Well it’s just after 12:30am 12/21/2010 here in Austin, Tx and what should be an awesome, once-in-a-life-time event is getting crashed by some heavy cloud cover. At least where Im at. Hopefully the clouds will move on soon. I’ll post more as the morning goes on.
2:24am Looks like tonight is a bust, to many clouds. At least there’s another in 2014 but unfortunately the next Lunar Eclipse at Winter Solstice is another 84 years out. Congratulations to anyone who got photo’s of the Eclipse tonight.
If you have attempted to take pictures of the moon in the past with little luck, here are a few tips that will help you improve your results.
First is to use a tripod. I don’t really care what kind so long as it keeps the camera secure and steady. I’ve said it many times before but a good tripod is your best friend in the world of photography. This will eliminate any image blur that may be introduced into the picture by movement on your part. Even if you’re able to use a relatively fast shutter, the Moon in general is very unforgiving when it comes to camera movement. Also get into the habit of turning OFF Image Stabilization when you have your camera mounted to a tripod. Ironically if your camera is perfectly still the Image Stabilization or vibration reduction can actually introduce blur ( although on some advanced lenses this is a non issue ). Second, you will need a good zoom lens. However, you may be surprised to know that a super zoom lens is not always needed to capture a good looking Moon image. The Moon picture I took on this page was done with a 28-135mm lens zoomed at the 135mm focal length or 216mm ( kinda ) when you account for the crop factor.*
Now that we have the camera mounted, the IS turned off and we’re zoomed in, we need to start adjusting the camera settings and fine tuning the focus. Manual focus should be used. If your camera has live view, this is a good time to use it. Live view is a great way to focus in and make sure you have it just right. Live View helps you do this by allowing you to digitally zoom in on the fly to facilitate fine tune focus adjustments. It’s not a game changer if your camera doesn’t have this feature, it’s just useful. As for the shutter, believe it or not you will need to speed it up some. 1/100 – 1/300 is a good range to start with. Given that the Moon is so far away don’t worry too much about the depth of field and use the lowest aperture settings your lens allows. At this distance our primary concern for the aperture is to simply let in as much light as possible. A good picture of the moon doesn’t require a fast aperture Telephoto lens like a F2.8-4, just use the lowest available and adjust the shutter and or ISO a little to compensate. The aperture used in the image above was F5.6. Because the Moon is a bit brighter than we sometimes give it credit for, the ISO will need to be set to it’s lower settings, around 100-200. This will take some trial and error so experiment. To sum it up: Zoom in, Keep your ISO low, your aperture low, your shutter high and your camera still. Have fun.
*On a side note, It’s important to know what type of image sensor your camera uses. In my case I was using a Canon 40D that uses a cropped frame sensor with about a 1.6x crop factor compared to a full frame sensor like the one in the Canon 5D. To determine your cameras crop factor, compare it’s sensor size listed in your camera specification sheet to 36mm x 24mm (full frame). My camera has a sensor size of 22.2 x 14.8mm so it’s crop factor is about 1.6x. To make a long story short, If you’re using a cropped frame camera body multiply your lens focal length by the respected crop factor of the camera you’re using it on to find out what the focal length will be compered to a 35mm film equivalent Full Frame using the same lens. It’s important to note that you’re not gaining telephoto, per say, the sensor is pre cropping the image circle the EF lens in this case is providing.