So you want to photograph the moon?

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Series of three shots taken during the lunar eclipse 2004.

Okay, so tonight is the so called SuperMoon. A term coined because tonight’s full moon in perigee means that the moon will be closer to the earth during its elliptical orbit. Since it is full it will be big and bright. Is this ocurrance rare? No, apparently there are 4-6 SuperMoon per year on average. The last one was in February. Why is this one different? Because this one is the closest of the year. If you want more information on this phenomenon straight from the horse’s mouth Richard Nolle has a website that explains all you might ant to know. He is the man who coined the term SuperMoon.

My job here is to tell you how you can photograph it using your DSLR or other camera. No special telescope is needed but a longer focal length might be nice to bring the moon closer to you. If you are using a small compact Point & Shoot camera, I do not like the digital zoom feature. You can crop your image later instead using photo editing software like Photoshop Elements, Picasa, Windows Live Photo Gallery, etc.

You will need a tripod to steady you camera. This makes it easier to manage especially at longer focal lengths. The more you zoom the more you will see the smallest movement at the other end. So, an 8x or 10x optical zoom will magnify even the smallest camera shake. You will also need to switch from your EVALUATIVE METER to a SPOT METER. This will allow you to read and make exposures from the reflected light from the moon only instead of reading all the dark night sky surrounding the moon.

In AUTO mode you will have to locate you EXPOSURE COMPENSATION button. This will allow you to override the automatic exposure made by your camera. The moon is very bright. Your meter wants to make that bright subject a light gray. The exposure compensation button will allow you to darken the exposure making all the detail in the moon come to life. Instead of just a flat, white disc you will be able to see the darker gray craters and the pock-marked face of Mr. Moon. Go to the minus side to darken the exposure of the moon. Most cameras will allow you to go to at least -2. You might need to go all the way. Take several shots at different settings to see which looks best and gives the most detail.

If you are shooting in manual mode, use your spot meter to adjust your exposure and shoot a “normal” exposure to begin. The light meter should be at 0 – neither too bright nor too dark. Evaluate your initial exposure and adjust from there. You will find that it needs to be darker. Adjust your shutter speed or f/stop to under expose the next few shots bracketing at 1/2 stop intervals until you find the correct exposure for the moon.

You will be surprised at just how bright the full moon really is, but on May 5, 2012 it will be at least 14% brighter than normal because it is even closer to the earth.

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One thought on “So you want to photograph the moon?

  1. Pingback: Blood Moon Excitement | PGWilliamson Photography Weblog

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