When is the Next Supermoon and How Can You Photograph It?

San Diego skyline super-moon November 13th 2016 Photo taken from Shelter Island.

The Moon has been the subject for both landscape photographer as well as astrophotographers for quite a long time. If you are intrigued by the dramatic moon photographs, here is a guide on how to photograph the next supermoon no matter what camera gear you have.

But first, let’s have a look at this year’s supermoon.

What Is a Supermoon?

Supermoon was a term coined by NASA to describe the full moon when it is closest to the earth. Planetary orbits are not circular, but elliptical. Therefore, the distance between the earth and the moon varies just like the distance between the earth and the sun varies.

The 2017 Supermoon is called the Full Cold Moon because it is a full moon occurring during December. Supermoon can be 14% closer to the earth while being 30% brighter. This makes them quite a photogenic subject.

When Will the Next Supermoon Be?

At the time of writing this article, the next supermoon will be on 3rd December. It will be visible from Sunday evening onwards, all throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It will reach the perigee or the closest point to the earth at 3:45 AM EST on 4th December.

When the moon will be at its perigee, it will be 222,135 miles away from earth. The average distance is 238,000 miles.

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Following this supermoon, there will be more such Supermoon on Tuesday, 2nd January 2018. After that, there are no more Supermoons in 2018, the next two are in January and February 2019. Super Full Moons vary by time zones, so make sure you check with your local time or weather station.

You can learn more about the upcoming Supermoons and the perfect time to view them at timeanddate.com. From there, you can also check the moonrise times at your place.

What Is a Good Place to Photograph the Supermoon?

The supermoon usually makes a good subject when the moon is rising and the sky is clear. You can check with your local forecasting station to know what the weather will be like during the supermoon. Once you have confirmed that the skies are clear, you can proceed with gathering your photography gear and planning on shooting the super full moon.

A good place to photograph the supermoon is a place from where you can see the horizon. Usually, in dense urban areas, this can be a problem unless you have access to a high-rise building. Seasides and countrysides are pretty good places to photograph the supermoon.

Then again, remember, just photographing the moon would not make much sense if you do not photograph the surroundings. The surroundings will give a sense of how big the moon appeared during the supermoon. So, to make sure that you get some other subject in the frame, take the photo with the moon on the horizon.

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Preparing your camera gear

With a DSLR Camera

When you have a DSLR, things become relatively easy. All you need is a telephoto lens and a tripod. With a DSLR or even a Mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, you can simply rent camera gear for the day. If you do not have a telephoto lens, then get one. If you do have a telephoto lens, then step it up a notch by adding a telephoto converter. Telephoto converters can improve the focal lenses of you lens 1.4 to 2 times. This will help you get that dramatic shot of the moon.

But then again, the more you zoom in, the more stabilization your camera will need. This will also shorten the time that you will get to take the photograph.

“Don’t make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself, with no reference to anything,” says Bill Ingalls, a senior photographer for NASA. “Instead, think of how to make the image creative—that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place.”

To make sure everything turns out alright, enable exposure bracketing on your camera. This will take multiple shots consecutively at different exposures so that you don’t have to worry about having the proper exposure. Also, if the moon appears too bright (it generally does not, on the horizon), you can combine multiple shots for the increased dynamic range.

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With your Smartphone

With smartphones, you can use telescopic add-on lenses to photograph the supermoon. Try to avoid the ones with cheaper optics as those drastically reduce image sharpness and also adds distortion. You will need a tripod, or someplace steady to shoot the moon. The same rules of composition still apply.

With an add-on lens, the camera will have a hard time focusing. So, it is better to lock focus on the moon and adjust the exposure accordingly. Make sure that both the moon and the surrounding details are available. Also, if possible, shoot in RAW and JPEG simultaneously to make sure you have a copy for post-processing. Android devices can use Open Camera. iPhone users have the option of Halide for advanced camera controls.

If you miss the supermoon, then don’t fret. Supermoons are not very rare and you get one or two every year. So, if the photos did not turn out good enough, you can try next time. But remember, the most important part is enjoying the moon. Try to do that without your camera.


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