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Photography tips

A journey in Photography and sharing of how I go about taking various types of photos. Discussions include software and camera equipment and how to make the most of your equipment in a given situation.

Lunar Eclipse

08/30/2007 20:06

Like a lot of people, on the 28th of August I headed outside to take a look at the Lunar eclipse. Unlike other people, I set up my tripod with my longest lens and set about not only looking at it but photographing this event as well.

Now, my maximum focal length is 200mm + my 1.4 TC (tele converter) which gave me a total focal length of 283mm (or 566mm equivalent in 35mm film terms).

To effectively photograph the moon you really would not want to go any shorter, and I would have loved to be able to go longer on this occasion.

The best place to find info on this particular eclipse is at the Nasa website - they explain it all much better than I can! 

When I heard about the eclipse, I made use of the aforementioned NASA website and looked up where the eclipse would be visible from and then translated the UTC times to local times so I knew exactly when.

On the day of the eclipse, there was heavy cloud all over Adelaide and I thought that I was not going to have much luck getting any photos. But if by magic, just before moonrise the clouds broke up and we had a perfectly clear sky for the duration.

Ok, on to the photos and how I shot them. Firstly, this was not the firt time I had photographed the moon. in fact, I tried many times. The first full moon after I got my 50-200mm lens and then again when I got my 1.4TC - you can see the moon photo I took then.

The biggest mistake that people make when photographing the moon is that they over-expoase it. When looking at the sky, we see black with a white dot that is the moon, but in fact, the moon is a very bright light source.

Now, I took around 200 photos over nearly 4 hours as the moon was moving into shadow, then the eclipse and finally as it emerged from the shadow of the Earth. I am not going to show you all 200 of the photos, but I did put together a gallery of 18 Lunar Eclipse photos.

The Gallery photos are shown in order of the eclipse - and you can see at each stage how much of the moon is visible.

Now, the technical details of the photos:

I started out shooting at 100 ISO and around f8 at 1/125 sec. and as more of the moon moved into shadow, I had to increase the exposure time, ISO and decrease the Aperture. I set up the Camera fully manual and made us of spot metering to get me close, and then simply checked the photos as I was shooting them and made adjustments as necessary.

In the full eclipse when the moon was very red, it was also very dim in the sky. I had several shots that were as slow as 20 seconds at ISO 400 using an f5 aperture. One thing I did note was that all shots longer than about 1/2 sec were very blurred. The moon moves across the sky pretty quickly!

As the moon was moving out of the eclipse, I actually experimented some more with the exposure and settings. The best examples I can give are the 2 photos named proc_0115... and proc_0116... on the first page in my gallery. These images were both taken less than 10 seconds apart, but with very different settings!  In 0115 I exposed so I could get as much detail as possible in the still dark part of the moon, and as such the part that was no longer in shadow is totally blown. But, in 0116, I exposed for the part of the moon in the light and you can barely make out the rest of the moon in it. 

0115 was a 1.6sec exposure and 0116 was a 1/10sec exposure, both with an f5 aperture at 100ISO.

Now from a technical point of view, both produced an acceptable photo to me - and each of these 2 photos show a totally different aspect of what I was photographing.

All of the images are very heavily cropped - I had around 600x600 pixels to start with. I shot them all in RAW. All of the phtos required cropping and setting the white balance. I also applied some reasonably aggressive noise reduction and sharpening to get the images you see in the Gallery.

Hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them!


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