Digital Focus: Shoot the Moon
Before Galileo's improvements on the telescope early in the 17th century, nobody could get a close-up view of the moon. When Galileo turned his rudimentary refracting telescope on the moon and described the mountains he saw there in his book
Ever since the invention of photography, the moon has been a powerful subject. I've been taking pictures of our satellite since I was a teenager, and I've recently rediscovered the thrill of "shooting the moon" with my digital camera.
You really don't need much in the way of sophisticated gear to take good pictures of the moon. Indeed, all you really need is a digital camera and a tripod. Heck, even the tripod is optional.
To get started, just point your camera at the moon on a bright, cloudless night and start shooting. Leave the camera on automatic, and you'll probably get well-exposed results. Since the moon simply reflects sunlight, your camera can take good pictures without resorting to any unusual settings. However, some digital cameras may have a tendency to overexpose the moon. If that's the case with your camera, set the exposure compensation control to underexpose by about half of a stop or so and experiment.
I suggest setting your camera on a tripod if at all possible. Since your camera will probably choose a shutter speed around 1/60 second, a little camera shake will almost certainly blur the picture. Don't have a tripod? Try bracing yourself by leaning against a wall, fence, car, or some other sturdy object. Just before you take the shot, taken a deep breath and hold it. If you do have a tripod, use it--and take the picture using your camera's self-timer, so you don't jog the camera at the moment of exposure.
If blur is still a problem, you can bump up the camera's ISO control (which determines how sensitive the camera is to light) and underexpose the picture by a half or full stop to shorten the shutter speed.
To get the most detail, be sure to zoom in all the way with your camera's optical zoom, but leave the digital zoom off. Cameras with really big optical zooms of 5X or more will take the best pictures. (Keep in mind that Galileo's first telescope had a magnification of only about 4X.) Also, be sure to capture your images with the camera set to its highest resolution and image quality--I'll explain why in a moment.
Don't be disappointed if your moon is small in the frame. If you have a high-resolution camera (more than 3 megapixels), you'll be amazed at the amount of detail hidden in the image. Load the picture into your image editing program and mercilessly crop away the sky. What you'll find is that you probably got some nice crater detail in the moon--and when you get rid of the dead space in the image, it might end up looking something like those photos you see in NASA astronomy brochures. The higher the resolution of the original image, the more tightly you can crop the moon and still see sharp details in its surface.
If you have access to a telescope, you can get even better images. Digital SLRs can take advantage of standard T-mounts that let you attach a digital camera to a telescope; they're available at any camera shop. Most of us, though, don't have that option. Instead, check out the LE-Adapter from
I recently used my Olympus e20n with the LE-Adapter to shoot an image of the moon. Since my camera's mount wasn't strong enough to hold the heavy Olympus digital camera, I had to improvise. I held the telescope in position, and increased the ISO slightly to underexpose the image a bit. The
There's nothing wrong with protecting what's yours. Professional photographers often mark the back of prints or the frames of slides with a copyright notice. Digital photographers sometimes mark their images as well--but right in the picture, using digital text. Several readers have asked me how they can add their own copyright notice, and I recently stumbled across an excellent application that makes it easy to do just that.
You can add text pretty much anywhere in an image--top, bottom, middle, even at an angle through the center--and specify details like text color, font, and size. If you don't want the text in the image itself, the program can add a strip below the image and place the text there (but that makes it easier for thieves to cut away your copyright notice and use the image anyway). The program remembers your preferences between sessions, so it's set up just the way you left it the next time you need to add copyright text.
I've found CopyRightLeft to be a better solution than image editing programs, since this program is designed specifically for adding copyright notices and does so superbly.
I was thinking about buying another 128MB card or two for my digital camera. I wonder if there is much difference between the quality of cards (perhaps in terms of performance or reliability) made by different manufacturers--prices are all over the map. Also, does a card have a shelf life? In other words, is there a limitation as to how many times one can use it before it starts losing its ability to store and retain data? One last question: Should you fill it up completely before downloading from it? I'm curious if (like a tape) one area on a card gets used more than others.
Good questions, Steve. First, the prices on memory cards vary dramatically. The difference is typically related to speed. Look on the packaging for speed ratings and you'll see numbers like 8X, 32X, and 40X. The higher the number, the more efficient the card is at moving bits around.
I've never been one to pay for speed in a digital camera memory card; I'd rather spend the money on more capacity. Most consumer-level digital cameras (models that cost under $1000) can't take advantage of the faster speed anyway. I've tested many digital cameras over the years, and I've found that only professional cameras seem to benefit from faster memory cards. My prognosis is that the camera's own bus speed is the limiting factor most of the time.
And yes, memory cards are indeed rated. You may have to dig deep, but you can often find specifications for memory cards that indicate they can be written a large number of times--usually in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 500,000. In real life, you get only half that many writes, since both the write (saving the image) and the erase (when you delete it) count. But even so, you'd be hard pressed to wear out a memory card if you write data 150,000 or more times. And that leads right into your last question: Don't worry about wearing out a particular sector of your card. You can partially or fully fill your memory card without fear of damaging specific memory locations on the card.
Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.
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Michael says: "I took this picture in my backyard using an Olympus D370. I was enjoying the first warm sunny day in spring, when I looked up along the tree trunk and realized that this would make an awesome picture. The picture was taken with natural light and no flash. It makes a great background for my PC's desktop."
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