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I take long exposure photos of rocket launches, and always run into issues where the moon shows as just bright rays. I'd like to be able to see the moon as I see it at night.

My normal setup is a Canon Rebel T7, f/22, ISO800, and about a 2' exposure or longer. What can I do to prevent bright rays from the moon, while still capturing the light streak from the rocket?

enter image description here

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you explain your camera settings? Why f/22 and ISO 800? How did you come up with these numbers? Have you tried anything else? What difference did it make? etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrUpsidown
    Sep 19, 2022 at 8:11

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The small aperture (f/22) is the cause of the spikes. You could have used f/8 at ISO 100 for the same exposure and it would have reduced the spikes significantly, if not eliminate them altogether.

If that is not enough reduction you could add/use an ND filter to cut the light and allow using an even wider aperture.

If you are using such a small aperture to try to keep the foreground in focus you could look at other methods of extending/manipulating the depth of field (hyper focus, infinity focus)... but I would suggest focus stacking 2 images would probably be better.

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You can't. You use for this image high value for aperture and long shutter speed. The aperture make the rays. The long exposure make the moon as bright spot.

The usual settings to take photo of the moon are F8, ISO 100, 1/100s.

You can take two consecutive photos (rocket launch and then moon) and combine them in post.

BTW you do not need such aperture as all the objects are on great distance. Set it to F8 for example and decrease ISO to 100 to get much noiseless image.

And to expand slightly, the reason for those settings is that the moon is sitting in direct sunlight. So you use the kind of settings you'd use for shooting during the day (less about a stop due to the distance and atmospheric effects). Your brain has sufficient high dynamic range processing (thanks to an incredibly fast auto aperture mode in your eyes) to see both clearly, but a camera does not.

And to add also: with your eyes you do not see the entire trace as it is on the photo, you see just moving light. So replace the moon in post. Or be happy with the photo (I personally like it :) )

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    \$\begingroup\$ To expand slightly, the reason for those settings is that the moon is sitting in direct sunlight. So you use the kind of settings you'd use for shooting during the day (less about a stop due to the distance and atmospheric effects). Your brain has sufficient high dynamic range processing (thanks to an incredibly fast auto aperture mode in your eyes) to see both clearly, but a camera does not. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2022 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, @LightBender, may I add it in to the answer? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2022 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Certainly, though you might want to word the bit about your brain and eyes in a less jokey way :) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2022 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LightBender As a general solution I've had good results with the Looney 11 rule \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Sep 14, 2022 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterM, this work for the moon. And I already recommend in the answer settings. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2022 at 16:19
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You'd like to see the moon as you see it at night? Well, how do you see it at night? You might not realise, but the moon is a very bright object – it's lit by the sun. We usually naturally see it as an "overexposed" disc in the night sky; you have to focus on it to discern detail, and in doing so, your eyes will stop seeing detail in the black sky around. The point is, the dynamic range in the night sky is too much for human eyes to deal with in a single glance, and certainly too much for a camera's sensor to deal with.

What you are seeing are diffraction spikes AKA the starburst effect AKA sunstars.

You might get the result you're looking for through multi-exposure HDR capture or compositing. To get a good photo of the moon, it would be worth taking a look at Why do moon shots bring out the worst in telephoto lenses?, and researching the "Looney 11 rule".

Also, get yourself a Lenspen and clean your lens – you might have a light layer of oil/grease on the lens which can create a "bloom" around light sources.

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