Taking pics of the moon

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by kallisti, Aug 31, 2017.

  1. kallisti, Aug 31, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017

    kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    #1
    Originally posted this in the August POTD thread, but then realized it's the end of the month and peeps may not see it. Also thought it might deserve its own thread as the info I posted kind of goes beyond a POTD post and might be useful more generally.

    I took this tonight with the following gear and exposure settings:

    Sony A7R2, 100-400mm zoom @ 400mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/80 sec. Tripod (obviously).

    Some tips for taking shots of the moon:

    400mm on full frame is about the minimum you need to capture surface details. Even then, surface details aren't perfectly sharp. @400mm you are going to have to crop *heavily* to fill the frame. Really need a telescope, but I've been impressed with the above gear combo. I've gotten *close* to the same results (but not quite as sharp) with a Nikon D810 and 80-400 zoom. Worse results with a D810 and 200-500. Also worse results with a D500 and either of the above lenses.

    Because you are going to have to crop so heavily, it's pretty important to really nail the exposure. Use the lowest ISO (i.e. 100) to minimize noise, maximize dynamic range, maximize sharpness.

    Use manual exposure as the majority of the frame is going to be black and any automatic exposure setting is going to horribly overexpose the moon. The above settings are a decent starting point. Using Live View is wonderful as it is easy to see what the sensor is seeing when you click the shutter. I varied the shutter speed in this series and found that 1/100 sec was also acceptable. 1/125 sec required upping the exposure in post which introduced noise that affected the final image. 1/60 sec was overexposed but not blown-out. But none of the pics at 1/60 sec were as sharp. Because of the heavy crop, manipulations you make in post to the image are going to be more obvious compared to standard pics. Try to get it right at the time of capture.

    A tripod is mandatory as is some form of remote release or delay to prevent any motion. A remote release is optimal, but for this I used a 5 sec timer delay. Even tiny motion from moving the camera on the tripod at all will introduce blur. If you make an adjustment, wait a few seconds to let things settle down. Then trip the shutter remotely or on a timer. Possibly this image would have been even sharper had I used a remote release rather than the timer release.

    Because of the massive cropping, even with a large megapixel body the final file is going to be small. I increased the file size on export from LR, but not sure if what I did is the optimal way to attempt to preserve detail while upscaling an image.

    [​IMG]

    Here is the uncropped image for reference:
    [​IMG]
     
  2. akash.nu macrumors 604

    akash.nu

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  3. Mark0 macrumors 6502

    Mark0

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    #3
    Nice guide there for people. I use a 1000mm F4 Newtonian telescope for my shots. For this I used a Canon 100D.
    Pictures are better and more detailed when the moon is not full and in a partial phase if that makes sense....

    Moon fb.png
     
  4. USAntigoon macrumors regular

    USAntigoon

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    Rochester Hills, MI
    #4
    Canon 5D Mark III, EF 400mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/500 sec...
    Use life view, enlarge as much as you can, manual focus ...

    [​IMG]Monster Moon 1 by US Antigoon, on Flickr
     
  5. anotherscotsman macrumors 68000

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    UK
    #5
    A yellow harvest moon. Hand-held at 300mm on EOS M3 with 70-300mm F/4L ISO 200 1/100sec at F/5.6

    [​IMG]
    Moon
    by another scotsman, on Flickr
     
  6. kallisti, Sep 3, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017

    kallisti thread starter macrumors 65816

    kallisti

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #6
    Thanks for all the replies!

    I agree that the full moon is often the least interesting phase photographically--partial phases create shadows on the moon surface that result in texture in the image.

    I actually have had better luck with AF as opposed to manual focus. Because of the extreme cropping, nailing focus is critical and both my Sony and Nikon do a better job than my aging eyes. Attention to good technique is also critical to prevent *any* blur from camera/lens motion. Even tiny amounts of movement that wouldn't normally be evident get magnified and result in loss of surface detail. You are really pushing your lens and camera to the limits of their ability to resolve detail. It's a good exercise to force yourself to learn and practice good tripod technique.

