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  • andamooka-moonlight-7572

The small opal mining town of Andamooka in outback South Australia is surrounded by huge heaps of overburden from the open cut opal mining. In many cases, homes are interspersed with the mines.

It's something of a moonscape landscape with heaps as far as you can see, of different coloured dirt from almost white to red ochre colour.

{googleMaps lat=-30.451969 long=137.160398}

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A few days after full moon, the moon was rising a few hours after sunset and getting high in the sky by ten o'clock or so, throwing a gentle light on the moonscape at the horizon, showing up the form and colour of the distant landscape in a way not seen during daylight hours.

So having been stimulated by the sight the previous night, I got the camera and tripod all organized to go with minimum effort, when the time for an image came around.

I reckon the bloke who own's the ground with all the old cars must be a General Motors man. Except for the old van at the back of the yard, the vehicles are all Holdens and Toranas.

The Southern Cross is rather special, of course, the star constellation on our national flag. It appears here over the old shower block of the Andamooka camp ground, along with the two pointers.

Here's how to find south using the Southern Cross:

Note: You'll need to click the thumbnail for a large view to see the diagram.

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  • Draw an imaginary line through the two pointers
  • Draw a line perpendicular to this line
  • Draw a line through the Southern Cross
  • From the point where these last two lines meet, draw a line straight down to the horizon
  • Where this line meets the horizon is south

You'll see that in the photo, the lens has distorted the vertical and so I've angled the line to match.

The intersection of the three lines is the central point about which the Southern Cross revolves as the night progresses. An hour or so after this image was captured, the Southern Cross would have sunk below the horizon, leaving the two pointers alone to indicate south for a couple of hours longer.

Photography Notes - Moonlight Images

If you're photographing the moon, it's really pretty bright. Keep in mind that the moon is lit by the sun, just the same as the everyday landscape that you often photograph. So the exposure should be about the same, plus one stop to allow for the loss of light caused by the atmosphere.

But if you're photographing a scene lit by the light reflected by the moon, then that's a different matter.

Here I used ISO1600, 10 seconds exposure, aperture f5. Needless to say, I had the camera mounted firmly on a sturdy tripod and used the timer to release the shutter.

The focal length was 12mm but this is not relevant to the exposure.