Get ready for a special treat this 2018! On 31st January, the moon will do what it hasn’t done in more than 150 years. On that day, an astronomical event known as the super blue full moon eclipse will happen. Not sure what to do during this once in a blue moon event (pun intended)? Let’s break it down.
Blue Moon: A second full moon that appears within a month.
Super Moon: The moon when it is at perigee, or at its closest distance to Earth when in its orbit.
Full Moon Eclipse: When the deepest shadow of the Earth, known as the umbra, falls on the moon.
Is the picture getting clearer?
“Shot with my (Feng Shuo) first DSLR and its kit lens had no sharpening, but was cropped.”
Canon EOS 60D | f/5.6 | 1/500s | ISO 640 | 200mm
We spoke to Akash Anandh, who specialises in astrophotography, and has been featured on The Straits Times and Space.com for his work, as well as Feng Shuo, who’s known for his stunning Milky Way shots, on how one can best capture this rare cosmic phenomenon.
Shot over 12 days, this composite shows the various phases of the Moon, from Crescent to Full Moon.
Canon EOS 450D | f/11 | 1/200s | ISO200, stacked | 75-300mm lens
The higher the better
Resolution, that is. Feng Shuo allays any beginner’s fears by sharing, “Shooting the moon itself is easy and simple. Use the longest focal length lens you have with the highest resolution camera.”
Because of the light sensitivity and details you require from such a distant object, getting the resolution higher helps in capturing a sharper and clearer picture. Feng Shuo also shares a tip: “HDR shooting mode may be required in order not to lose the details of the moon.”
But no need to go to the extreme
Feng Shuo also believes that you don’t need overly professional equipment to get a good shot. “Entry-level DSLR may also work well for social media sharing. Canon’s EOS 200D and 1200D, or mirrorless Canon EOS M100, EOS M6 and EOS M5 have a very good 24MP APS-C sensor with good dynamic range.”
The glow that you see in the unlit part of a crescent moon is called Earthshine, as this is actually sunlight reflected off the earth onto the Moon.
Canon EOS 450D | 0.5sec | f/5.6 | ISO200 | 75-300mm lens
Akash agrees with this and adds “…you could actually choose the APS-C when you want to shoot close-ups of the moon. This helps you get a 1.6x bigger moon in your frame, thanks to the crop sensor. For example, when I shoot the moon at 300mm using my APS-C camera, it’s as if I’m shooting with a 480mm!”
The Full Cold Moon of December 2017 was the year’s largest supermoon as the Moon was at Lunar Pedigree.
Canon EOS 450D | f/11 | 1/200 s | ISO 200, stacked | 75-300mm lens
Through the looking glass
The lens is an obvious factor when it comes to equipment for capturing the moon. Feng Shuo suggests the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM for entry-level DSLR cameras as it can achieve up to 400mm, while Akash recommends a telephoto like the EF 70-300mm to start with.
Feng Shuo mentions for full-frame users, the new EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is a good choice for shooting the moon, and that it also comes with a very cool LCD screen.
Beware the brightness
Even with the normal moon, the light contrast can get tricky. With the Supermoon and eclipse happening at the same time, you might want to take note of your settings.
“Made these composites to demonstrate the difference in the apparent size of Jan 2018’s first Supermoon as compared to a regular Full Moon.”
Canon EOS 450D | 75-300mm lens
Supermoon: f/11 | 1/200s | ISO 200, stacked.
Regular Full Moon: f/10 | 1/200s | ISO 200, stacked.
Akash shares that, “Although size-wise it is only marginally bigger (about 14% larger than usual), a Supermoon can be up to 30% brighter. So we need to keep that in mind while shooting it.” As a general guide, he suggests, “Maybe half a stop down in your camera settings will help.”
As the Earth’s shadow crosses over, Feng Shuo suggests checking on your settings often with possible clouds and light situations adjusting itself quickly, recalling the scenario that happened to him on the lunar eclipse of 8th August 2017.
“Settings were changed during the 3 hours because the exposure changed a lot from the eclipse and clouds.”
Things to watch out for
“Clouds are probably the biggest challenge, especially in Singapore,” Akash admits. “You can shoot through thin clouds, but if you can’t see the moon clearly with your naked eyes, it’s almost impossible to shoot a clear photo with surface detail with your camera.”
We can’t control the weather but if we don’t get that perfect shot, Feng Shuo suggests enjoying the spectacle with your own eyes, which is just as rewarding!
And even on nights with a bit of cloud cover, when you can’t really get many details of the moon specifically, the clouds and other foreground objects can help add character to the photo.
Canon EOS 450D | f/11 | 2.5s | ISO 200 | 75-300mm lens
Not so obvious
Even though the Supermoon is the “star” of the show, sometimes giving some foreground or objects of interest can help in adding perspective and ascertaining its actual size. Akash reveals that “Not just (the) supermoon, but any moon will appear larger when it’s low in the sky, close to the horizon. This is an optical illusion called the Moon Illusion or the Moon Effect. While this may not be technically right, many photographers tend to use this effect to enhance the perception of a supermoon.”
When the Moon is close to the horizon, it appears larger and redder. This always makes for a great moon shot. It gradually loses colour as it rises higher up in the sky, and also appears to grow smaller.
Canon EOS 450D | f/10 | 1/200s | ISO 400 | 75-300mm lens
Apart from the optical illusion, Feng Shuo also believes adding elements increases drama and interest as well. “The moon always shows the same side to us, so basically every person’s Supermoon photo will be similar.” To counter that, he says, “I try to find interesting foreground. Zooming out a bit, you will find the moon hiding and rising between mountains or buildings.”
