Harvest Moon

Last night’s Harvest Moon wasn’t as brilliantly orange as some Harvest Moon’s I’ve seen, but it was still pretty awesome.

“The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, and depending on the year, the Harvest Moon can come anywhere from two weeks before to two weeks after the autumnal equinox. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the 2013 autumnal equinox comes on September 22, so the September 19 full moon counts as the Northern Hemisphere’s Harvest Moon.”  http://earthsky.org

Because the Harvest Moon rose at 6:19 PM, which was before sunset, it's not as brilliantly orange as usual.

Because the Harvest Moon rose at 6:19 PM, which was before sunset, it’s not as brilliantly orange as usual.

At one point, it looked more like a cantaloupe than a full moon!  Look at the crater three quarters of the way to the bottom and the lines radiating up — looks like a cantaloupe to me!   🙂

A cantaloupe or a Harvest Moon?

A cantaloupe or a Harvest Moon?

Shots were taken with a Canon EOS XSi and a Sigma 120-400mm lens. Both shots were taken on a tripod with a remote shutter release.  Settings for the first shot were ISO800, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/160  and the “cantaloupe” shot were ISO400, 400mm, f/5.6 and 1/250.  Neither shot was particularly sharp in focus.

Because I’m learning, I’m not sure if they aren’t as sharp as I’d like (I want to see CRATERS & detail) because despite the tripod and the remote shutter release, the moon is moving and the shutter speed isn’t quite fast enough. But when I speed up the shutter speed (and increase the ISO to compensate for less light), the photo’s too dark.  I guess it’s also possible my entry-level XSi small sensor isn’t capable to getting the detail I’d like, but I prefer to think it’s my lack of knowledge at this point!  🙂

If anyone out there has suggestions on how I can get better full moon shots, PLEASE leave suggestions in the comments section!  THANKS & Cheers!  Jan



  1. Dominic Amann says:

    I suspect it is not so much your sensor as your lens. As you indicated, if you increase your speed, the picture ends up too dark. For the best focus, you want a small aperture (so there is very little lens curvature across the aperture), and for shake or motion you want a fast speed – both of which conflict with getting light onto your sensor.

    Here is a link to a lens suitable for your camera:

    Lenses go up in price rapidly as F-stop gets lower – lenses with lower than 2.8 are considered professional.

    • Thanks Dominic! The link didn’t come through, can you post the lens type/name and I’ll go look! Thx.

      • Dominic Amann says:

        The lens indicated is a Canon EF 400 f2.8 ES II USM.

        Another way of doing what you want (and cheaper) would be using a telescope – such as the NexStar 4SE Computerized Telescope by Celestron. These have digital camera mounts, and have synchronous motors that are designed to track celestial objects.

        • Thanks Dominic — I’ve been drooling over the Canon L Glass lenses for years, but there’s no way I can invest $10K in a lens. I looked at the NexStar telescope. I am totally unfamiliar with using something like this as a camera lens, but it seems that $500-ish can’t possibly be anywhere close to as sharp as L Glass. I’m currently using a Sigma 120-400 f/4.5-5.6 OS (Sigmas version of Canons IS) that’s admittedly a step down from the Canon 100-400IS but I decided I couldn’t invest the $1,600 for the Canon version. So are you saying that there’s no way to get better clarity and focus unless I upgrade from my current zoom lenses? I know just by being zoom lenses, they are lower quality than a prime lens, but I’m a having fun hobby photographer who occasionally sells a photo to some of the sailing magazines, not a professional. THANKS for the input, let me know on the telescope question if possible. THANKS & Cheers! Jan

          • For this type of photography I think (and I welcome input from others with more experience) that you are more at the mercy of light than actual lens distortion. The sources of blur will be motion, atmospheric distortion, lens distortion, and using a high ISO setting (which causes graininess).

            I am betting that motion and using a high ISO setting will be chief culprits. Having used telescopes to view celestial objects (such as the moon) I can vouch for the fact that one can resolve details much more clearly. Telescopes generally have more light gathering capability even if the actual lens quality is not as high as the canon. Bear in mind that they do not have to capture all that detail in a tiny fraction of a second.

            I would set up the camera to capture the moon over a few (say 30) seconds using an ISO of 100 or so with a synchronized telescope, and then photoshop the image over the shot you have already taken (so the rest of the scenery doesn’t blur as the camera follows the moon’s orbit).

  2. rich neel says:

    One very small thing that is free and may help a little. When you set up for the shot be sure and use the delay so that there can be no movement created when you press the shutter. Two second delay should do it. Easy and free.

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