Sharp as honed knife. That was last night’s moon. I grabbed a couple photos of it posing pretty with a sculpture on the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus and then took off for the countryside to commune with the mosquitos while waiting for the sky to grow dark enough to see the planet Mercury. I finally spotted it 50 minutes after sunset shining faintly to the moon’s north.
Tonight the moon will still be an inviting crescent just three days old and barely out of the cradle. Even a cellphone camera will be adequate to frame a lunar scene during twilight. There’s enough light at dusk for cameras to auto-focus on distant objects like the moon and allow photos without blur from vibration or shaking.
Make a survey of your town for cool spots to compose an image of the low-hanging moon in the western sky with an interesting scene in the foreground. It might be a building, a flagpole, neon sign, a particular tree, church steeple, bridge – you name it. If you live near a body of water and the night is calm, the moon’s reflection is well worth swatting bugs to record. The sculpture photo was shot about 15 minutes after sunset with “plain vanilla” settings of f/8, 1/100 second and ISO 400. Sure, my newspaper provides me with a 400mm lens, but the image would have worked almost as well with a standard 200mm or even 150mm lens.
In late twilight, when the moon glows more brightly against the sky, most cameras will automatically sense the low light, open the lens wider and expose longer. Those things will eliminate most shake, but if you do notice blurring, hold your phone or camera up against something sturdy. Just keep it away from your beating heart of you’ll end up with curious double images on every pump. Those with adjustable settings can play around a little more by changing the shutter speed or lens opening (f/stop), checking the results and trying again to hit the mark.
We had 10 inches of rain in Duluth this week and everyone was out with their cameras and phones documenting the crazy flooding, sinkholes and the raw power of nature. Those tools are perfect for capturing nature’s quieter side, too – like a crescent moon fading to orange.