Every so often the Moon drops into the shadows of the Planet, resulting in a lunar eclipse. Although lunar eclipses take place more often than solar eclipses, you will still want to experience viewing and potentially photographing this particular somewhat rare and stunningly beautiful phenomenon. I have been taking photos of both partial and total lunar eclipses for a number of years now, and I chose to document my experiences as well as the challenges I encountered for your benefit of our readers. In this article, I will do my better to explain how to photograph a lunar eclipse in detail.
Photographing a Lunar Eclipse
What Time And Place May be the Lunar Eclipse?
Unfortunately, the forthcoming lunar eclipse isn’t visible everywhere in the world. We recommend visiting this webpage and typing in your city name to see if the upcoming eclipse is visible where you live, as well as the time plus duration when you can see it.
The Basics associated with Moon Photography
Before reading the info below, I highly recommend reading my “ How you can Photograph the Moon ” article, where you can find lots of information (including camera settings) on the subject. You will need that while recording the beginning and the end of a lunar eclipse, when the Celestial satellite is partially lit by the Sun.
Photographing the Sequence
One thing you should decide on, is whether you want to take the entire sequence of the lunar eclipse, or just the period associated with totality when the Moon can be orange / red within color. I would personally suggest to document the whole process from the beginning to the end, so that you have pictures of the complete Moon, then a partial new moon, then a total eclipse, then a partial eclipse again, coming back to full Moon once the eclipse ends. The nice thing about having the entire sequence in pictures, is that you can later combine images together like this:
You will have to be really patient though – this took me about four hours in total to capture the particular Moon from the beginning to the end of the eclipse. The night was quite cold, but I was out with a group of photographers and we decided to document all phases of the eclipse with our cameras. After we were performed, we decided to drive to an overlook where we photographed the above scene separately like a panorama, in order to create a solitary composite you see above. It is very important note that the image has a much bigger Moon compared to the reality. Basically kept the Moon on its real size in accordance with the landscape, it would possess looked minuscule. Some photographers choose to photograph real scenes with super telephoto lenses, without resizing the scenery or the Moon. Such photographs require a lot of planning plus effort (often requiring a lunar eclipse to take place close to the horizon for matching a landscape), but offer a much more rewarding experience. Proper planning is extremely important in such cases. Reliable tools and apps that allow one to preview the location of the lunar eclipse should be used for best results, as described below.
Whether your goal would be to simply photograph the Moon during an eclipse, in order to photograph a scene using the Moon at the time of the over shadow, proper planning is important and really should not be overlooked. There are plenty of excellent software and smartphone applications out there that you can use for preparing purposes, but the two applications I use the most are PhotoPills and The particular Photographer’s Ephemeris . When doing night photography, We sometimes fire up Star Walk as well, but that’s only if I need to find a particular item in the sky. Being able to see exactly where the Moon is going to increase is very important – it will make the job of scouting for the location much easier.
While leading a group of professional photographers in Dying Valley National Park , I really hoped that the atmosphere would clear up during the total lunar eclipse on January 20, 2019. The weather was quite stormy for a few times at the beginning of my workshop, however the day of the eclipse looked promising, with the sky opening in the evening. While checking pertaining to weather reports every few hours, I also used the PhotoPills app on my mobile phone to find out exactly where the Moon would be located in the skies during the lunar eclipse. Utilizing the Night Augmented Reality (Night AR) feature of the app allowed me to pinpoint the exact location of the Moon.
After realizing that I would not be able to look for a subject tall enough in the vicinity to be able to use it because my foreground, I made the decision to skip the searching process and only focus on photographing the lunar eclipse along with my super-telephoto lens. However , if I found a very high foreground subject, it could have worked to photograph the new moon over it. Instead, I appeared up where the Moon would definitely rise from and decided to photograph a landscape scene facing the Moon since it rose up:
As you can see, it was a pretty foggy night time – not particularly perfect for photographing a lunar over shadow! As the Moon rose over the distant mountains, the clouds in the sky were too solid, making it a problem to get an obvious shot of the Moon. The weather forecast still insisted on the clear night though. We looked at the horizon as well as the sky indeed looked quite clear there. After approximately one hour the sky indeed cleared up for the most part – just on time for the beginning of the lunar over shadow!
So maintain all this in mind. When planning for a lunar eclipse, always pay close attention to weather forecast – you will need to move to a different location along with less cloud coverage.
