How to photograph the Super Blue Blood Moon!
Interested in how I got the Super, Blue, Blood moon photos? Keep reading to see my process, the equipment and settings I used to get my very first attempt at photographing a lunar eclipse.
There’s been a lot of hype on the super blue blood moon (lunar eclipse) which hasn’t been seen in 35 years and according to NASA will not be seen again until 2037.
I’d never attempted photographing the moon before let alone an eclipse. I had done a little bit of milky way photography a few times last year, but I knew that with the moon being full there would be more light which would affect my camera settings.
Before the night of the eclipse, I made sure that I found out the times for each phase, from when the moon would rise to when the eclipse would finish. I then did some research on what settings I should try using.
Being an avid photographer and always keen to learn more, I am part of several photography groups on Facebook. The people in these groups do not just share their photos; they share some great tips too.
If you are a keen photographer and you are on Facebook, I can recommend joining some photography groups. There is a massive range of groups ranging from landscapes, camera specific, nightscapes etc. You never know what you will learn and most groups are great at encouraging.
I found a great article in one of these groups that gave some great tips on how to photograph a lunar eclipse. These tips ranged from the equipment you need to the settings.
The moon was scheduled to rise before the sunset, so I did not worry about capturing the moon rise. As it got dark, I prepared the camera, making sure the lens was clean (nothing worse than spots on the lens), the batteries were charged (it was going to be a long night) and the SD card was empty.
My equipment list was:
- Nikon D7100 with a 70-300mm Nikkor Lens.
- A Manfrotto BeFree tripod
- A Nikon wireless remote
- My phone (you will see why soon)
- A blanket, ugg boots, hoodie, beanie & gloves (it was surprisingly cold for the middle of summer).
The start of the eclipse was scheduled at 10:48 pm and I was set up and ready to go well before 10:30 pm. After reading the tips on photographing the moon, I thought it would be worth experimenting with the camera settings before the actual eclipse started.
The lens was set at 300mm, zoomed in as far as it would go. I started off with the camera’s settings on the following: ISO = 800, f25 and the shutter at 1/25 of a second. At this stage, there was a lot of cloud cover, and I was not happy with the lack of detail in the moon.
After a little more fiddling with the settings I settled for: ISO = 320, f25 and the shutter was left on 1/25 of a second to get the shots of the Blue moon amongst the clouds.
It was at about this early stage of the night that I had the bright idea of doing a timelapse of the whole event. My camera enables you to set it to automatically take a fixed amount of photos at a set amount of time. However, I had a slight problem.
Because the lens was zoomed right in on the moon, I discovered that by the time 5 minutes had passed the moon was no longer in the shot!
So instead of setting the camera up automatically, I sat out in the cold with my phone’s timer set for every 5 minutes, readjusting the camera on the tripod before using the wireless remote to take the photograph.
Using a wireless remote ensures that there is less likely to be any shaking of the camera and lens when you press the shutter which means the photo will be sharper. However, I discovered that because the lens was zoomed right out and there was a bit of weight, there was still some shaking in some photos as I did not wait long enough after adjusting the settings on the camera.
As the eclipse progressed, I found it harder to find the right settings and time was of the essence. So I set my camera to bracketing. This means that your camera takes multiple photos at different exposures and shutter speed. It is used a lot by landscape photographers who wish to have a High Dynamic Range (HDR) effect. They do this by layering the photos and allows them to highlight the areas they want and vice versa.
I set my bracketing for three frames, to adjust the Auto Exposure in the middle range. This meant that when I put the photos up in Lightroom I had three photos with slightly different settings and I was able to choose the photo I thought was best.
By the end of the eclipse, at 2:30 am, I was freezing, exhausted but still pretty pleased with the result and I was looking forward to getting the photos on the computer! But not as much as going to bed…
So here’s the end the result of my super, blue, blood moon timelapse.
More tips and advise:
- If you do not have a remote of any kind (wireless or not), then you can use the timer function on your camera instead. Usually, a 2-second delay would be enough but if your lens is zoomed right out and you have a little extra shake try a 10-second delay instead.
- As the eclipse progresses and as the light decreases and increases you will need to continue to change the settings of the camera, even while bracketing.
- The reason I chose the 70-300mm lens was so that I could get good close up shots of the moon with plenty of detail. If I had chosen my usual wide angle lens (which was the original plan), you would barely have been able to see the moon amongst the landscape and night sky.
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