Watch: Shooting Under Moonlight Project

In 1975 Stanley Kubrick stunned the world by filming some incredible scenes in his film Barry Lyndon, lit only by candlelight. He used lenses by Zeiss developed for NASA for use in the Apollo moon landings. Today, using a Canon 5D MK II and an EF 50mm F/1.0L USM lens, you can film under only moonlight.
Apart from the various transcoding processes from getting it off the camera, edited and onto Vimeo, there has been no post processing. No colour grading, no noise reduction, it's pretty much straight off the camera. The brighter shots that you can see were absorbing light from the street lamps of a carpark about 50-100m away and the camera was slightly stopped down. The final three shots in this video were shot later at night and the streetlights had been turned off.

The only source of artificial light was possibly some minimal light pollution from the city. So you can see it straining there. The lens was wide open, maximum ISO (25600) and I believe a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second.

This was filmed on the 30th of January 2010, to my knowledge this was the brightest full moon of the year. Music by Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream (Van She Tech Remix). You can get the track here.

Of course, this is just the beginning, there are cameras that are coming out now, inculding the 1D MK IV, that support ISOs of up to 102400. I'm told this means they can capture images in low light that are far beyond what the human eye can see. Imagine if we could attach Kubrick's "God" lens to one of these cameras?


On March 19th 2011, I was able to get a hold of a 1D MK IV and go out and film some shots under one of the brightest Super Moons in twenty years. You can can watch it here.

It features a focus pull between a woman's face illuminated purely by the moon and the stars behind her. I'm pretty sure this has never been done before:
Untouched Footage.

In late 2016 I tried again under another Supermoon, this time using a Sony A7S II and the same EF 50mm F/1.0L USM lens: