Moonlight, a Mannequin and a Rowboat – A Photography Adventure

In Photography Tips, Skies and Coffee by porteengear

Lily (our shop mannequin) spends most of her days sitting elegantly in the studio. She was in need of an adventure!

It was mid-July, during the full moon, the summer sun lit it up like a beacon in the sky. I was looking at another two weeks before the conditions were right to have that perfect black sky with the core of the Milky way in full glory across the southern horizon. Feeling anxious to get out and see the night stars, it dawned on me that maybe I should be thinking “outside the box” and go with the present situation, photography in the moon light!

Already knowing that I had to get North, far enough away from the the city lights so that the light pollution was minimal on the horizon, it wasn’t long before I resourced a property with a pond. Hoping to get some great reflections working with the moonlight, a photography adventure was planned!

The photoshoot would have been done in a short period of time if it had just been the pond and the light. With the company of a friend and Lily loaded in the back of the Jeep, we drove up to a rural area of Northern Lower Michigan. We had Lily’s bag of wigs, two colored umbrellas and all of our gear for night photography. (see suggested gear list below).

After the 2 hour drive, we arrived early enough to see the location in the daylight to plan for the best places to set up the rowboat and position ourselves around the pond. This is really important as you do not want to be fumbling around in the dark on unknown ground. It is much better to have a plan and get visuals of the horizon, tree lines and any obstructions you might not want in your shots. Then it was about a 3 hour wait until the sun and the moon were in the right positions. The sun had to be set far enough to not have a lot of light pollution coming from the West and the moon had to be up high enough to create the light for the scene. Fold-away chairs are a necessity while out for long periods of time. You will appreciate the comfort of not standing the entire time. It’s also good to find a way to turn off your dome lights so you do not illuminate the scene and attract a vehicle full of mosquitoes for the drive home.

Once the light is right and the moon is where you planned it to be, time will fly! Excitement will kick in as you are shooting and working with props.

We had a ball with Lily, picking out her wigs and prepping her in the rowboat for her moonlight debut. We tried different positions in the water with the boat, trying to photograph the mood of her floating silently in the on the pond. About 1 AM, an unexpected fog started rising off the water, right about the time we thought we were done!

Lily in Fog
Overall it was a fun night, a great adventure, with a story to tell for a long time coming!

Sometimes all you need is some moonlight, a mannequin and a rowboat to start the perfect photography adventure!


Umbrellas lit by the moon Light

Best apps for pre-planning.
The Moon – a Lunar Calendar with moonrise and moonset times
The Sun – Sunrise and sunset calendar
Sky Guide – For seeing a 360 view of the night sky with information on every planet and star.
Storm – To keep track of the weather and plan ahead.
Compass – to get your bearings before dark on the Milky Way

Suggested gear for night photography:
Lantern with Red Light
Headlamp with Red Light
Hand Warmers to keep lens from fogging
Regular Flashlight for illuminating as you walk and light painting
Remote Shutter release for long exposures
Battery Grip for more battery power
Folding chairs for long waits for the right light and long exposures
Insect Repellent
Small Folding Plastic Table to keep items off the ground
Jacket or long sleeved shirt for dropping temperatures at night
Thermos Coffee Cup for hot coffee hours later while driving home
Small plastic grocery bags to take away any waste
A bathroom kit with Toilet Paper and Kleenex just in case

Recommended spot for night photography in Michigan: Headlands International Dark Sky Park , Mackinaw City, Michigan

All photos copyright: Robyn Porteen
Member of the International Dark Sky Association