Bright lights and lensflare ?

Started Jan 8, 2012 | Discussions
PFRANKS
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Bright lights and lensflare ?
Jan 8, 2012

Hi

I am not sure if this is "only" a hardware forum - but as this question has boggled my mind for long, I will try here - as there are so many experienced photographers around here.

If you look at the fullmoon at night or dusk, it is very sharp and clear if no clouds.

BUT, if you try to take a photo - it will get all smeared out and just full of lensflare I assume, NO MATTER WHAT SHUTTERTIME one uses...

It is easily seen even on the display or viewfinder on all digicams - totally unsharp and smeared out.

Whereas the human eye can see both the moon and the horizon clearly in dusk or dark.

So why is this ?

And how can you take a picture of a bright light source in the dark, as your eye/brain sees it ?

If you look at a lamp post in the night or dusk, exactly the same will happen - you can see it clearly, and also the dark surroundings.

But with a camera (ANY of my cameras the last 30 years), you will not be able to capture it like you see it

Cameras that take mulitiple exposure pictures and combine (or you can do it manually afterwards), will be able to get both the light and the dark "visible".

But you still dont see the light source "clear" and clean - it is just a blurred odd circle...

Why is this - and is it possible to take pictures without this lensflare ?

I have tried with high iso and fast shuttertimes - but absolutely no difference...

And one can see in the viewfinder/display, that it will NEVER be any good.

So my question is: IS it possible to take pictures of a lamp post or the moon (without zooming) ?
And if so - how ?
Does it require a much more expensive lens ?

Or is it not possible - eventhough a better lens will make it less - but never remove it so it becomes like your eye and brain sees it ?

This topic should not be confused with moon shots - as they are easy, when using the right zoom and lens.

But about shots of the moon or similar light sources, capturing the surroundings also (no zoom or wide angle) - how is it possible ? IS it possible ?

Kindly, Peter Frank, Engineer.

Three examples with long shuttertime (and two VERY different cameras) :

dherzstein
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 8, 2012

IMHO, your images are over exposed - your camera is metering with too much bias toward the dark sky.

Expose the moon at "loony-11": f/11 @ 100 @ ISO 100, or some variation of that
exposure value.

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MisterBG
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to dherzstein, Jan 8, 2012

You don't need a special lens to photograph the moon (although a telephoto will obviously give you a larger image) you just need the correct exposure. The examples you provided are grossly overexposed.

In a scene with a contrast range as great as your examples, you need to decide if you want to expose for the brightest part or the darkest. No camera exists that can capture a moonlight scene that has detail both in the shadows and on the moons surface, the dynamic range is simply too great.

As a rough guide, the exposure needed to produce a correctly exposed image of the moon's surface is about the same as that for a 'normal' daylight scene on a sunny day. This is because both subjects are being illuminated by the same light source (i.e. the sun).
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Deleted1929
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 8, 2012

To get the moon, which is essentially the same brightness as something in bright daylight, and the night time landscape you'll need two exposures and to blend them. There's no other way, as others have said.

To do this properly you need some kind of stabilizing platform, like a tripod. For my compact I sometimes use a nice little gadget called a Gorillapod which is useful for HDRs with a compact. They're widely available.

http://joby.com/gorillapod

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StephenG

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PFRANKS
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 8, 2012

So you are all actually saying that it is not possible to take a photo like that, which is just slightly like your eye/brain sees it ?

Yes, with very fast shutter time you can shoot the moon, with everything around totally black.

And with long shutter time you can shoot the surroundings visible and not black.

This is well known and used for cameras with automatic or manual HDR - some (the little Sony in the example is one of them, although a low cost one) do this quite well in moderate light/dark situations yes.

But none are not even close to be able to take a shot like the one I ask about (dusk/dark and clear moon) with just a reasonable amount of success

AND, if you do a manual HDR with two shots where the shuttertime is correct for the moon at one, and long shuttertime for the dark surroundings at the other pic - you will get the lensflare to a huge extent on the second shot - so when combining these - the total image will not be very good around the moon....

