How to take photos of the moon

August 3, 2015, 12:25 p.m.

This month, something rare happened: a blue moon. This is when there are two full moons in a single month.

As we reported last week, "During most years, the Earth experiences 12 full moons, one in each month. But some years, such as 2015, have 13 full moons, and one of those "extra" lunar displays gets the label of blue moon."

On July 31st, photographer Teri Franzen was outside capturing the blue moon when something happened to add a little more interest. "Friday night's Blue Moon, which was really waning Gibbous at this point because full moon was at 3:45am. I had been out photographing the moon and had just worked out my exposure when this happened. Luck was definitely on my side that night."

Moon photography is a lot of fun if you have a telephoto lens. Something 400mm or longer works best so you can get the moon to be huge in your frame and capture the most detail. You don't have to spend a ton of money buying a telephoto lens; you can easily rent a telephoto lens for the job. Here are the basic steps to capturing a great photo of the moon:

Put your camera and telephoto lens on a tripod. Don't skip this step! Minimizing how much the camera shakes will allow you to get crisp, sharp detail.

Put your camera in manual mode. Set your ISO to 10 or 200 and your aperture to f/8 or so. Use spot metering to focus on the moon and adjust your settings. To get your focus perfect, you may want to use "live view" or manually focus on the moon.

Take a photograph and see what you think. Adjust your settings until you get the moon exposed just right. Also double check on your LCD that your focus is spot on. You want to make sure you're getting those details nice an sharp.

If you want to capture the landscape around the moon in full detail as well, you'll need to take two shots - one exposed for the moon (which may be an exposure around 1/125 of a second) and one exposed for the background (which may an exposure around 5 or 10 seconds) - and then merge them in photoshop. Otherwise, most of the surrounding composition will be in silhouette -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing! You can make your photos extra spectacular by watching where the moon will rise and set and getting an object of interest in front of it -- whether that is a person, a building, a mountainscape or, in some lucky instances, wildlife or airplanes.

Taking multiple images of different exposures and then merging the images into a composite will open up new levels of creativity for showing off views of the moon from where you stand on Earth.

You can practice on the moon as it wanes and waxes, and be ready for next month's full moon!

Would you like your photo to be featured as Photo of the Day? Join our Flickr group and add your photos to the pool!

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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