Have you ever tried to take a photograph of the moon? Inspired by the film Gravity and by a current spate of TV programmes on star gazing and the night sky, I have developed a fleeting obsession with the moon. This weekend I took my camera and a very wobbly ladder out into the garden and attempted to photograph it. I waited till my husband was distracted; he is very safety-conscious, which is one of the reasons we are so well-suited. My first attempt looked like this;
So I rapidly retreated indoors to arm myself with a warmer jacket, a flask of hot chocolate and a spot of google-generated advice on how to actually photograph the moon. Well, it seems that for a really good shot you need a professional camera with astonishingly good lenses which can then be attached to a telescope, and stabilised to await the one night a year when the moon is perfectly visible. OR, for a perfectly impressive amateur shot, it seems you just need to flick your DSLR to ‘manual’ and adjust a few settings. And once you start snapping, it becomes very addictive; you find that you are awaiting clear, dark nights with all the appetite of a werewolf. Within 10 minutes of skimming online advice, my second shot looked like this;
This article gives some fantastic tips, as do many others, but for those who have the attention span of, well, a busy mum – I’ll summarise. You’ll get your best results by;
- Choosing a clear night with lots of visible stars, little ambient light (no streetlights, few houses, etc) and no cloud cover.
- Getting as close as you safely can to the sky. If you can drive to the top of a hill, do so. Don’t do what I did and set up a ladder on the lawn in the dark; really, it’s not something I’d recommend.
- Use the zoomiest lens you have. I have a 70-300m lens which came with my Canon DSLR. The moon will always seem very far away – naturally – but a zoom lens will help.
- Then follow the stages below. Even if you never use your camera’s manual settings, now’s a good time to find the handbook and try it just this once;
And then finally tweak the exposure and shadow to maximise the result;
I love that you can see the craters and actual surface of the moon; it makes it seem so close and attainable, somehow. Like most of my posts, this is the result of an evening dabbling at something new, with very few technical skills. I used the basic iPhoto software inbuilt into my Mac. Picasa, which you can download free online, would do the same. For those proficient in Photoshop, you can get even more technical. The results are gratifying (and will make a cool picture for Harry’s bedroom wall). If Harry was a little older, I’d be dragging him out in his sleeping bag to do this with me, and we’ll certainly do some star-gazing on the long Summer nights to come. The night sky is mesmerising and very, very addictive. Here’s a few other fun celestial links if you’re as captivated as me;
This site tells you when the International Space Station will be visible where you live. It moved over the UK skies on Christmas Eve around 6pm, and made a nation of children ecstatic at the thought that they’d caught a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh.
This duvet cover made me smile, and is on my list of things Harry would love when he’s older
This projector was the first gift I ever bought my husband and we still love it; it soothed Harry as a tiny baby when he lay awake in my arms in the wee small hours, has provided a very cool backdrop for various parties and is the best thing to have beaming onto the bathroom ceiling when you settle down for a long soak in the tub.
n.b. The first photograph at the start of this post - shown again below – I took at 4pm, just as dusk was falling and the moon first visible (although the sky looks pitch black in contrast, it was actually only dark blue/grey; the kind of darkness that would make you think about switching your car headlights on). It was much harder to get the focus right, but once I did, the definition was even greater. Have a play at different times and see what gets the best result.