Typically it IS quite dark around the moon - but my pictures shown are just an example to demonstrate what the question is all about - it could be a moon low down just between trees, and then a HDR of two shots will not work because of the flares when shooting with long shuttertime.

Maybe you need a series of 20 shots through the range - and you can obtain a good combined shot this way ?

But your EYE and brain can easily compensate and see both the moon without flares, and the trees/dark quite easy - at the very same time.

So is it really a physical phenomenon - that our eye/brain is way way better than even the very best camera - when looking at such objects with a huge dynamic range ?

So simply not possible to shoot a picture that looks just a bit like what you see and perceive in conditions like described, with a camera ?

  • Peter

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sherwoodpete
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 8, 2012

PFRANKS wrote:

But your EYE and brain can easily compensate and see both the moon without flares, and the trees/dark quite easy - at the very same time.

I don't think this is quite accurate. Our eyes don't see all of this at the same time . What actually happens is that our eyes are able to see only a very small part of the scene at any instant. By scanning our eyes rapidly across the scene, we acquire 'snapshots' of different areas, and our brain then integrates this into a whole.

On that topic, here's a short video illustrating how this happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KkqlnEljy8

Of course our eyes partially adapt to different brightness levels as this is happening, though to fully adapt to the whole of the brightness range would take several minutes.

So is it really a physical phenomenon - that our eye/brain is way way better than even the very best camera - when looking at such objects with a huge dynamic range ?

So simply not possible to shoot a picture that looks just a bit like what you see and perceive in conditions like described, with a camera ?

It's possible, as others have stated, by shooting more than one shot and combining them using HDR techniques. That is broadly speaking the same as the way the eye does it, though the camera is able to capture a much larger area than the eye in a single shot.

Regards,
Peter

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BertIverson
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Peter - Maybe manual merge in PS ? ...
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 8, 2012

PFRANKS wrote:

... AND, if you do a manual HDR with two shots where the shuttertime is correct for the moon at one, and long shuttertime for the dark surroundings at the other pic - you will get the lensflare to a huge extent on the second shot - so when combining these - the total image will not be very good around the moon....

Peter,

Interesting problem you have presented. In summary: the moon-shot is routine as others have suggested -- pretty much f11 at 1/ISO. However, moon flare makes the surrounding scene-shot difficult. (long shutter time). Normal HDR tricks do not work because of moon flare. I am not knowledgeable on PS so my question for PhotoShop experts:

Can one place the above two tripod images on aligned layers in PS and somehow create the "flareless image" that Peter (and I) desire?

Bert
PS: Maybe this topic should be posted in "Digital Darkroom Forum"

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Roger99
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 8, 2012

If you ever get this one right let me know. I know the issues. I've been musing over this one for years now and they have been well described elsewhere in the string but the solutions are going to be awkward.

I think I've got it right in theory but am constantly frustrated at the HDR software end.

I'm sort of hoping to stumble across a less automated HDR package that the ones I have tried for this in the past. You really want to have some manual control over where the various layers blend in post.

If you expose for the "foreground" scene properly to get a nice exposure for it of course the moon blows out beyond decency. Then you expose for the moon correctly and this will be in the ballpark of 125th sec at F/16. Then ideally you need to step expose as many frames as you can reasonably fit between the two (I'm thinking of about fifteen at a hunch) as quickly as possible (moon and clouds move) to cover all the possible tonal ranges between and hope that HDR combining software will be compliant that session to get good even tones in the graduation of the flared area. I have thought of using a logarithmic approach to the exposure stepping so that most of the exposures favor the flared region but haven't got around to that one yet this year (I get the urge every year at this time to perfect this one for some reason).

I will probably tether the camera to my netbook so that I can get all the exposures done in rapid succession rather than bracketing three, adjust bracket three more, adjust again etc. etc..

