Capturing the Super moon / Blood moon Lunar Eclipse – September 27th / 28th 2015 – In a little less than 24 hours, we will all be witnesses to two astronomical events joined together as one event – which will make it quite a rare occurrence.
The two events are a “Super” moon and a “Blood” moon, which, by themselves, do happen often enough, but the two together, rarely. Tomorrow, September 27th / 28th 2015 (depending on where you are in the world) will be one instance, and the next time, not till 2033 from what I understand.
So, if you are interested in capturing this event, here is a link which will explain what time and where to look – http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar/2015-september-28. This article’s job, aside from wishing that good / clear weather be with you, is to help get you into the mindset, preparing you for a quality photo session capturing this rare event.
These suggestions below are targeted for beginners, like me. Here are some general rules I would suggest following.
1. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your camera and have a second set handy. Power is of the essence. You may not be taking tons of shots but there might be some additional images taken for the sake of trial and error.
2. Make sure you are in a location clear of any obstructions. The moon should be free of mountain ranges but may not be clear of buildings. You may wish to re-locate yourself out to an open area, but suggest being within eyeshot of a couple of lights way off in the distance. This may help, as when the moon gets dark and you have to focus to infinity, a distant light can be your best friend – will discuss a bit later on in this article.
3. Do not rely on ANY auto features of your camera, with the exception of white balance.
4. Use a tripod – for image stability
5. Use a cable release- for image stability
6. DO NOT USE IS 0r VR (Vibration Reduction) – in many cases, VR, on a tripod will have the opposite effect, as its initial attempt to correct something that does not need correcting in the first place, will in fact cause shake.
7. Use your largest lens, preferably any lens over 300mm, to capture detail – If you have a few large lenses and one is faster yet smaller in mm, consider using it as your go to lens for this event, but do not discard the idea of using the larger one, just be aware you are going to try an shoot a very difficultly lit object, and the faster the lens, the better – for image stability and light gathering.
8. If your camera has mirror up mode, use it – for image stability.
9. If your camera has electronic front curtain shutter, use it – for image stability
10. Use flat (or normal) picture control – standard is ok too, but not vivid. Vivid may adversely affect the image, may turn out too dark
11. Start shooting early, you will have about an hour or a little longer before totality, this will help you become comfortable with your images of the moon, getting clear shots, enough light, making gradual changes to your camera settings as the earth’s shadow overtakes the moon. I will discuss with you what to do (later in the article) when the moon is completely covered.
Basic camera settings, to start out with – Start out with f8, 1/125, and ISO 100. And start shooting about an hour before total darkness – this gives you acceptable depth of field, acceptable shutter speed, and the most quality image.
Take a picture or two, check your images, and I suspect an hour prior these images may be a tad over exposed, but if they are not, switch to 1/100 or 1/80, but keep it there, I really suggest not to go slower than 1/125, but you may have to at some point – just realize the longer you expose you risk movement, and that will affect quality.
When the moon gets dark – ok, here is where the rubber meets the road. Two things – you risk underexposure, blur, and this is also the time to capture the “blood” red in the moon – the whole point, yes? But, let consider a few things for a moment. Ideally, we want clarity (moon detail) and frankly you will probably get to a point where you will lose some detail, as when the moon gets dark and your camera tries to capture the red, some of that detail will be washed out.
Ok, the next is capturing the “red” knowing you have to increase your exposure time, or raise ISO to do this. Here is a list of general settings I would touch to start to capture the red when the moon goes dark, in order, to preserve best / stable image quality while getting the red too.
1. Aperture – increasing the aperture affords us light gathering ability, yes, but we lose depth of field. I’d rather start by losing depth of field. But try not to go lower than 2.8 if your lens can do it.
2. Adjust ISO – this is the second choice I would make, increasing sensor sensitivity, while detail loss will occur doing this, you will increase your chances of capturing the red – notably, I have heard some people going as high as 1600, and you may have to.
3. Shutter Speed – try not to change this at all, like I said maybe go down as low as 1/80, but really, the faster you take the image the less sky movement affect you will experience.
What you can expect for the event –
Moon’s Penumbral Phase – The moon, and hour or so before totality, will get a hint of shadow and you will notice it. This effect is gradual up to a point, and practice taking images during this phase. If you know how to bracket your shots, this may be a good thing to do; it is advised by some sites.
Moon’s Umbral Phase – The defined earth shadow crossing the moon will be clearly noticeable now. By this time you may have to make bigger setting changes in order to capture the moon as it gets darker. Don’t expect to see red just yet. The red will start appearing when the moon is completely covered, and get bloodier as it reaches totality. Remember what to adjust first to last (the order) and you should be able to capture the red just fine.
Many photographers follow the moon out of the shadow too, capturing the transition back through completion – the reverse effect.
Tip – so, in totality we are dark, yes? and cameras, unless you own a high end Sony that can practically take pictures in the dark, will have extreme difficulty focusing, especially after a lens change – which you may encounter. Ok, that’s why I suggest putting yourself in a remote enough position so that you don’t have much light immediately around you, but lights off in the distance can be used for focus points, putting the lens to infinity, which should be ample enough for clear shots. Then, I’d put the camera / lens in manual focus mode as to not disturb the setting, and you images should be clear when aimed at the dark moon. May the sensor be with you?
About our Guest Author: I am a web developer who within the last few year decided to pick up a camera. Since childhood, I have always had an interest in weather, astronomy, sciences, and nature alike and when I picked up the camera, I found it quite easy to blend the two together. Intriguingly, though I like the aforementioned interests, I find photographing people is the most rewarding. The human spirit and expression.
Billy Stovall says
great article! will bookmark it for future use.Thanks, Billy