Camera West Moon Walk

Photos by Michael Maloney

A big thank you to everyone who participated in last night’s Camera West Photo Walk along the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco. We had an enthusiastic group of shooters and the weather cooperated with no fog, no wind and mild temperatures.

We wait patiently for the sun to set and the moon to rise over the Oakland Hills and the Bay Bridge.

We met near the Ferry Building (seen in background) at 5pm giving us plenty of time to get our cameras set up and socialize before the 6:20 moonrise.

After the sun set, we continued shooting well into the night, concentrating this time on the lights of the Bay Bridge and the reflections on the water.

If you missed this photo walk there will be others. Check out the Events link on the Camera West website for the latest photo walks and workshops. Be sure to sign up early as they fill up quickly.

Shooting a Moonrise

Photos by Michael Maloney

Once a month, there is one day where the full moon rises at close to the same time as the sun sets. What this means for you the photographer is that you can get a detailed shot of the moon and still have detail in your landscape. You need to shoot quickly however because as the moon rises and we go into twilight, our perfect shooting conditions change at which point we need to decide if we want detail in the moon which is lit by the sun, or detail in the landscape which is now plunged into darkness. Choose to expose for the moon, and your landscape becomes pitch black. Expose for the landscape, the moon will lose all detail and look like a white dot.

The best way to determine when this one day occurs is to use The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE). This app is all you need to determine exactly when and where the sun or moon will rise or set on any day, past, present, or future, from any place in the world. I even use TPE to plan vacations! It is absolutely an essential app for landscape shooters.


  • Camera with an assortment of lenses. Longer lenses will show more detail in the moon.
  • A sturdy tripod
  • A remote shutter release or you can use the shutter delay function on your camera.

Camera Settings

  • I recommend shooting in the RAW mode. You can get much more out of your image in RAW – rather than JPEG.
  • Set your white balance to 3200 – 3800 K or Tungsten if you want a blue, colder tone…otherwise use Daylight balance. (If you are shooting in the RAW mode, it doesn’t matter where you set your white balance as it can easily be tweaked in post production)
  • Turn off your image stabilization (IS/VR). This is recommended whenever your camera is locked to a tripod
  • Set your ISO to 100 – 400. Do not use AUTO ISO. Since we are on tripods, and the moon is lit by the sun, we can get by using a lower ISO which will give us a better quality image.
  • Use single point auto focus. Recommended because with single point focus, we will know precisely where our focus will be. Once focus is set, turn auto focus off. Now you can arrange your composition and not worry about focus shift. You need to be very careful however not to move your focus ring. I often use tape to lock the focus ring in place.
  • If you are not comfortable shooting in the manual exposure mode, then use aperture priority (AV on Canon, A on Nikon). Aperture priority is recommended because we want control over our aperture. We want a small aperture (f8, f11, f16) for deep depth of field, especially if you are using a long lens. For those of you comfortable shooting in manual mode, bracket your exposures. (changing your settings for at least 1 stop over and 1 stop under). By bracketing, you are sure to get the perfect exposure.
  • Keep in mind that you will be changing your exposure settings as the moon rises and your scene gets darker. You don’t want exposures that are too long however, because the moon will appear as an elongated blur. You can get away with a 5 second or so exposure with a wide-angle lens, but with a telephoto you need to keep exposure times to no slower than 1 second.
  • Choose a small aperture if using a long lens (200mm +). The depth of field the smaller aperture gives you should allow both your landscape and the moon to be tack sharp. If shooting with a wide angle lens, you can get by with a wider open aperture.
  • A graduated neutral density filter (2-3 stops) will extend your shooting time as twilight turns your foreground dark.
  • Last but not least, to assure tack sharp photos, lock your mirror up if you are using shutter speeds slower than 1/30th of a second, or better yet, use Live View mode.

Tripod Tips

  • Make sure your tripod is set up properly – on sturdy footing, all leg sections firmly tightened, camera secured tightly.
  • Try not to raise the middle column. You will get better stability just extending the legs.
  • Always have one leg of your tripod aimed at your subject. Forget doing this with a long heavy lens in the wind can be a costly mistake!
  • Secure your camera strap so that it is not flapping in the wind. Better yet, take it off your camera.
  • If windy, use your body to protect the camera from the wind.
  • If using long lenses with big lens hoods in the wind, take the hood off. The hood can catch the wind, causing slight vibrations that will ruin your shots.

Salton Sea Moonrise

Photo by John Warden

John Warden of Camera West in Rancho Mirage went out to shoot the moon last weekend and came up with some beautiful images. Here is his report :

Camera West customer John Schmidt of Cathedral City and I set out last Saturday afternoon for a 45 minute drive to one of my favorite haunts, 81st. Ave and Jackson Road on the northwest shore of the Salton Sea. Our goal, to take photos of the full moon rising over the Chocolate Mountains.

We used the app The Photographer’s Ephemeris which provides time and angle of sun/moonrises and sun/moonsets and the path of travel over your location.  The app worked flawlessly.  We arrived with plenty of time to get set up and enjoy the sun setting over the Santa Rosa Mountains  and all the layers of hills between the Salton Sea and Palm Springs.

We were using a Nikon D200 with 70-200/2.8, 28-70/2.8 and 12-24/4 and a Canon 60D with 18-135 and just for kicks, I brought my Nikon D50 IR Conversion.

The flies were incredibly persistent and a few lost their lives that night.  But, it was worth the annoyance as we were graced with a wonderful experience.

The moon rose right on schedule and at times partially hid behind clouds which added depth and character to our imagery.  The lake provided the white runway to the moon with it’s long reflection.

The seasonal migration has begun so the shores were filled with seagulls, pelicans, osprey, black currant, and a hummingbird or two.  The birds added to our photography options and made for a more complete photo op.

As we were about to leave and after it was quite dark we heard the low deep sounds of thousands of feathers grabbing air.  As the sound grew louder it was amazing and almost intimidating to hear them fly right over our heads.  It was like the sound of a jet fighter flying over the lake.

Once we all understood what we were hearing, the sound was pure beauty.

Photo by John Warden

Photo by John Schmidt

Photo by John Warden

Many thanks to Stan Ford who suggested and demonstrated The Photographer’s Ephemeris for us to calculate moonrise and sunset info.

October Photo Walk : Full Moon over the Bay

Photo by Michael Maloney

Join us as Michael leads another full moonrise photo walk, this time from the Embarcadero in SF where we will shoot the moon as it rises over the bay bridge and the eastbay hills.

On Monday, October 29, conditions should be perfect as the moonrise is close to the same time as the sunset. This gives us the ability to capture detail in both the full moon and the landscape. And after the sun sets, we’ll keep shooting, capturing the lights of the bay bridge reflecting off the SF Bay waters. Michael will be on hand to help with proper exposure and offer his tips on using a tripod effectively.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to get a beautiful full moon photo rising above the SF Bay and learn more about shooting after the sun goes down.

Monday, October 29
Cost : $25.00

Call or email Michael at Camera West in Walnut Creek for more info or to sign up.


Photo by Michael Maloney

Camera West Moonrise Photo Walk

Gusty winds and overcast sky made shooting the moonrise over SF a real challenge

I want to extend my thanks to everyone who braved the weather and joined us on our first Camera West Photo Walk. Although the fog was not as thick as I feared it would be, the wind was a huge factor, making shooting long exposures on a tripod a real challenge.

Despite the wind and overcast conditions, I hope all of you who attended made some nice images, had a good time and learned something new.

Gary Ellis tries to set up his camera despite the wind gusts

Photo walk participants line up to shoot the moonrise over The City.

Traffic paints the Golden Gate Bridge in light in this long exposure

For those of you who missed this Moonrise Photo Walk, I’ll be leading others later this year or next.

Next month’s photo walk will be in downtown Pleasanton where we will cover the Fast & Furious Criterium. Last year I led a workshop at this bicycle race and the participants came up with some great images. You can view them in this blog post.

Contact Michael at Camera West in Walnut Creek if you have questions or want to sign up. More details will be posted here on the blog soon.