Photographing The Moon

So this past weekend, while out exploring in the Olympics, we had watched the sun go down and the moon come up.

The moon looked amazing, but as usual, I was discouraged since I have never been happy with my moon shots.

On the nights of a great full moon, a harvest moon, or even the blood moon, I had slowly lost my motivation to go out and shoot, since my photos were just ending up as a round, lit up disc in the sky.

I had tried using the focus on my 300mm lens on my sturdy tripod, hoping that I would be able to catch the moon’s detail and texture, but these were always washed out because of overexposing the shot.

Surprisingly, it didn’t really occur to me how to make the corrections I needed to get the proper exposure.

But this past weekend, I had just come across a method that I have not been using before…..I had tried using my camera’s histogram and exposure compensation for the moon, like I had been extensively doing for my landscape and sunset shots in the past year.

(You can find my tutorial by using the button below to review more detail on using your light meter and histogram)

By using my histogram, I was able to dial down the exposure compensation until my histogram no longer showed the white pixels falling off the right side of the graph (which indicates overexposure).

DUH!

I have used my light meter extensively in the past year, to capture all the data that I can while taking my landscape shots. However, I have not been using this method to phtograph the moon properly…..until now.

I feel that I kept a lot of detail in this shot, but can also see some improvement will come with practice.

I plan to gain more experience now in this concept, to hone in on my technique. The nice thing is, I can do this from my back deck at home to get practice, and tweak my settings.

Here is what I had learned:

  1. Use a sturdy tripod, and a quality telephoto lens (mine is 300mm). I shoot in AV mode for the moon, since that will give me the ability to dial in my exposure compensation.
  2. Zoom in so just the moon is in the frame….it is not easy to expose for the moon and the landscape in the same shot.
  3. You can use autofocus, but it is helpful to manually adjust your focus for the best sharpness. Confirm this by using your image review screen, and zooming in to verify the sharpness.
  4. I set my aperture to F16 as a starting point.
  5. Set your ISO to base (mine is 100), to keep any grain out of your shot. If you are shooting handheld, this will have to be bumped up quite a bit higher.
  6. Watch your histogram, and dial down your exposure compensation just until the graph is no longer falling off of the right side of your histogram (see my tutorial linked above for more explanation of this process).

That’s it!

Hope this tip is helpful!

Learn some great hiking and photography tricks, while preserving our amazing wilderness!

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