Clouds are going to only complicate things until a technique is perfected because the move significantly throughout the process and confuse the heck out of the HDR software I've tried.

I'm almost to the point of just getting as close as I can and post processing the heck out of it to fine tune all the blotchy zones and bad overlays. It would be nice to get it right though.

Find me that software and I recon we're set. Good luck.

PFRANKS wrote:

Hi

I am not sure if this is "only" a hardware forum - but as this question has boggled my mind for long, I will try here - as there are so many experienced photographers around here.

If you look at the fullmoon at night or dusk, it is very sharp and clear if no clouds.

BUT, if you try to take a photo - it will get all smeared out and just full of lensflare I assume, NO MATTER WHAT SHUTTERTIME one uses...

It is easily seen even on the display or viewfinder on all digicams - totally unsharp and smeared out.

Whereas the human eye can see both the moon and the horizon clearly in dusk or dark.

So why is this ?

And how can you take a picture of a bright light source in the dark, as your eye/brain sees it ?

If you look at a lamp post in the night or dusk, exactly the same will happen - you can see it clearly, and also the dark surroundings.

But with a camera (ANY of my cameras the last 30 years), you will not be able to capture it like you see it

Cameras that take mulitiple exposure pictures and combine (or you can do it manually afterwards), will be able to get both the light and the dark "visible".

But you still dont see the light source "clear" and clean - it is just a blurred odd circle...

Why is this - and is it possible to take pictures without this lensflare ?

I have tried with high iso and fast shuttertimes - but absolutely no difference...

And one can see in the viewfinder/display, that it will NEVER be any good.

So my question is: IS it possible to take pictures of a lamp post or the moon (without zooming) ?
And if so - how ?
Does it require a much more expensive lens ?

Or is it not possible - eventhough a better lens will make it less - but never remove it so it becomes like your eye and brain sees it ?

This topic should not be confused with moon shots - as they are easy, when using the right zoom and lens.

But about shots of the moon or similar light sources, capturing the surroundings also (no zoom or wide angle) - how is it possible ? IS it possible ?

Kindly, Peter Frank, Engineer.

Three examples with long shuttertime (and two VERY different cameras) :

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...oh, and I see by the lack of responses that I am right yet again.

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VisionLight
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 8, 2012

Easiest way to get the results you seek is to set the camera on a tripod and determine the proper exposure for the moon and the proper exposure for the landscape. It helps greatly if there is a fair amount of negative space around the moon. In manual mode, take the first image exposing the moon, then quickly change to the proper exposure for the landscape (quickly refocus as necessary) and take the second shot. Composit in post. The following image took about 10 minutes in the field and less then that in Photoshop. The exposure data displayed is for the landscape (er, cloudscape) as it was the background layer. The composition is exactly as my eyes saw it. The technique fooled the camera (and thus the viewer) into thinking it was acting like my brain.

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Deleted1929
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 8, 2012

You need to expose for the moon to get the moon. A halo can be a result of a thin cloud layer between you and the moon, or the lens having flare or over-exposure or any combination.

Our eyes and brain don't really see a shot like a camera does. What happens is more like your brain getting bits of the image, guessing what it's supposed to be and telling the rest of your brain what that is. Our vision is very interpretative.

That image building and guessing process is why your eyes can play tricks on you and why those annoying optical illusions happen. Your brain basically tells you what's there, except it is isn't - it just guesses wrong - fills in gaps that aren't there, as it were.

We've also got a lot of very specialized visual processing going on which we can't even emulate on a computer yet. Dang complex things, brains.

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StephenG

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PFRANKS
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to Roger99, Jan 8, 2012

Hi Roger - nice to see someone who knows exactly what I mean.

As it IS not possible even for the good HDR cams to take shots like this, that are just "slightly" useable and can compare to what the eye/brain sees and scans - because of a massive human dynamic range, and very selective objects.

