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Moonslam – did I overstep?

Did I overstep? Did I go too far? Did I cause discomfort or embarrassment? Should I have minded my own business?

I just posted a comment on a photo entitled ‘I Walk Alone’ on 500px, the entirety of which is below:

I will preface this comment by saying I really like 95% of this photo – lovely brooding light, well balanced tones, good figure placement. However: the moon. Placing it behind a tree is cunning, but it doesn’t escape the fact that the moon was added in post-production. Amazing how people don’t find this combination of moon size and perspective unnatural. It really grates with me. On a 1.5x crop camera, a 1400mm lens is required to fill the shorter edge of the frame (assuming this photo was taken on planet Earth in last few billion years). So an 18mm focal length would result in a moon that covers 1.2% of the vertical dimension in this case, but in this image it covers approximately 9.5% of the image height. I’m not sure if Robert is claiming the moon is genuine, but it’s obvious from the comments that people are assuming it is, and it isn’t.

Check out the photo and comment thread here.

I didn’t mean to beat this guy up about it.  Apart from the size issue, the placement of the moon is quite skillfully done. I believe he’s placed it roughly where an artificial light source was used, but there are further problems with it. By also claiming (visually, if not literally) that the moon is the major lightsource, the other problem would be the exposure needed to capture the scene. From the stated metadata, the exposure of the moon itself is actually correct. The surface of the moon is about EV15, which equates to 1/1000s at f8 and ISO 200, so the quoted 1/400s works fine with the moon being overexposed by a stop or so. But a moonlit landscape? That’s at brightest EV-2, which at the same ISO and f-stop would need 2 minutes of exposure. Then there’s the balance of light between lamp and ‘moon’, but I won’t even go into that.

I think what I was objecting to was the practice of ‘moonslamming’ in general. I saw just this weekend a shop in Paris selling some reasonable prints of Paris scenes, and there amongst them was a shot over the rooftops towards the Eiffel tower…with a thumping great moon behind it. It was way worse than this example, and I think some of my venting fury was latent from that outrage.

If you want to add a freakin’ moon, if your image needs a moon, screams ‘gimme gimme gimme a moon’, then add a freakin’ moon. But please get the perspective and exposure right.  Or just roughly right. That’s all I ask. Keep in mind Ansel Adams’ Moonrise, Hernandez and you’ll do just fine.

One Comment

  1. Harrison Cronbi wrote:

    Moonslam II. This one is worse, I think:

    Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 14:46 | Permalink

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