How to take bet­ter pho­tos with a DSLR THE MOON

Cap­ture high-qual­ity images of the Moon with a DSLR cam­era and up-close de­tail us­ing prime fo­cus pho­tog­ra­phy

Sky at Night Magazine - - LUNAR ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY -

The great thing about the Moon is that it’s bright enough for you to take a de­cent image of it us­ing a smart­phone and a tele­scope – just hold your phone’s cam­era lens up to the tele­scope’s eye­piece and use the afo­cal method (see page 2).

You can, how­ever, take the qual­ity of your lu­nar images up an­other level if you use a DSLR or MILC cam­era. You’ll cap­ture more de­tail and less noise, while a longer fo­cal length lens also al­lows you to in­crease the size of the Moon in your pho­tos.

The great thing about these cam­eras is that they can also be WWHG GLUHFWO\ LQWR \RXU WHOHVFRSH V fo­cuser – tak­ing the place of the eye­piece – so that the tele­scope es­sen­tially be­comes the cam­era lens. This al­lows you to em­ploy a tech­nique called ‘prime fo­cus pho­tog­ra­phy’, which can de­liver shots that are much more close up.

To prac­tise this tech­nique you will need two ac­ces­sories: a T-ring and D 7 DGDSWRU WKH 7 UHIHUV WR D VSHFL F type of thread, de­vel­oped in 1957 by the Ja­panese op­tics com­pany Tai­sei Ko­gaku, later known as Tam­ron). The 7 ULQJ LV EUDQG VSHFL F DQG PRXQWV on the DSLR. The T-adap­tor screws into the T-ring and has a nose­piece to slot into the tele­scope’s fo­cuser.

Any scope can give great re­sults with a DSLR, even a small 2.5-inch UHIUDFWRU RU D LQFK UH HFWRU 7KH longer your scope’s fo­cal length is, the closer up your images will be, though. This is why scopes like Sch­midt- and Mak­su­tovCassegrains are pop­u­lar with top lu­nar pho­tog­ra­phers: they have long fo­cal lengths, are well suited to close-up imag­ing of the Moon and, com­pared to a high-qual­ity refractor, you get a much larger aper­ture for your money.

There is an­other way of get­ting close-up de­tail in images and that’s

by us­ing a Bar­low lens. Slot it in to a tele­scope’s fo­cuser be­fore the DSLR cam­era and it’ll in­crease the fo­cal length of your sys­tem, giv­ing you LQFUHDVHG PDJQL FDWLRQ LPDJHV – typ­i­cally by two or three times.

Your tele­scope’s mount needs to be rock solid and sta­ble, and the abil­ity to track the Moon with a mo­tor drive RU D *R 7R PRXQW LV D GH QLWH ad­van­tage. Don’t for­get to set your mount to track at the lu­nar rate, not at the rate the stars move across the sky. If you’re us­ing a Go-To mount, make sure that it’s set up prop­erly.

Moon shots

2QFH VHW XS WKH UVW VWHS WR cap­tur­ing lu­nar close-ups is to work out the best time to cap­ture your tar­get (see the box on the right for apps to help you to do this). To re­veal the in­tri­cate, rugged sur­face of the Moon’s crust it’s best to take your shots with your tar­get lit from an ex­treme an­gle, which hap­pens when the ter­mi­na­tor (the line be­tween the light and dark ar­eas of the Moon) is close by. A very tur­bu­lent at­mos­phere, known to as­tronomers as bad ‘see­ing’, can also blur and dis­tort your view of the Moon – like the heat haze ris­ing from a road on a warm day. You can tell when the see­ing’s good as the stars won’t be twin­kling much. That’s when you’ll cap­ture the best lu­nar images.

You can’t con­trol these see­ing con­di­tions high up, but you can cut down on air tur­bu­lence lower to the ground. Leave your scope to cool down out­side for about an hour be­fore you start imag­ing and this will re­duce wob­bling in your images as there’s less heat ris­ing from your in­stru­ment. For sim­i­lar rea­sons don’t take images from in­doors look­ing out of a win­dow or door­way. Heat from the house will cause the view to shim­mer wildly.

Try an ISO set­ting of 200 to 400 DW UVW WKRXJK \RX PD\ ZDQW WR pro­gres­sively in­crease the sen­si­tiv­ity. Brack­et­ing you shots (see page 5) works par­tic­u­larly well with lu­nar imag­ing. It’s a good way to deal with the of­ten big dif­fer­ences in bright­ness with lu­nar fea­tures, so take mul­ti­ple images with a wide range of ex­po­sures and ISOs. Tak­ing lots of frames will also help you cap­ture those mo­ments of best see­ing when the at­mos­phere is still. There’s an even bet­ter way of deal­ing with the un­wanted ef­fects of poor see­ing, which you may want to move onto as your as­tro imag­ing skills progress. Turn the page to dis­cover more.

First quar­ter Moon taken with a Nikon D200 through a Vixen VC200L scope

Ty­cho, this time shot us­ing a DSLR, through an 8-inch scope with a 2x Bar­low lens

DSLR with adap­tor Tele­scope fo­cuserYou’ll need a T-ring and a T-adap­tor to con­nect your cam­era to your tele­scope

DSLR cam­era body T-adap­tor T-ring

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