Come to think of it - HAVE I seen such shots that are good ?

I would say "plenty" if you ask me - but if I go back and think about it - or even search the web now - NONE of these pictures is to be found ? (none is such a strong word - but I did not find any right now).

Lots of composed shots where the moon is taken (sometimes even with zoom and miniatured), and the landscape at night with wideangle and huge shuttertime.

But this is not what I was asking for - it was if any camera could take this shot "just okay" or not ?

As I have never seen a camera that could - in fact, when you stare at the moon and landscape you can see things quite clear at night - but when you put a lens in front of it, it will not be visible at all...

Either the long lens flares that almost spread over the entire image if you got long shuttertime (and your display does not autocorrect the exposure for viewing), or just a totally black screen, apart from the little moon that is okay exposed.

So our eyes must be able to scan and have an incredible dynamic range in such conditions

Okay - it seems that we all agree that a lens can not capture anything with one exposure.

And apparently not possible with automated HDR methods neither, for such a range like desired.

Only by means of very dedicated (and difficult complex) manual postprocessing, can a "reasonably" picture be composed, out of a bunch of shots with different exposure.

But maybe not the "wanted" picture - as the lensflare will not allow the landscape details, if the moon is low and part of the trees for example.

As you have experienced Roger - one can try to obtain better and better results with shots by means of manual HDR methods, but maybe not possible to shoot as good (or better) as what you see in this very situation ?

Or is it only because the HDR algorithms are not sufficient yet ?

  • Peter

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PFRANKS
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to VisionLight, Jan 8, 2012

Great composure and picture VisionLight

But as you write yourself "It helps greatly if there is a fair amount of negative space around the moon" !

But when there is skies a bit into the moon, or the moon is low into trees or towers, it is way more difficult - and at least not possible "straight out of the cam" - no matter how good HDR algorithms it got...

REALLY interesting, and thanks for all the replies in this thread till now !

  • Peter

VisionLight wrote:

Easiest way to get the results you seek is to set the camera on a tripod and determine the proper exposure for the moon and the proper exposure for the landscape. It helps greatly if there is a fair amount of negative space around the moon. In manual mode, take the first image exposing the moon, then quickly change to the proper exposure for the landscape (quickly refocus as necessary) and take the second shot. Composit in post. The following image took about 10 minutes in the field and less then that in Photoshop. The exposure data displayed is for the landscape (er, cloudscape) as it was the background layer. The composition is exactly as my eyes saw it. The technique fooled the camera (and thus the viewer) into thinking it was acting like my brain.

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Roger99
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 9, 2012

PFRANKS wrote:

Hi Roger - nice to see someone who knows exactly what I mean.

As it IS not possible even for the good HDR cams to take shots like this, that are just "slightly" useable and can compare to what the eye/brain sees and scans - because of a massive human dynamic range, and very selective objects.

Come to think of it - HAVE I seen such shots that are good ?

I would say "plenty" if you ask me - but if I go back and think about it - or even search the web now - NONE of these pictures is to be found ? (none is such a strong word - but I did not find any right now).

I'd love a link or two. Don't break a leg though.

Lots of composed shots where the moon is taken (sometimes even with zoom and miniatured), and the landscape at night with wideangle and huge shuttertime.

But this is not what I was asking for - it was if any camera could take this shot "just okay" or not ?

I don't see any reason why you couldn't use a point and shoot but it would still be easier tethered and multiple exposures would be essential with the current generation.

You really just need a camera that can handle the range of exposure from the daylight exposures around the moon to around 10 to 15 seconds for the foreground details. Luckily (I think) a loss of detail in shadow areas is kind of essential for the psychological expectation of of the night shot.

As I have never seen a camera that could - in fact, when you stare at the moon and landscape you can see things quite clear at night - but when you put a lens in front of it, it will not be visible at all...

