One of my favorite types of light conditions to shoot in is definitely moon light. Moon light can be used for very interesting photographs but it has some unique challenges as well. Even though the moon phases are predictable, the chance of using this type of light completely depends on the weather. As with astrophotography in general, clouds and especially overcast tend to ruin the opportunity. Full moon might bring the brightest light, but other phases can work as well, especially since the stars will be more visible with weaker moon light.
One challenge with using moon light is that it very much resembles sun light, because the moon appears as almost exactly the same size in the sky. Pictures might even be indiscernible from ones taken during daylight. One way to avoid this is to shoot when the moon is closer to the horizon.
However, an effective way is to emphasize nighttime conditions, most importantly the night sky and it’s features, and weather conditions such as fog and frost. Even light pollution can be used creatively.
Finding a Location
My favorite subjects for photographing in moon light are abandoned places. Especially on the countryside where there is minimal light pollution. The advantage of moonlight is that you can have both a lit subject and a visible night sky. Only the brightest stars and planets are usually visible, but it is enough to give a feeling of night. And I don’t want the sky to be too distracting either.
Light painting and blending images is of course another method to achieve the same goal. Light painting a whole landscape is rather time consuming and difficult though. This is a method I will also explore more, however, I especially like the moon light conditions.
Blending can also be used for moon light to avoid star trailing. By taking one very long exposure of the landscape, with a smaller aperture and lower ISO, to blend with a short, high ISO sky exposure. If you want star trails you might even have to do it the other way around or shoot many long exposures and combine the star trails.
This night I went to a small abandoned farm, not too far out from the nearest town. Fortunately they close the street lights in the night so light pollution wasn’t a problem. In the summers, this place is used as a horse paddock. Now, in the autumn the horses are elsewhere and there is no risk to scare them. Still watch your step though!
The conditions were ideal, the open sky not only meant the moon would be visible but also the weather much colder, meaning a great chance of both frost and fog. My main subject that I chose was the old farm house, with the frosty field in the foreground and starry sky as the background. Unfortunately the fog was a bit more elusive.
I stayed at the location for several hours, and when I was cycling back home the street lights were already lit again. A cold night, but definitely worth the experience.