Sunday, October 09, 2011
"The moon is an object illuminated by the sun. Expose accordingly." - Ansel Adams
Well, that's a good starting point. The reality is that the human eye and mind is far more discerning in terms of contrast range than any camera/film/CF card will ever be. When photographing the moon under conditions like the scene I saw a few nights ago the paradox was clear. While I saw a beautiful crescent moon setting over the Three Sisters peaks near where I live I realized that the only way to capture the scene was to make several exposures of the scene and then combine them into a single image. One shot exposed for the highlighted crescent, a second for the overall scene then matched in Photoshop. I made a variety of moon and scene exposures and actually chose two frames shot only a few seconds apart. I don't recall ever using this technique before as I really prefer to not alter images however in the situation of photographing this scene, I didn't have much of a choice. There is another technique, HDR or High Dynamic Range imaging that likewise combines two or more exposures into a single image. I tried that in Photoshop but the result was still a moon with blown out highlights.
I eventually took the double exposure route, copying the small section of one image with the moon and pasting it into the overall scene, moving the crescent to align perfectly with the darker part of the moon. After a bit of smoothing out the tones around the combo moon, noise reduction and contrast improvement, I had an image of exactly what I saw in the sky.
If the rules are meant to be broken, then I confess. I broke a couple.