Photographing the Crescent Moon and Venus with the Canon 100-400mm L IS II Lens

While the full moon is a great and highly-popular photo subject, I'm just as big of a fan of photographing the small crescent phase.
 
Just after the new moon phase, the moon starts trailing the sun into the western horizon and very soon after the new moon, the brightly-visible shape of the moon is a tiny crescent and it descends into sunset colors. The opposite is also true. Just before the new moon, catch the waning crescent moon on the east horizon just before sunrise.
 
On this day at this time, the moon was 2.4% visible. The night before, I could not locate the .2% moon as it set due to its too-close proximity to the sun. The 7.2%-visible moon also looked great the next night, but the higher the moon is, the farther it is from the greatest likelihood of sunset color.
 
Photographing the moon is easy, but to get the moon in a photograph requires the moon to be visible. For the waxing crescent phase, a clear view of western sky just after sunset, or the eastern sky just before sunrise, is minimally required. Clouds can provide some interest and add color, but they can block the key subject. A clear sky nearly assures a visible moon and a bright orange horizon.
 
While the weather is long-term unpredictable, moon phases are highly predictable. The moon takes 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds to complete a lunar month. If this subject interests you, set a calendar appointment. If one attempt does not work out, just wait for the next opportunity to come in about a month.
 
A consideration for a moon photograph is the foreground. Moon photos can work well with only sky in them, but in this case, I went for a clean mountain range as the base of the image. Something interesting silhouetted in front of the sky also works very well (consider the depth of field required for this). Artificial lighting can be used to change the silhouette to a fully-lit subject.
 
Which focal length should be used to photograph the moon? That depends on how big you want the moon to be. The longer the focal length, the larger the moon will be rendered in the frame. A 1200mm full frame angle of view renders the moon only about 1/3 of the narrow dimension of the frame. Use wider focal lengths to include more sky color and additional elements in the frame. The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens is an excellent choice for this purpose, providing a nice range of focal length options.
 
Remember that lunar photography is not extreme low light photography – the illuminated portion of the moon is in direct sunlight. Avoid overexposing the moon. Balancing the brightness of the sky with the brightness of the moon simply involves timing. Start photographing prior to the optimal time and continue until the lighting is past your desired result.
 
I opted to slightly crop the original capture during post processing, making a minor adjustment the overall balance. From a white balance perspective, I warmed the bottom of the frame, cooled the overall balance and added some saturation to pull out the colors. Overall, this is a simple image to capture and having Venus available (that is not a white dust spec on your screen) was a bonus on this particular evening.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

Posted: 3/25/2018 12:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
Posted to: Canon News, Sony News    Category: Photo Tips and Stories
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