Full moon on the snow experiment

Back in January, we had a lovely full moon. Actually, the one in February was really nice as well, but this post is about the one in January.

You see, I had this clever idea to try and take some moonlight snow pictures. Kat has her fancy DSLR camera and I figured I should be able to adjust the settings to take some longer exposures. That was the theory, anyway.

As it turned out, I ran into a few complications which led to some serious tech rage. Allow me to elaborate.

First of all, if you’re taking moonlight pictures, it is rather important to turn off the flash. You also need to be able to change the shutter speed. You would think this would be straightforward, but alas this was not the case.

There is a mode on the camera that lets you have direct control over the shutter, which is really handy for this sort of experiment. Unfortunately, you can’t turn off the flash in that mode. I thought that was particularly vexing. To actually disable the flash, you need to switch to a mode where it does allow you to turn off the flash, and then switch it back to shutter mode.

Okay, the flash is off, now I want to adjust the shutter/exposure timing. After finding the correct sequence of buttons, I finally was able to find that adjustment. It displays this nice number on the little LCD screen with no units, so you have no idea whether you’re making it longer or shorter. I went through a lot of test pictures before I found which end of the spectrum I needed to have the setting at.

There was one other complication: I needed to focus the camera as it doesn’t have auto-focus. It also doesn’t show you what the viewfinder is looking at on the LCD screen. That is only for showing the settings and pictures you have taken. So you have to look through the viewfinder to focus it. Have you ever tried looking through a camera’s viewfinder at night? It may have been a full moon, but you don’t see a damn thing so it makes it really difficult to focus the camera properly.

I should also point out that I wasn’t trying to take a picture of the moon itself, as that has been done a lot. No, I was trying to take a picture of the moonlight on the snow, which was pretty spectacular to the human eye.

Anyway, after several attempts, this is the best one I ended up with using the DSLR.

Winter2016_035

As a point for comparison, here is one I took using my phone.

Winter2016_031

Both pictures have been completely unedited, except for resizing.

I should also mention that if it is winter in Canada, with a clear night, it is going to be cold. It was around -22C (-8F). You can’t be wearing gloves because the buttons and such on the camera are quite tiny, so you definitely don’t spend too much time out there working on this or your hands freeze.

Alas, it was an interesting experiment. Perhaps with a few more experiments, things like this will become easier.

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