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Photographing a lunar eclipse

Of course, I had to watch shutter time as well, because even though the moon’s movement is barely noticeable, motion blur will show up in your pictures if you overdo it; I never exceeded 1 second exposure. As for aperture, it depends on the technique. If you shoot the whole scene for every frame (which I originally did), you need to stop down your lens obviously. However, if you take a shot of the scene and then focus on the moon solely, because you’re going to blend it together in Photoshop later on anyway, then you can actually shoot at max aperture with focus set to infinity as long as you keep the moon in the center of the image: Aberration, distortion and the like will be strongest near the edges of the frame.

Lunar Eclipse

During a total lunar eclipse, Earth completely blocks direct sunlight from reaching the Moon. The only light reflected from the lunar surface has been refracted by Earth’s atmosphere. This light appears reddish for the same reason that a sunset or sunrise does: the Rayleigh scattering of bluer light. Due to this reddish color, a totally eclipsed Moon is sometimes called a blood moon.

Lunar Eclipse
Source: Wikipedia

This latter technique has one more thing going for it: You can pick your longest lens once you captured the rest of the scene and get a lot more detail in the moon than you would have with a wide angle or standard lens, giving you the option to do something totally different from the scene you’re shooting on top of that.

Total Eclipse

The next day I arrived early at my chosen location. I had decided to shoot where I could get some light trails while pointing the camera in the direction of where I presumed the moon would appear. With still an hour to go I started taking pictures of said light trails with the scene slowly darkening around me.

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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