NightScapes: Chasing the Light across the night sky. Exploring the techniques of capturing one of Natures most exciting photographic opportunities. We'll look at still photography, deepsky photography, and time lapse photography. We'll talk about navigating across the Constellations to identify what we discover. We will keep it as simple as possible and try to have some fun along the way as we explore techniques and contraptions, capturing and processing, posting and sharing, and maybe throw in a workshop or two. Join me as I set sail across the ocean of the's gonna be fun!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Photographing the Moon

Of all the night sky objects, the moon is by far the easiest to photograph. It is so bright and filled with
a changing array of shadows and objects that you can photograph on almost any clear night. Do so does require a little understanding of the technique, so lets talk about how to go about capturing the rugged beauty of our closest celestial neighbor.

What you will need is a tripod, a long lens...the longer the better, but something in the neighborhood of 300mm will do a good job, and a remote/cable release, and of course a camera, digital is prefered.
The camera settings are important but we'll talk about that later.

First of all, contrary to popular belief, the best time to photograph the moon is not during a full moon. The best time is during one of the partial phases of the moon. This is because during a full moon the light is almost face on to the surface and so there are no shadows being cast and so the moon shows no texture. During one of the phases of the moon, the light is at an angle and so the craters and mountain ranges will cast shadows and thus create textures that add interest and compositional values to your photograph.

You can photograph the full moon, but the best time to capture it is just after it rises above the
horizon. During those first few moments after moonrise, it will often have blood red or deep yellow color. This is because the light is travling through the thickest part of the atmosphere and shifts the spectrum to the red.

Let's talk about camera settings. What I do is to set the camera on Aperture Priority, but I also set the exposure metering mode to Spot Metering. This is where the camera will meter only the light seen in that small center square of your view finder. I also will shoot at 100 ISO in most cases. I will place the camera on a tripod for stability because I will be using a long my case a 500mm lens sometimes attached to a 1.4 teleconverter which will expand the focal length to 700mm. When combined with the 1.5 sensor conversion factor, the effective focal length will be in the neighborhood of 1000mm. sometimes I will use auto focus, sometimes I will use manual. My Sony A65 will highlite what is in focus when set on manual and I can often obtain a sharper image of certain subjects using it in that mode.

I use live view and point the camera/lens at the moon until it apears on the viewer screen and center it so the spot metering square is positioned on the bright part of the moons illuminated surface. The reason to use Spot metering is to avoid having the dark background surrounding the moon influence the exposure and probably causing the image to be washed out. I will use a cable release to avoid any unnecessary jiggling of the camera...and fire off a shot or two and view the results. I will use the zoom mode so as to get a good idea of how well the image is focused and to determine of the exposure if correct. I will also using the exposure +/- compensation to adjust the exposure up or down until I get the desired exposure.

After capturing the image, I will download to Photoshop and in most cases tightly crop the image to give it a closer look...and adjust the exposure and focus.

It's really that simple...and a lot of fun to try.