    I've been thinking about getting a telescope, but I'm in the suburbs with light pollution and have too many trees that limit my view. May do it someday....

    Also keep meaning to research how best to preserve detail when upsampling heavily cropped images. The above crop is 1126 pixels on each side. This is about the equivalent of the output of a 1.3 MP camera sensor (perhaps a bit bigger since this is a square crop--maybe an ~2 MP sensor?). The original image is ~42 MP (this is one case where a high MP body actually does matter, assuming the lens is capable of resolving close to the sensor limit). Using 180 dpi as the minimum for a decent quality print, this means 6 1/4" is the largest one could print this. I know it's not possible to create detail in either LR or PS, but keep meaning to explore any output tricks to be able to print an acceptable image from a relatively small file. Anyone have any experience with this?
     
  7. Apple fanboy macrumors Nehalem

    Apple fanboy

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    #7
    Look up Registaxs. Saw it in a Tony Northrup video
     
  8. kallisti thread starter macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    Apr 22, 2003
    #8
    Thanks AFB, I'll check it out though it looks to be Windows only which would complicate my workflow. I did a Google and ended up moving the file to PS and upsampling there which worked really well--only a minor loss in detail which could be fixed with bumping up the sharpening in LR slightly more compared to the original (I sent the pic to PS without any sharpening, upsampled the file size, and then applied sharpening in LR on the resultant file). Ended up with a usable file size that was close to identical to the original cropped version.

    Forgot to mention in my other posts to turn off any image stabilization in either the lens or the body. Forgot to do that in my previous pics. Took another series last night with IS both on and off and the images with IS off were universally sharper. For most pics it may not matter, but because of the extreme crop needed for moon pics (again you will end up cropping close to pixel level), *anything* that introduces any element of blur will show up in the final pic. Lens or body IS usually introduces some blur--better than motion shake when hand-held, but when shooting on a tripod and pushing your gear to the limits, IS should be turned off (at least when using a Sony--the only examples I have).

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Apple fanboy macrumors Nehalem

    Apple fanboy

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    #9
    Sorry didn't check to see if it was MacOS compatible.

    On Nikon you should also turn of IS when using a tripod.
     
  10. Photoshopper macrumors regular

    Photoshopper

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    Idaho
    #10
    mille_090417_20.jpg Canon 5D Mk IV, 300mm f/4 w/ 1.4 ext.
    I had difficulty focusing even in Live view (tired old eyes) and would be sure to use my smallhd monitor next time.
    I'm hoping the lack of clarity was from all the smoke in the atmosphere, and not my technique. At least that's my excuse.
     
  11. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

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    #11
    With regard to manual focus-one advantage of older manual focus(only) lenses is that you can you can park them at infinity and know that they will be in focus.

    To be fair, though, many long telephotos have some built in "slop" at the infinity position as the focus can drift due to thermal expansion of the lens(this was the claimed reason why Canon started painting super-teles white, although now I think it's as much about brand identity as anything).

    All of that aside-I'm not a fan of mirror lenses for general photography, but they can come into their own for this kind of photography. I'll try to set my 500mm Reflex-Nikkor up tomorrow night and see if I can get anything.
     
  12. Anonymous Freak macrumors 603

    Anonymous Freak

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    Cascadia
    #12
    Like Photoshopper, I'm in the Northwest US, where forest fire smoke has tinted the moon recently. It's good tonight, but a few nights ago it was straight out of a horror movie!

    DSC_2915.jpg

    Nikon 1 J5 with 30-110mm lens at 110mm (~300mm equivalent,) manual focus (just shy of "infinity" since mine is one that infinity is out of focus,) ISO 400, 1 second exposure, f/5.6. Also, the VR/stabilization in this camera+lens is amazing, this was hand-held.