Either the long lens flares that almost spread over the entire image if you got long shuttertime (and your display does not autocorrect the exposure for viewing), or just a totally black screen, apart from the little moon that is okay exposed.

I have come up with the most ridiculous ideas to solve this one. I thought of setting a hand made filter sheet to drop in front of the camera with a graduated dark zone covering the moon and fading out to the extent of it's flare to try and bring it all under a tighter exposure range. Another time I tried to devise a way to set up about four identical cameras in some sort to linear prismatic setup to get all of the exposures at closer to the same time at the same angle to defeat the scene movement hurdle.

Ideally you need to get all shots made within a few seconds depending on high altitude wind speed and a good set of brackets takes way longer than that.

I really think the clouds are essential to this kind of shot. It's where the moon light plays the best.

While have been sitting here I have come up with another insanely simple possibility I might try tonight, clouds willing. I'll get back to you on that one. It should work with one exposure if at all but wouldn't work with a P+S. It needs DOF control.

So our eyes must be able to scan and have an incredible dynamic range in such conditions

Absolutely. There is a limit to the dynamic range in the eye but the mind does a lot of filling in of detail. Sorta like how your eye has all it's colour gear in the middle of the retina, monochrome to the periphery and the mind interpolates.

Okay - it seems that we all agree that a lens can not capture anything with one exposure.

And apparently not possible with automated HDR methods neither, for such a range like desired.

Only by means of very dedicated (and difficult complex) manual postprocessing, can a "reasonably" picture be composed, out of a bunch of shots with different exposure.

But maybe not the "wanted" picture - as the lensflare will not allow the landscape details, if the moon is low and part of the trees for example.

As you have experienced Roger - one can try to obtain better and better results with shots by means of manual HDR methods, but maybe not possible to shoot as good (or better) as what you see in this very situation ?

Or is it only because the HDR algorithms are not sufficient yet ?

  • Peter

I don't think it's the algorithms . Again I think it's lack of manual overrides. The algorithms get you pretty close but you should be able to full screen edit and select the areas with great accuracy that you want image transitions to occur on each layer to get you the rest of the way.

Perhaps getting primitive with basic photo editing layers would do it. Still fiddly but could work in theory.

This has been in the back of my mind for a long time now I realize. It was the subject of the first photo I ever took when about 14 and by not focusing on it I haven't gotten that much better on this particular subject as I should have. I've gotten the night landscape almost perfect (IMHO) but that is of course the easy part. It is still let down by that amorphous blob in the sky. I remember asking my first photog teacher about what to do with the moon in night landscapes and his answer was "just don't get it in the frame". I said what I really wanted to do and he just said he didn't know if it could happen. He had been on the photographic editorial staff of Life magazine in the fifties so I figured if he said it was impossible it probably was. Now I'm not buying it.

Lately though I've been doing a lot of walking at night and looking at that moon poking out from behind the clouds in, at times, spectacular fashion has been making me drool. Such a shame not to be able to capture it freely. It knows I'm here and it is taunting me.

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pocketfulladoubles
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to Roger99, Jan 9, 2012

It just takes two shots. First you get one with the moon in it. You need to account for focal length to shutter speed as the moon does move. Second, you take the same scene without the moon in it, either before or after the earth has rotated through the visibility of it.

Some cut/paste in a moon, some even slightly enlarge it. This has been done since the film days.

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PFRANKS
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to pocketfulladoubles, Jan 9, 2012

pocketfulladoubles wrote:

It just takes two shots. First you get one with the moon in it. You need to account for focal length to shutter speed as the moon does move. Second, you take the same scene without the moon in it, either before or after the earth has rotated through the visibility of it.

Some cut/paste in a moon, some even slightly enlarge it. This has been done since the film days.

Yes - that would be a beatiful and "artistic" painting !

Nothing wrong with that, but not a photo of "the moment" in my eyes....

