Moon photos. Technique flawed ?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by johnw63, Oct 14, 2007.

  1. A couple of months ago, there was a full lunar ecplipse that was going to be
    visable from North America. I went out that night to take some practice photos
    of the moon, since I really didn't feel like being up a 3am. I used spot
    metering, and focused on the moon. I figured snow required a 2 stop over
    exposure to keep white, as the meter wants things to be mid grey. I did some
    manual shots and started with that setting and bracketed by hand, to see how
    they came out. Every one was a complete white circle on the print. No detail to
    be seen at all. The shades of black around it seemed to differ though.

    Was it me and my technique or the photo place and their machine ?
  2. moon pictures are very bright like sun.
    shoot at say iso 200 you need like 200 shutter speed at like f8or 11
  3. It is best to bracket your exposures. Without knowing how sturdy a tripod you are using or the lens you's hard to explain what went wrong.

    Here is a sample of the moon with a manual focus 1000mm f11 Reflex-Nikkor:
  4. Did you shoot negative film and get the prints done in a lab that uses an automatic machine for making the prints? If so, forget about getting the exposure you want, the machine will mess it up anyway.

    Either scan the negs by yourself, use slide film, or use digital.
  5. I found my camera's internal spotmeter and my Pentax Spotmeter V to be inadequate for metering the moon. The sensors are too large unless the camera is fitted with a 500mm or longer lens, which I don't have.

    I expose according to suggestions in a table that describes various lighting situations, the approximate EV and appropriate exposure data for each. You can download the info here:

    The moon will vary from EV 10 (crescent moon) to EV 14 (full). So at f/8 shutter speeds can range from 1/30 to 1/500 sec. Bracketing is still recommended.

    Photos of the moon will present challenges for minilabs set to autopilot. Whether film or digital, there will be a tendency to either print skies to jet black or grainy washed out gray. They never seem to get it right. That's why I did night photography either using slide film for color or b&w which I processed and printed myself. With digital I do a lot of tweaking during post processing to ensure even an ordinary minilab can produce decent prints.

    If you're shooting digital you might try setting the contrast a bit lower, if you're shooting JPEGs. If NEFs, all the tweaking will be up to you before saving to JPEGs or other format for printing.
  6. "Did you shoot negative film and get the prints done in a lab that uses an automatic machine for making the prints? If so, forget about getting the exposure you want, the machine will mess it up anyway."

    I was just thinking about that. My night street shots look horrible when I pick them up. Is the machine trying to correct something? I can scan the negs and get good results but the CD and prints from the lab suck.
  7. My experience of doing this is exactly the same as Lex's: you can't rely on the camera's meter, even if it has a spotmeter. The Moon will end up hopelessly over exposed. You must set exposure manually in accordance with what Lex says.
  8. John

    There are many reasons for failing to get an adequate image. From your post it appears that your meter gave you a bad starting point. Shooting the moon is really a manual set up. Without knowing your settings I can't tell you where to start. But, here's what I used recently: 400mm lens 1/400sec f20 ISO1600. Working backwards this should help. If you change the film speed you need to compensate accordingly and so forth. Remember the moon is brightly lit by sunlight and that may help. It's also necessary to use a long lens like Gerald - 1000mm - otherwise the moon is so small on your frame. The same thing goes for an eclipse - partial or full - the rest of the moon is still lit by sunlight. Digital makes it much easier to immediately have feedback on your exposure settings. Perhaps you could borrow a digital camera and experiment using your film camera settings so that you don't have to bracket so much next time in order to get a starting set up. Good luck.
  9. SCL


    John there's been a lot of threads about photographing the moon. The bottom line is a good solid tripod, a manual shot based on the sunny 16 rule, bracket if desired.

    These were in-camera double-exposures using the spot-meter on an Olympus OM-4T. But that was a true (1 degree) spot-meter built in. Failing that, there are general exposure guides ISO/f-stop/shutter speed that can get you in the ball park.

    One technique if you're going to try the in-camera meter is to use your longest lens to get a reading, then change focal lengths, but holding the settings.
  11. John, my comments pretty much follow Lex's. Use manual settings. Use bracketing once you determine your best basic exposure. For a full moon brightly lit, I usually start out at the "sunny f 11 rule". The shutter speed is the inverse of the ISO. If my ISO is 100, I will set my f stop to f 11 and my shutter speed to 125 and bracket from there. My lens choice is usually a 300mm or a 400mm. The moon moves so your shutter speed has to be at least 1/30th or faster. Joe Smith
  12. The longest lens I have is a 300mm f4.5, which is what I used for most of the attempts. I was relying on the spot meter suggested settings, which I think was 1/125 or 1/250, but I am not sure of that. I think the f-stop was in the f8 or f5.6 range.

    I was using 100 speed print film.

    I'll have to try the above suggestions , next time.
  13. <<Is the machine trying to correct something?>>

    The machine is /always/ trying to correct something, even if you tell them "no corrections." Getting minilabs with brain-dead operators to do anything other than what the machine tells them is a difficult task, but it can be done.

    Assuming your exposures are correct, usually you have to tell them: "these are night photos, make sure the blacks are black" or something similar.
  14. Sunny 16 rule works for moon shots. Its the Sun's reflection on black background.
  15. As far as exposure goes, the moon can be pretty simple. The moon is made up largely of grey rock. It's lit by the sun. Therefore if you go outside on a nice sunny day and take a meter reading for grey rock in full sunlight, you'll have the exact reading you need for the moon at night.


  16. Hi John,

    take a look here:
    I used Iso 800, 1 second, F: 2,8 spot-metering.

    Best regards,
  17. This is at 400mm, f13, 1/30sec, ISO 125, exp comp +1.3.
  18. Nice work on those double exposures, Bill. I did something similar to your church photo in a single exposure using my 180mm, but it didn't magnify the late daytime full moon enough.

    I'm betting you were using a lens longer than 300mm for the moonshots, tho'. Even the OM-4T spotmeter would be inaccurate with a shorter tele. That's why my Pentax Spotmeter V is inadequate - if I'm recalling correctly it's fitted with a moderate tele of around 70-80mm. Not long enough or with a small enough sensor to measure the moon accurately.
  19. Hi Lex. Thanks for the comment. In both moon shots I used a 19mm Vivitar for the church/water scene in the daytime, then later on at night I used a Sigma (non-APO) 400mm tele (hand-held BTW).

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