Mooning ;-)

Ever tried mooning? Excuse me for lowering the tone in this respectable little blog… No, what I mean by mooning is not “exposing one’s buttocks” to an audience, but the process of shooting some nice images of the moon. Earth’s little satellite is a worth-while photo object – and yet it is not that easy to take a picture of the moon, even on a clear night with a full moon.

Well, in a way I am exposing myself to you today – by sharing some thoughts about a recent photo experience that went sliiiiightly wrong, but from which I have learned a good bit.

Take this image, for instance. It was taken not long ago, full moon, still night. When I stepped outside and saw the silver moonlight reflected on the calm sea, I knew it could translate nicely into an image. And I knew enough about photography to grab my tripod as this would need a long exposure to get captured on film the light sensor. I was quite chuffed with my resulting, above image – from what I could see on the little display of my DSLR. But what I saw on screen when I transferred the image to my archive, did not thrill me quite as much.

Ok, I did say that I was not going to turn this into a monoblogue of photospeak, but I have to back pedal a bit in order to explain what went on here. Gee, I hate picking my own image apart – why I am doing this?? In order to get as much light into the camera as possible while keeping the shutter speed as fast as possible, the image was shot with an aperture of f4.5. This still required a shutter speed of 15 bloody seconds – much too long for Miss Hand-Held here.

Right, as I said, I was clever enough to shoot this with the camera mounted on my flimsy plastic tripod. And yet, if you look closely at the coloured lights on the left, there was some camera shake. It took me a while to figure out how that happened, while on the tripod. Conclusion: Releasing the shutter by pressing the little button resulted in movement which was translated into the image. It’s quite possible that even the mechanical opening and shutting of the aperture added to the slight shake and blurred the details *doh*. The rickety tripod could also have added to the effect.

And here is another thing that makes shooting the moon difficult (pointed out and explained to me by fellow photographer Graham – thanks, man!): The Earth’s rotation and the moon’s own movement in the sky can be noticeable in your image if you expose for anything longer than 20 seconds. Yeah, that’s astronomy in motion practice!

Have I succeeded in putting you off “mooning”? That was not my intention – but rather to pontificate again about the usefulness of knowing how photography works and why it is beneficial to understand the mechanics and interrelation of aperture and shutter speed. It’s not that difficult, really – even for girls…

See ya soon – off to enjoy Christmas now!

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4 thoughts on “Mooning ;-)

  1. Graham Martin

    Ha ha! Love the 'mooning' double entendre, puntastic! Thanks for the mention Sonja, great blog.
    Apart from the movement of the moon, another factor you pointed out is the movement of the mirror in the camera which results in camera shake. On a much longer exposure this would not be a problem as the initial motion blur would be well recorded over by the next few minutes of data being collected on the sensor. But for something like 15 seconds, this shake at the start of the shot can produce details like the lights or the edges of static objects to be blurred. To prevent this you should try to use the 'mirror lock up' setting. On my camera it is on the main dial which gives me settings like 'single shot', 'live view', 'self timer' etc. But the symbol is 'M-up'. When you hit the shutter release button you will hear a click as usual but sounding slightly different. This is the mirror locking up and usually this action occurs while taking a photo and it is the cause of the vibrations. When you press the shutter release again it will then take the exposure but with a gentle and quiet click which disturbs the camera a lot less. Very handy for this kind of work! I hope that was of help. Maybe you already knew this, but then perhaps a blog reader will of benefitted from it. 🙂

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  2. Sonja

    Hey Graham – thanks for your reply. You are a star! I had vaguely heard about the “mirror lock” setting before. Thanks for explaining it again – very useful to know. I have just checked it on my 350D and found it in the menu where it is under “custom functions”. Let's just hope I remember that for when I need it at a night shoot next time.

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  3. Miguel

    Great (& funny) post indeed! BTW, I always have the same problem with camera shaking when pressing the shutter release button. So I better use the self-timer and when the photo is shot my hands are carefully far far away 😉

    Anyway, I truly love this pic!

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  4. Sonja

    Hey Miguel! Thanks for commenting – and for passing on the link on FB. Yep, the self-timer is actually quite useful, even when the photographer is NOT in the image. Feliz Navidad to you!

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