HDR shooting on Mount Royal, Montreal, Canada.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | f/5.0 | 0.6s | ISO 400 and f/40 | 1/100s
“This one was taken on the helix bridge. The waxing crescent just rose in between ArtScience Museum. The photo is changed to B&W to show the lines and shapes more clearly.”
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | f/4.5 | 1/30s | ISO 100 | 100mm
The best thing about shooting the Supermoon is?
You can take them anywhere!
Although light pollution does happen in Singapore, both photographers agree that it is still possible to get a good shot even at your void deck!
“One good thing about the moon is that you can shoot it from anywhere you see it,” Akash confesses. “I have shot many moon snaps from my apartment window or standing just outside my HDB building.”
“I loved the moon lighting up the side of this HDB apartment. Jupiter is right next to the building, and even Jupiter’s Galilean Moons are seen faintly.”
Canon EOS 450D | 75-300mm lens | Moon: f/11 | 1/200s | ISO 200 | Jupiter: f/14 | 0.5s | ISO 1600.
Feng Shuo feels the same. “If you want to shoot the moon itself, you can shoot it anytime, anywhere, as long as you can see it. It is fun and easy to shoot the moon and you can try different settings to learn the trinity of aperture, ISO, safe shutter speed without a tripod, or relative long exposure with a tripod.” Adding to that, he suggests the largest aperture then working backwards when not using a tripod, and if you have one, then selecting an aperture that optimises the lens’s sharpness and performance.
The moon need not always be in focus. A retro antenna, leaves, tree branches or anything else in the foreground can make for an interesting shot.
Canon EOS 450D | f/11 | 1/200s | ISO 200 | 75-300mm lens
Akash gives a general guide and shares, “In Singapore, you can shoot the supermoon as it rises over the sea, provided it’s a clear night. It generally rises a little north of east to a little south of east.” About perfect venues, he adds, “The CBD skyline makes for a great moon shot. Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum, Singapore Flyer, the Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay and other iconic buildings and structures make for uniquely Singaporean Supermoon shots.”
As Feng Shuo refers to the earlier point and suggests, “I don’t really have a preferred location. It will be fun to discover your own spot and share your own unique perspective!”
Getting the moon in a local setting.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | f/22 | 30 | ISO 400 | 16mm
Some tech specs from Akash
Akash captures his shots using a Canon EOS 450D and the EF75-300mm f/4-5.6 III.
When looking for an upgrade, he would pick a new 400mm or 500mm lens above his current 300mm. He suggests the EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM, or if budget allows, EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM, and ultimately, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. As for the camera body, he would take new astrophotos with a full-frame Canon EOS 6D Mark II or Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. He highlights the swivel LCD at the back of a Canon EOS 6D Mark II as being handy when shooting at odd angles when pointing skywards. And also the built-in intervalometer in the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV helps in shooting a sequence of photos for a timelapse or an eclipse.
“This is a composite of the progression of the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse shot in September 2016.”
Canon EOS 450D | f/11 | 1/200s | ISO 200 | 75-300mm lens
Some tech specs from Feng Shuo
Feng Shuo uses his reliable Canon EOS 5D Mark III with EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM and 1.4x extender. He values the ability to achieve up to 560mm and with a lens that gives high image quality in a relatively compact size.
When he is able to, he would definitely take the legendary Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM Lens with Canon EOS 5DS R. He feels Canon’s longest focal length L lens will be perfect with Canon’s highest resolution DSLR body to shoot the moon, with maybe one more 1.4 or 2x extender while he’s at it!
With all these tips from the pros, you can now prepare yourself to successfully document this astronomical event with your very own camera. As you can see, it’s really not that difficult! Mark your calendars, and get ready for an amazing experience on 31st January!
If you’re thinking of a lens upgrade to shoot the upcoming Supermoon, you can check out the CanonSGLens app, which is a free Canon Singapore App (available on both iOS and Android) that features detailed lens specifications of all Canon EF and EF-S lenses in Singapore. The application also contains a unique interactive simulator that allows you to compare the field of view of two camera-lens combinations of any Canon EOS DSLR and lens.
Remember to tag your gorgeous astrophotography photos with #CanonSG as well!
Akash is an astrophotographer and amateur astronomer in Singapore. His photo composite of the 2016 Penumbral Lunar Eclipse was featured in Space.com’s Top 100 Space Photos of 2016 alongside photos by astronauts and scientists from NASA. His work has also been featured in various astronomy websites such as EarthSky.org and Space.com.
When he’s not shooting the stars, Akash is an advertising professional, writer, painter, biker and home chef. He is a member of The Astronomical Society of Singapore (TASOS) and can be seen chatting about astronomy with visitors at The Observatory at the Science Centre in Jurong where he volunteers on Fridays.
Akash’s amazing astrophotography can be found on his Instagram.
About Feng Shuo
Feng Shuo is currently an NUS undergraduate major in Chemistry. His photography exploration soon included being a contributor to Getty Image and iStock, where he showcases his stunning images of the cosmos and mountains.
Gazing up at the sky has been a childhood activity since he was a boy. That fascination has led him to take up astrophotography, where one of his strengths is taking the starry night sky and Milky Way. As a perfect match to that, he loves nature and frequently pairs his cosmic photos with mountains and natural settings in remote places.
Feng Shuo’s stunning panoramas can be seen on his Instagram.