Thursday, December 11, 2008

Notes on shooting the Moon

Full Moon
I took this photo (or rather, photos) of the Moon tonight with a Nikon D90. As you've no doubt noticed, the Moon is much brighter than anything else in the night sky, including clouds -- so much so that a photograph exposed for the clouds would just produce a featureless white blob for the Moon.

In fact, it would look like this -- the first photo I shot. Talk about blown-out highlights! That's why this is a Photoshop composite of two handheld images, shot one after the other, one exposed for the Moon, one for the clouds. I've read that the moon has the same brightness as a plowed field on a sunny day, so I manually exposed at ISO 800, f/8, 1/1600. The clouds were shot on Program, auto ISO -- which figured out to ISO 2500, f/5.6, 1/125. In addition, I put a lightly tinted fill layer over the background layer of the moon to try to match the clouds and also to cover up some of the imperfections of my Photoshop work. A sudden experimental impulse. I'm sure there are better ways to do this for people who know what they are doing. (Like this, for example.)

3 comments:

Dr Bud "Moon Man" Diablo said...

I'm a huge moon fan, and an ardent shutterbug as well. I took two afternoon shots of the full moon yesterday with a Kodak disposable I carry in my car. No fancy lenses, filters or Photo Shop touch-ups for me. They degrade art to mere technique.

For those who can't get enough of the lunar orb, I can recommend two worthy substitutes. National Geographic markets an illuminated moon toy that mounts on the wall. It's very cool! It makes you feel a little like God, because it has a remote control; you can change the phase, or turn the moon on and off with it. "Let there be light!"

The Lennox Christmas Village folks offer an illuminated moon on a stick. If you set it on a shelf and shut the room lights off, you'd swear it was the moon on the horizon. TIP: Don't use both at once, The "two-moon" effect lacks realism, at least on Planet Earth.

Jessie said...

I took a photo of that moon with my phone camera while commuting home. needless to say, it was not such a nice photo.

Dr Bud Diablo said...

You'll get another chance tonight, Jessie. As luck would have it, tonight's full moon will be the brightest in 50 years! I might even dig out my 35mm Olympus Stylus to capture the spectacle.

I'd like to suggest that Letter from Here sponsor a Moon Shot contest, the winning photo to be featured in tomorrow's post. Promotions and incentives are needed to increase readership, so let's try to capitalize on this "hot topic."

I must confess that I will retreat to my house once I've snapped my pic. I combine a wild imagination with a strong tendency to neurotic phobia. When the moon looms large, I can't shake the feeling that it has been dislodged from its orbit and is hurtling toward earth. I know that's silly. TIP: If the moon actually is on a collision course with Earth, seek shelter in your basement, in the corner most distant from the sphere's path of descent.