74. Moonstruck coast at Oakura

Moonstruck coast at Oakura. 9.20pm, 22 October 2010

Only with highly reflective scenes can the moonlight photographer stop down to f16, even with ISO 2000.

While using 30 seconds, that is, the last speed on the Nikon D700 before B. The Lumix LX3 has one thing over the D700: an extra speed, 60 seconds. Of course you can do any length on the B setting, but you must time it yourself, which is less convenient.

Admittedly there are worse hardships, but for me f16 is an aspirational aperture. I use it and B without hesitation in two situations. The first is for l-o-n-g exposures for star trails  and the second is where I want the deepest possible focus. This especially applies to the shallow field of my regular partner, the 85mm lens (as above).

By extending the field of sharpness over the greatest distance f16 usually covers careless or difficult focussing. If you have manual focus, work off the bracketed scale on the lens barrel: set the near bracket a little closer than your estimated distance to the foreground interest. Or try some pre-focus frames. Sometimes I do trials with f1.4 and a few seconds. The results are always awful but can be deleted as soon as you have the correct fix – and once you calculate what f16 will need (a 7-stop difference).

Not every camera can manage ISO 2000 without excessive noise – electronic static comparable to emulsion grain, the old bane of fast film.  A full-frame (FX) digital camera apparently handles this problem better than the sensors in DX cameras or compacts.

The shot has squared up fairly well. We’re looking northeast to the Sugar Loaves at New Plymouth, from near the Oakura River. The receding wave leaves ghostly impressions of  movement. The tripod was set up at the top of the tide but I still had to move around as rogue ripples came up. Here 60 seconds would have doubled the risk of a shaken tripod; the wasted frame would take 2 minutes to clear.