Whether it was on the news, on your Facebook feed or you’re just a keen astrophotographer, you’ve most likely heard the term “Supermoon”.
A Supermoon is a rare event that occurs when the moon is new, or “full”, and is at it’s closest point to Earth. At this stage, as the moon is fully illuminated by the face of the sun, the moon can appear up to 13% larger and 30% brighter than normal.
Here we take a look at one of the most beautiful astronomical objects to light up our night sky and how best to photograph it.
Planning for a Supermoon
A Supermoon can be more common than first thought, with many appearing several times during a calendar year – although only one of these is considered the most “super”, which is called the “lunar perigee” point.
A handy website to check when the next Supermoon will occur, or any other astronomical behaviour, is seasky.org. Here you’ll find a heap of in-depth information, like the overall brightness level expected and the best location to see it.
Once you’ve got the time and date of the next Supermoon, you’ll want to plan your shooting location. Remember to take all factors into consideration. For example, will you need to find an area of low-light pollution? And will you want to include foreground objects, such as buildings, in your frame?
When is the next Supermoon?
Short answer: January 31st 2018.
The next Supermoon will be an extremely special and rare occasion as it will fall on the same night as a Blue Moon and a lunar eclipse. This will be the first time since March 31st 1866 that all three will appear together.
This will also be the last of the two Supermoons for 2018, with the first occurring earlier this month on January 2nd. So don’t miss it; coming to a night sky near you this January 31st.
Shooting a Supermoon
Unlike capturing other events in the night sky, like meteor showers and star trails, this process can be fairly similar to capturing an image during the day.
For example, you won’t need to use long exposure. This is because of the brightness of the moon being illuminated by the sun. With this in mind, we’ve listed a few tips for when it comes to setting up your camera:
Tripod & Shutter release.
You may not be delving into long exposure for your shot, but it’s important to keep a steady shot and avoid any camera shake. Using a tripod is also great when it comes to framing the shot. Remember though, the moon will move fast, so you’ll have to re-frame your image a few times.
Wide angle & Telephoto lenses.
There are many creative techniques when it comes to capturing a Supermoon and these two lenses cover a lot of those options. Use a wide angle lens to show your Supermoon in a landscape setting. Use a telephoto lens, preferably with a focal length between 300-600mm, to capture its details close up.
Keep ISO to a minimum.
Turn off the auto ISO feature and set your ISO to a minimum, deepening on your shutter speed. With the moon shining bright we don’t need a high ISO. We also want to avoid any grainy images!
Aperture & Shutter speed.
With the camera is Manual mode, set aperture between f/8 and f/11. This works best, but if you’re shooting with different lenses have a play around with other aperture settings. The same goes with shutter speed. Set it low at first, somewhere between 1/125 to 1/500 of a second, and then try alternative settings for other effects.
Practice & repeat.
Keep practicing and trying all scenarios available to you. You’ll eventually find your best settings for the shot and produce something simply breathtaking.
When shooting in a built up area, keep the Supermoon in the background and close to a building. Use a zoom/telephoto lens and zoom in on the building edge, the moon will now appear larger in size and almost as if it is about to engulf the building.