A Big Night for the Moon Part II

Author: Beth Ruggiero-York

In my last blog post, I gave you the details and timing of the upcoming lunar eclipse. In this post, I’ll help you get started with the process of photographing a lunar eclipse.

Photographing a lunar eclipse is easy and fun. No special filters or glasses for your eyes are needed as with solar eclipses. It is safe to watch the moon eclipsing with the naked eye. The choice of lens for the lunar eclipse will depend on your composition. If you want an image of just the moon without any landscape/foreground features, then the same technique as shooting the full moon rising applies— use your longest lens, preferably mounted on a crop-sensor camera, with a teleconverter. If you don’t have a crop-sensor camera or a teleconverter, that’s okay. Just use your longest lens.

Lunar eclipse

If you want to shoot the lunar eclipse with a foreground, then a wider lens is needed. The objective of this type of image is to include context with the eclipsing moon, such as an interesting building, cityscape, natural landscape. Start with an ISO of about 400 at your widest aperture and take test shots ranging from 5 to 30 seconds. Of course, the moon will appear as a much smaller element in the image, but it will still stand out depending on placement of the other elements of the composition.

For answers to all your questions about night photography, check out my new book, Fun in the Dark: A Guide to Successful Night Photography.

Beth Ruggiero-York  is an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

A Big Night for the Moon

Author: Beth Ruggiero-York

We have an important night coming, or rather, the moon has an important night coming. On September 27-28, the full moon will be at its perigee when it rises – perigee is when the moon is at its closest point to earth in its orbit – making it appear larger. It’s a “supermoon.” And if you are in North or South America, Europe, Africa, or the Middle East, you get a bonus, a BIG bonus. The full moon, earth, and sun will be aligned. In other words, a full lunar eclipse! As the three align into total eclipse, the moon moves into the shadow of the earth and takes on a dramatic copper-colored glow.

A Big Night for the Moon

Depending on where you are on earth, the times of the eclipse stages will be different. I will give the times in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and let you do the conversion (e.g., Arizona is GMT minus 7 hours, so for Arizonans, the eclipse will occur on September 27th).


Lunar Eclipse Stage Time (GMT)

September 28, 2015

Penumbral eclipse begins 12:11 AM
Partial eclipse begins 1:07 AM
Total eclipse begins 2:11 AM
Peak total eclipse 2:47 AM
Total eclipse ends 3:23 AM
Partial eclipse ends 4:27 AM
Penumbral eclipse ends 5:22 AM

If the skies are clear or even partly clear where you live, don’t miss this rare show. The next full lunar eclipse won’t happen again until January of 2018.

Keep an eye out for a future post with Beth’s recommendations for photographing the eclipse. Stay tuned!

For answers to all your questions about night photography, check out her new book, Fun in the Dark: A Guide to Successful Night Photography.

Beth Ruggiero-York  is an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Capturing the Blood Moon

by Jeff Insel

The moon never ceases to be an interesting photography subject—especially when a total lunar eclipse is taking place. On April 4, the Earth’s shadow completely enveloped the moon and turned it into a “blood moon.”

Friday night before the eclipse, I stepped onto my driveway around 8:00 p.m. to see if the moon was visible through the light clouds. Hoping to capture some of the moving wispy clouds, I shot this image at ISO 200, f/20, 1/4 sec. using my 50-500 mm lens at 360mm (540mm equivalent).

The following morning I got up at 4:30 a.m. to check on the blood moon as the eclipse was close to full with just a slight crescent at the upper right end. At 4:58 a.m. I began shooting (in manual mode) at ISO 1600, f/22, 2.5 sec. My lens was fully extended at 500 mm (750mm equivalent). I had some trouble trying to get a sharp focus on the dark subject but was ultimately pleased with how this image turned out.

Even though it was not the easiest subject to photograph, the thrill of capturing the moon with two completely different looks only hours apart was exciting and I learned how to better prepare for the next time I photograph the moon.

When photographing the moon, utilize these three things:

A long lens — It is best to use a long lens, ideally longer than 200mm, in order to reach a great enough magnification to pick up detail in the moon’s surface. Shoot in RAW and your post-processing cropping will maintain greater sharpness.

A small aperture — Start at an aperture of f/22 or smaller, if possible. The smaller the aperture, the better your chance is of ensuring sharpness in the distant subject.

A tripod — This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but as you see above, I tried handholding my camera for the blood moon shot and it just didn’t turn out as well as it could have. It’s easy to think an image will turn out crisp when looking at the viewing display on the back of your camera, but once on the computer you can tell the image isn’t sharp. So for night shots, especially those moon ones at f/22, make sure to use your tripod to keep your camera stable when shooting with a multiple second shutter.

If you didn’t get a chance at photographing this eclipse, you’ll have the opportunity to do so again on September 28, 2015. Make sure to mark your calendar for this eclipse though because even though we have had three eclipses in the last year and a half, this fourth one is said to be the last of the tetrad eclipse pattern for the next 20 years or so! Don’t miss it!