20 November 2021, at Nags Head beach. We’d returned from a good dinner in Manteo, and the moon was rising over the Atlantic. To the eye, and a fast exposure, the reflected moonlight was a series of scintillating dots; but the sea and the light take on a very different aspect when we look at them for thirty seconds at a time!

Figure 1. Moon over Nags Head beach, unedited. Nags Head, N.C. Photo: author.

The difficulty presented by this view from our balcony is that the moon is so bright that one must either terribly overexpose it in order to see much at all of the ocean, or one must underexpose to get the moon right and see nothing else. The light reflected on the water is somewhere between those two poles. In my image I sacrificed the moon and the shore in a shabby compromise to get the reflection of the moonlight on the water (figure 1). With that, I am reasonably happy.

So, no editing known to me can rescue the moon in my image so that it looks like anything but a white blob. Well, I guess I could cut ‘n’ paste a clown face over it, but that wouldn’t fit in with my plans. Yet this is a thirty-second exposure: there is a lot of information that is not apparent in the unedited image. So I went fishing in this patch of ocean (figure 2).

Figure 2. Moon over Nags Head beach. Nags Head, N.C. Photo: author.

It was easy enough to raise the exposure of all but the highlights by using Luminar AI’s Accent AI feature. That raised the midtones and the shadows while making the highlights no worse. Now we can see the beach, which was illuminated indirectly by the yellowy lights of our hotel, and the white blur from several breaking waves. Further out, however, there was an unexpected (to me, at any rate) phenomenon of the moonlight pulling a cyan color from the midground waves. This I boosted in HSL. The final touches were an application of the mystical and glow (Orton effect) sliders. I make no claim here that I’m reproducing what my eyes saw. Rather, I created an image seen by my inner eye.

Nikon Z 7ii with 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens.

Figures 1, 2. 48 mm, f/8, ISO 64, 30 s.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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