I am honored to have been asked by the local photography group I am a part of to write a post about this photo. The group is part of a community Art organization, Arts on the Lake. It's a terrific place that brings artistry in all forms to our community. It's a place to see performances and art shows as well as network with other artists. I have made some great local photography friends through their offerings and my kids have been involved with some of their programs as well.
Let me start by saying that moon photography is about as far out of my wheelhouse as you can get. I primarily photograph newborns. But with a good tripod and a basic understanding of how to operate your camera in manual mode, getting these decent moon photos was not hard at all. The hard part was staying awake for the entire eclipse!
I wasn’t planning on staying up for the eclipse, or capturing these pictures…there are so many great photographers out there (check out another member of our group’s work Justin Goodhart Photography he has phenomenal landscape and night work and he had amazing images of the moon), I figured I would just catch my zzzzz’s and check out the awesome pictures the next day. I was cozy in bed when my husband asked if I was going to get a picture….okay just one.
Then one more and one more…once I made it to the full eclipse I knew I wanted to get the full cycle and stuck it out till the end. Weather of course will play a huge role in how the pictures turn out. Despite the frigid temperatures, we got really lucky the night of this Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse, it was crystal clear out!
Okay, now for the picture taking
My exact equipment isn't necessary, but at minimum you will need a tripod, a camera you can manually adjust settings and a long zoom lens.
Vanguard Alta pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod
Canon 5d Mkiii
I would usually use a remote trigger, but I couldn’t find mine so instead I used the built in timer delay in the camera.
Remember when I said I don’t usually shoot these sorts of things…well, some of this was trial and error and an understanding of the exposure triangle and how to adjust your camera settings is essential.
I knew I wanted a high (small opening) aperture to keep the image sharp and as low of an iso as possible for minimal noise and high quality. Even with my 200mm lens I knew I would be cropping in quite a bit, so I wanted as much detail as possible.
I started with settings f/11 and iso 100 as a starting point. I would mostly adjust my shutter speed to get the correct exposure. I did read online ahead of time that the moon moves fast enough and to try to keep shutter speed over 1/100 to avoid motion blur.
I did find I needed to drop lower than 1/100 at the height of the eclipse and ended up taking several shots with various shutter speeds/iso/aperture combinations (but similar exposure) to see what gave me the best quality. This is the great thing about digital…experimenting is free!
tripod - The camera was set up on my tripod. I recently upgraded my tripod and now wish that I never skimped on my first one. It makes such a huge difference having a good quality tripod and considering my camera was basically pointing straight up with a huge lens on it, stability was very important. I used the timer on the camera to avoid camera shake. Pressing the shutter button will move the camera slightly, no matter how careful you are. Using a remote or the built in timer allows the shutter to fire without you touching the camera and avoids extra camera shake.
exposure bracketing - As the eclipse started I also used exposure bracketing. It’s hard to tell on the tiny camera lcd screen exactly how much detail is being shown so I wanted to make sure I had a variety of images to choose from. Exposure bracketing is when the camera takes a different exposure picture for 3 consecutive images. You set your ideal exposure and how many stops of under and over exposed you want the other pictures to be. Take three pictures in a row and the camera will use your dialed in settings for one and then automatically adjust to under expose and over expose each of the next images.
focus - Another tip is to use manual focus and live view for focusing. I read somewhere to set focus to infinity…that didn’t work for me, so I did still have to dial in focus and having it on live view just gave me a better view for focus…or maybe it’s just my aging eyes.
Once I had my basic settings set up, the rest was easy. Kitchen timer on for about 15 minutes and go out and fire off a few shots every 15 minutes.
Now, as the moon eclipsed down (I just made that term up), the dark part was red…this actually took me by surprise, I really didn’t know what I was looking for in a ‘super blood wolf moon’ and didn’t realize this until the moon was just a sliver. So now is where the fun experimenting comes in. You can expose for the bright part of the moon (the sliver) or the dark part of the moon (the red)… but you can’t do both at the same time… You could play with your exposure bracketing to get both sides of the moon properly exposed (in separate photos) and combine them in photoshop…I didn’t do this, but theoretically it *could* be done.
I use adobe cc for all of my editing. It is extremely versatile.
Once you have all your pictures, you can bring them into your editor of choice for fine tuning. I added a lot of contrast, clarity and sharpening to mine to bring out the details.
I decided I wanted to arrange them in an elliptical shape to show the full cycle of the eclipse. I did my initial culling and editing in Lightroom and then brought the images I wanted to use in my ellipse into photoshop and stacked them in layers all into one image and created a black background. I chose to use a variety of exposures for the full eclipse to show the various ways it looked to my eye.
This part was a bit tedious, but not hard with some knowledge of layers and masking. I made a separate layer of an elliptical shape to use as a guide to arrange the moons. Then each layer of the moon needed to be masked off so only the moon was visible (otherwise the black background would be in the way of the other moons). A bit of trial and error and nudging moons around and I got a shape I was happy with. Then just turn off the shape layer.
Now the moons are on a black background, but I wanted to show the stars of the clear sky from that night, so next thing I did was find an image from all my moon pictures that had a lot of star details, I brought that in and placed it on top of all of my layers…it covered everything, but then I could just go through with a brush on a layer mask and take it off from the moons (tip – lower the opacity on the top layer so you can see where to brush off then put it back to 100 when you are done).
Add some text, and Ta Da!
Here is an image with all of my layers and the ellipse shape still visible.
Happy Shooting! Thank you for visiting! Feel free to check out some of my other work while you are here!