Fire, earth, sky – Man has always been fascinated by these subjects. We crafted legends and had Prometheus steal the gift of fire from Zeus. We sailed vessels to find the edge of the world, only to map the seven seas and seven continents. We looked up into the heavens, dreamed, wondered, then built gigantic instruments to see whole new worlds billions of light-years away.
With all astronomy, the moon is usually the first object of interest. It is by far the most visible in our night skies, literally the yin to our sun’s yang. Fortunately, photographing the moon requires relatively minor investment and effort. Here are some tips to get you started:
1) Get a tripod – this is a must for what comes ahead.
2) Telesphoto lens – A 300mm lens was used for this image, which works out to be 480mm on my Canon. I’ve used 200mm with some success, but needless to say, the longer your lens, the better your chances. Tamron has an excellent and budget priced [70-300mm].
3) Cable release – Invest in a remote shutter release of some sort, be it wired or wireless. This is crucial in reducing camera shake.
4) You will need a clear, unobstructed view. Ambient light will not matter, as the moon is bright enough.
5) After mounting your camera, switch to live view to track the moon. Make sure it is in the center of your frame. Zoom into the moon.
6) Reduce the exposure strength to between -1 E.V. or -2 E.V. This lets you get more details, which would have been obscured by the bright light. I used -2 E.V. for this particular image.
7) Use any aperture setting that gets you around 1/100 sec or faster shutter time.
8) Use the maximum zoom factor on your live view, typically x10. The moon should now occupy your entire LCD screen. At this magnification, the moon will be moving very rapidly across your screen.
9) Disable auto-focus, obtain manual focus, then use the shutter release to trigger the shot. Feel free to use burst mode to increase your chances. If the moon has shifted position, you will need to reframe and refocus, so shoot quickly.
The most challenging steps in this process are usually steps 8 and 9 – I was really surprised by how the moon sprinted across my screen, even thinking that my tripod was somehow loose.
10) The most important post processing step is to crop the image. Even with a 480mm equivalent lens, I had to remove almost 75% of the image, which was just dark empty space.
11) Throw on some sharpening on your image. I used 100% sharpening, with a radius of 2, on this particular shot.
12) Finally, some usual curve adjustments to tweak the brightness and contrast.