Camera Equipment and Lenses
When it comes to photographing a lunar eclipse, the type of equipment you happen to be using plays a huge role. Photographing a lunar new moon is not really the same as photographing the Moon for one major reason – lack of lighting. When you photograph the Moon lit by the Sun, it is typically so bright, that you can easily use fast shutter speeds and low INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG, without having to worry about noise and motion blur. Photographing a lunar eclipse is much more difficult, because the Moon gets very dim when it is in the Earth’s shadow. Not only will you have to drastically decrease your shutter velocity, but you will also have to boost camera ISO to a much higher value, especially if you are capturing with long lenses over 300mm. Having a good DSLR or a mirrorless camera that may handle noise at higher ISO levels will certainly help.
When it comes to lens, longer lenses will magnify the Moon more and supply some good details for your photos. So , unless you are planning to capture the Moon with a downroad element, I would recommend to use the longest lens in your system. But a longer lens offers another problem for Moon photography – you will have to make use of a fast shutter speed to get blur-free images of the Moon, since it moves so fast.
Without a doubt, the best thing you can do for lunar eclipse photography is get an equatorial tracker, such as the iOptron SkyGuider Pro :
I have earlier attempted to photograph the Moon without a tracker and I generally found myself struggling with digital camera settings at the time of the total lunar eclipse. Even with a very slow shutter speed of 1 second (which was barely sufficient to keep motion blur below control), I had to increase our camera ISO to 3200, at which point the amount of sound in the images was excessive to deal with. With an equatorial tracker, once you set it up to track the Moon, you can take very long exposures without having to worry about shutter acceleration, since the setup automatically adjusts for the Moon movements. Additionally , you do not have to constantly cope with readjusting your composition every single few minutes. The biggest task will be proper and accurate position with the North Star – once you do that, the rest of it will be a breeze. With the tracker, I was easily able to take 10-20 second exposures in ISO 64 – ISO 200, which allowed myself to take images with no sound issues to deal with in post-processing.
A good equatorial tracker is not just useful for photographing lunar eclipses. I used the same setup before regarding photographing a solar eclipse , and also photographing the particular Milky Way and it worked amazingly well. If you are into photographing the night skies, you should seriously consider investing in such a device. In fact , instead of investing a lot of money buying expensive lens designed for astrophotography, I would recommend to start out with a tracker!
If you have no plans to get an equatorial tracker, you are able to still successfully photograph the particular lunar eclipse. See the instructions below for more details.
If you shoot a bright Moon, a good starting exposure is normally around 1/125-1/250th of a 2nd @ f/8, ISO one hundred. When an eclipse starts, this exposure should work excellent to expose the bright part of the Moon, while the dark part of the Moon is not going to be visible at all. At some point, you will have to change your shutter speed to show for the dark side, while overexposing the bright side of the Moon, similar to this image:
I found out that the exposure distinction between the bright and the darkish sides of the Moon was obviously a whopping 8 full stops ! Exactly what does this mean? It means that when you were getting a great publicity of the Sun-lit Moon from 1/250th of a second in ISO 200, in order to catch the part of the Moon which is in the Earth’s shadow, you will have to shoot at 1 2nd @ ISO 200 (1/125 -> 1/60 -> 1/30 -> 1/15 -> 1/8 -> 1/4 -> 1/2 -> 1)!
This is the part where the central length of your lens becomes your enemy. The longer the lens, the more you need to worry about two major problems – shutter speed plus camera shake. A long zoom lens (above 300mm) will make the particular Moon larger in your picture, which at the same time means that the Moon will move in a short time through your frame. Using a slower shutter speed is obviously undesirable, because the Moon features will be blurry due to motion blur . Consequently , your only choice (aside from getting a motorized equatorial tracker) is to shoot with maximum aperture and raise camera ISO to a large number. In the above example, to boost my shutter speed to just 1/15th of a second, I would have to shoot at INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 3200, which would result in a lot of noise, especially if I were shooting on a small sensor camera.
So , what should your shutter swiftness be? It depends on the focal length of your lens. In case you are shooting at 300mm on a 1 . 5x crop-factor digital camera body using a 70-300mm zoom lens, shoot at shutter speeds faster than 2 secs. If you are using a longer lens, you will have to use even faster shutter speeds to get a blur-free image of the Moon. I was capturing at 560mm (a 400mm lens with a 1 . 4x teleconverter) on a 12 MP full-frame camera and I found that my limit involved a half a second (1/2) before the Moon started to obtain blurry. If you have a high quality camera with a 30+ MP sensor, you might need to use actually longer shutter speeds to prevent blurring the Moon.
