There are several upcoming celestial photography events in my lifetime – including things like Milky Way shots and meteor showers, which happen several times in a year, there is a total lunar eclipse arriving in 2022, an annular solar eclipse in 2023, and a total solar eclipse in 2024.
And I need to confirm that all my gear can handle shooting these celestial moments.
Which means, I’m breaking out a lens I haven’t used in ages.
It’s time to extract my high-powered mirror lens, the MC-MTO-1000. It’s a Russian lens that, when I first used it, it actually locked onto my Nikon Df and wouldn’t let go. That was not fun. That actually earned this camera lens a long stay on the shelf.
But with the upcoming lunar eclipse and such, I wanted to see if this lens would be suitable enough to capture a decent moon photo, without me investing in a telescope.
And last night was the test. See, last night was the rise of the Strawberry Supermoon, essentially the last true “supermoon” of 2021. In a supermoon, the moon appears slightly larger than how one would normally perceive it – simply because the moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular around the earth. And as for it being a strawberry supermoon, I’ve heard a few anecdotes about it being so named because it would be rising during strawberry harvest season, or perhaps someone was star-gazing while listening to “Strawberry Letter #23” by the Brothers Johnson, or maybe some astronomer felt nostalgic about her old Strawberry Shortcake doll.
I dunno. Strawberry moon, Harvest moon, Jamario Moon, it’s all the same to me.
So we need to test this out.
And since I didn’t feel like traipsing all the way to the Adirondacks …
I simply drove to the edge of town and set up my camera gear near the Black Bridge. The Black Bridge is a former railroad trestle that connects Green Island to Van Schaick Island. Ten years ago, the bridge was in decrepit shape; now it’s restored and is used by hikers and joggers and bikers as part of the Helderberg-Hudson bike trail.
There’s a small two-car parking lot, and after I park my car, I grab my camera, my tripod and the monster lens, and hike the short distance to the Black Bridge.
And on my way there, I saw …
Oh. A deer. A female deer.
Great, now I’ve got the libretto to the Sound of Music in my head.
No, seriously, a young deer was munching on some evening grass.
I quickly reached for my BlackBerry and caught the little fawn in mid-munch.
I would have tried for a better shot, but Bambi looked up, thought that I might want to add a venison meal to my Bachelor Cooking blog category, and scampered off. That’s fine.
Off to the Black Bridge.
Set up the gear. Tripod still works as advertised. Nikon Df has a nicely charged battery. I snapped the camera onto the MC-MTO-1000 lens. It snapped on, and I prayed it would come off as easily as it went on.
But for now … let’s focus on the situation at hand.
In order to get a decent moon shot, I had to keep the Df on “live” view, meaning that whatever the camera saw would be displayed on the DSLR’s back panel. I carefully adjusted the focus as best as I could, and took a few test shots.
This was the best one of the batch.
Okay. The moon WILL fit in the shooting area, and it won’t look like a white dot. You can see the craters and craggy surface on the moon surface. Heck, if you look closely, you might even see Commander Koenig and the rest of Moonbase Alpha. At least before that explosion that knocked the moon out of orbit 22 years ago… 😀
That was fun. Time to pack up my gear and …
Oh, what’s this in the lens case?
Why, it’s a 120mm green filter. I guess one would use this for shooting black and white foliage, to bring out all the exquisite detail in leaves and grass.
Just for the hell of it … let’s put this filter on the lens, and see what it does to the moon.
There’s proof, kids, just like you were taught back in the day, that the moon really is made of green cheese. And if anybody tells you that it’s not, just tell them that you don’t believe in critical space race theory. </sarcasm>
One thing about this lens. If you don’t hit the focus absolutely perfectly, the picture will be softer than a guy who mixed up his Viagra with saltpeter. And putting that green lens on the camera essentially, for what it’s worth, knocked the lens slightly out of focus.
But what that means for me is – don’t use any filters when you’re shooting the moon. And use a cable release to get that tack-sharp image when you can.
All in all, this was a successful test run. Now I have until 2022 to get ready for what may be the last true visible total lunar eclipse of my life.
And I’m good with that.