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photo by Paris Gore

​Nature does something unique tomorrow — on November 14, 2016, the moon comes closer to the earth than it has been in 69 years. The full moon won’t get this close to us again until November 25, 2034. The phenomenon dubbed "supermoon" makes the hovering orb look larger than it normally does as it rises and sets. A little perspective, planning, and luck can get you a fantastic MTB photo with the supermoon as the star. Pro photographers Paris Gore and Ian Hylands drop some knowledge so you can succeed in shooting the celestial sphere.

Supermoon Photography Advice from Paris Gore

Graham Agassiz flipping his MTB in front of the supermoon. Photo by Paris Gore

I actually nailed one a few years ago shooting the Deep Summer Photo Challenge. I had the image in my head for a long time of Aggy blasting in front of a huge moon but getting everything to line up was extremely difficult. I actually got a basic riding shot the night before up in Squamish with Kevin Landry and went to bed pretty happy.

Aggy and I woke up at dawn to shoot sunrise and were just finishing up when the moon was starting to set. This is rare, but is sweet, because you can catch the moon full in the light of the sun as well. I found a ridge close to camp and booked it back down to set up. I set myself into position roughly a half mile away from the ridge and sent James Doerferling up on the ATV with a radio to tell Aggy where to ride. I told him the location where the moon was about to drop below the ridge and he replied back that there was a jump where he was standing and could flip it. I had no idea there was a jump and sometimes the stars just align. He gave it a test run and then flipped it three times nailing the shot I had in mind for so long.

My best advice is to find a ridge to ride on, and another to shoot from; the moon drops fast so being able to go downhill and line it back up with the ridge is helpful. It's hard to pinpoint where the moon will go so going out the night before to see its path is key. A tripod is obviously helpful since shooting at night with a long lens to get the compression is needed to enlarge the moon. 300mm + is a necessary. The best thing to do though is just to get out there with a buddy, some beers and see what you can create! 

Supermoon Photography Advice from Ian Hylands

photo by Ian Hylands

Shoot the Moon - Some things to consider when shooting the upcoming supermoon.

When we see the moon at night it seems really bright, but it doesn’t create its own light. The moon is lit by the sun, and when full it’s completely lit with none of the earths shadow on it. That means that setting a proper exposure for the moon is almost the same as shooting full sun here on earth. The only difference between shooting a sun-lit scene here and shooting a sun-lit moon is that we are seeing the moon through the earth's atmosphere. You may have to compensate a little, especially when shooting the moon closer to the horizon.

Camera Settings

Shoot manual. Auto exposure will give you a very blown out (over-exposed) moon 90% of the time. The basic rule of thumb for sunlight is 1/125th of a second at f/11 at 100 ISO. That’s a great starting point, but keep in mind that if you’re also shooting action you’ll want to shoot at least at 1/500th of second for crispness. That’s two stops faster (125 -> 250 -> 500), so you’ll need to change your aperture and ISO by at least two stops as well to keep your exposure. My personal suggestion would be to start at 1/1000 f/8 and ISO 400. Modern cameras are great at shooting higher ISO’s so if that’s a little dark, try just increasing the ISO a little.

Keep in mind that if the moon is lit correctly then the rest of your scene will be almost entirely black, in my example of the bike and tent the moon is overexposed, and the scene is lit by bike lights. I would have liked to have made the moon darker and the scene brighter, but my lights wouldn’t allow it. Flashes would be better for that. If you’re shooting with flashes and not using modern day hypersync, you’ll want to shoot at 1/250th f/8 with an ISO of 100 or 200. This is pretty bright for most flashes so you’ll need to keep them appropriately close to your subject.

Focus

Focus manually, and start close to infinity. Fine tune using the magnifier on your screen if possible. Otherwise get as close as you can and take a practice shot to check it at 100% to be sure. If you’re shooting an action shot then you’ll probably not get the action and the moon perfectly sharp in the same shot. Consider shooting two different exposures back to back and refocusing in between then combining in post.

Lens Selection

If you want the moon to be prominent you’ll want to shoot with at least a 200mm lens, but a 300mm or 400mm (or longer) would be better. Anything less and the moon won’t be very large in your shot. Zoom in all the way and then move to compose your shot. If you’re not sure of exactly what you want, try going out the day before and lining everything up closely to how you want the shot. The timing and position won’t be exact, but it will give you a good idea of what you’ll get.

Other Equipment

Tripod - Shooting with a long lens at only 1/500 - 1/1000 (or 1/250th with flash), you’ll need a sturdy tripod to avoid shake.

Remote shutter release - Even pushing down on the shutter button can cause enough movement to blur the moon a bit with a 300mm lens. Consider a shutter cable or radio remote. Some newer cameras even have apps will help with this.

Apps

Knowing where the moon is going to be and at when it rises or sets makes things a lot easier to shoot. On my computer I use The Photographer's Ephemeris, as it’s a free map-based desktop app which shows you where the sun and moon will be at any time on any day. They also offer iOS and Android apps, currently for $8.99 on iTunes.

PhotoPills is another great app for iOS. It has a lot of amazing features for shooting sun and moon shots, as well as the milky way — currently $9.99 on iTunes. There are other apps that will show you moon and star position as well, but the above are my favorites.

Go have fun and see what happens

There you have it. Some inspirational and technical advice for trying to capture the moon with a mountain bike from two of MTB's finest photographers. Get out there tonight, get the lay of the land and see what you can make happen tomorrow.

If you get a gem, upload it to our photo section here on Vital MTB!

This photo of Nick Van Dine was shot using a 200mm lens and Canon 1DS body which is a full-frame sensor. The full-frame sensor means there is no crop magnification, which may have helped with a shot like this. We were shooting for Don Hampton's Latitudes movie and I don't remember if we tried to get a shot with the moon in the background or if we were just lucky. It worked out either way. -gordo

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