On the day March 19, 2011, when the moon was the largest of the year, I didn’t have one single photo of it, either because I was too lazy to go out or felt asleep earlier in the night. So this time when we were at the San Marco Square in Venice and I saw a full moon hanging in a dark sky with no stars nearby, I said to myself I had to give it a shot. I figured using the 200mm (DX) lens, and maybe a bit cropping on the image, the moon in my final picture could be super-sized, right into your face.
But soon I realized my challenge: “Where is my tripod?” “It has been packed in the luggage for tomorrow’s flight, honey,” my wife said. The scene was dark, the lens was at it’s tele zoom end, shutter speed needed to be slow. All of these made it seemed impossible for shaky hands. Especially the long focal length made it very unsteady. I wanted it sharp as much as possible.
So what to do? First I took a shot or two with Aperture priority mode to find out how it looked. The moon was way too bright so it lost all the details on its surface. It’s because the background (sky) was too dark. The camera was trying to bring it up to 18% gray. Therefore, the moon looked like just a white circle, not interesting at all. From there, I changed into Manual expose mode and under exposed it, a lot. The meter mode should be center-weighted or spot metering with single point (I used the center point) focus. Change to manual focus on the lens or if you stay in auto-focus, use the edge of the moon to focus, the recompose. Since I didn’t have tripod with me, I had to make sure any handshakes are not prominent by using shutter speed at around 1/100. I’d rather use a bit faster shutter speed and fix the exposure later than having a blurry image that couldn’t be fixed at all. After taking a few shots, this was what I got: f/5.6 @ 1/120 @ ISO 100 @ 200mm (DX), and raised up the exposure 1 f-stop in Apple Aperture 3. The histogram looks like this:
If you know how to interpret a histogram, you will understand why the pixels are all on the left and bottom after seeing the picture. The one below is the final image after a roughly 50% crop.
Update: Be sure to check out my second post about “Shoot the Moon“.
Copyright © 2011. Jenson Yu. All rights reserved.