getty moon


My friend Jin finally gave me a CD-ROM of a bunch of pictures we took high atop the Getty Center last summer, and this one turned out particularly tasty.   Late in the day, outside on the giftshop terrace, we noticed a crowd gathering and went to check out what all the fuss was.  We were greeted by the rare and breathtaking sight of a giant, amber moon, hanging over the purple dusk of the San Fernando Valley (click image for full, hi-res version).

Naturally, everyone was taking pictures, and luckily Jin had brought her camera.  I borrowed it from her and set it to manual, since I knew anyone using the automatic setting (which is 95% of the public) would end up with a picture that looked more like this:


The problem with automatic exposure is that cameras are stupid.  Most of the scene is dark, so the camera is going to balance exposure to brighten up the dark areas of the frame.  The problem with that is when it opens up the aperture, it’s going to end up overexposing that gorgeous, amber moon, which is the star of the picture!  By setting it to manual exposure, I was able to dial down the f-stops and expose properly for the moon (which means I just kept pressing the “down” button, watching the image get darker and darker until the detail in the face of the moon reappeared).

Yes, this is very basic photography stuff, but I’d bet 20 cubits that most people reading this post have never set their digital camera to “manual” and adjusted the exposure by hand.  Since that is the single most important “trick” in creating great photos, I hereby demand that every DarthMojo reader promise that as soon as you finish reading this, you’ll grab your camera, figure out how to manually adjust the f-stops and remember to try it out the next time you take a picture.  You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes and I guarantee you’ll never set it to “automatic” again.

More advanced photographers can move on to the next step, which is to learn how to use the “add Baseships” button so you can produce images like this one (click for bigness):


What have we learned today?  That sometimes cool stuff shows up on DarthMojo when you least expect it!

Enjoy your weekend.

16 Responses to “getty moon”

  1. 1 ety3
    January 23, 2009 at 2:35 am

    I looked and looked … I don’t have that button.

  2. January 23, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Okay, guilty. I promise to read the manual. Baseships are under B, right? Or under C for Cylon?

  3. January 23, 2009 at 6:00 am

    Well, my Finepix F30 is set to aperture priority all the time, so there goes your prediction.

    However: I completely, utterly & without bounds love that final non sequitur of a picture.

  4. 4 Faldor
    January 23, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Eeek! The cylons are coming the cylons are coming!

  5. 5 Kevin
    January 23, 2009 at 6:51 am

    I don’t know – it’s under “S” for “skinjobs” on mine. You’d think they’d standardize this sort of thing, wouldn’t you?

  6. 6 Fer
    January 23, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Also guilty as charged. As promised, I immediately picked up my camera, started playing with the manual function, and I could immediately see the improvement. Thank you!

  7. January 23, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Where is the f-stop button on my iPhone? o.0

  8. 8 amenthes
    January 23, 2009 at 8:37 am

    ‘been using manual plenty of times, but i’d recommend going back to automatic for “standard”-shots. Most cameras handle those quite well.

    But i have to admit i have trouble with the “add baseship”-setting. ;-)

  9. 9 Tim Kuehn
    January 23, 2009 at 9:51 am

    And the “Add Battlestar” button is… where?!?

    Thanks for the great pic!

  10. 10 zoniduck
    January 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    This is extremely cool. I had to pass the link on to my Dad, who is both a photography geek and a BSG geek.

  11. 11 Dan
    January 24, 2009 at 12:00 am

    Back in December when the moon was the closest for the year I got a great shot of it with my Canon Rebel XSI and a 300mm zoom lens on a tripod. Multiple shots at different exposures combined in Photoshop. It came out pretty well. http://tinyurl.com/5h5yc7

  12. 12 Gep Malakai
    January 25, 2009 at 1:05 am

    I’ve used the manual f-stop on my camera when needed.

    What do I win? (Some yummy BSG VFX goodness?)

  13. 13 Chad N.
    January 25, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I looked all through the menus and checked the manual twice, but my Nikon appears to be lacking the “add Baseships” button. Ah well. At least I learned how to manually change the f-stop. :)

    Thanks for the cool photo!

  14. 14 Boris
    January 26, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Until I am sure that a BSG baseship in 2008 makes sense in-universe, I shall restrict myself to adding proto-BSG baseships only.

  15. 15 samspock
    January 27, 2009 at 7:45 am

    I have a weird camera. It has an Add Starships (select class Constitution thru Sovereign) button and an Add Star Destroyer’s button but no Add Baseships button. I have to go yell at my wife for getting the camera without the BSG love built in.

  16. 16 Boris
    January 28, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Of course, there really is only one canonical choice for any moon photo: “Superimpose Keaton Batwing”.

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January 2009

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