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Super Moon Over Texas
The news reported what is called a "Super Moon" last night. Thankfully the skies were clear here in the North Texas area allowing for a clear shot of the moon. I did not see the moon earlier in the evening when it may have appeared to be actually larger, but I shot it at what I believe is an ideal time. Earlier it would have been at a lower angle in the sky and though it may have appeared larger, the lowered position in the sky would create two conditions which are not idea for such a shot.
One, the lower angles of the sky are often more subject to the "city light" affect thus coloring and somewhat distorting the cleanness of the reflected light from the moon. Secondly, the view between the moon and the camera would have to pass through much more of the atmosphere because of the angle. Thus a shot which is either straight up or at least at a fairly high angle means the light will have a shorter path through the atmosphere. That has nothing to do with distance to the subject but just the thickness of the atmosphere between the subject and the camera.
The particulars of the shot are: Lens Focal Length = 400mm. Shutter Speed = 1/640 second. That is fast enough for good handheld results even at the long focal length involved so it was not necessary to resort to a tripod mounted shot. Aperture (f-stop) = f/8. There was no reason to open the lens more since there was quite enough light from the moon to give good exposure. Opening up wide would put the lens at its (this applies to every lens made regardless of cost) less than best sharpness. Closing down more would have resulted in a slower shutter speed needed and would have otherwise served no benefit. So a shot such as this could be made between about f/7.1 to f/11. I would recommend going no smaller in aperture opening since Diffraction Limited Aperture (DLA) will start to soften the image a little.
ISO setting for the shot was 200. I could have shot this at up to ISO 400 and with my camera it would have been fine. ISO 100 would have been fine too but since mine is noise free at the selected setting, there was no reason to go to 100. That would have simply meant a slower shutter speed risking motion blur and calling for the tripod.
A note or two on exposure. I shoot only in the Manual mode (M on the mode dial on Canon dSLR cameras) because it allows me to control the exposure and not have to rely on the decisions of the camera. For a shot like this, it is almost a demand that the shot be manual. Some photographers will end up with lucky shots which end up good but that's just what they have, "lucky shots."
Spot metering is mandatory as well. With one bright spot against an otherwise black background, normal averaging metering is not going to get it right. The camera's metering system is going to try to average the light and seeing that both very bright and very dark sources are within the meter's range, the result will be overly bright. The dark area within the field of view is much greater than the area of light and thus the meter will see the overall average as dark and call for more light for the exposure. By using manual exposure I could simply ignore the meter's position and turn down the exposure but by using Spot Metering, the meter is focusing only on what is in the centre of the meter grid which in this case is the moon itself. It is mostly going to ignore the surrounding darkness.
Even still I will, as always, fine tune the exposure in Post Processing of the RAW image but with the settings of the shot where they were, the work done after the shot is minimal.
Note the perimeter of the moon's surface. Looking at the image surface you can see the mountains and craters but even more interesting, looking at the edges you can see the irregularities which show just how jagged the surface of the moon is. Thankfully the night was as clear as it was last night to allow this to be seen in good detail.
Had I thought about it earlier in the evening, I might have been tempted to take the camera up on the roof where I would have gotten a better view over the tops of houses and trees which at ground level would have obstructed any chance of seeing the moon at its biggest and most colorful. But, I didnt ..