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How to shoot the Moon in Hi-Def.

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  • How to shoot the Moon in Hi-Def.

    It's taken me a few months to perfect this technique so don't expect to get it right first time. I've attempted to cover all of the bases by explaining things in bullet points, I hope you find it readable, easy to follow and a useful tutorial.




    Essentials:

    1) Set up your camera on a tripod (You can do handheld, but I find it tricky and too much to think about)

    2) When mounting to the tripod, don't mount the camera body with a long lens overhang, this won't be steady enough when the shutter is released. Where possible, mount the lens to the tripod using a lens tripod ring.

    3) It's better to have a long focal length lens. 200mm is perfectly OK, but generally speaking, the higher the better. (I used 200mm for this shot).

    4) Remember the Moon is moving so you will be constantly repositioning and you need a fast shutter speed; around 1/125. You'll be amazed how quickly you see it moving through your viewfinder when using a 200mm lens.

    5) Shoot in RAW mode to give you maximum quality and control - do not shoot in JPG the quality is not high enough.

    Taking a light readings:

    6) Set your metering mode to Spot, align the Moon to the centre of your frame and take a light reading

    7) Whatever the reading, you need to under expose by around two stops or more - you need to experiment with this

    8) Light readings for a full Moon are around 100 ISO, f/8, 1/250 sec - more light is required for crescents and half moon.

    Focussing:

    9) Focussing on the moon is the biggest problem by far. The camera's auto focus system is useless for this assignment, you need to adjust the focussing ring manually.

    10) Focussing problems can also come from the vibrations transmitted buy the shutter release. Use a cable or wireless shutter release or if you don't have one, use the camera's self-timer to release the shutter. Don't press the shutter with your finger as this may vibrate the camera, especially if your camera body is mounted on the tripod with a long lens overhang. (You can buy a wireless shutter release for around £20).

    11) When you're ready to begin shooting, set your camera to "Live View" mode and magnify the image on the camera screen to ten times to assist with focussing. (Now you'll really see the Moon moving across your screen)

    12) "Live view" utilises mirror lock up and devours your battery life. Make sure you have a spare

    13) Try to keep the Moon in the centre of your shot to prevent any lens distortion. If you have the Moon positioned at a far side of your shot, you may experience ashperic aberrations where the Moon may be egg-shaped rather than round and it will also be out of focus.

    14) Take several shots using a remote shutter release and manually change the focus after each shot

    Further thoughts:

    15) Because the Moon is 250,000 miles away, it's going to appear small on your image therefore you will need to crop afterwards in Photoshop or other editing software, that's why it's essential to shoot in RAW so the quality is retained.

    16) Take a torch, you may not be able to see your camera dials in the dark

    17) It gets cold standing around pressing buttons, wear the appropriate clothing

    18) Planning: Knowing when to shoot is essential, you have to be available when the Moon is visible

    19) Practise is essential, don't expect to get it right first time

    Special Note: Shooting a full Moon is by far the most difficult. This is because the sun is shining face on and therefore there's fewer shadows being cast to bring out the detail in the craters. The best time to shoot is between 1/2 and 3/4 full. Don't wait for the full moon, try a few just before.

    I hope this tutorial helps you with taking some great shots of the moon, they can be extremely rewarding.

    Cheers,

    Jeff


    PS, please feel free to add your shots of the Moon together with your experiences and make any suggestions to make the tutorial better; I have skin like a Rhino and I don't take offence
    Last edited by wulf; 05-22-2010, 10:48 AM. Reason: 740px on the longest side please
    Jeff Smith

    Some of my stuff on Flickr

  • #2
    740px on the longest side please. Useful tutorial though - I'm impressed that this is at 200mm. What camera are you shooting with? I suspect that this is one of the cases where more MP is better, because it allows you to crop in closer.

    Wulf
    Wulf Forrester-Barker << Sites: blog / flickr >>
    Gear: Nikon D40, Nikon AFS 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6G, Nikon Series E 50mm f/1.8, Nikon AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6G, Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 macro, Raynox DCR-250, Lensbaby 2.0k, SB600

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    • #3
      I used a 5D MKII - Yes, higher the mega pixels the better because of the size of the crop.
      Jeff Smith

      Some of my stuff on Flickr

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      • #4
        Thanks for the tutorial, Jeff, I am going to have to give this a try. Your settings seemed high until I remembered that while it is night here on earth it is still daylight on the moon.
        Lee R
        http://lucentbydesign.blogspot.com//
        The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
        -Marcel Proust

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        • #5
          Yes, absolutely Lee, In fact the Moon is very bright.

