We had a full moon last week with unusually clear skies. At about 2:00 AM, I headed out to the roof with the zoom lens to take some pictures.
Why 2:00 AM? For one thing, I wanted to get it done before it got too late. For another, I had to wait for the moon to come out from behind the buildings. And I wanted to get out there at a time when the neighbors were less likely to call the cops about the guy with the zoom lens.
I set up the tripod and set the timer on the camera (Pentax K10D with Tamron 70-300mm). Since I was shooting at night, I started out with a long exposure. It seems like common sense that shooting the sky should require a slow shutter speed. This was the result I got:
It's a pretty poor image. It's a 30 second exposure at f/45. The problem is that even with the tripod, there is still subtle vibration that blurs the image. Plus, when shooting the moon at night, instead of in Hearts, you have to content with the atmosphere. Even a clear night still has water vapor and atmospheric disturbances. Plus, it is 240,000 miles away. All of that impacts a long exposure.
The other issue is the fundamental flaw in my approach. I assumed since it was night, and I was shooting in the dark, I needed to do a long exposure due to the lack of light. And if I was shooting something on the Earth, that would likely be the case.
But the moon isn't a dark object on the street. It's a giant mirror reflecting massive amounts of sunlight back down to the Earth.
I played around with the shutter speed some more and it turns out the shorter exposures gave me better results.
This is 1/3000 of a second at f/5.6. It's dark, but it's crisp. In this images you can start to see more of the craters and scars on the surface.
I went up the shutter speed scale, taking pictures as each step, from 1/3000 of a second to 2 seconds.
This is one of the sharpest (though tomorrow I may prefer the one before or after it). This image is is 1/250 of a second at f/5.6.
You can see more of the images here, along with larger versions. It was a fun exercise