The Moon, Venus and Mars

Crescent Moon Utah

The Moon, Venus and Mars

Tonight I was able to witness a rare spectacle. The moon was in the waxing crescent phase, and the planets of Mars and Venus were close by. This happened about 30 – 45 minutes after dusk, and you could really see how Venus shines a lot brighter than Mars. Mars is typically one of the brightest stars in the sky, but Venus was brighter.

A conjunction of Mars and Venus this close hasn’t happened since September 11, 2008, and won’t happen again until October 5, 2017.

The moon also presented an interested spectacle. If you were to look at the moon and gaze into the dark side of the moon, you would have been seeing something called earthshine. Earthshine is twice-reflected sunlight. The Earth refelcts sunlight back to the crescent moon, and the dark side of the moon, in turn, again reflects sunlight back to Earth.

Photographing the Moon

I didn’t photograph the Moon and planets very well. I had forgotten about the event and by luck noticed it as we were going over to a neighbors house. I just grabbed my camera quickly and shot a few pictures. I had previously photographed a “blood Moon” a few months back, and forgot the rules to photograph the Moon without motion blur.


Here’s some equipment that I’d recommend:

  • A camera with a 200m+ lens. Any lens shorter than this will make the Moon look very small.
  • A tripod
  • A remote trigger, optional, but helps reduce camera shake. A self-timer will also serve your purposes.

The Process

  1. Set the camera mode to Manual
  2. Set your ISO to the lowest setting that your camera allows, yet still does not have much noise. I shoot on a Canon 6D, and it does pretty well in low light at an ISO 400 – 800. I’ve shot at much higher ISO, and was able to remove the noise.
  3. A general rule when photographing the Moon is to set the aperture to f/11. Many photographers will refer to this rule as the Looney 11 rule.
  4. Shutter speed will be set to 1/125 at ISO 100, or at ISO 200 you’d shoot at a 1/250. You’ll have to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO when the Moon is in different phases and brightness. Any shutter speed that is slower will result in a blurred Moon, or stars.


Blurred stars and Moon – ISO 100 | 200mm | 20 second exposure