Almost Weekly Photo

Moonrise from Chelela, Bhutan.
300mm lens, 1/8 second @ f4, ISO 100


Bhutan is an incredible country that is changing rapidly, yet there is something amazingly magical about it inspite of the onslaught of modernity. On our last trip, we were heading down from Chelela, the highest road pass in Bhutan (there are much higher passes, but you need a yak to cross them). We knew the full moon was due to rise, so we found a spot on the side of the road with a clear, uninterrupted view across the distant ranges. With so many trees lining the road, this wasn't quite as easy as it sounds.


Using our various smartphone apps, we worked out roughly where the moon was going to rise, set up our tripods and had a cup of ginger tea. No need to rough it too much! However, mid-gulp of hot ginger liquid, the moon made its appearance.


I don't think we were quite ready for the brilliant yellow colour. Yes, this image has had a little post-production, no the colour wasn't added, yes everyone knows the large moon is an optical illusion, and no, I haven't enlarged it. I think the size contrast of the moon comes from the tiny dzong down in the bottom left of the frame and the use of a 300mm telephoto on distant mountains, and this is the takeaway for full moon photos. If you want to emphasise the large size of the moon, use a telephoto lens so the moon is a reasonable size within the frame. No matter how big the moon appears to the naked eye, it's going to look pretty small and less impressive if you're shooting with a wide-angle (because of its small size relative to the frame).


This is exactly how I remember the evening, the moon silently rising under dimming twilight in the land of the Thunder Dragon.

Bhutan is full of unexpected surprises, even if you expect them! And no doubt there were photographers all around the world photographing the same moon, but not many of them would have had a Bhutanese dzong in the foreground!


If you're interested in a photography workshop in the next 12 months or so, I have places left on trips going to Bhutan, South West USA, the Arctic, Antarctica and the Silk Road. Full details on the Better Photography website!



The latest printed issue of Better Photography magazine is not far away and will be posted soon. It will also be on sale in the newsagents. However, for online digital subscribers, you can login and download the magazine right now!


Just click here to visit the website - you will need your username and password of course!


 Issue 90 content includes: 

Elderly gentleman, Bumthang, Bhutan.
Canon EOS 5DSR, 300mm f2.8 lens, 1/2500 second @ f2.8, ISO 100


What is correct exposure? Are we talking about in the camera or in post-production, because they are two quite different things.

In camera, we want to capture ‘good quality pixels’ which won’t limit our post-production. By good quality pixels I mean the lens has been correctly focused and the exposure doesn’t clip the highlights or block up the shadows too much. Good composition and light don’t go astray either, plus as David Oliver says, you need to capture the emotion.

(David, Robert van Koesveld and I are taking a workshop to Bhutan next year and we have places available, so please let us know!)

I think this photo has the emotion. It is delivered by the subject and his pose, one hand on his staff, the other turning the large prayer wheel.

However, if you click through to the website, you’ll see that the captured exposure was a lot lighter and didn’t have the same atmosphere or mood. By darkening down the image, but retaining detail in the face and the prayer wheel, I hope I have matched the mood and the emotion into something better than a straight capture. So, in this case, the correct exposure for the final image is quite different to the correct exposure in camera.

You might ask why I didn’t just darken down the exposure in camera. Apart from technical reasons (loss of detail, noise), while I have darkened down the surroundings, I have lightened up the face. The final interpretation was not possible with a single camera capture. If I had taken a darker exposure in the camera, then I may not have had sufficient quality in the pixels to lighten up the gentleman’s face (without introducing noise or posterization).

Looking at a 1000 pixel image on your phone or computer screen, it mightn’t have mattered what the original exposure was like, but if you’re going to take the image to a print or a book, then technical issues like this become incredibly important. At least, they do for me!


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