  • Peter

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Vlad S
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In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 10, 2012

PFRANKS wrote:

It is easily seen even on the display or viewfinder on all digicams - totally unsharp and smeared out.

Whereas the human eye can see both the moon and the horizon clearly in dusk or dark.

So why is this ?

In addition to what has been told before, the human eye has two kinds of light receptors: rods and cones, with different sensitivity to both color and light intensity. That, together with dynamic adjustment of the iris as you eye drifts (even when you look at the same spot - look up "microsaccades") gives the eye the dynamic range of 20 stops. The best consumer DSLRS have dynamic range of about 14 stops.

Vlad

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Roger99
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to pocketfulladoubles, Jan 10, 2012

pocketfulladoubles wrote:

It just takes two shots. First you get one with the moon in it. You need to account for focal length to shutter speed as the moon does move. Second, you take the same scene without the moon in it, either before or after the earth has rotated through the visibility of it.

Some cut/paste in a moon, some even slightly enlarge it. This has been done since the film days.

Nope, wouldn't do it. Wouldn't do it at all. It needs all the detail that the moon creates in the clouds around it and the detail on the face of it. Just to get the disc floating in the sky isn't enough. It's enough to get the reality of the moon up there literally but doesn't provide the atmosphere of its presence. The dynamics just in the few degrees that contain the moon and the area around it is where all the trouble is.

This one is a technical solution but wouldn't produce any poetry in the result.

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Roger99
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In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 10, 2012

PFRANKS wrote:

pocketfulladoubles wrote:

It just takes two shots. First you get one with the moon in it. You need to account for focal length to shutter speed as the moon does move. Second, you take the same scene without the moon in it, either before or after the earth has rotated through the visibility of it.

Some cut/paste in a moon, some even slightly enlarge it. This has been done since the film days.

Yes - that would be a beatiful and "artistic" painting !

Nothing wrong with that, but not a photo of "the moment" in my eyes....

  • Peter

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Roger99
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to VisionLight, Jan 10, 2012

This is a beautiful image but it doesn't have the presence I'm looking for and it I'm trying to get something that will allow the moon to be touched by the cloud at times. There also needs to be that bit of atmospheric flare that plants the moon firmly in the sky as an element and not an overlay. The light and colour of it has to balance perfectly with foreground elements too, landscape as well as skyscape, although a lot of this could be tuned with curves.

It's a thorny one.

VisionLight wrote:

Easiest way to get the results you seek is to set the camera on a tripod and determine the proper exposure for the moon and the proper exposure for the landscape. It helps greatly if there is a fair amount of negative space around the moon. In manual mode, take the first image exposing the moon, then quickly change to the proper exposure for the landscape (quickly refocus as necessary) and take the second shot. Composit in post. The following image took about 10 minutes in the field and less then that in Photoshop. The exposure data displayed is for the landscape (er, cloudscape) as it was the background layer. The composition is exactly as my eyes saw it. The technique fooled the camera (and thus the viewer) into thinking it was acting like my brain.

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It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it. -Aristotle

The one serious conviction one should hold is that nothing should be taken too seriously.
...oh, and I see by the lack of responses that I am right yet again.

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kurja
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Re: Bright lights and lensflare ?
In reply to PFRANKS, Jan 10, 2012

PFRANKS wrote:

pocketfulladoubles wrote:

It just takes two shots. First you get one with the moon in it. You need to account for focal length to shutter speed as the moon does move. Second, you take the same scene without the moon in it, either before or after the earth has rotated through the visibility of it.

Some cut/paste in a moon, some even slightly enlarge it. This has been done since the film days.

Yes - that would be a beatiful and "artistic" painting !

Nothing wrong with that, but not a photo of "the moment" in my eyes....

  • Peter

In-camera HDR? Might or might not not be able to record the scene like you want, and I don't know if it'd be your idea of "a photo of the moment" either although it's much faster to do and less "photoshoppy" in execution than doing the hdr on the computer.

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