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Behind The Shot: Capturing A Moon Alignment Over An Iconic Building

Erin Newman-Mitchell (@erinnewmanmitchell) is a landscape photographer based in the fast-growing city of Austin, Texas. “During the week I work as a floral designer at a local flower shop, though when I’m not designing I’m often out photographing my home city and the various landscapes and scenes around Texas,” she says. “One of my favorite things to plan and photograph are moon/sun alignments over iconic buildings.” We came across this image of hers and connected with her to learn more. Keep reading as she explains the story behind the shot.


Photo by Erin Newman-Mitchell. Sony Alpha 7R IV. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. .8-sec., f/5.6, ISO 125

With some planning, the Sony Alpha 7R IV & 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM, Austin-based photographer Erin Newman-Mitchell was able to capture this image of the city’s Capitol with the moon.

The Scene

While Austin continues to expand, adding numerous buildings to its skyline, the Texas State Capitol will forever remain my favorite. As the largest capitol building in the United States and an entire 14 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol, the Texas State Capitol is an iconic piece of architecture of not only Austin and Texas, but of the nation itself.

There is a parking garage that sits just northeast of the Capitol and during specific times of the year, the moonset aligns perfectly with the statue atop the building. This particular moon phase in this photo was a waxing crescent, specifically at 7.7% full. I used PhotoPills to plan this alignment so that as the moon descended it looked as if the Goddess of Liberty was holding the crescent.  

The Gear

I used my handy-dandy Sony Alpha 7R IV camera body with a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM lens to capture this image. Because I was quite a bit of distance away, I shot this image in APS-C mode, which crops the image in at 1.5x, making the image appear as though I was shooting at around 600mm. The 61 megapixels of the Sony Alpha 7R IV allows for a closer crop while still retaining a great amount of detail. (Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the gear she uses for her photography in her What’s In My Bag article.)

The Shot

My camera settings for this shot were 0.8-sec shutter speed, f/5.6 aperture, and an ISO of 125. Because of how dark the sky was during the alignment, it was necessary that I shot at a slightly lower shutter speed which required the use of a tripod. I had to be careful as to not use too slow of a shutter speed though or else the rotation of the earth and moon’s movement would cause blurring. Using the planning section on the PhotoPills application, I was able to roughly determine where on the parking garage I would need to stand for the perfect alignment. As the moon descended towards the horizon and top of the capitol, I ran around the top of the parking garage making sure to align the shot perfectly.

The Edit

To edit this image I used Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Often with full moon photos bracketing is necessary to capture all aspects of the image but because the crescent moon doesn’t radiate near as much light as a full moon, I found that it was not necessary to bracket. Instead this image is a single exposure. Using Lightroom I did basic edits which included significantly reducing the highlights and whites and increasing the shadows. I then transferred the edited image into Photoshop where I removed a couple of background buildings to create a more minimalistic image.

See more of Erin Newman-Mitchell’s work on her Alpha Universe Profile and on Instagram @erinnewmanmitchell.


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