Wondering how to take impressive optical illusion moon photographs? Well, you could take some tips from Nina Wolfe. This New York photographer specializes in stunning optical illusion photographs that make the Earth’s satellite look bigger than ever.
Wolfe has taken dozens of gorgeous photographs that make the moon look absolutely enormous in juxtaposition with buildings on the skyline in NYC and elsewhere. There are a couple of tricks that can help you get the shot (and having one of the best cameras can also help).
Wolfe’s stunning photographs (opens in new tab) includes shots of a full moon rising behind NYC landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Edge skydeck at Hudson Yards. The juxtaposition of the moon with famous landmarks makes it look bigger than normal, dwarfing the skyline.
How does it work? The optical illusion works through forced perspective. There are a couple of things to consider. One is the position of the moon itself. The moon looks much bigger when it’s closer to the horizon than when it’s high in the sky. There needs to be something else in the shot, a building or natural landmark to create perspective.
Finally, you’ll need a long lens to shoot the moon and the landmarks from a distance. Telephoto lenses create a phenomenon called lens compression which makes elements at a distance look closer together than how they appear to the naked eye (or through a shorter lens). Nina says she uses a Sigma 150-600mm (opens in new tab) at 600mm on her Nikon Z7 (opens in new tab). A low ISO is ideal to avoid noise in the image, and the shutter speed should be no slower than a second at most to avoid motion blur.
Sounds easy? Well on top of knowing how to use your gear, you need to plan carefully to be in the right place at the right time for when the moon is in the right position. You can use an app like MOON to check the phases of the moon and a weather app to check when skies clear. Many landscape photographers use the app Planit (opens in new tab) to check out conditions at potential locations before they head out into the field. Here are some more of Wolfe’s incredible shots. For more tips see this handy photography cheat sheet.