          The faster shutter speed is also necessary because the Moon is a moving target. When you get set up, you'll be amazed how quickly it's moving across the sky. I showed my brother the set up last night and taught him how to do it, he thought the moon moving across the screen was a joke I was pulling on him; it took him a minute to really believe what was happening.
          Jeff Smith

          Some of my stuff on Flickr

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          • #6
            Nice tutorial, Jeff. I'm going to give this a try as soon as weather permits.
            Thanks
            Bob McGuirk
            Zenfolio
            flickr

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            • #7
              Very good tutorial, and a great picture. I'd just add a suggestion to set the camera white balance to sunlight rather than auto.
              http://www.flickr.com/photos/54311838@N00/
              Feel free to edit and re-post my images to DPS only
              Nikon D90, Nikon V1, and a variable bunch of lenses.

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              • #8
                If I could see the moon over the city lights I'd give this a shot - I have a 400mm that's itching to get a look at the moon!
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Aegea View Post
                  Very good tutorial, and a great picture. I'd just add a suggestion to set the camera white balance to sunlight rather than auto.
                  Persoanlly, I don't adjust white balance because I shoot in RAW and have the opportunity to change it later. However, this being said, the Moon is essentially grey and has no colour so you might even consider desaturating your pics in post processing.

                  Sometimes I desaturate and then add a blue filter between 5% and 10%, just to give it a very slight tint.
                  Jeff Smith

                  Some of my stuff on Flickr

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sime™ View Post
                    If I could see the moon over the city lights I'd give this a shot - I have a 400mm that's itching to get a look at the moon!
                    400mm is perfect Sime, I look forward to seeing your shots on here
                    I'm fortunate in that I shoot from my back garden

                    Good luck
                    Jeff Smith

                    Some of my stuff on Flickr

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                    • #11
                      When is it visible

                      Here's a useful addition I should have put in the tutorial...

                      It's handy to know when the Moon is visible so you can prepare. I have a iPhone App called Moon Phase, it's really good.

                      I gives you the times when the Moon is visible (based on your location) and also the full phases of the Moon. It also has a compass pointer to show you where it is in the sky. This might sound dumb, but if you're surrounded by buildings, or there's some cloud around, or you're in a new location, it's a really cool feature.

                      If you don't have an iPhone, here's a web link giving you the Moon Phases and some other info about the Moon. Beware, shooting the Moon is an addictive project!

                      Moon Phases

                      Good luck
                      Jeff Smith

                      Some of my stuff on Flickr

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                      • #12
                        awesome tutorial!
                        Just one question: How much of your picture is the moon in 200mm? Like how much of the original image did you have to crop out?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by omni View Post
                          awesome tutorial!
                          Just one question: How much of your picture is the moon in 200mm? Like how much of the original image did you have to crop out?
                          Thanks Omni, much appreciated. At 200mm there's a massive crop, the Moon probably covers about 10% of the sensor, that's why I say shoot RAW to capture as much detail as you can. I use a 5D MKII and shoot at 21 mega pixels. Obviously, the higher the number of mega pixels the better.
                          Jeff Smith

                          Some of my stuff on Flickr

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                          • #14
                            Jeff,
                            Thanks for sharing ! I tried to shoot moon myself a couple of months before I read your excellent tutorial and actually didn't achieve such a perfect results as you did, so I am quite surprised and still trying to figure out what did I do wrong
                            My gear for that moon shoot was Canon 500D & 70-200 IS 2.8L. Your tutorial describes everything absolutely correct and I acted pretty much the same way, except I tried to shoot full moon. Leaving aside techy staff I wanna say that my result was very poor (will share here few days after - have to come back home first ) Even if I would crop like you did - my shot didn't have so much details and that surprises me - why ? Any ideas to share ? Thanks.
                            Follow me http://twitter.com/drasulev for photo news.

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                            • #15
                              Yes, you have less detail in your shots because you're shooting the full Moon. If you imagine with a half moon, the sun is shining across the craters from a 45 degree angle which causes shadows and therefore detail on the craters.

                              When you shoot a full moon, the sun is face on and there's very little shadow and therefore hardly any detail in the shadows; it's just very bright all over with little definition as the craters are burnt out with sunlight.

                              Next time try a half or three quarter moon and you'll get much better results. Then it's about practing your technique to get to the full moon.

                              Check out the Moon Phase dates and get prepared for the next half moon,

                              Good luck,
                              Last edited by JeffSmith; 06-03-2010, 06:15 PM.
                              Jeff Smith

                              Some of my stuff on Flickr

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