Technical: Canon EOS 7D, 1/2000 sec, focal length 135, f29

Shooting the moon, at least I assume it’s the moon is a problem. The moon is brightly lit by the sun. And, no, you cannot use any kind of flash. The exposure is therefore like shooting in daylight. The problem is that moon is far away [I bet you knew that] and usually only fills a small portion of the image frame. The camera will tend to meter and overexpose the moon resulting in a bright spot with no detail or texture. I have written on the exposure in previous posts. I would start at f11 and 1/250 sec. If you want to make the shutter slower then you must make the f stop a larger number [or smaller opening].

During an eclipse things are just that much more difficult. Lately I have used a tripod and then gone to manual exposure. I will adjust and inspect each image for sharpness and exposure. With the LCD and a large memory card, the experiment can be checked right on the spot.

Here David got a simple crescent. I have been fortunate enough to get an eclipse in New York where the ambient city lights enhanced the cloud cover so that I got clouds as well as the moon in eclipse. The exposure requires a lot of juggling and a good tripod. For a reference see my post of 11/22 and 11/23/11 where I discuss the sun and moon.

Bubbles II

Technical: Nikon D90 1/60 sec, f5.3, focal length 105

Same settings… So I just got done talking about the focus on the eyes. Here two of the bubbles in the foreground are in pretty good focus. I guess that’s why Susan was concerned in her last shot. With the eyes closed, the expression is the main interest. Then, you look at the bubbles, which happen to be in focus. That’s fine. The eyes are closed, which usually means the image is a ‘discard.’ But here it’s part of the expression and part of the image. Good shot. Note that the flash will ‘freeze’ the motion blur of the moving bubbles. So, in fact the bubbles are sharply in focus. It’s a cute shot. The foreground flash is more dominant here.


Technical: Nikon D90 1/60 sec, f5.3, focal length 105

Susan wrote: Is this shot blurred?

Any shot of people [or grandchildren] usually should be focused on the eyes. So if that’s the first thing to check, no, the eyes are in focus and there are sharp catch lights. The bubbles are not quite in focus. But they are not the main interest. The shutter speed is 1/60 at dusk. The flash overpowers the otherwise blue shadows. With the flash firing on automatic the exposure is mainly from flash at about 1/4000 sec. The 1/60 shutter brings in some of the background light so the porch and yard can be seen. Otherwise the flash alone would make the background go black. Therefore the fill flash is supplementary. There is another flash option. That is called rear curtain sync or ‘dragging the shutter.’ It’s there in the flash options on your camera. It will expose for the scene and at the last moment fire the flash. This is another way to bring more ambient light and try to make the picture more natural looking. I always forget to experiment with this option. But if you try it, this might be a good trick to remember sometime.

Tennis, Justine Henin

During the US Open Finals in Flushing Meadows, the conditions for photographers were not ideal. TV gets the priority so the match is played in the evening under artificial lights. During the week the pro photographers go home and eat in the evening because they hate the color-cast of artificial light. They prefer to get the shots that will end up in Sports Illustrated. Those shots are one or two among thousands upon thousands that were shot during the two week tournament. So you go when the odds are best to capture the critical moment. It doesn’t much matter except that you got that quintessential shot of the eventual winner. The finals are different because you have to be there as the winner falls to their knees in the joy of victory.  There are many vantage points and a pecking order in which the bigger organizations like Sports Illustrated gets prime position. With a guest photo pass I got to roam the stadium but during the finals I was up in the balcony/mezzanine. This lighting requires the fastest glass that I carried – an 80-200 f2.8 zoom. I still used 1/250 to 1/500 sec shutter and let the ISO go. Capturing the tennis ball in the frame is the trick. It comes into and out of the frame in less than the blink of the eye. You don’t get many of these shots. So you focus and shoot with every tennis shot. And the eyes have to be in focus. Low lighting, bad color-cast, fast shutter, high ISO are there enough hurdles to surmount? Plus you are about a mile from the action. Focusing is still on the eyes. If you can put it all together, you get a few frames that you will keep.

Sunset Buenos Aires

Technical: Canon G11, 1/200 sec, f4, setting ‘Sunset’

Palermo, Buenos Aires. Here’s a great tip that I discovered. My Canon G11 was getting great, I mean really great, sunsets. All you do is set it to the automatic ‘dummy’ setting for sunsets. Brilliant, eat your heart out sunsets. Get it? So I’m puzzled by the Nikon D200 images. It gave me washed out images of the same scene.

