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Crescent Moon, 2/1/17

Proof the what the eye sees and the camera sees are different things: When I was looking through the viewfinder I could see details in the crescent and nothing of the non-illuminated part; here in the picture it’s entirely the other way around. I like it.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

28 replies on “Crescent Moon, 2/1/17”

Lif: As a general rule, moon shots are very tricky for a camera’s auto-exposure system to pull off. The default setting for many (most?) cameras averages the exposure across the entire frame; when shooting the moon, the combination of lots of black sky/bright moon usually averages out to an exposure that turns the moon into a big white blob.

Spot mode – where you tell the camera to figure the exposure based just on a single spot you position on the frame – will usually get better results. Put the spot on the widest area of the crescent, and if your camera lets you adjust the size, make the spot as small as possible. If your camera has exposure bracketing, turn that on as well.

For absolute best results, put the camera on a tripod, switch to manual exposure mode, and adjust the shutter speed manually. Most cameras will show a preview of the exposure on the back display, which will get you to the right neighborhood; then take several pics in a row, adjusting the shutter speed for each pic.

If you want to get one of those really magnified pics where you can pick out the maria and craters, like https://www.dropbox.com/s/hyk9p7fmne7w2ya/2013-04-21%20Moon.jpg … well, it’s going to cost. Quite a lot. The kinds of native lenses that take that kind of pic and make it sharp and clear are going to be large, heavy, and *expensive* – in the neighborhood of $1000 US and up. You can get decent results on a budget by adapting old manual lenses to a camera with a large crop factor; the pic above was taken with an old 1950’s lens I picked up for $90 and used on a Pentax Q, which has a 5x crop factor. (Crop factor is what you get when you adapt a lens to a camera with a sensor smaller than the lens was originally designed for; that has the effect of magnifying the image.

What you have is on overexposure of the crescent, which makes the dark part show up. Your eye set the amount of light coming in so that you could see detail in the crescent.
You can play with this by manually setting an f-stop and then walking through the exposure times.

You could actually have a nice series of pictures, start with what the camera says (or maybe even little more exposure) and start decreasing the exposure one or two f stops at a time until you see the detail in the bright part… We used to need a tripod & *long* exposure times to get pictures like this (and then couldn’t because the moon & clouds would move too much), but current cameras with image stabilizers & very good sensors and current lenses that allow lots of light through them are getting ridiculously good at low light conditions.

Really good picture. :)

Sorry… had to go away for a few hours and didn’t quite get to finish the previous comment. Trump has indeed pissed off Australia so I had to hit the gym so I’ll be ready if he actually shows his face around here.

For a lot of really good advice on shooting the Moon, check this article: 14 Tips for Shooting the Moon. (Item 10 of 14 in the article covers camera settings if you want to skip to that bit but also note that all the images in the article have the settings used to achieve them and they’re well worth studying.)

Beautiful picture.

Somewhat off-topic, but it looks like Ohio is missing out on the total solar eclipse this year. Any plans to take your camera(s) on a road trip for some eclipse photos?

Lif,

FWIW, I have obtained some decent pictures of the moon with a Canon SX40 HS. It’s about 5 years old, but the current (improved?) equivalent seems to be the SX60 HS (retail <$500).

Using the SX40 with a small tripod, I get images that clearly show the marias, craters large and small, and other features like the rays surrounding some of the larger craters. I do have to crop to get the moon to completely fill the image, so it won't be good for huge prints. But for on screen viewing, it's more than satisfactory.

To capture the craters, ejecta, and maria on the lunar surface you need to (a) switch to Manual mode, (b) set the f-stop to f/11, and (c) set the exposure time to 1/60 sec. As the moon waxes brighter you’ll want to shorten that exposure time, but it’s a good place to start when you’re shooting the crescent on up through 1st quarter. You definitely want to shoot from a tripod, and if you’re using autofocus, use whatever critical focus mode your camera has that allows you to zoom in on a small feature.

Your final image depends a lot on what program you use the process the image. I would suggest either shooting in RAW and processing it in Lightroom. Also shooting in HDR with help bring out the details in the highlight and shadow areas.

For the ‘eyes are different than the camera’ I’ve seen a bit of an optical illusion sometimes, usually in the mid-evening rather than around midnight, where the ‘unlit’ portion of the moon seems darker than the sky around it, which doesn’t seem particularly likely.

(My assumption is that the moon is brighter, but that the direct light also somewhat overrides the more general dark blue scattered light in the sky, and that somehow I’m seeing #000010 as being brighter than #111111 because the former is ‘more blue’ or something like that. Our visual systems do all sorts of preprocessing that we never consciously notice.)

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