One of the more difficult things to photograph is the Moon.

We have all seen those great photgraphs where the moon takes up most of the frame, and is full of wonderfull detail. I am sure that most of us have wondered “Wow, if only I could do that!”

So we try, and get bitterly dissappointed with our results.

What it comes down to is lens choice.

Sorry to dissappoint the owners of Compact Digital cameras, but this is one limitation that you can not over come. This style of photography is strictly set in the realms of the SLR and the loooong lens.

For example, here is a damned fine Compact Digital Camera. I would be proud to own one of these 9mp beauties:

Specs: 4x optical zoom (32 – 128mm equivalent on a 35mm camera)

It is a great camera. I can not speak highly enough about Fuji, especially their exposure software, and its 9mp!!!!

But 128mm (focal length) aint gonna cut it for a B I G moon shot. You need a lens with a focal-length around 250-400mm before you will get any sort of moon in your image. A 600-900mm lens would be great.

It works like this:

Zoom lenses do two things
1 – They seem to get you closer to your subject, and
2 – they reduce your field of view.

Speaking generally:

A 17mm focal length lens may have a field of fiew of 118degrees. This is very wide, and your subject will appear to be very small (and a long way away) since it may only take up 5% of the distance from the left to the right side of your frame.

A zoom lens of 600mm will have a narrower field of view of, say, 4degrees (I’m just picking a number there). The effect is that your subject appears to be bigger because you have narrowed down your field of view. Your subject may take up 30% of your frame from left to right.

The narrower your field of view, the bigger your subject will appear.

You are not really closer to your subject, it just looks that way. If you want to get closer you need to use a Macro lens… but that is another lesson.

Click on this link to the CANON WEBSITE for an interactive demonstration of Focal Length vs Field of View. Its very cool.

If you want some (boring) technical detail checkout this WIKIPEDIA LINK

Zoom lenses also shorten the distance between objects, but that also is for another lesson.

Now the really tricky bit… exposure.

You will have to do this manually. Even using spot-metering your auto meter will not be accurate enough for this, besides – there is just too much black. Amazingly, under-exposure is the key. (For the same reason as over-exposure is the key to photographing snow. Your camera will try to make all that black sky appear 18%grey. It will do the same thing to snow! – yet another lesson)

My suggestions would be to start with these settings:

ISO/ASA: 100 – 200 Remember, despite the fact that it is night-time, you are photographing reflected sunlight.
Aperture: Start wide- open f3.5-f4 but work your way upto about f11.
Shutter: start with a few seconds and see how that looks.

If that overexposes, adjust your shutter speed down.

Of course, as mentioned above, you will need that tripod. But even with that, you have to remember that both us and the moon are moving on different planes and that you are going to get motion blur no matter what you do. So it will be a matter of experimenting with shutter speed vs aperture.

Look at these two images by J.K YORK

LENS: Zuiko 600mm
ISO/ASA: 100 – 200
SHUTTER SPEED: at or near 1sec
APERTURE: f5.6/8

See just how small the moon is within the frame when using a 600mm lens? – You really do need BIG lenses to get the moon BIG and SHARP. One solution is to hire a big lens for the night, or try using a Teleconverter to double the Focal Length of your lens. A tripod is, of course, compulsory

J.K. YORK’S second shot used a telescope! The moon in this photograph is roughly the same size as the moon in your photograph.

LENS: Telescope

The low ISO/ASA ensured plenty of sharp detail with zero grainyness and fantastic tonal gradations (shades of grey). To get the moon this big in the frame you really do need to use a telescope. Fortuneatly good quality affordable hobbyist telescopes are available with camera-mounts for a lot less that you would pay for a good lens.

Telescopes such as the CELESTRON NEXSTAR SERIES are typical of the high quality equipment that can be found between $1000-$3000

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