Cause of this lens flare and "fog"? Also, advice for shooting the moon.


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Dec 15, 2016
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Hey everyone, I am new here, just now registered to ask this question.

I bought my first proper DSLR 6 months back, and have been using it mainly for video, though I have done some photography, mostly just to practice techniques and familiarize myself with the camera.
I wouldn't call myself a beginner per se, but as I am pretty much self-taught (internet taught, that is) I have a good understanding of most technical aspects, but still lack the experience and know-how of being educated or trained by veterans.

So, the reason I write: Last night was a beautiful full-moon, clear sky night, with freezing temperatures and absolutely no wind. Enchanting to say the least. So I went out with my camera and a tripod to try out some long exposure night photography. I fooled around for some time, wanting to catch the mood of this silent December night. This first picture was taken at:
ISO 200 - 18mm - f/8.0 - 15.0 sec
No post treatment, jpeg directly exported from the RAW in Lightroom.

I tried several times with different apertures and shutterspeeds, but I couldn't get the moon to look like... well, the moon. It would always be a supershiny, bright star with huge lens flares coming off of it. Is the solution just to take several images with different exposures and combine them in post, or am I missing something completely? I wanted the stars to come out as well, to pop in the middle of the deep, dark void of space, but I just can't get the effect I wanted for this picture.
Any advice, including any on the picture composition and ideas for post, is appreciated.

Next up, I was walking in a park and tried to capture an image with a moonlit but dark tree in the foreground, a streetlight lighting up the middleground, and the black, starry sky in the background.
The first picture I caught, I loved, but then noticed that the focus was off. I refocused on the middle-ground, really liking the contrast of the artificial light in between the dark tree and the dark sky, but all of a sudden, I had unbearable lens-flare and a sort of haze or fog, ruining the shots contrast and sharpness. I tried many times, but I just could not get the same result as my first try. Both were taken at:
ISO 200 - 20mm - f/5.6 - 30.0 sec
No post treatment, jpg directly exported from the RAW in Lightroom.
DSC00328.jpg DSC00329.jpg
The only difference in the shots is the focusing. Now, I do admit that I may have accidentally breathed over the camera during the latter 30 second exposure, But as I realized that, I was careful not to do it again, but it changed nothing for the following 5 basically identical shots.

What is the cause of the sudden lens flare? Is it because of the change of focus or am I missing something else completely.
Any and all feedback is appreciated.
The moon is much brighter than you would think. To get a "proper" exposure for the first photo you would want to expose for the moon, the house and the window light individually then layer them in post.

For the second photo with the street lamp, my guess is that you breathed on it or your hand warmed it up enough to fog a little. hard to say on that one
Aperture: ƒ/8.0
Exposure Time: 15.000 s
ISO equiv: 200

There's your problem. Remember, the moon is a daylight scene........ it's illuminated by the sun just like a street, your yard, a mountain range......
But. The Moon is not very reflective.
So you would use exposure settings akin to if you photographed an asphalt street.
About 1/500, and ISO 200 @ f/5

First of all: congrats to your camera - you´ll have much fun with it, I love the alpha series, and welcome to the forum.
Regarding the first image: you already received a lot of good information. I´m afraid it is close to impossible to create the image you want in one shot (except for using flash instead of streetlights).
I shot my last full moon with 1/50sec | f11 | ISO200 to give you another ballpark.
In regard to the image: I really like it (the more I look at it, the better it gets) - if it was your house though, I would have put the car away. I did a quick edit (not a good one ;) ) - let me give you one of my moons as a welcome gift :D

as for the second image: I never experienced that, but it could be the focus because with focussing on the lights, you are concentrating the brightness on a "single" spot which in theory might lead to more flare.
In general there are a few things you should consider to reduce flare when shooting against the light: make sure your lens is clean!!! Every tiny spot on the wrong place can create flare, and if you don´t care much about your lens, you can get some kind of oily surface that will ruin many shots. Most people have that on their smartphone cameras :D.
When you get out in the cold, let your camera and lens adjust to the temperature, otherwise you might get some fog on front of the lens, on the back of your lens or on the sensor, most recognizable on shots agains the light.
Regarding composition on your second image: try to get the main object out of center - there is something called the rule of thirds, do some reading on that. If you want to dive even deeper into composition, do some reading about the golden ratio which is an ancient ratio that is and was used a lot in arts and you can even find it in nature. It is weird, but it even works when placing a vase on your cupboard at home.

And one last tip regarding stars: if you want to take a picture of stars, find yourself a spot that is dark, or even darker than dark - here is a link to a light pollution atlas.
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Thanks to all of you, very informative and helpful.

Seems I just underestimated the brightness of the moon. On the lens flare, I suppose the focuschange as a cause makes sense.
Thanks for all the advice, it is really appreciated!

Have a nice evening, and a merry christmas.
In the second photo changing the focus caused increased lens flare. Not much you can do about that unfortunately.

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