How To Shoot The Moon – Lunar Eclipse Edition

A total lunar eclipse of the moon will occur January 21, 2019

Tips on how to photograph a lunar eclipse

A total lunar eclipse will occur late Sunday January 20, 2019 into the early overnight hours of January 21, 2019. The long range forecast is questionable as to whether or not folks in the north east will be able to see it. But just in case we can and you want to grab some photos here are some tips:

  1. Bundle up. It’s the middle of the winter late at night
  2. Bundle up your camera too. OK so they don’t make sweaters for cameras but there are some important cold weather tips for camera. The most important one is to allow plenty of time for your camera to adjust to the colder temperatures. And don’t be tempted to bring your camera inside for a quick break and then go back out. Your camera will probably fog up once you go inside and will take a while to go away. The condensation could also happen inside your camera and lens which is not good. If you want to be real safe put everything in a large sealed plastic bag before heading inside
  3. You will need a tripod. Even though this won’t be a long exposure (the moon is brighter than you think) you still want a sturdy shot with no vibrations
  4. Have an extra battery or two. Cold eats batteries for breakfast. So have a couple of spares fully charged and ready to go. You don’t want to be out there with the perfect shot and then the camera battery goes bye bye.
  5. Get the longest length lens and optional extender that you have. There almost isn’t enough you need to make the moon look really great. 200 mm is not really enough. 600 is good but hard to come by
  6. Exposure compensation is key. As I mentioned above the moon is bright. But if you just point your camera up in the sky it comes out all fuzzy. Why? Your camera is trying to compensate the *entire* frame to the same level of light. But you (probably) don’t care if the background goes dark as long as the moon is properly exposed. It will be the middle of the night after all. So if you photograph in Program mode, you will need to use exposure compensation to decrease the amount of light captured so the moon looks darker
  7. Manual mode is better. If you are comfortable in going into manual mode use these setting as a start: ISO 100, 1/125 and f8 or f11. Depending on your camera or lens, you will need to adjust these settings
  8. Frame your shot. Look to see if there is anything you can include in the photograph to show scale in the photo. When the lunar eclipse reaches maximum, it will be up in the sky so this will be a challenge. But when it starts and may be a little lower, perhaps include some trees? Or a passing airplane? It’s too late for Santa 🙂

Good luck and remember item #1 above!! And if you’re in the northeast, pray for clear skies! The extended forecast doesn’t look good for sky watching…

More tips for photographing the lunar eclipse from B&H Photo.

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How To Photograph An Eclipse

On August 21, 2017 North America will experience our first total solar eclipse in 38 years, and it’s an event you’ll definitely do not want to miss. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun and blocks its light from view either partially or totally.

The eclipse will be visible from a narrow corridor through the United States. The longest duration of totality will be 2 minutes 41.6 seconds at 37°35′0″N 89°7′0″W in Giant City State Park just south of Carbondale, Illinois and the greatest extent will be at 36°58′0″N 87°40′18″W near Cerulean, Kentucky between Hopkinsville and Princeton, Kentucky. It will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the southeastern United States since the solar eclipse of March 7, 1970.

How best to safely photograph the solar eclipse? The first thing to remember is that you’re photographing the sun. It is hundreds of thousands of times brighter than the full moon—even in a deep partially-eclipsed phase. No camera can handle this intense light without a properly designed solar filter.

Photographing through neutral density or polarizing filters, smoked glass or other homemade filters may be safe for your camera, but not your eyes. These dim the light and create the illusion of safety, but do not block the ultraviolet and infrared radiation that can cause permanent eye damage. Do not use any filter unless the manufacturer explicitly states that it is safe for both the camera and the eye.

Before the big day, assemble and test everything—camera, lens, tripod, remote, filters, etc.—by photographing the sun well before the trip. This will give you experience for shooting the partial phases, since your settings will be the same.

The first thing you’ll notice is how small the sun appears on your frame.  To get the most out of the eclipse you’ll need a telephoto lens to produce larger images—or attach your camera onto a small solar telescope.

What the sun and moon looks like on a full frame camera with different zoom lenses

What the sun and moon looks like on a full frame camera with different zoom lenses

What the sun and the moon look like on a full frame camera with different zoom lenses.

Know your camera:  Have your user manual ready to look up features you may not commonly use, and become thoroughly familiar with how to operate your camera.

Focus:  Before the eclipse begins, disable auto-focus and focus your lens to infinity (∞). To do so, aim toward a distant daylit landscape and, zooming the image larger on the LCD screen, focus it manually.  Then use gaffer’s tape to gently tape the focus barrel so it won’t move.

Other settings:  If you’ll be using a tripod, be sure you turn off your image stabilization. And always disable your flash… it will do no good during the eclipse and will ruin others’ enjoyment and photography of the rare event. Keep your ISO relatively low, and don’t be afraid to stop down the lens (use a larger f stop) to insure sharper images.

If you’re lucky enough to be at where a full eclipse will be, bring along another camera (or use your smartphone) and make sure you grab a photo during the totality of the environment. You will see gorgeous sunset colors and a few of the brighter stars and planets in the sky.

Where to go? If you’re lucky enough to travel away from northern New Jersey (which looks to be in the upper 70’smagnitude of totality) here is a map:

Path of solar eclipse across the US on August 21, 2017

Path of solar eclipse across the US on August 21, 2017

And exactly when on the 21st will this take place? Another map!

Time of total eclipse across US on August 21, 2017

Time of total eclipse across US on August 21, 2017

Map credit: greatamericaneclipse.com Photo credit Dennis Mammana