograph a landscape to the EAST, plan your shot for the day BEFORE the full moon at sunset. The moon will rise as the sun sets.
You can also plan your shot for the DAY OF the full moon, but you’ll probably need to take two exposures then, since the moon will be a lot brighter than the landscape.
#2 – Concentrate on distant landscapes
The trick to getting a nice big moon in your image is to concentrate on distant landscapes and use a telephoto lens to frame your shot. This way, the moon will be fairly large in relation to the rest of your landscape. If you use a wide-angle lens, the moon will be just a tiny speck in your image!
#3 – Take two shots if you have a near foreground
To ensure both the foreground and the moon are in sharp focus, you may have to take a couple of shots. Focus the first shot on the landscape in front of you, and focus the second shot on the moon. You can combine these two exposures later in post-processing.
For a detailed explanation of why this is important, check out this previous post about a failed sand dune photo.
What did I miss?
If you have another tip for photographing landscapes with the moon, please share it with us by leaving a comment below. Thanks! 🙂
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.