The Moon at 600mm
Have you ever just laid down at night looking up at the sky wondering what it would be like to step foot on the moon? When you first got your camera did you run outside at night and try to capture the moon or stars? I know that I have and still to both quite often actually. Astrophotography is probably one of the most challenging (in my opinion) and yet rewarding styles of photography there is. Don’t get me wrong, wildlife, sports, macro, and all others have their challenges but where I live it’s hard to find a night sky that isn’t polluted with city lights. Luckily when it comes to the moon city lights don’t play as big of a hinderance as they do with starts.
So what do you have to know to take a picture of the moon. If you run out with your camera set to auto, point it at the moon and focus on it then shoot your image will probably be a solid white circle. Why is this? Well what you have to realize is that the moon, altho not giving off light directly, is being light up by the sun. The human eye accounts for this and adjusts and this is why we can see features of the moon from out eyes, so we need to make these same adjustments in the camera. For me, I find that shooting at F/8 gives the best resolution. Also, cool clear night (especially ones after a rain) are great as the atmospheric pollution is lower. ISO will depend on if you have a tripod or are trying to handhold the shot. For the image below I had my ISO set at 1000 this allowed me to get a decently quick shutter speed to help with vibrations on the longer lens even supported on the tripod (wind was the reason for the vibrations). My shutter speed was set to 1/400th of a second. Something to keep in mind is that if you are hand holding the camera ideally you want a shutter speed to be 3times the focal length. So that means shooting a 600mm lens I would want a shutter speed of 1/1800th sec or faster to prevent shaky images. Glass with an image stabilizer helps with this but it’s still good to have as high a shutter speed as you can within reason. So what did my image come out like… well… like this…
Now, go out and give it a try! go shoot the moon and see what kind of results you can get. Don’t worry about the histogram in this since, it will tell you that your image is badly underexposed when in fact it might not be. You can also add gels to the end of your glass or edit it in post to change the color of the moon. Also observe the moon at different hours of the day, look at it when it’s out during daylight, or moon rise, or moon set. Look at it after a rain or during the summer when the atmosphere is full of smoke of other areas burning things. Now go out and see the moon up close.