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Site Updated: 7/7/09
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Article: Shooting the Moon

Posted 12/16/08 by

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A couple of days ago, around Midnight (and shortly after I'd gone to bed), She Who Must Be Obeyed rushes in, to tell me that tonight's full moon is the biggest and brightest it will be for several years to come, it's a really clear night, and she wants a picture of it. This is what happens if you marry someone that grew up watching the Clangers.

So up I get, grab the Nikon D90 since I really need to get to know that camera better, a 200-400mm f4, tripod, 1.7x teleconverter, ML-L3 remote and barefoot out into the cold I go. She's right; the moon is big and very clear.

Set up the tripod, flick the D90 into Aperture Priority mode, turn off Auto-ISO and set it to ISO 200. Set the aperture at f8. Switch it over to spot metering, point it at the moon, and click the remote. Nothing. Try again. Nothing. Look through the viewfinder, press the shutter release, nothing. The camera is telling me it needs flash I think the moon is perhaps a little beyond the built-in flashes range. After some fiddling with controls, it eventually lets me take a single picture, which is out of focus and massively over-exposed at 1/2.5 seconds.

The camera is a tool that is supposed to make taking pictures easy, however it was cold, pitch black, the middle of the night, and I clearly haven't used the D90 enough yet to be familiar enough with it to use it in the dark.

She Who Must Be Obeyed fetches the Nikon D300 and ML-3 remote for me, switching to A mode, setting the aperture, ISO, switching to spot metering takes mere seconds in the dark without having to go to the menus, and the camera works perfectly knowing where the controls are and how the camera works makes a huge difference.

The D300 selects 1/400 of a second (ISO 200, f8), and nails the exposure. However the images are a little too soft with the teleconverter, so that gets ditched and a few more frames taken.

Here is the picture:

Full Moon

So what did I learn?

  1. Learn how to use your equipment. Fortunately the moon moves pretty slowly (relatively), because I hadn't invested the time to learn how to use the D90, I would have missed the shot in other circumstances.
  2. I need to figure out why the Nikon TC-17E II is giving me such soft results when other users report sharp results with this lens, this isn't the first time I've had to ditch it.
  3. Being bare foot on a concrete path in the middle of the night makes your feet cold.
  4. If your wife wakes you up in the middle of the night to take a picture of the moon, pretend to be asleep.

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