Telephoto Moon

Even though the Moon is not ultimately the most rewarding object to photograph with a DSLR, it's a good first target.

Put your camera on a sturdy tripod and attach a telephoto lens with a focal length of at least 200 and preferably 300 mm. Take aim at the Moon. Initial exposure settings are ISO 400, f /5.6, 1/125 second (crescent), 1/500 second (quarter moon), 1/1000 (gibbous), or 1/2000 (full); or simply take a spot meter reading of the illuminated face of the Moon. An averaging meter will overexpose the picture because of the dark background.

If the camera has mirror lock (Canon) or exposure delay (Nikon), turn that feature on. Let the camera autofocus and take a picture using the self-timer or cable release. View the picture at maximum magnification on the LCD display and evaluate its sharpness. Switch to manual focus and try again, varying the focus slightly until you find the best setting. Also adjust the exposure for best results. If you have mirror lock or prefire, you can stop down to f /8 and use a slower shutter speed.

Figures 4.1 and 4.2 show what you can achieve this way. Images of the Moon benefit greatly from unsharp masking in Photoshop or RegiStax; you'll be surprised how much more detail you can bring out.

To make the face of the Moon fill the sensor, you'll need a focal length of about 1000-1500 mm. In the next example, we'll achieve that in a very simple way.

Figure 4.1. The Moon. Nikon D80 and 300-mm f /4 ED IF telephoto lens at f /8,1/200 second at ISO 400. This is just the central area of the picture, enlarged. Some unsharp masking was done in Photoshop to bring out detail.
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