    I was an idiot and had left the camera in 5 MP mode after a recent trip, so not nearly as many pixels as it should have. I didn't notice until looking at the pictures the next day. So this is cropped in from a 5 MP image, rather than full 20 MP.

    This had the levels slightly tweaked to bring out more detail, the original image (and naked eye) had it a little redder, and quite a bit darker. I've attached an unaltered version taken a couple pictures before.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. mtbdudex macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

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    #13
  14. kallisti thread starter macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    #14
    That was/is a great thread! I posted in it several times. Can't believe you started it in 2009. My how time flies... You have some awesome composite images in there ;).

    I started this thread more as a tutorial explaining some of my recent experience on the technical details of taking pics of the moon. Looking back through that thread I also realized how I've changed what I do with moon pics in post. And how my technique has improved ;).

    At 12 pages, not sure if it makes sense to keep that thread going as a place for people to post moon shots or if we should start a new thread. I'll answer my own question and post my most recent pic there :)
     
  15. TonyC28 macrumors 65816

    TonyC28

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    #15
    Tried taking some pics of a partial moon tonight. I’m using a Nikon D5600 with the 70-300mm kit lens. Before it got really dark out I was able to zoom in close enough on the live view screen to focus very clearly on craters/details but the picture turned out sligtly blurry. I used the timer to avoid any vibration from pushing the button. I’m wondering if that’s a product of a crop sensor. Once it was totally dark out the moon was too bright for me to zoom in on the live view screen. It just appeared as an overexposed point of light. The pictures turned out well enough but it was really tough to focus without being able to see craters. Is my camera just not good enough for this sort of thing? Or is the lens not good enough?
     
  16. Apple fanboy macrumors Nehalem

    Apple fanboy

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    #16
    You should have been able to adjust the exposure so it wasn't overexposed in LV.
    Were you shooting in manual mode?
     
  17. ignatius345 macrumors 68020

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    Aug 20, 2015
    #17
    Great advice, thanks! I've tried and failed many times to take any usable pictures of the moon. I actually like your uncropped one quite a bit -- the black really makes the moon stand out more.
     
  18. TonyC28 macrumors 65816

    TonyC28

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    #18
    I was in manual mode. I thought it was odd that the LV looked terrible but the picture turned out ok.
     
  19. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #19
    When in manual mode, did you remember to take it off Auto ISO?
     
  20. TonyC28 macrumors 65816

    TonyC28

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    #20
    Yep iso was around 200 or so. There must be a setting I’m missing for the LV screen.
     
  21. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #21

    Yeah, you have me stumped now sorry. LV screen should show an approximation of the exposure so as you adjust the exposure shutter speed, aperture etc then the display should change accordingly.
     
  22. TonyC28 macrumors 65816

    TonyC28

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    #22
    I’m going to try again tonight. I probably messed up a setting when I was trying to tweak everything. Here’s what I ended up with:
    A5884FA9-84D6-4F56-9019-A55FD672FC0C.jpeg
     
  23. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #23

    Good attempt! well done. maybe try to bring the zoom in a little bit as kit zooms are known for not being sharp at the far end. Put your aperture to F11 ish.... iso 100 (or lowest camera goes to) shutter maybe 1/125 as a start...

    switch to manual focus, turn on LV and focus carefullly...

    then use the timed exposure making sure any image stabilisation is turned off (if using a tripod)

    Also remember that in order to get some detail, you need a less than full moon. The shadow then causes the detail to stand out better. A full moon has no shadow and just looks like a flat disk...
     
  24. TonyC28 macrumors 65816

    TonyC28

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    #24
    Tried again tonight. The thing I’m having the hardest time with is getting the focus right. I zoom in on the LV screen and focus it that way and it looks perfect. Tons of detail. I use the 5 second timer since I don’t have a remote yet. All my pics turn out just a little blurry.
     
  25. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #25
    Image stabilisation turned off on your lens?

    Are you shooting raw? And are you sharpening afterwards in a desktop software package?
     

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