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Sunny 16 - Photography technique

Original article:  Sunny 16 - Lunar

Photo: Asma Nadia - Moon rise, Mina, Saudi Arabia Sunny 16 Rule
In photography the sunny 16 rule, simply stated is: if the subject is lit by bright daylight a correct exposure can be F/16 and 1/[ISO Setting]. So in other words, if you are using ISO 100 then the exposure can be set to F/16 and 1/100th of a second, ISO 200 would be F/16 and 1/200th of a second, and so on, and so on.

In my early attempts, I never considered that the moon is being lit by the sun - the perfect candidate for the sunny 16 rule.

Manual Exposure
Unless you are fortunate enough to have a super telephoto lens that can enlarge the moon to fill your SLR's viewfinder, the moon will occupy a very small portion of your picture. Automatic exposure will factor in the darkness of the sky and give you an exposure that is too long - the result a blurry over exposed blob instead of the crater marked detailed moon. So switch to manual, use the sunny 16 rule as a starting point, and like me you'll make a 'giant leap' in your photography of the moon.

Full Lunar Eclipse
Jan 20, 2008 - Lunar Eclipse Now on to the lunar eclipse - everything above gets thrown out the window. By the very definition of a lunar eclipse - the Earth is casting a shadow on the moon by blocking the sun light - the sunny 16 rule no longer applies. Well, actually, you don't have to throw it all out the window - as the Earth's shadow crosses the moon, the portion in light should be photographed using the sunny 16 rule. It is only at totality - when the moon is fully in the Earth's shadow that the rules change.

There is a lot of science going on during an eclipse of the moon. I'm not qualified, nor am I willing to do the research, to define what goes on with the light spectrum that accompanies a full eclipse of the moon. I'll just say that the little light reaching the moon during totality is filtered by Earth's atmosphere. For the photographer the important point to take from this is: it is impossible to predict how much light will be filtered. Clouds, dust, pollution, volcanic ash, and other atmospheric conditions vary from eclipse to eclipse - therefore the amount of light during totality will differ. Secondly, because the spectrum of light reaching the moon is not at it's full bright potential the moon appears in various red hues.

Bracket Photographs
Because conditions are variable, you and I, the photographer will have to experiment. The digital age - with the ability to view instantly, change settings, view, change, view, change - makes experimentation so easy. Advance research is always helpful – I find in photography the more you know about your subject the greater your appreciation, the greater your appreciation the greater your passion, the greater your passion the greater the image quality of your capture.

Keep in mind the moon is a moving target - time lapse photography of the moon (and stars) show them moving across the sky, just as the sun does during the course of a day - long exposures have the potential to blur as the moon moves. Set the f-stop to the largest aperture your lens supports, this will reduce the amount of time you need to expose the scene.

ISO Each SLR model handles higher ISOs differently. Some have more noise, some less, camera reviewers go into great detail on this subject, and I haven't the desire to go beyond this. You should get to know your equipment and know the trade off between higher ISO and noise. Software can remove some of the noise in the post processing, but again that is beyond the scope of this document.

Focus - Go manual
Because of the low light, it will be hard for your camera to auto focus. When the moon is in bright light focus, switch to manual - I made the mistake of trying to refocus when the moon entered into totality, with the limited light it was almost impossible to refocus.

The use of a tripod, remote shutter release, mirror lockup, and other vibration minimizing techniques will improve the image quality. I've already covered this in some detail in the article – Minimizing Vibrations .

Practical Matters
Chances are it will be cold - like your mom always said: "it's cold out, take a jacket". A flashlight (torch) wouldn't hurt; it is after all night time. A great idea, if practical is to take a chair or blanket to sit on - nothing sucks the warmth from your body like the cold ground - the eclipse event takes a few hours to complete the cycle and standing all that time gets tiring.

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