Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Photographing the Moon

As much as I am in love with photographing people,I've always wanted to learn how to take a good shot of the moon. Heavenly bodies like planets don't count as landscape or still life to my weird world planets get their "portrait" taken! The Universe is awesome, gorgeous, and a complete miracle! Little 'ole me down here on Earth has tried to photograph the moon before, but it always just looked like a tiny white fuzzy ball....

So, how DO you get a great Moon shot?

ISO 200, F9, 1/125sec 200mm

The first key is TELEPHOTO! If you are trying this with a point-and-shoot camera, the results probably won't be as good, but if that's all you've got, by all means try it anyway! I'm going to explain how I did it with my new Nikon D700 DSLR and a 70-200mm 2.8 lens. The recommended lens is a 300mm, but as you can see 200mm impressed me enough to want to show people :)

Set your ISO to 200. This goes against instinct, but do it anyway and I'll explain why it works below.

Set your F-stop somewhere in the 6.3-9 range.

Okay. Now either use a tripod or anything you can set the camera on to keep it from shaking. I have to admit that I sat on my front porch at midnight and held the camera up, balancing my elbows on my knees, and didn't breathe. lol But ideally you're not handholding a shot like this.

Experiment with your shutter speed...1/125th 1/100th, 1/80th, etc.

Okay so here's the mind blower: Even though it's nighttime and dark outside, you're not shooting the dark sky...what you're actually shooting is the Moon which is light by DIRECT SUNLIGHT! The Moon is well lit! Isn't that wild?!

So the low ISO allows you to see the craters and cool details and color variance in the surface of the moon, and the high F-stop contributes to that as well. If you had a low aperture (F-stop) like 2.8 or 3.5, the moon would appear to be a solid white ball, as it does in most random snapshots.

Lastly, crop the heck out of the image and use a little Unsharp Mask in Photoshop if you need to crisp it up. I'm really happy with my results, ESPECIALLY because I was winging it, trying to get a good shot without the preferred 300mm and (gasp) not using a tripod.

I'm all amped up to whip out my tripod next time and the other cool trick I want to try is-get this-aiming your camera lens THROUGH a telescope aimed at the moon?!? That doesn't seem like it works but I hear it works GREAT even with whatever telescope you've got. My best friend has a telescope. This is definitely a fun little experiement I'll be returning to in the future, with a tripod AND a telescope for sure, and who knows, maybe with a beefy 300mm someday!

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