One of the most common questions that I get is about the moon.
Normally it goes like this:
"It's best to avoid the moon to se the Aurora. Right?"
"I read on the Internet that it's best to avoid the full moon."
"We booked our plane tickets so that we avoided the moon. At least we got that right. Right?"
Not right! To ask what is best what is best, no moon or full moon is like asking what is best, coffee or tea.
|Full moon and Aurora.|
The moon makes everything brighter, thus changes the exposure. The exposure10 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 800. If you are shooting with a crop camera or a lens that has a maximum aperture of less than 2.8. That means a higher number than 2.8, for example 3.5 or 4. If you have a bridge camera, or a compact camera, or and old camera that you know has a lot of noise in the high ISO numbers. Then a night with full moon may be the best thing for you.
If you want to try to make a timelapse or a video of the Northern lights you will want as much light as possible. The timelapse under is made on November 11, five nights after full moon. It would not have been possible for me and my 5D mkII to make it without the moonlight.
These two photos are taken on November 22nd and 23rd. The moon was at its darkest on the night of the 22nd. Note how well the stars are visible on the top photo. This is something that would not be possible on a full moon night.
The exposure on these two photos were 10 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 2500 and 6 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 3200. That is much higher ISO than the full moon pictures. There is 4 times more light when there is full moon.
The biggest difference is how well you can see the landscape in the photos and how well you see the stars. The Moon hides the stars and shows the landscape.
|Lots of stars, no moon.|
|Fewer stars, lots of landscape, almost full moon.|
Clouds are troublemakers
The times when the moonlight causes problems is when it's cloudy. It can sometimes be impossible to see with human eyes what the lightly bright thing on the sky is. Then we have to take a photo of it. If it's white, it's a moonlit cloud, if it's yellow, it's a street light lit cloud, if it's green it's the Aurora. That does not make it impossible to see or take photos of the Aurora in these conditions. Just different.
|I find that this full moon cloudy image has a dynamic that few of my other photos has.|
The picture above was shot on November 9, at 12:30 am. Full moon was on November 6.
It all comes down to a question of taste. What do you prefer, stars or landscape? Then it's a little bit about your equipment. How well does your camera support darkness.
What is best? Coffee or tea?