I always make an effort to photograph the full moon every time the moonrise or moonset coincides with sunset or sunrise. I’m more of a landscape photographer than moonscape ditto, so I leave the moon closeups to the astronomy buffs and try to create landscape pictures with the moon in them instead, which requires some light on the landscape. Today’s moonrise was well before sunset though so I had hedged my bets on photographing the sunset, but when I got to my location (I didn’t have much choice with that since I was coming from work), I saw that the moon didn’t actually appear too high in sky from that point along the road. So I was torn between the sun and the moon, but it became quickly obvious that the sunset wouldn’t be nearly as nice as yesterday’s red clouds (as seen through the bus window), so I hurried up to find a place for framing the moon.
I bracketed with hopes of putting together an HDR in Photomatix. It turned out that Photomatix is hopeless with this subject matter, for one thing it doesn’t understand the concept of “reflection” but insists on making the reflection lighter than original and that’s a big no-no, and secondly it kept overexposing the moon no matter how I tried to adjust the sliders. Photoshop to the rescue, and this is how I did it:
Out of the dark, middle and light exposures, the dark exposure had the moon and its reflection, the middle one had the sky and the light one had the foreground. I copied the middle exposure on top of the light one and then selected the moon and its reflection from the dark exposure, copied them to the base and carefully erased around the moon until it fit seamlessly to the sky (you have to make sure to get rid of all the dark sky around the moon, and careful not to erase too much which will leave you with a bright ring instead). Then I started erasing the middle layer by using a large soft brush with low opacity to reveal the lighter background below. Again, important not to overdo it or the halos around the treetops would ruin the effect, also have to watch out for the reverse where the treetops are too dark in relation to the rest of the tree. The result is darker than my original RAWs would allow (it probably looks too dark on some screens, but is reasonably ok on my LCD), but it’s miles better than the Photomatix mess. I wasted an hour with Photomatix trying to fix it, and when I finally gave up it took only 10 minutes in Photoshop. A bit of a rush job, granted, so there’s room for improvement. Anyway, whether it’s done in Photomatix or Photoshop or wherever, you need some trick up your sleeve to put together a landscape photo without an overexposed full moon. Now you know my secret!3 comments