Shooting Celestial Objects

With today being the anniversary of the first Moon landing, I thought it timely to revisit a story.

Back in 2016, Australian amateur astronomer-extraordinaire, Steve Massey, gave readers of Australian Videocamera some tips on shooting celestial objects; this bullet list is a reminder of what you need to do.

  1. If you want the Moon to appear large in your shot, make sure you have a focal length (zoom) set to the camcorder’s maximum. This reduces the angle of view and thus only shows the Moon in the shot, bypassing the landscape.
  2. Use a tripod. Repeat, USE A TRIPOD!
  3. Do NOT put the camera on ‘Auto’. Use the manual settings, especially focus, and manually set the shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings.
  4. For video, if after sunset (which for most it will be) recommended settings are:
  • Aperture: the maximum aperture possible when combining telephoto lens and teleconverter (f/4, f/8). You need to collect as much light as possible, in the shortest time possible, to prevent your main subject to appear completely blurred.
  • Shutter speed: when shooting a video, use a shutter speed that is twice the video frame rate (fps). For example, if the video frame rate is 25 fps, shutter speed should be 1/50. When shooting a picture, use a shutter speed of 1/50 or faster. The key point here is to avoid blur.
  • ISO: Its value should be around 400. Don’t forget, the moon is brighter than you may think (it’s reflecting the sun!) and a high ISO won’t be of much benefit.
  1. As mentioned, make sure the auto focus is turned off as otherwise the camera will try to focus continually and potentially ruin the shot. If you are shooting through a telescope and adaptor, this is especially important as the camera will focus on the smallest small speck of foreign matter on the telescope lens. Set the focus manually to infinity.

You’ll have plenty of time so experiment with the settings as time goes by during the eclipse and check each clip. Write down the ones you view after shooting and note their file names and settings used. These notes act as a useful reference when editing and for later shoots.

For more information or ti purchase the bits you need to get the best shots (telescopes, adaptors, filters and the like), visit Steve Massey’s Astroshop.


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