Archive for April, 2017

Moonshot

April 9, 2017

What is my moonshot project about? It is about taking a good picture of the Moon. You may think this is not very ambitious. Try it.

What I want to do is get a full frame image of the moon that I can blow up and put on my wall. I will most likely get images at full and at several phases. (Full moons are less interesting, but more on that later. Besides, during a full moon everyone is busy coping with their lunacy.)

I suppose the seed for this starts with my Dad. A family story tells about a 5 year old version of me sitting with him under the stars and learning the constellations. I apparently never forgave him when we moved far enough away that what I had learned wasn’t right anymore. My Dad also gave me his camera, a Canon FTb, along with the kit he has assembled. Two Vivitar Series 1 lenses, a 35-85mm f2.8 zoom, and Vivitar Series 1 100-300 mm along with a good traveling set of other interesting gear.

This interest in stars stuck with me even though the heavens had shifted, and one of my favorite school trips was to the planetarium for the classic constellation show.

Too my horror, I have discovered recently that planetariums don’t show constellation shows as often.

About a year ago I got a course from a company called the Great Courses called Our Night Sky. The Great Courses get college professors in front of a camera or sometimes just a microphone and have them talk about some subject. The Night Sky is 12 30 minute lectures on the things you can see at night presented by Professor Edward M. Murphy of the University of Virginia.

Professor Murphy suggests, when talking about the moon, that you actually go out and look up at it every night for a month. I recommend this too.

For one thing, it gives you an appreciation of the fact that our calendar months are approximately the amount of time it takes for the moon to go through a whole cycle.

For another, this is a natural wonder accessible to everyone. Even if you live near a city, the moon is so bright, you can see it.

It does take some planning though. For instance you need to find out when the moon is up. I have been using an app for my tablet for this. One specific to phases of the moon, and another that shows you the night sky. The first app is useful to know when the moon will come up. This second app is useful if you don’t know what direction the moon is going to rise from.

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Prehistory

April 3, 2017

A long time ago, I sat out on my drive way and took some pictures of the moon. I know I was in South West Austin, and the it had to be from 1998 to 2005.

Like many photographer before me, I tried to take some pics of the moon. I no longer know what kind of gear I used, but I believe that I used a Canon FTb with a Vivitar Series 1 100 – 300mm zoom lens. I also used a vintage (even then) table top tripod.

Here is a challenge for you. Use a table top tripod on your drive way and take some pics of the moon. Go on. Get your face right down there to the concrete. (I could have gotten a sensible sized tripod. I could have gotten a table to go with the table top tripod. I did none of these things.)

The Canon FTb is a strictly manual camera with only a match needle light meter built in. This mean when you look through the view finder, there is a needle that indicates the amount of light in your scene. You adjust the aperture so that the aperture indicator in the view, is more or less lined up with the needle. (I was using print film. You can be pretty sloppy with your exposure on print film.)

This needle is black. The night sky is black. See a problem? Or maybe don’t see a problem? Actually, just move that part of the viewfinder to look at the moon, make the adjustment and then move back. (Remember the part about print film? If you ever get into film photography, just remember this magic phrase. Print film has a wide latitude. It will make sense later.)

The shots did not turn out well. Part of the reason is that the moon moves across the sky rather quickly. (If you actually understand astronomy, you know that last sentence is not exactly correct.) So to take a good picture of the moon, you need to have a short exposure time. (Relatively short.) The shots I took that had good exposure time, did not allow enough light to reach the film. The shots that did get enough light had the aperture open so long, the moon looks smeared across the frame. (So yes, even with the latitude of print film, you can still get an underexposed shot.)

The two most pleasing are the underexposed ones. These let you see the “seas” on the moon.

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Blurry, may be out of focus or simply moving to fast for the exposure time.

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Definitely moving too fast.

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The length of time keeps the moon “frozen” but is underexposed and grainy. (Insert chorus of “Let it Go” here…

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Another one with good shutter speed, but too slow film.

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The aperture was open too long. The details are washed out and the moon is moving across the frame. Also there is no graininess from underexposure.

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This one is close. Good time exposure that freezes the motion, but too much light that washes out the detail. Maybe can fix with Photoshop or similar?

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Another blurred edge and washed out details.

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Another one that is close.

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Omar reacting dangerously to moon light. Look out! Look out! Or is he just yawning?