Dancing in the Moonlight

“It’s caught me in it’s spotlight. It’s alright it’s alright the moonlight”. A Thin Lizzy hit although I tend to better remember the great Smashing Pumpkins cover. Be thankful that my new version – Shooting in the Moonlight – only exists by my pen (well keyboard) not my voice!

Shooting images in the Moonlight lit only by a full moon is something I wanted to do for a while. You have to get away from most light pollution (cities etc) and find yourself somewhere nice and dark so you can capture a glorious night sky featuring magical stars and a nice moonlit landscape. In April I found myself camping in the Namibian Veld (Afrikaans for bush) on a night with a full moon and wanted to experiment with Shooting in the Moonlight. This is basically what I ended up with after a few tests:

Moonlit Namibia Veld

Namibia Moonlit Veld
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is in pitch darkness lit entirely by the moon. The image itself is fairly boring but it serves as an example of how a full moon can easily light up a landscape and create a great otherworldly light along with a massive amount of beautiful stars! This image was a 25 second exposure at f/4.0 iso 1250, a full moon is bright but not exactly the burning midday sun. You do need very long exposures and high iso to capture this. A 25 second exposure is too much actually, the earth has already rotated enough to create small star trails, so a faster lens would come in very handy here.

Now that I look at the image I really should have walked up the hill and put some nice rocks close up in the foreground! My mind was frozen as it gets so cold in the veld after sunset. Ah, always great things to learn and improve on. Come next opportunity I hope to have a winning moonlit shot to show you or at least an improved one! Anyone wishing to share some moonlit shooting experiences, please do comment. Take me out to the black!

Moonlit video: For some out of this world time lapse images featuring magical stars and light, this brilliant video by Tom @ Timescapes is pure genius.

14 Comments on “Dancing in the Moonlight”

  1. are those stars real(?)
    wow this makes me miss mallacoota ;hopefully we'll go this christmas & i can take some lovely sky photos that are un-interrupted

    p.s hugely awesome photo

  2. Nice image of the veld and accompanying stars. looks very much like outback yet african. I'd love to go back to South Africa for some photography. I hope that continent is treating you well:)

  3. Nice work Flemming, At first I thought it was from the Kimberley until I read far enough into the post to know otherwise. Those dry desert atmospheres are a gem for the night sky aren't they !


    1. Yes Tony they are incredible for sky photography and I must do more! Not much beats lying in a sleeping bag in the bush or veld just staring straight into infinity, straight into the universe and back into time, travelling into space with a million stars visible…

  4. Its amazing how many starts are out there when you get rid of the light pollution. I guess this is the time when you wished you had sprung for the f2.8 lens version. Still worked a treat. At 1250 iso the 5d MkII works a treat and as you said avoiding long exposures is what you want not only for star movement but also sensor fatigue giving you long exposure noise and artifacts.

    I agree with Toms comment as I have under used my MkII and need to get out and start playing at night. But I dont expect to get star numbers like this here on the Central Coast.

    1. Hi Matt, yeah here the 2.8 would have been handy! Good thing the 5D Mk II is a champ with high iso.

      This was shot basically in pitch black conditions, a little bit away from our camp. I ruined my own night vision by using a torch but it was the only way to see anything at all! Total darkness and a billion stars visible. I really want to play more with this as well, perhaps get some time lapse.

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