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Pictures of the moon, stars and northern lights with a D3100

edited March 2012 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
How do I take pictures of the moon, stars and northern lights with a Nikon D3100?


  • edited May 2012
  • edited March 2012
    I would also suggest setting the VR switch to the off position for tripod shots and shoot using live view to avoid mirror slap vibrations.
  • edited March 2012
    Great reply Moose and great forum...thanks!
  • @Buzzy - Great point about VR...I've added it to my original comment.
  • edited March 2012
  • @Buzzy - Nice capture!
  • edited April 2012
    What about taking pics with a telescope? Is a special adapter needed or can this just be done, lens to viewer?
  • edited April 2012
    To take pics through a telescope, the scope needs to be able to accept a T-adapter. The camera then attaches to the adaptor. It would be possible to just point the camera into the scope viewfinder, but VERY difficult to do unless you have a very stable telescope, because the slightest touch sends the image 'wobbling' around the field of view. Worth a try though!
  • edited April 2012
    Thanks @robbo! ;)
  • edited September 2012
    What size of lens do you use?
  • edited September 2012
    I recommend a zoom lens for best results of the moon and a wide angle prime lens for landscape/northern lights.
  • Hello Moose, I followed all 11 steps, but my moon picture was still very blurry. Please help!
  • Make sure you change your exposure. You will need to under expose the photo or else the moon will look like a big flashlight in the sky. Try -3 or some where aound there.
  • edited November 2012
    Shot the moon and nailed it with your help. Only had a 70-200mm zoom, but the detail was spot on. Great step by step instructions. You really simplified it, thanks.
  • edited December 2012
    What's the best lenes for this type of picture? I'm getting a D3100 for Christmas. :-)
  • edited February 2013
    Do I have to change the file to RAW to be able to photos of the northern lights? Can I still keep it as a JPEG file? Thanks.
  • edited February 2013
    If you plan to modify the picture using Photoshop or a different program then yes, you would need to shoot in RAW. It doesn't matter which file type to shoot the northern lights.
  • Thanks riddelske. :)
  • edited February 2013
    Im heading to Iceland in a couple of weeks and I'm hoping to see the northern lights. If I use the manual setting and each time I turn on the camera I adjust the ISO, aperture, VR etc. is there any way of pre-storing some basic settings so if I turn off the camera to save battery I don't need to put in the settings each time?
  • edited September 2014
    With regard to preserving settings, I don't think there is any way to save a set of choices so that it returns after you've gone to some other mode. If you simply turn the camera off, most of the settings you've chosen will remain. ISO, shutter speed, aperture, meter pattern, AF mode, etc. will remain until you reset them. Self timer and remote choices default back to either single or multiple shot mode, depending on what was previously set, but just about everything else will come back on as it was when you turned it off.

    With regard to the capturing of Milky Way, most of the consumer zooms have a variable maximum aperture. So if your zoom is set to its long end it will not go to the lowest number. If you want f/4, you'll have to go wide. If you set the lens wide, and select f/4, whatever aperture it shows when you zoom in will be its largest. Also make sure you are in manual mode and that the long shutter speed chosen is actually occurring. Auto ISO can override settings in manual mode. Check the EXIF information for the images you took to see if anything unexpected has occurred.

    With regard to the blurry moon, make sure you have a sturdy tripod and remember to use the self-timer (or remote) as even a careful push of the button can make vibration. Also, make sure that if you are using AF it is on single-point so that it actually focuses on the moon. If you're shooting the sky in the dark you may do better simply to switch to MF and set the lens to infinity focus, as AF can be difficult in the dark, especially with a slow zoom.

    One of the weak points of my D3200 is that it's easy to accidentally move the focus point without noticing. Make sure the correct focus point is lit when you autofocus.
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