I always wanted a great shot (or two or nine) of the moon. Oddly enough, though, no matter how dramatic and beautiful the moon looks outside, it seems the moon is always just a huge, glowing blob of nothingness in photos, isn’t it? Well, this was always the case in my photos, until I did a little research.
I love photography, but I never officially studied it. I got a great camera, and then a greater one, read a little here and a little there, and then I took about 670 billion photos for practice (give or take). Finally, I followed the advice I found in a great little “Digital Photography” book by Scott Kelby. (I love this book because each page provides a great photography tip for getting just the right shot, including how to get a detailed photo of the moon.)
I took these shots of the 2015 Christmas Eve blue moon from my front yard. (Yes, from the yard.) I used a Sony Alpha a550 DSLR camera with the longest lens I have. You absolutely must have a tripod, but my tripod is currently broken – completely jacked up – so I had to “wing it” a bit.
See, I learned a couple of great rules (and how to break them) from Scott Kelby’s book , and they are the only reasons I managed to get these shots. They are:
- A tripod is essential for a sharp shot of the moon’s detail. But when one’s tripod is jacked up, one’s camera’s built-in timer will save the day.
- Go super-fast on the shutter. The challenge of shooting the moon is not that it’s dark outside and the camera can’t see the moon well. It’s actually the opposite. The moon is super bright, especially in relation to the blackness of the sky around it, and the shutter speed has to be super fast or the whole shot will be blown out – nothing but a big blob of white.
So, to grab these shots, I walked outside and lay down on my belly and put the camera on the ground in the yard. (Yes, I was on the ground in December. Like a crazy person. Or a drunk person.) I lined up the shot and zoomed in as far as I could, then lined up the shot again because I lost sight of the moon. Then I grumbled a little and might have cursed. Then I found the moon and got it in focus. (I was pretty sure, at least. Very nearly sure. Sure-adjacent perhaps.) Then I set the camera on shutter priority and tried roughly a 1/1000th of a second (-ish) shot. I also set a 2-second timer on the camera so when I pressed the shutter, it didn’t fire until my hands were clear and couldn’t shake the camera. (Tada! Like having an invisible tripod.)
Then I simply pressed the shutter and stepped away from the camera. (OK, wiggled away. I was still on my belly, after all.)
Two seconds later, there was a click, and voila! Like magic, I had my first moon shot with sharp detail showing craters aplenty. Woohooooo! I was pretty stoked. And cold. So I headed inside to check them out.
As I studied them, I found that these shots gave me such a close-up view of the moon it inspired me to do a bit of research so I could know what I was seeing a little better. For instance, the three side-by-side blobs are the Seas of Serenity, Tranquility and Fertility, respectively. The one above them all by itself? The Sea of Storms. (Interesting, isn’t it, that the storms are far, far away from tranquility and serenity? Just sayin’…) And that thing down south that looks like the moon’s bellybutton? That’s the crater called Tychus, which is almost three miles deep and over 50 miles wide (which is seriously deep as bellybuttons go). And those spokes that branch out in all directions from it are up to 900 miles long and more. Imagine an asteroid impact that makes a hole that deep and wide and sends projectiles rolling 900 miles in each direction… it’s a biggie! So. Cool. (Unless you’re standing where the asteroid hits, I guess.) But I digress…
So, now that I have these fairly close shots of the moon’s surface, I realize I want to get even closer. Santa brought me a telescope for Christmas last year, so the next step is to figure out how to use it with my camera. At least then I won’t be lying on the ground in the middle of December…