Silhouettes in a Giant Moonrise, Captured Using a 1200mm Lens


Earlier this week, photographer Philipp Schmidli of Lucerne, Switzerland captured this incredible photograph of a biker’s silhouette in front of a giant moon rising in the horizon.

Schmidli says he has been trying to capture this photograph for four months now, but complications got in the way of previous attempts. Clouds got in the way of the full moon in January, and bad weather interfered with his attempts in February and March as well.

Finally, during this latest attempt with April’s full moon, the weather cleared up and gave the “green light” for this photo idea.

Schmidli first spent hours exploring Google Earth, searching for the perfect location to shoot the image. He needed a hill in the distance that would allow his subject to be framed by the moonrise. Schmidli ended up deciding on this hill:


To have the subject be dwarfed by the size of the moon, Schmidli needed a large gap between the camera and the hill. The distance for this shoot ended up being 1.3 kilometers, or 0.8 miles.

Schmidli was shooting with a Canon 1D X, a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II, and a 2x teleconverter. This means he was shooting at a focal length of 1200mm.


The camera’s settings were ISO 2500, f/25, and 1/250s.

Here are some of the amazing photographs that Schmidli managed to capture as the moon rose in the horizon:





If you can read German, you can check out Schmidli’s account of this project over on his blog. He also has a writeup of his failed attempt earlier this year.

P.S. For another example of a giant moon and silhouette project, check out this video that we featured back in January. It shots a slackliner who was filmed from over a mile away using a 1600mm lens.

Image credits: Photographs by Philipp Schmidli and used with permission

  • Erik

    Coolest nighttime mountain biking shots I think I’ve ever seen!

  • Adam Cross

    “If you can read Germany” .. *German ;)

  • Redstart

    How do I German?

  • Elias Allanby

    Love to read Germany

  • Mansgame

    Great job. “Big moon” (at least non-photoshopped ones) pictures take a lot of planning -knowing moon cycles, picking a nice foreground, AND a really long telephoto lens.

  • Yin Tang

    I would like some Germany beer

  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks for the catch! :D

  • Marius Gherghe

    I like his perseverence! Great fighter!

  • David Mitchell

    Nice pic. Just an FYI; the D1-X DSLR is a Full-Frame sensor so 600mm is ‘600mm’ and that leads me to ask; the image prospective, compression is way-off, and math would calculate that image at nearly 1600mm for the moon size, so??? (note that your ‘Amazing Full Moon Highline Walk Shot from Over a Mile Away’ photo link details that very fact)

  • gigake

    Why so small aperture and so slow shutter speed ???
    f/8 or even smaller and faster shutter speed would probably give better result.
    No need for long depth-of-field, and because of moon movement good to use faster shutter speed. Or not ?

    “The camera’s settings were ISO 2500, f/25, and 1/250s.”

  • Alan Dove

    After all that work, how did he miss the opportunity to do at least one shot with a basket on the bike containing an E.T. doll?

  • Joey Duncan

    It bugs the ***** out of me that so many people photoshop these damn photos. It really does, I want to punch people for it. These types of photos and the “nightscape – Milky Way” ones that people claim are never Composites. Do it right or GTFO, like this guy.

    So I commend him for his work! Very cool shot.

  • JJ

    600 with a 2x convertor would come out at 1200mm, would it not?

  • Typical Petapixel User


  • Callum

    I would assume due to the potential loss of sharpness shooting wide open with a 2x converter.

  • YS

    And some luck – I’ve been trying to do something like this, but damn weather keeps on getting in the way!

    This is really harder to do than sunrise, because you get only 2-3 attempts a month, and the azimuth changes a fair bit each month.