Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Shooting the Moon

I have never tried photographing the moon and decided to take a shot the other night. The moon is  in the Waxing Gibbous phase (97% illumination) and will be full on 9/6 at about 3:02AM EDT so I figured it was a good time to try. After doing a little research online and waiting for it to get dark enough I headed out into the driveway and started shooting.

Waxing Gibbous Moon shot with Canon 5D Mark IV (f/11, 1/200 sec, ISO 200)
I have a couple cameras at my disposal but figured that a full-frame camera would be better suited to the task than a camera with a crop sensor. To test my theory I used both the 5D Mark IV and 7D Mark II - I was not sure if the higher resolution sensor with better dynamic range would be better or if the lower resolution camera with the 1.6x crop factor would win out. I used the 300mm F/2.8 IS II USM lens and the 1.4x Mark II teleconverter to get as much reach as possible. On the 5D the effective focal length was 420mm and on the 7D the total focal length was 672mm. I used basically the same settings for both cameras:
  • 5D Mark IV: f/11, 1/200 sec, ISO 200 w/ auto focus with center point
  • 7D Mark II: f/11, 1/100 sec, ISO 100 w/ auto focus with center point
One other item that I almost forgot to mention that played a crucial role in getting clean pictures is that I used a tripod and a remote or delayed shutter trigger on both cameras. I tried hand-holding the camera for the first few shots and this failed miserably. The camera and lens weigh about 10 pounds together and even the smallest amount of shake made it hard to even keep the moon in the viewfinder since it is so far away. I quickly broke out my tripod and got back to work. I also tried manually pushing the shutter button but I have a fairly crappy tripod and the camera shook for quite a while after I pushed the shutter button. I tried the remote trigger on the 5D IV through the EOS app, connecting through WiFi, but did not have much success with that either. I think that was purely user error though because the EOS app itself seemed pretty flawless - it was the first time that I used it and I could not get good focusing results. I settled on the 10 second delayed shutter option because this worked for both cameras and was the most straightforward solution. The only challenge was that there were fast moving clouds in the sky and I had to time pressing the shutter button, accounting for the 10 second delay, so that the moon was visible through breaks in the clouds.

In post I adjusted the RAW images in Lightroom CC by converting them to black and white, adjusting the exposure, increasing the highlights some and adding a bit of clarity and sharpness. The first picture above is from the 5D Mark IV and I think that this one is better overall. The bottom photo is from the 7D and while the craters on the bottom left portion of the moon are more detailed there is less detail overall in the middle of the picture. I guess that even though the total focal length on the 7D was effectively 60% higher (1.6x crop factor) the higher resolution and better sensor in the 5D made up for the difference after crop.

Tonight is a full moon so, if it is not too cloudy, I will take another shot and see if I can get better results.

Waxing Gibbous Moon shot with Canon 7D Mark II (f/11, 1/100 sec, ISO 100)

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