Take a look at the beneath crop shot at two seconds to see how fuzzy the Moon got:
And that’s beside me shooting on a tripod using a remote shutter release, plus Mirror Up with about 1-second interval after raising the particular mirror! So it is definitely not digital camera shake you are looking at in the over photo – that’s movement blur. Speaking of camera shake, you need to absolutely make sure that you are taking advantage of all the capabilities of your camera to minimize camera move, especially when shooting with lengthy super-telephoto lenses.
It goes without saying that your camera needs to be mounted securely on your tripod and you should not be releasing the shutter with your hand. Possibly use a remote shutter release in combination with “Mirror Up” mode to reduce camera shake, or even if you have a more advanced digital camera that supports features like Exposure Postpone Mode plus Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter , you can use these features to reduce, or possibly even eliminate camera shake. Lastly, don’t forget to turn away from Image Stabilization / Stoß Reduction when your lens is certainly mounted on a tripod.
Keep in mind that taking pictures associated with half-lit or quarter-lit Moon is relatively easy, since you still have quite a bit of light to work with. When the Moon goes into Earth’s umbral shadow and totality begins, that’s when you will experience the most issues. Depending on just how bright the Moon shows up during this phase, you will have to modify your exposure accordingly. Over the last total lunar eclipse event, those around me that did not have equatorial trackers had to open up their aperture fully and shoot among ISO 1600 and 3200, which added quite a bit of noise to their images. Always keep in mind that it can be better to have noise than motion blur in pictures. While noise can be addressed in post-processing, a blurry photograph cannot be saved.
Below are my tips for a proper setup and camera settings:
- Use the longest lens you will get your hands on. If it is suitable for a teleconverter, you might want to use it.
- When using a heavy lens, always mount the lens on a tripod rather than the camera.
- Use a stable tripod and a strong tripod head that can quickly handle the weight of your digital camera + lens.
- If your camera has the EFCS feature, make sure to turn it on and use the particular camera mode that takes advantage of this in order to eliminate shutter surprise.
- If your digital camera does not have the EFCS function, use Mirror Up in combination with a remote shutter release or even Exposure Delay Mode (if available).
- Be sure to properly focus your lens. Do it before the eclipse begins. Once focus is obtained, turn off autofocus (see #6 below for more details on focusing).
- Start at ISO 100 during the partial over shadow and increase ISO as needed during totality.
- Choose the sharpest aperture of the lens for part lunar eclipse shots (typically between f/4-f/8). Open up the particular lens to the maximum aperture during totality.
- When it comes to shutter speed, begin with the 500 rule (divide 500 by the full-frame comparative focal length of the lens), review images at 100% zoom and adjust as needed.
Focus Accuracy and Clarity
Regardless of what lens you are using, getting a very accurate focus on the Moon is extremely important. I know that will some of you might suggest to shoot at infinity, consider many lenses now allow focusing beyond infinity, obtaining a true infinity focus is not that easy – a slight inaccuracy will make the Moon appear blurry. While using your center focus point to acquire focus might work fine when the Moon is lit with the Sun, your autofocus will likely cease to function or might be grossly inaccurate when the Moon is in totality. Use your digital camera LCD screen to zoom into the Moon and acquire specific focus. If your LCD display overexposes the Moon, which makes it impossible to see the details just for focusing, see if you can turn off exposure simulation in your digital camera menu system. On some Nikon DSLRs, the solution is to press the “OK” button in Live View, which takes care of the problem.
Instead of dealing with refocusing every time you take a picture, We highly recommend to switch off autofocus once you get accurate focus on the Moon (ideally prior to the lunar eclipse starts). Take a picture and use the LCD screen of the camera to see how sharp the Moon is. Zoom in all the way and make sure that all the features of the Moon are visible. If the Moon appears blurry, go back and retry. If you cannot manage to get your camera in order to autofocus in Live See mode, try manually focusing with your hand while zoomed in all the way in the LCD. If you get precise concentrate before the Moon goes into the Earth’s shadow, you will not have to touch your concentrate until the end of the over shadow.
