Supermoon: How and where to get a great photo

On the eve of tonight's supermoon a near full moon sets behind Dunedin hills. Photo / Ian Griffin
On the eve of tonight's supermoon a near full moon sets behind Dunedin hills. Photo / Ian Griffin

Tonight the largest and brightest supermoon in 70 years is about to light up the skies and New Zealand will be the first country in the world to spy this phenomenal lunar event.

With all eyes – and cameras – poised to capture the impressive sight, we've compiled a list of helpful tips for those who don't have the flash professional gear but want to get to capture a stunning moment.

Sort out your scene

Award winning Herald Photographer Brett Phibbs says planning is key and seeking out a vantage point is important to get the perfect shot.

He said perspective and scale was important to highlight the difference between the larger-than-usual moon and the earth.

Focusing on the moon near a landmark or ridge helps accentuate the intensity of the supermoon and could produce a stunning silhouette image.

Mashable recommends aiming to get the moon in the frame as it rises over a local landmark or close to the horizon so the image includes a foreground.

Get it lined up

Phibbs said it's important to get the desired moon shot parallel with the vantage point you want in the background.

It may mean travelling some distance to get far back enough so it is all line up waiting for the moment the moon comes into the frame.

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"You've got to get it all parallel and be back for enough. So if you want the Sky Tower in it you probably need to be west and go back as far as Te Atatu.

"Ideally you would use a big 600mm lens to capture the Sky Tower and moon in the same frame which would end up silhouetted by the supermoon."

The best hour for photos

Phibbs said it was also important to do your homework and know where the moon would be sitting at different times in the night.

Tonight the moon will rise over Auckland at 8.54pm and it will set tomorrow at 7.16am.

By now die-hard enthusiasts would have been out several nights following the moon as it tracked across the city.

The magical lighting in the hour around moonrise and moonset are favoured by astrophotographers as the best time of the night to get a warm glow and stunning colours in pictures.

It's also important to turn off the flash on your phone as this will disturb the natural light.

Use a tripod

With everything lined up it was a waiting game – and this meant a steady hand or better still a tripod to eliminate all unintentional wobbles.

It may mean phone users propped up the phone on a fence top or post to keep it from moving.

Technology tweaks

Newsweek recommended getting apps to give devices a better chance of a stunning shot. These include Adobe Lightroom. Once the photo is taken brightness, contrast and other image settings can be tweaked to produce a dramatic image.

Another app that is used to enhance night-time photos on i-phones is the low-light app NightCap.

Another little known hack is to hold a pair of binoculars or a telescope over the camera lens to achieve greater magnification.

However, Phibbs warned it was difficult to take a picture on your cellphone that captured the drama and scale.

He said lunar shots were better with a large lens – 400mm plus – which enabled the moon to be pulled in and made to look even bigger.

But while it was incredibly hard with a bit of planning, right equipment and luck with the weather it would make for a stunning image.

Most of the country was expecting clear skies except the far south of the country.

Key Auckland landmarks to photograph with tonight's supermoon:

The Sky Tower
Auckland Harbour Bridge
One Tree Hill - Maungakiekie
Auckland Art Gallery

- NZ Herald

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