Posts Tagged ‘technique’

In the night skies we’ve got a great photo subject – the moon.  There are a few tricks to getting good photos of the moon.  Our context is the full moon – but the techniques apply to the moon throughout the lunar cycle.

The rule of thumb for exposure is Moony 11 – a version of the Sunny 16 rule. In Manual exposure mode, start with f/11 and shutter speed equal to ISO. So start at ISO 400, 1/400 sec, and f/11. Then back off aperture a stop or so with a corresponding adjustments. So you might use f/8, ISO 200, and 1/400 sec. You can drop the exposure by a little with a slightly faster shutter speed if needed to make sure you don’t blow out the moon, but this should be pretty close.

The moon moves, so you don’t want too slow a shutter speed with a long lens. Anything in the normal range of 1 over the focal length should be fine. So with a 300mm range, you want 1/300 of a second or faster. This is one of the reasons I don’t stop down my aperture beyond f/11. Plus – you don’t need more depth of field unless you have a foreground element.

The basis for the Moony 11 rule is that the moon is in full sun, so it is pretty close to Sunny 16.

Use the longest lens you own – or at least 300mm if possible. Even at 300mm, the moon looks small in the frame.

Since you are probably going to be locked down on a tripod, turn off any kind of VR or image stabilization. Use a cable release or shutter delay. My image here used Exposure Delay mode set for 2 seconds instead of a cable release or mirror lock up.

Auto Focus on the moon usually works, but you might use Live View to make sure your focus is on the money. Since the moon is small, you’ll probably crop severely to fill the frame.

A couple of days before or after the full moon are nice because you can use some daylight. Just keep in mind, the light on the moon is still pretty close to “Moony 11”, so exposures won’t vary much. Even with a crescent moon, the light on the portion you see is still full sun so stay with Moony 11.

Here is a sample image from last month. This was taken about an hour before sunset – and there was still blue in the sky. I used a Nikon D800E, Nikon 600 f/4 lens, and exposure settings of f/5.6, 1/800 sec, and ISO 200. The image was underexposed by two stops from Moony 11 to create a black sky.

Jekyll Island


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