One more thing I would really like to point out: if you are using a lens with a teleconverter, or if you use a consumer zoom lens, the optics are probably not very sharp when shooting at large apertures. Stopping down the lens aperture in order to f/8-f/11 should give you the sharpest results. Don’t use apertures smaller than f/11 (such as f/16 or f/22) – diffraction will start working and make the Moon show up even softer.
Moon Movement Rate
Up to now I mentioned several times exactly how fast the Moon moves when using long lenses. Check out this video and see on your own where the Moon starts within the frame, and then ends up at the end of the 2 minute video. If you are impatient, simply look at the beginning of the video, then the end plus compare the location of the Moon in the frame:
Today just think how many times My spouse and i to move my camera in order to photograph a 4 hour long eclipse!
Bracketing Partial Lunar Eclipse
Considering that the shadow and the bright side of the Moon are 8 stops apart, you might be wondering if there is value within bracketing the shots in order to capture detail in both. To be honest, after going through the process of bracketing during the last total lunar eclipse, I really struggle to see the advantages of doing it. First of all, you end up consuming way too many images in the process and second, I don’t see how one can blend exposures 8 stops apart without making the particular resulting image look artificial. Take a look at the below photograph:
Personally, I find the image quite unnatural. During the partial lunar eclipse, the eyes cannot really see the shadow part of the Moon – we are able to only start seeing the details when the Moon nears totality. Although it is cool to be able to notice both with our digital cameras, I actually struggle to see the value of taking all the shadow and emphasize detail during the partial lunar eclipse. Plus, blending these types of images in post-processing software was rather painful. Lightroom was not able to do a good job, so I had to export several images into Photoshop and blend them manually, which usually took quite a bit of time and effort.
My recommendation will be to expose for the highlights during the partial eclipse. Once the Celestial satellite nears totality, you can change your metering to the shadows.
Unless you are shooting at brief focal lengths with a downroad object or some sort of a scene, don’t worry about structure – place the moon anywhere in your frame. The location is not important, since you can easily crop the Moon out in post-processing, as long as it is exposed properly. When shooting without a motor-driven equatorial tracker, I often found myself re-centering the particular Moon in my frame, but as you saw from the above video, it was not an easy task. After I while, We started placing the Celestial satellite on my top remaining corner frame and allow it to move towards the right underside corner. When it approached the underside, I would move it back to the top left again.
If you want to have stars using the Moon in the final image, the best way is to shoot celebrities separately, then combine both images together. If you want to have a composite image like the 1 I posted in this article, in that case your best bet is to photograph a night scene separately having a wide-angle lens, then make use of Photoshop to copy-paste the particular Moon into the image.
The post-processing method I use for the Celestial satellite is described in detail within my “ How to Picture the Moon ” article. If you did not use a tracker, the biggest problem is going to be dealing with all the noise in images due to high ISO levels. If noise bothers you, see my “ Noise Decrease Tutorial ” – there are plenty of tips in that content on how to clean up noise within Photoshop and Lightroom.
As for doing amalgamated images (combining the various phases of the Moon with other images), the process is not that difficult:
- Pick a couple of pictures with a dark sky, obviously shot at night.
- Open your Moon pictures and using the “Quick Selection” tool, select just the Moon by itself. Make sure that you are grabbing the whole Moon, not just areas of it.
- Duplicate the Moon by pressing CTRL+C / Command+C
- Paste it into a corresponding image with a dark sky.
- If the Moon you copied has its own black edges to it and your sky is not totally dark, then try this trick: select the Moon once again with the Quick Selection tool, then correct click the Moon, choose “Select Inverse”, then right click again, choose “Feather” and provide it 2-3 pixels. Following, click on the “Add a Mask” button on the layers colour scheme. Once this is done, click the Mask itself in the levels window, then click “Apply Mask”. Repeat this process several times, if necessary, to make the edges from the Moon smooth.
- Experiment with copy-pasting several phases of the Moon and see how you like the final image.
- Don’t forget about maintenance the Moon. Do it just before selecting the Moon with all the Quick Selection tool, or else the sharpening tool may also sharpen the edges from the Moon.
Personally, I really like combining several phases of the lunar over shadow in a single composite. Take a look at the particular below image, which shows three total lunar new moon phases:
Here is another composite that shows two partial over shadow photos and a total over shadow photo in the middle:
I personally like the first version, yet others like the second one particular better. Doing this took a while in Photoshop to cut the particular Moon and place it like this, but I like the end result and that’s what really issues.
I hope a person found this article useful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments section below!