“I’ve got a mission tonight!” I announced.
“A mission?” Kurt asked.
“Yes! It’s a full moon and I’m gonna try to take pictures. I’m determined to figure out how to take a good moon photo.”
To date, all my moon shots with my “new” camera have been tremendously disappointing. Just a big white blob in the sky. I knew it was operator error, and tonight I was determined to succeed or at least improve. I also had new tools in this endeavor–a tremendous zoom lens and a tripod–recent gifts from Kurt.
“Do you know when it rises?” he asked.
I googled away quickly.
“7:23 pm!” I announced.
Looking at the clock, I realized I’d better get on it. I started leafing through my camera manual and googling on line: “best setting for a moon picture.” I barely noticed when, a few minutes later, Kurt left to go to a meeting.
I was deep in confusion when my phone rang, only a few minutes later.
It was Kurt.
“The moon’s already rising, Molly.” I looked at my watch.
“What!?! But it’s only 6:30 pm!!!” (Clearly I do NOT know how to read a moon chart!)
He continued, “You should check it out down on Brown’s Point Road. It’s huge!”
“But…but… I thought it wasn’t rising til after 7! Ahhhh! I’m still figuring out settings!”
I hung up quickly and scrambled madly trying to at least address the basics. Umm….ISO 100, aperture f/11-f/16 and shutter speed 1/60-1/125. I fumbled with knobs and buttons.
I have very limited experience with manual settings, and I should have begun preparing earlier. I was paying the price now. Try as I might, I could not get the iso to change. Over and over, I pushed the sequence of buttons, but it kept reverting to the original setting. Oh, well, I finally decided, I’d just drive down to the river and give it a try. I grabbed my camera bags and tripod and set out.
Down at the water, the moon was a huge glowing orb with wisps of clouds drifting across it. Stunning! I unloaded my gear and set up, happy that the tripod was pretty user friendly and that I was able, more or less, to manipulate it in the dark. Then I turned on my camera and swiveled to find that gorgeous moon. Ahhhhh….Perfect shot. With my zoom, I was so close that the details popped.
I looked at the picture displayed on my camera.
This was not the stunningly detailed moon that I had seen in my view finder. Despite my tinkering, I was still firmly at white celestial blob. This was very disappointing, but I rallied.
Cell phone flashlight in hand, I fiddled around with a few settings and tried again. The clouds were cooperating nicely, but…
This was not encouraging. I took shot after shot on different settings.
Click! Click! Clickety click click!
Blob! Blob! Blobbity blob blob!
One time, I got desperate and tried some effect setting and, much to my surprise, wound up with this:
Maybe the moon is actually made of a fried egg, not cheese…
Eventually, I packed up my equipment and headed back home, temporarily defeated, but determined to view it all as a process. A very messy one. Clearly, I needed to do some more research.
Once home, I dug into the manual and Google again. The more I played around, the more I realized how little I really knew about my camera! After much reading, experimenting and head scratching, I discovered that there was an automatic iso setting that was confounding my iso adjustment efforts. I then figured out how to override that. Finally, the suggested settings were programmed, and it was time to wait for the moon to rise above the trees at home. Every 15 minutes or so, I dashed outside to assess its location.
At about 8:30, Kurt came home.
“How’d it go?” he asked.
“Utter failure,” I replied, “but I did learn how to use the tripod and I think I’ve reset it so I can try again. I’m just waiting for the moon to rise over the trees.”
“Well, I could see it when I drove up the driveway,” he said.
I grabbed all the gear again and set up outside. Looking up at the moon, I shook aside the lingering frustration of missing the earlier much-more-magnificent version. Process! I reminded myself. It’s still beautiful!
I set up and found the moon in the viewfinder. All those glowing details. Vivid. Clear. I took a deep breath and…
I looked at the camera and…
Woohoo! Yes! I did it!
I know I need to practice it a few more (hundred!) times to try to retain it. And I’m sure there’s still fine-tuning to be done. I’m having all sorts of thoughts about learning curves, process vs. product, frustration, and persistence. But mostly, for now, I’m simply celebrating!