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.)


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.