Is the Moon Really That Big?

Moonrise over Trampas Peak in New Mexico.

Full moon rising over the Truchas Peaks, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico.  Real image, not a composite, taken with a 560 mm focal length lens.

Real or Fake?

Photographs with a gigantic moon can look unreal.  Do we ever see the moon that large in life?

Are these “monster moon” photographs real or fake – (i.e., “Photoshopped”)?

The short answer is that when a long focal length lens is used, the moon can look larger than life in the photograph.

Not all photographs of large moons are real.  Some photographers create the illusion of a large moon by combining two different photographs.  This process, known as creating a “composite photograph,” merges a large moon photo with a landscape photograph.  Often the two photos are taken at different locations and times.

I do not create composite photographs to portray a scene that did not exist.  I love the challenge of photographing nature’s unique beauty.

My focus here is the science of why the moon can look large in real photos. To learn more about faked photos, composites, and ethics in photography, I wrote additional content that you can Read More

Moonrise over the Brazos Cliffs, New Mexico.  Taken with an 840 mm focal length lens.  When looking through a lens this large, the moon really is this big!