Thursday, 30 January 2014

Moon Photography

New Moons 

Tonight, Thursday 30th January, marks the second New Moon of January and 2014. For some people, new moons represent new beginnings. It will be edging into the skies this week, before the month is out.

I started taking photos of the moon last autumn, using a telephoto lens. This lens has a range of 55mm-300mm and captures the moon really well, even with urban light interference. Here is the moon at various stage, seen from Iceland, Switzerland and the UK. 

If you have an SLR camera with a zoom up to and above 55mm, you can still have a try at getting up close to the moon. The best setting I've found so far is to zoom in as far in a possible, then

  • turn your dial to M (Manual)
  • set your aperture to f/5.6
  • your shutter speed to 1/250
  • bring your ISO level down to it's lowest

Balance your camera on a tripod, or if you don't have a tripod, find something hard that you can prop your camera lens up against. Maybe try your own camera case if it is rigid enough. You can try taking the photo at maximum shutter speed if you have no way to balance your camera. This will reduce blurring. When you've taken the photo, be sure to zoom in and adjust exposure balance with Photoshop or whatever software you use to edit your photography.

For phases of the moon appropriate to your hemisphere, here's a moon calendar.

Every January, across the French-speaking world, people celebrate the Epiphany following Christmas time with a King Cake, the galette des rois. Hidden in the cake is a small trinket, and the person who receives the slice with the trinket is crowned Queen or King for the night. Last week, a friend served a galette des rois at her home in France, and I found the trinket...

.... and it was a moon!

Which reconfirmed my lifelong suspicion that I am, and always will be, a self-confessed moongazer. And I know I'm not the only one. Wherever we go, whatever we're doing, the moon is always there, a comforting, inspiring light in darkness, and a reminder that somewhere someone we care about might be looking at it too.

The phases of the moon remind us that change is natural and normal, and all that passes will somehow be replenished. 

For most, it's just a beautiful orb of light hanging in the sky. For some the moon signifies inner strength, patience.  My friend's father, who is a farmer here in Switzerland, uses the phases of the moon to plan the planting of his crops. Gravity, the tides, and perhaps even our emotions are affected by this lunar presence in our skies. Over the centuries the moon has represented femininity, madness (the problematic historic connection between the two), fertility, the cyclical patterns of nature. The list goes on.

Carol Ann Duffy's poem, 'The Woman In The Moon' tells a sad, beautiful story.

I recently found out that the Swedish word for the moon's wake on water is mangata. It's a word that has no equivalent in another language, as observed here: For Some Words There's No Easy Translation.

So I hope you catch some mangata this year, wherever the moon shines on you.

Happy New Moon!

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