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Old Jul 18, 2008, 11:52 PM   #1
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I've been waiting for a while now to have a clear day when I could take some shots of the moon. Needless to say, my first attempt produced useless pictures. I need advice on how to improve them.

D40 with 55-200VR lens. Lens at 200mm. CAmera is mounted on tripod. Using remote to trigger shutter.

Camera movement should not be an issue.

I first tried the "Auto no flash" dial setting with the focus changed to single point center.

For the first picture, the camera decided on 1/25 sec shutter and f5.6. The second picture it used 1/50 second.

Both shots were just a white circle. No detail at all, and I mean none.

I switched over to "shutter priority" and dialed up the shutter speed a bit thinking it's just getting over exposed. I set it at 1/125 sec. Same white circle with no detail.

Could somebody recommend settings that will produce the detail of the moon? I don't care for white circles.

I noticed ISO for all of the shots was 1600. It doesn't look noisy, but could that be the problem?

EXIF below. The attached picture has only been cropped, nothing else.

Camera Model: NIKON D40
Camera Software: Ver.1.11
Maximum Lens Aperture: f/5.7
Sensing Method: One-Chip Color Area
Color Filter Array Pattern: 836
Focal Length (35mm Equiv): 300 mm

Image-Specific Properties:

Image Orientation: Top, Left-Hand
Horizontal Resolution: 300 dpi
Vertical Resolution: 300 dpi
Image Created: 2008:07:18 23:33:07
Exposure Time: 1/125 sec
F-Number: f/5.6
Exposure Program: Shutter Priority
ISO Speed Rating: 1600
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
Metering Mode: Pattern
Light Source: Unknown
Flash: No Flash
Focal Length: 200.00 mm
Color Space Information: sRGB
Image Width: 3008
Image Height: 2000
Rendering: Normal
Exposure Mode: Auto
Scene Capture Type: Standard
Gain Control: High Gain Up
Contrast: Normal
Sharpness: Normal
Subject Distance Range: Unknown
ISO Speed Used: 1600
Color Mode: COLOR
Image Quality: FINE
White Balance: AUTO
Image Sharpening: AUTO
Focus Mode: AF-A
Flash Setting: NORMAL
Flash Compensation: 0.0 EV
ISO Speed Requested: 200
Tone Compensation: AUTO
Lens Type: Nikon G Series
Lens Range: 55.0 - 200.0 mm; f/4.0 - f/5.6
Auto Focus: Single Area, Center Selected, Top Focused
Shooting/Bracketing Mode: Single Frame/Off
Color Mode: Landscape sRGB
Lighting Type: NATURAL
Noise Reduction: OFF
Camera Actuations: 287
Image Optimization: NORMAL
Saturation 2: AUTO
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Old Jul 19, 2008, 1:41 AM   #2
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First of all, forget about auto or program. I never use 'em, they should not even be on the camera, in my opinion. Never use auto iso. I always shoot aperture, shutter or manual. You control the camera, it is only a tool, never let it do the thinking. You can see, in this case, it did not work. For a moon shot, try a few different settings until you like the result. For example, set the camera ( Using the M setting on the dial )to the lowest iso value, choose f/8 or f/11, and try 1/500". See what you get and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. Moon shots give everybody trouble, so you are not alone. But you simply cannot get a decent moon shot with the camera on auto, at least I can't. Good luck.

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Old Jul 19, 2008, 5:02 AM   #3
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This is a tough situation for auto settings. Use the lowest ISO, set aperture to f/16, set your shutter speed to 1/ISO. This is the sunny 16 rule that can be used for bright, sunny days. Since the moon is so bright relative to its background, this rule works for moon exposures.
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Old Jul 19, 2008, 7:12 AM   #4
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They are both right, you have to use manual mode. I use an old refractor telescope (900mm f11) I found in a yard sale for less than $50 and a t-mount. My exposures for a full moon are f11, ISO 200, 1/80-1/200. The faster shutter speeds yield better contrast. I then desaturate to remove the color, a $50 used telescope does not have the best optics. I then adjust contrast in photoshop. Camera movement can also be a problem. My telescope has a very sturdy wooden tripod and shake is always an issue, wind or any movement will be amplified greatly. Remember your target is 250000 miles away, you cant see that movement by watching the camera. I set the shot with the moon on the left of the frame and let it settle. Then when everything stops moving the moon is about where I want it.
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Old Jul 19, 2008, 9:29 AM   #5
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Thanks for all of the tips. If it's clear again tonight I'll give it another try.

I kind of thought that auto may not yield the best results, but I wasn't sure what to use for manual.

It seems as though the problem was really the auto iso which went to 1600 for all of my shots. I couldn't remember quickly how to turn auto off and mosquitos were trying to carry me away. I found it in the manual though once I was back inside.
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Old Jul 19, 2008, 11:48 AM   #6
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Moon shots can be tricky. I find that the only way to get good results is to shoot many, many shots and bracket them. Keep a journal of what speed and aperture you used so that later you can have a good chance of reproducing the results. Remember that each night the brightness of the moon changes as it goes through it's phases. You will probably need at least a 300mm to 400mm lens, maybe more, to get the results I think you're looking for.

Here are two links to some shots I took awhile back. They may help or not.
Good luck,


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Old Jul 20, 2008, 8:58 AM   #7
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Steve (above assmac) and many others had a go at "Shooting the Moon" in the Biweekly Shootout forum right here on Steve's Forums starting around the beginning of June.

If you search for them, restricting your search engine to "site: http://forums.steves-digicams.com/forums/", you should find them fairly easily round here.

One of my efforts is at http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=85and all the better ones with machines like yours will be not far away.

Good luck!
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Old Aug 15, 2008, 5:27 PM   #8
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As an avid newbie when it comes to try and photograph the moon,,,I too was having the same difficulties with a big bright light with no detailsin the moon. I shoot with a D60 70-300mm VR nikkor and I think, for myself, I found a nice receipe. First off, I set up on tripod, wireless shutter release,,,2 second delay,,,ISO 100/200....1/125 or 1/250 F5.6 and the huge one is complete manual mode,,,also make sure the VR is tunred off if you have this on your lens , for some reason itblurs my photos up,,,before I go into manual mode I let the camera AF then change to manual,,I first started shooting the cameras programmed mode but coud not get any details at all,,,,,so I have been working with several hundred possiblities for the last few months and am starting to feel a bit more comfortable. Hope this helps a little

Best Regards,

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Old Aug 19, 2008, 2:19 PM   #9
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Do you have spot metering on your D40? That is very important since the moon is very bright.

This pic was taken with my Pana FZ18 and my Tcon17.

Spot metering, ISO 100, otherwise automatic.


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Old Aug 21, 2008, 10:09 PM   #10
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Finally had a chance to get some pics with a full moon. I took a bunch while I varied the shutter speed to see what the best setting would be.

I also varied aperture, but finally wound up at F11. Some aperture sizes & corresponding shutter speeds gave the moon a brown/yellow coloring which definitely wasn't realistic.

Camera is a D40 with 55-200VR. VR turned off. Mounted on tripod.

I need more lens!!!!! The moon just fills the center focus brackets. I'm hoping to try a Bigma 500mm sometime soon.

Here are some pics.

F8.0 & 1/125sec
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