The mag­nif­i­cent moon

Get started with your night pho­tog­ra­phy by cap­tur­ing frame-fill­ing shots of our near­est neigh­bour in all its glory

NPhoto - - Feature -

As the bright­est and largest ob­ject in the night sky, the moon is a great sub­ject to use as an in­tro­duc­tion to as­tropho­tog­ra­phy. It’s so large that you can eas­ily shoot it with a nor­mal tele­photo lens, and it is bright enough that you can use a shutter speed fast enough to avoid need­ing a track­ing mount. But even though the moon is rel­a­tively easy to shoot, you still need to use the right tech­niques to get a good shot. Here are our four sug­ges­tions…

1 FIND A date

Start by find­ing out when and where the moon will be vis­i­ble in the night sky, and also how much of it will be lit by the sun (the area known as the phase). You can read­ily find plenty of in­for­ma­tion about the times and po­si­tions of the moon’s as­cen­sion and de­scent, along with its phases, on many me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal web­sites, or use an app such as The Pho­tog­ra­pher’s Ephe­meris or Pho­toPills.

2 Stay Sharp

Once you’ve de­cided on a suit­able time to shoot the moon, the tech­nique is ac­tu­ally pretty straight­for­ward. You’ll need a lens of 300mm or longer to get it at a rea­son­able size in the frame. Fix the cam­era to a solid tri­pod, use a re­mote release and also se­lect mirror lock-up mode, if your cam­era has this fa­cil­ity. The best way to fo­cus is to use Live View, zoom in and care­fully man­u­ally fo­cus.

3 EX­PER­I­MENT WITH EX­PO­SURE

Your ex­act ex­po­sure will vary ac­cord­ing to the con­di­tions, but in Man­ual ex­po­sure mode start with ISO800, a shutter speed of 1/250 sec and an aper­ture of f/5.6. Ad­just the ISO or aper­ture un­til you can see de­tail clearly in the sur­face of the moon. Avoid re­duc­ing the shutter speed as you tweak the set­tings: this will re­sult in the moon be­com­ing blurred.

4 FILL THE FRAME

When you’re de­cid­ing when to shoot the moon, it’s also worth re­mem­ber­ing that it isn’t al­ways the same dis­tance from the earth. Its or­bit is el­lip­ti­cal, so its dis­tance varies at dif­fer­ent times. When there’s a full moon that’s closer than around 220,000 miles (360,000km) from the earth, this is known as a su­per moon. The dif­fer­ence in size and bright­ness be­tween a su­per and a mi­cro moon isn’t huge, but even a small change can make a dif­fer­ence to your shots.

For de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about the moon in your area visit www.time­and­date.com/moon. Once you’ve filled in your lo­ca­tion, you’ll be able to dis­cover all sorts of use­ful in­for­ma­tion to help plan your shoot. You can also find out about a much rarer event: lu­nar eclipses. These can be a stunning sight, as dur­ing a full lu­nar eclipse the moon takes on a red­dish hue. It won’t be as bright as when it’s il­lu­mi­nated by the sun, though, so you’ll need to set a higher ISO or wider aper­ture – or both – to en­sure a cor­rect ex­po­sure.

You’ll need a long lens, such as this Sigma 500mm f/4.5

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