On Monday morning I walked into the kitchen at 5.30am to get a glass of water and there was the stunning sight of the full beaver moon shining on the sea in the bay. I just had to try and capture a photograph to share with you. We are fortunate to have very dark skies in the Outer Hebrides which makes for wonderful star and moon gazing. It also a great place for astrophotography.
Why is it called the beaver moon?
November's full moon is called the beaver moon because in America at this time of the year the beavers have collected enough food stores for the winter. They do not hibernate but at this time of the year they retreat to their shelters during the cold winter. Historically this was also the time of the year when beavers were trapped to gather their thick winter pelts.
Photographing landscapes lit by the full moon
It always amazes me how much light there is on the night of the full moon. This becomes more obvious when you take a photograph. The moon is so bright that taking a landscape directly towards and including the moon usually causes lens flare as it has in the image below.
If you take a photo at 90 degrees to the moon then you can get interesting shadows on the ground. Although the image below was taken only by the light of the full moon, you could be forgiven for thinking that this image was taken in broad daylight. However, the stars are clearly visible in the sky and the shadow of the garden fence is cast onto the lawn by the moonlight.
What camera settings to use for full moon photography
For the photographers amongst you, the first image above of the moon close up was taken at ISO 800, f 7.1, exposure time of 1/1250. The second image of the moon shining on the sea was taken using a 24mm lens with an ISO of 800, an aperture of 2.2 and an exposure time of 0.8 seconds. The third image above of RSPB Balranald lit by moonlight was taken with the same lens set to f2.2, ISO 800 and an exposure time of 8 seconds. By comparison the images in our article about Steve and the Aurora borealis were taken with the ISO set between 1600 and 3200, an aperture of 1.4 and an exposure time of between 3 and 8 seconds in order to let enough light into the sensor.
What to look out for in December's night sky
In December of 2023, we will be looking out for opportunities to see the milky way and meteor showers. The best time to see the milky way will be around 12th December when there is a new moon and the sky is at its darkest. The geminids meteor shower will be active from 7th - 17th December with a peak on the 14th. The last full moon of the year will be on 27th December.