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Photographing a lunar eclipse

Night sky photography isn’t exactly my field of expertise and I only looked into taking pictures of the moon, the milky way and the stars because currently there’s next to nothing I could photograph around here. The ongoing drought has had a huge impact on nature and it’s a hopeless case trying to find interesting subjects. The weather forecast predicts more of the same. So I turned my attention to the night sky for the time being, because the sun has to set eventually and the temperature drops to a reasonable level.

Wrong assumptions

On July 27th 2018 there was an opportunity to photograph a somewhat interesting celestial event: The longest lunar eclipse of the century with the total phase lasting a whopping 103 minutes. I didn’t think much of it at first, after all, how can it be much different to a waxing or waning moon, except that it happens in a very short amount of time (hours instead of days and weeks)? I checked Google Images to make sure my assessment was spot-on and – was proven wrong.

My initial assumption was, that the typical image would be a single reddish (“blood”) moon, but I hadn’t taken into account that recording the individual phases and displaying them in a single image in kind of a “multiple exposure photograph” would be that powerful. That was on July 26th, the day before the event, which left me little time for preparation – but I was determined to give it my best try anyway.

Preparations

So I took some shots that same evening to get an idea of how to go about it. It turned out that the best way to approach this was to take a picture every 5 minutes and that the actual challenge was to get the exposure right, that is without blowing out any of the 3 colour channels. With the moon never changing phase this wasn’t a problem, however; all I had to watch out for was the sky getting darker with each picture taken.

2 thoughts on Photographing a lunar eclipse

  1. Hi Thorsten, I have to say I love the shot – very creative. The blown out highlights in the moon don’t bother me one bit. I actually quite like them, I think they add to the story and helps to show off just how dark the moon was when it was ‘eclipsed’. Sometimes we can get a little too bogged down in the technical stuff.

    • Thanks Chris, glad you like it! The reason why these technical ‘defects’ bother me is that they go against the style I’m aiming for. A while ago, when I was still excited about 500px, I bookmarked a few dozen pictures that ticked all the right boxes for me (see here). I then examined these pictures looking for common elements/techniques and strife to use these in my own pictures as well. In that light the lunar eclipse image is ‘a nice try’ on my scale. If the weather plays along, I’ll try to take a shot of the Milky Way on Sunday night, still need to scout the location though (need a place rated 3 on the Bortle scale at most, I tried one rated 4 a couple of weeks back but that one was a struggle because of the light pollution).

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