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Moon Photography

Patricia O. , Jul 04, 2012; 12:23 a.m.

When the "Super Moon" was out in May, I only owned a Canon PowerShot SX210. I went out near the peak time and took several beautiful moon pictures on "night mode" that I'm very proud of.

Recently, I decided to take what was left in my savings and follow my passion for photography and buy a "real" camera. I purchased a Nikon (on the advice of a professional photographer friend) D3200 (because I could afford it and it had great beginner reviews), the kit, a telephoto lens (55-300) and a macro lens. A bought a few books and settled in to teach myself how to shoot manually.

Now, I love my Nikon D3200, but... I've recently become frustrated, over the moon! I went outside tonight for the full moon and starting playing with settings I had found on various photography sites. I came in, downloaded the pictures to my PC, and they all have a "glow" around the moon with lots of noise. The photographs I took with that little Canon had no "glow" and no "noise."

What can I do to make my Nikon DSLR moon pictures look more like my Canon "point and shoot" picture?

Nikon D3200 300mm f11 1/125

Canon PowerShot SX210 "Night Mode" 70mm


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Louis Meluso , Jul 04, 2012; 02:51 a.m.

What can I do to make my Nikon DSLR moon pictures look more like my Canon "point and shoot" picture?

If your Nikon lens is new, I think you may be seeing differences in atmospheric conditions. If you purchased your lens used, check for haze internally. Also if you adjust the black levels on the Nikon shot the moon will render better. The black sky is a bit gray.

Colin Carron , Jul 04, 2012; 03:48 a.m.

It could be atmospheric conditions but also the top shot looks over-exposed to me. The moon is a bright object in a big surrounding area of darkness so can fool meters. So just bracket any shot of the moon taking shots, on a tripod, IS off, at a range of exposures. Under-exposure works quite well on the moon.

Harold Gough , Jul 04, 2012; 04:06 a.m.

The correct exposure for the moon is the same as for bright sunlight. So either set manually or take a spot reading.

Michael Gregory , Jul 04, 2012; 08:30 a.m.

To really be sure that the problem is not the hardware you would need to take identical exposures at the same time with both cameras and compare them. That said, the most likely reason for your "hazy' image is haze in the atmosphere. What you can do to minimize haze in the atmosphere is shoot through less atmosphere, (at high altitude), shoot in dryer places like deserts far away from city lights, or if you live in a "temperate zone", wait for a full moon on a clear night far from the city at a time of year when humidity is low meaning winter. That last one is the cheapest and easiest but potentially the most frustrating answer. Also haze tends to settle out a bit overnight. Your chances of a clear shot go up a bit just before dawn. I would also recommend searching on the sunny 16 rule and bracketing.

Richard S , Jul 04, 2012; 09:37 a.m.

Is there a chance that you came out from the AC and the temp and humidity were still high enough to frost over a lens surface? I have thought about going out the last few nights, but here in Eastern NC the sky has been way too hazy and any shots taken outside has involved letting the camera and lens acclimate in a bag as I moved from indoors to out and vice versa.


James (Jim) Johnson , Jul 04, 2012; 10:01 a.m.

I know that PN Member Bob Atkins has written a couple of articles on getting some successful Moon shots at different stages of the Moon. And, there were quite a few discussions in many of the forums around the time of the Super Moon a couple of months back.
Unfortunately, I can not find the exact article of Bobs that I had read. However, here's a link to one of Bob's articles that may help http://photo.net/learn/nature/sunmoon

I do wish I could find the ones that I had read. I do remember that they were somewhere under the Learning Tab above, and after briefly reading, I went out and tried a few shots with some great results, and not too much effort thanks to the Articles. I do also remember that the best details can be achieved just after the full moon.

This was one of my first attempts at a Moon shot.

Moon Shot

Joseph Smith , Jul 04, 2012; 10:55 a.m.

Moon light is reflected sunlight so the get the proper exposure, use the sunny 16 rule or a variation, like the sunny f 11 rule depending on brightness and atmospheric conditions. For the sunny f 11 rule, set your ISO at 200, shutter speed at a 1/200-250 sec, and your f stop at f 11. Shoot in RAW. Put your lens and camera on a tripod, turn off VR, focus manually (turn off AF) and trip the shutter with a cable release. If your camera allows for ISO 100, set it and lower the shutter speed to 1/125. After you take your basic exposures, bracket them to allow for variations in light. If light is not intense, use an ISO that will result in a shutter speed of at least 1/30 -1/60 of a sec to stop the motion of the moon. I have found that a 400mm lens on a 1.5 crop factor sensor yields a moon size that provides decent size and detail. Full moon shots are not as impactful as other moon phases in that they lack shadows on the face of the moon found during other phases.
Joe Smith

Bob Atkins , Jul 04, 2012; 01:26 p.m.

The first image is overexposed a bit, plus if there is even a slight haze in the atmosphere you'll get that "glow" around the moon.

Wait for a very clear night, then shoot at several different exposure settings until you get the effect you want. Underexposure is probably better than overexposure. Autoexposure probably isn't the best way to go.

A little more info here - http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/tutorials/astrophotography2.html and another example shot here - http://www.bobatkins.com/pixel/index.php?showimage=17

Patricia O. , Jul 04, 2012; 05:07 p.m.

Thank you for all the responses, links, etc. I get so frustrated looking at what my "point and shoot" did and then looking at my DSLR on manual settings. I will study all these responses and try the various tips and see what I come up with.
In response to one person, I did not come out of AC last night, so I ruled that out. However, the humidity has been very high here in the NE so that was probably a big factor. When I did the Super Moon photo in May, I don't recall any humidity.
Also, I'm a little confused at what bracketing means. I keep reading it, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do? This forum is really helping me learn new things, I love it!
Also, it is a new lens, not a used one.

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