You don’t need a specialist camera to get involved and #CaptureTheMoon; you can take part using any camera or the camera on your smartphone. Whilst smartphones are not particularly great if you want to zoom in and get up close, you can use them for photographing the Moon within a landscape.
A couple of hours after sunset a full Moon can be so bright compared to the black night sky that your phone will struggle to see anything other than a bright white blob! (picture 1)
So, here are some tips for getting the best view:
- Turn off your flash – so that you’re only capturing the natural light around you
- Take your photo at twilight: Go outside just as the Sun is setting or just after it has set, during twilight. This will help to reduce the contrast between the Moon and the sky.
- Lower the brightness of your photo: If the Moon still appears as a bright blob, you’ll need to decrease the brightness manually. You can do this while you’re taking your photo, or afterwards in an editing app. For example, some phones have a brightness slider that you can drag downwards. If you can’t see a slider, press on the screen before taking your photo. It’s normally represented by a Sun icon. (picture 2)
- Experiment: Hopefully you can now make out some of the Moon’s surface features. If not, explore the settings on your phone’s camera app and experiment with different effects. (picture 3)
Capturing the phases of the Moon.
You may have noticed that the Moon doesn’t always appear the same in the sky, it has ‘phases’. These are all worth capturing and can make for brilliant photos.
The phases are a result of two things – the way the Moon is lit by the Sun, and how it moves.
Firstly, the Moon doesn’t give out any light of its own, it simply reflects the light of the Sun. Secondly, the Moon moves in orbit around the Earth, taking around 28 days to travel around us. So, as the Moon moves in its orbit around us, we see different amounts of its surface lit up by the light of the Sun. This appears to us as different shapes – the ‘phases of the Moon’. If you want to understand these a little more, check out our Phases of the Moon Activity Sheet
What phase can I capture when?
The Moon rises at different times depending on where it is in its orbit, so, for example, you’ll notice that the full Moon only rises as the Sun sets, but the phases of the Moon as it waxes from a crescent to a full Moon appear in our skies earlier, before sunset. The Moon at first quarter phase is particularly good for children to try to observe as it’s usually not too late, it’s much less bright than a full Moon (so easier to photograph), and if you have binoculars to hand you may even be able to see craters on its surface.
The full Moon is a challenge to photograph as it is so bright. Go outside just as the Sun is setting or just after it has set and look for the Moon (a full Moon will always rise in the East as the Sun sets towards the West). Twilight will help to reduce the contrast between the Moon and the sky. A bonus is that the Moon appears bigger as we view it just rising above the horizon, known as the Moon illusion. The Moon may also appear to be a slightly orange colour just as it’s rising. This is due to how light close to the horizon scatters in our atmosphere and it’s the same reason why the sky appears orange or red when the sun sets. Both of these factors can make for a great photo!
Check out this website to find out when the different phases of the Moon appear.
Good luck! Don’t forget to share your photos with us on social media. Tag @JodrellBank, use the hashtag #CaptureTheMoon, and be sure to either use a location tag, or include the location of where the photo was taken in the text of your social media post.
#CaptureTheMoon was first launched in 2019 as part of a year-round celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. It formed part of our First Light at Jodrell Bank project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.