|Photo Tip and Assignment #4 – Moon“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star”, philanthropist W. Clemence Stone once said. Let’s be optimistic! I know most of us could not see the “Supermoon” phenomena last week, due to the rather gloomy weather conditions we are experiencing for quite a while in the UK now. But there is some hope that, by the end of this month and beginning of June, things will clear up, and it will coincide with the crescent and full moon phases, so, if you never managed to take a decent picture of the Moon before, here are valuable tips to photograph the only celestial body (apart from the Earth), men kind has set foot on.
Being the brightest object in the night sky, the moon, when it see it, is totally lit by sun light, even thought for us is night. It is something photographers of all levels can shoot, however it can take some planning and preparation to achieve good results. As a very bright object, the advantage is that you will be able to use reasonably fast shutter speeds (as you would photographing any sun-lit object during the day). I don’t usually give “recipes”, because in photography is doesn’t really work like that, but for moon photographs, it is possible to provide you with a combination of settings that will get you started, needing little adjustments from then on.
Think you need tones of equipment? Nah. This picture (left) was taken with my tiny Canon Powershot (which I carry with me all the time) with no tripod. The most important thing is that you shoot on Manual Mode of exposure. Shooting on Auto or Priority modes, cameras will not allow you to get a correct light reading, as the dominant dark sky fools the camera into overexposing it in such way that you would get the moon as a flat white circle.
It goes a lot against the logic to ask you to set the lowest ISO available on your camera, but that is what you need (I used ISO 80 for this picture). This is because you must capture as much detail as possible and a high ISO will give you noise. Don’t panic, it’s very dark at night, but again, the moon is directly lit by the sun. You will also need a long telephoto lens (I used max. optical zoom equivalent to 500mm). Beware as, the longer the lens, the more likely you are to get camera shake. If you have a tripod and a remote shutter release, it can be handy in case you are not trained to hold your camera really still (as you were taught on your workshop).
Next thing, set an aperture around F/8 to be able to get some depth and detail, although the moon is so far away that depth of field in not a big issue, It might still appear in focus even with F/5.6. For the Shutter Speed, try anything between 1/100 and 1/250, maybe even 1/500. They sound quite fast for night photography, but it’s possible as the moon is very bright. Try a couple of different combinations and keep an eye on the histogram. Don’t let it be peaking towards the right side edge (highlights) as you might overexpose it too much.
Ideally, your location would be away from the city’s bright lights, but, really, I took this shot from my window in west London. Give it a go, if it works, you’ll be fascinated to see, on your own computer screen, the reason why the moon has captivated people, given direction and provided enjoyment and wonderment for millenniums. And it will continue to do so forever, well, whenever there aren’t clouds in the sky…
Upload your Moon images to the Flickr Gallery: ASSIGNMENT #4 for a chance to win a £150 Discount Voucher towards Courses and Workshops at LSP*
Text and Photo: Luciana Franzolin