Photography Method

On this particular night the Moon was at its fullest, and being Christmas Eve we had some neighbours over for a few drinks and a good chat, and my mate Ken was keen to have a look through my newly acquired XT10i telescope. We were both a bit merry after a couple of beers and a whisky, and so I was not being particularly methodical or careful of how I took the pictures.

I just wanted to "give it a go" to see how well the pics might come out, and so in between taking turns to look at the Moon at different magnifications, we reeled off 56 shots, simply by holding the camera (a little 7.1MPixel Pentax Optio L30) up to the eyepiece, and using it pretty much in Auto mode, with a little use of the optical Zoom as well. Nothing too taxing or technical for us! The pictures were taken over about a half-hour period on 23-24/12/2007 01:00am.

From the 56 photos I loaded onto my PC, I then used Adobe Photoshop CS2 to inspect and make slight Levels adjustments and Crop the pictures, and discarded any that were too dark or blurred, leaving 25 reasonable photographs as shown below.

Overall some of them are quite pleasing, and I was surprised at how much detail the XT10 provided, and the quality from the camera considering it was just handheld. A major advantage of taking Moon photos is that it is a very bright object and so the camera can take short exposures, which thankfully reduced any unsteadyness caused by the booze!

The Optio L30 has an ISO range of 64 to 3200, although the Auto mode used ISO64 for the darker shots with exposure times of 1/4sec to 1/6th sec, and the brighter shots ranged from ISO120 to ISO400, and faster exposures of 1/15th sec to 1/200th sec. Apertures were generally f/3.1 to f/5.9.

I have a 13% Moon Filter, but I don't think I used it for the photos (only while we were viewing with our eyes).

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First Set: Full Moon disc, 25mm EP

Full view of complete disc, some blurring in places. This was the camera just hand-held to the eyepiece.

Second Set: Cropped Moon disc, 25mm EP

These images were more severely blurred at one extreme of the Moon's disc, but the opposite side or centre was generally well-focused showing interesting detail of the craters.



Despite being blurred, I like this next shot because its almost like you're looking
out of the window of the Space Shuttle at the Moon passing below:-

Third Set: Mare, 10mm EP

These two images show a higher magnification using the 10mm Plossl eyepiece of the Mares (lunar seas). On the left Mare Imbrium, and the right Mare Tranquillitatis.


Fourth Set: Moon's edge, 10mm EP + 2xBarlow

The following shots were taken with the 10mm Plossl and the 2xBarlow for higher magnification.

I particularly like these close-ups, more for their dark and moody appearance than their detail. As you can see, when the light is passing more at a lower angle this really brings out the relief of the craters giving an impression of depth to them. This is why pictures of the full Moon aren't as impressive as at any of the other phases, when you get the shadow (or terminator) passing over the moon's surface.



Fifth Set: Webcam at Prime Focus, Enhanced

These final shots were taken at a later date using my Philips SPC900NC Webcam. The resulting footage (AVI movie) was then aligned, stacked, and enhanced using K3CCDTools to produce a much brighter, clearer and sharper picture than the original movie file shows.


Inspirational Photos

I'll finish off this page with a couple of pictures taken by other astronomy photographers which are what I aspire to being able to produce one day, given the right equipment and conditions. Just have a look at these beautiful pictures of the Moon. These pictures came originally from the Hotshots section of the June 2008, Sky At Night magazine cover disk.


Philip Thompson, Bolsover, Derbyshire


17th March 2008


200mm Celestron Reflector, Nikon D40 DSLR, prime focus, 1/800th sec. at ISO 800. Colour enhanced using Photoshop.

"This is my best coloured moon shot to date. In between the clouds the sky was inky black and clear, which resulted in a far greater range of colours than I have ever captured before."

What a fantastic picture. I never realised how much colour the moon actually has to offer, but using software to increase the colours really brings this to life.







Ching-Min Yu


15th February 2007


11inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope, DMK Camera

Zoom into this photo to look at the incredible depth of detail captured. Amazing.













Useful Links

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  • Virtual Moon Atlas - this is an excellent piece of software for learning about the various craters, mountains, valleys, mares and rilles that make up the surface of the moon. It will calculate and show the current phase of the moon, showing the position of the terminator (shadow of the sun) and will indicate interesting features along the terminator. For each object you look at it will explain its age, how it was formed and various other interesting facts. And its Free!

  • K3CCDTools - This software allows you to take better control over your webcam to capture movie footage or still shots to your computer for later enhancement by K3CCDTools, or another software such as Registax. It is reasonably priced and has many advanced features that give special control over exposure and gain that your standard Webcam software may not provide. K3CCDTools is particularly of interest because it includes settings that hook into a "long exposure modified" webcam.