The Rings Of Power Cinematographer Created Their Own Moonlight To Better Shoot Night Scenes [Exclusive]

This week's episode of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" takes place in the shadow of disaster, as the ash cloud of Mount Doom darkens the skies of what will soon be called Mordor and sends a good chunk of core characters into a red-tinged nightmare. Among them are elf Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and human boy Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), two unlikely allies who share a moment of connection amidst the chaos. In an interview with /Film's Vanessa Armstrong, episode director of photography Alex Disenhof spoke about the power of their moment, and the detail that went into lighting what's meant to be a moonlit scene.

"One of my favorite scenes in the two episodes is the moment under the logs with Galadriel and Theo, because from a story standpoint, it's one of the first times you see Galadriel show a bit of a softer side," Disenhof says, explaining that audiences get to hear the warrior talk about her family for a change. But the mood soon shifts, as he points out, adding, "And then of course, there's this threat as the scene goes on with the orcs coming in."

The filmmaker spoke about the practical and creative challenges of making artificial moonlight that feels real, and balancing it with other light sources in the sequence. This was one of two dark scenes in this week's episode, the other being a fateful encounter between the harfoots and mystics. "From a lighting perspective, again, it was another challenge of moonlight and again, and how dark can you go?" Disenhof said about the exchange between Galadriel and Theo.

Middle-earth goes dark (but hopefully not too dark)

"These people are under a log in the supposedly pitch black, moonlit night, so how far can you go while still allowing the viewer to see?" he explained. The DP called it "technically challenging" to balance that lighting scheme with the torchlight in the scene, but also says, "it was really rewarding because the content of the scene I think is some of the best in the season."

Despite all the recent conversations surrounding day-for-night shooting, little of it has surrounded the actual tactics filmmakers use to make a night sky-lit shot look real. Disenhof speaks candidly about the complex combination of filming techniques used to create the effects of the show's Southlands-set scenes, saying that some scenes in "The Eye" were shot outdoors in New Zealand while others involved a burned-out recreation of the village set in studio conditions.

"I tried to create a very sourceless moonlight so you don't feel a big, bright backlight on anything," Disenhof says of the scene between Theo and Galadriel. "We flew the lighting balloons above the set and surrounded it with a very soft, cool bluish light, and underexposed the camera a bit. And we were very, very considerate of that fine line between dark and too dark." If you're a practical effects geek like me, Disenhof's full interview is well worth a read, as the cinematographer used various creative methods of making a scorched Middle-earth come to life.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" has new episodes streaming on Prime Video each Friday.