Shoot to Thrill: Stacey Huston on how to photograph the moon

The moon … it is full of mystery and holds an unexplained power over the weather and the waters as well as the animal kingdom and humans. The moon has long fascinated mankind. It has kept us company on many a sleepless night. it has heard our deepest fears in the dark of night and shared our most intimate moments. The moon affects the tides, hunting, fishing, crop growth and the weather. It ushers in the seasons and has lead many a traveler home.

Join Stacey Huston at her photo blog at for more of her excellent insights and photographic work. Photo by Mike Huston.

I love sitting outside on warm summer nights enjoying the cool breezes and looking up at the moon, remembering all the moments that we have shared. As a young girl venturing out into life on my own, my mom took me outside one night and pointed up at the moon. She explained to me, that no matter how far away in miles, that life’s journey took me, whenever I felt alone, all I needed to do was look up at the moon … because those I love most would be looking too.

I remember sleepless nights spent rocking my babies as the moon kept watch through the window. I remember nights spent outdoors next to my husband, covered with a blanket of stars and warmed by the glow from the moon. So when I read that there was to be a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice, I had no problem setting my alarm clock so that I could be there to take part in this rare moment.  After all there won’t be another event like this until December 21, 2094.

1:30 a.m: My alarm goes off and I quietly roll out of bed, as I tell myself that this will only take a few minutes and I will be back in bed where I belong, sleeping peacefully.  I notice an odd orange-brown glow – like glowing coals but darker, out my window. I stumble down the stairs to find my camera and tripod, open the front door to a blast of below-freezing temperatures and seriously questioned my sanity. Crossing my fingers that the clouds would not interfere with my plans, I stepped out on the deck to locate the moon. The eclipse has already begun and the moon is almost completely covered by the earth’s shadow, but wow… what a site!

As I stood gazing up at the moon, the world around me grew quieter and quieter as it also grew darker.  The odd reddish glow spread across the snow and not a sound could be heard.  I am not sure how long I stood transfixed by the pull of the moon, but the cold biting through my shirt and burning of my toes reminded me that I really needed to put something on my feet.

Stacey Huston. Submitted photo.

You MUST have a few items to successfully photograph the eclipse on a dark December night: most importantly, socks and/or warm boots, a coat, and maybe a hat and gloves, but also a tripod, decent zoom lens and a camera with manual settings, as well as a flashlight or other light source (porch light in my case) and a cable release, if you have one (I do not, so I improvise with the self-timer on the camera). Set up the tripod to steady the shot as the long shutter and darkness will pick up any movement and cause your photo to blur.

Find the moon in your viewfinder and manually focus the shot. Use your flashlight to play with the settings on your camera. Don’t be afraid to refer to you manual or look on the Internet to remind yourself what each of the settings does prior to taking the shot; to be honest I had to. I don’t use the manual setting enough and the darkness of the eclipse in contrast to what I normally use for a bright full moon was giving me troubles, so I cheated and reset the camera to automatic settings and snapped a semi clear photo, but it gave me a general area to start with for my settings (ISO, Aperture and exposure time).

Set the ISO around 100, and the aperture to f/11, with a shutter speed of 1/125; you can play with the aperture and shutter speeds to tell see what effects it has on the photos (wonderful world of digital), but I would advise you to do this in the warm summer months with a full moon … not while trying to capture a rare eclipse, on a frozen winter night.

When I returned to bed, my clock read 3:45 a.m. My “few minutes” had turned into hours. Hours spent with the moon that I normally neglect during the winter. Hours I can say that I enjoyed, witnessing a rare event and capturing it on film to share with those who weren’t able to. It has been 2000 years since the last lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice, and I doubt I will live long enough to see it happen again. I can sleep in my warm bed any night.

For more of Stacey Huston’s eye for detail, check her photoblog:

Photo by Stacey Huston.


  • About Stacey Huston

    Stacey Huston is an outdoorswoman to the core, and would much rather spend time in the high country than in the local shopping mall, and feels more at home in heavy timber than in a salon. She is an accomplished photographer. She resides in northwest Wyoming, the state she has called home for more than 22 years. Stacey hunts with longbow and rifle, and written articles for online outdoor companies and print magazines. You can find her photos in Traditional Bow Hunter, Turkey Country and Primitive Archer magazines. Her work graced the cover of Primitive Archer Magazine for more than a year, as well as 2 issues of Schnee's catalogue and an issue of Successful Hunter Magazine. Stacey is on the field staff for Prois Hunting and Field Apparel for Women.


The Conversation

  • Women's Outdoor News says: March 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    We are so fortunate to have contributions from our Shoot to Thrill photographers, because as we all know, a picture really does say a thousand words. Don’t forget, any of Stacey’s photos can be purchased at her website:

  • Beth Cowgill says: March 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Stunning! Such a wonderful story. I couldn’t agree with Tammy and Deb more! ~Beth

  • Deb Ferns says: March 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Stacey, your talent for the story AND the photo are amazing! You always seem to find beauty, and something unique, in everything you do. I’m sure you know this is a gift from God and that we are blessed that you share it with us.

  • tammy says: March 10, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Stacey, that was an INCREDIBLE story!!! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing moment in time with us. And words cannot even begin to describe the photos. Absolutely beautiful!