Then the ‘aha!!!’ moment occurred. I was messing in Photoshop (sadly, it used to be the darkroom) and discovered that the Canon processing is mostly just an increase in the saturation. Try it. Go to the ‘hue/saturation’ in color adjustments and dial up the saturation. Voila! So I don’t worry that my Nikon isn’t up to the task anymore. The later Canon G12 model leaves out a ‘sunset’ mode setting, which disappointed my daughter. However, there is a ‘saturation’ mode setting. For the simple amateurs who would use these modes, ‘sunset’ is a more straightforward term. May all your sunsets be ‘saturated.’

Night Shot Moon


7136 Technical: Nikon D200, 1/10 sec, f3.5, manual, ISO 1600, focal length 18mm

7142 Technical: Nikon D200, 1/10 sec, f5.6, manual, ISO 1600, focal length 130mm


Ever wonder about your zoom lens with the designation 18-200mm f3.5 to 5.6. It means that the fastest/widest opening is 3.5 at 18mm. It also changes as you zoom so that the f-stop at 130mm is 5.6. That means the lens is about 1 ½ stops slower at the larger zoom.

The decision to consider in night shots is that moon will be overexposed relative to the scene. If you check on my post about the moon exposure this will be evident. The moon is reflecting the sun’s light and is very bright. To expose the moon properly will make the foreground scene black. The moon is also very small relative to the foreground scene and this means that it shows up as a bright dot. One could paste in a properly exposed larger image of the moon. I like the concept of having the moonrise in the middle of the arch. I was just too cold to wait around. It’s the difference between hobby and obsession.

Vertical or Horizontal


7086 Technical: Nikon D200, 1/15 sec, f3.8, ISO 1600, focal length 24mm

7087 Technical: Nikon D200, 1/15 sec, f3.5, ISO 1600, focal length 18mm


It’s your choice to decide on cropping. These are two examples. The images were handheld. I don’t carry a tripod. I braced some shots on a bench, pole, or tree. The lens had VR (vibration reduction), which allows you to hand hold at a bit slower f-stop. The recommendation is 1/focal length. So for 18mm focal length the slowest speed to hand hold is theoretically 1/18 sec. This works. I kept the camera on ISO auto and it went to 1600. This will produce some noise on the image. The sharpness is compromised. For me, in night shots, this is not objectionable. When you consider that I couldn’t have made this shot with slide film way back when, this is a very acceptable shot. There are reflections from the empty pool in the foreground. The vertical crop throws attention on the arch and capitol building. The vertical is more about the scene and foreground reflection. It’s the photographer’s choice. I don’t hesitate to shoot one of each and decide later. One other thing to do here is to shoot multiple exposures. At least one or two shots will be blurred due to the slow shutter. Or, if you planned ahead, use a tripod.

Fireworks on the fly

Technical: Nikon D200, ½ sec, f5.3, focal length 120

An unscheduled fireworks show broke out the other night. I shot fireworks by hand holding the camera. Actually at ½ sec exposure, I used the fence and braced myself. At some point I will post a better fireworks image. Fireworks are bright so when I was younger, I used a shutter speed of 1/60 or thereabouts. Then someone told me that long exposures would give long trails to the fireworks. This would mean tripod and several seconds for shutter speed. I have varied and used as much as 10 sec. But I didn’t have a chance to set up a tripod. So I stood braced, feet apart and the camera steadied on the fence. Not too shabby.

Eclipse of the Moon

Technical: Nikon D200, 1/500 sec, f9, manual, ISO 1600, focal length 400, tripod

Nikon D200, .8 sec, f9, manual, ISO 1600, focal length 1600, tripod

The moon is often a compositional element in an image. When it is the primary object of interest, there are caveats. First, the moon is a very bright object in the sky. The light source is a very familiar bright object, the sun. That means the exposure is greatly different from the ambient light of dusk or night. One of the best times to shoot the moon is at dusk when there is still ambient red orange glow before the sun goes down, the so called ‘golden hour.’ From the settings you can see that the moon is very bright. I generally set my camera to ISO auto, a mistake here. The camera tried to compensate for the overall dark background. The ISO was 1600. I used a tripod. You can’t effectively hand hold at .8 second exposure. The lens was at 400mm focal length. Even here the moon only fills a small part of the frame. A proper exposure will show some detail on the moon’s surface. It’s not everyday that one has an eclipse of the moon. The weather conditions, clouds, and ambient city lights are all in play.