On Photographing the Moon and the Lunar Eclipse

The moon. Photo by Alina Oswald.

On Photographing the Moon and the Lunar Eclipse

Blood moon and lunar eclipse, December 21, 2010. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Not everybody can fly to the moon, but tomorrow, many will be able to witness, weather permitting, not only a total lunar eclipse, but also a blood moon, a blue moon, and a supermoon. Here are a few ideas for photographing the moon and/or the lunar eclipse:

Capture a close-up image of the moon, if we have a very long lens. If not, zoom in as much as possible, and then possibly crop the image in post (production).

Capture the moon as part of a landscape or cityscape. This is a good idea in particular if we do not have that super-long lens. Try to photograph the moon right after it rises, when it’s close to the horizon line. That way, it appears larger in size, and closer to buildings, trees, etc that would end up in the image.

Experiment with long exposures, tracing the moon across the sky.

Photograph the moon through the telescope. (it’s best to use special adapters for this one)

If we’re lucky enough, we might even get to capture a moonbow–that is, a lunar rainbow. Hawaii is a great place to witness these kinds of phenomena.

Moon framed by a palm tree. Hawaii. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Moon rises over the island of Manhattan. Photo by Alina Oswald.
NYC Moonrise. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Tomorrow’s lunar eclipse reminds me of the blood moon, the lunar eclipse of 2010. That is December 21, 2010. Winter solstice.

The eclipse was to take place around or shortly after midnight. That meant two things:

– at that time, the moon would appear away from the city lights; hence, better visibility

– the moon would be high up in the sky, hence, much smaller in size and far, far away from any buildings or trees (of course!); hence, no chance to take a close-up shot (no long lens) and no chance to take a wide-angle shot of the moon with the city light or nature

So, what to do? Work with the gear you have available or can afford (what else can you do?). Also, take test shots before the eclipse.

Test shoot the moon: As with the solar eclipse, with the lunar eclipse, try to photograph the moon before the eclipse; the lunar eclipse should not be the first time you photograph the moon. Also, if possible, scout out the place before you go out to photograph the eclipse. Check to see when and where the moon will appear in the sky, around the time of the eclipse. Also, these days there are apps for these sorts of things.

Dress accordingly: If the eclipse takes place during the cold season, do make sure you dress in layers. Even if you spend only a limited amount of time outside, wear gloves, photographers gloves come in handy here, warm clothes, etc.

Photo gear: Also, when it comes to your gear, prepare your gear ahead of time, and (again) even take a few shots of the moon. Be ready when the eclipse starts. Shoot throughout the eclipse to capture all phases of the lunar eclipse; you can create a composite later on.

Work with the gear you have or can afford. For the 2010 lunar eclipse, I had a 70-200mm lens and that’s what I used.

The moon, captured through a telescope. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Use a tripod.

Use a remote-release cable.

Do not leave your gear unattended!

Do not go out by yourself, especially in the middle of the night, especially when shooting in unfamiliar places.

For camera settings, remember that the moon is a bright object. In a close-up shot, it will take up most of the image frame. During the eclipse, be ready to change those camera settings for proper exposure.

Try to capture the moon during all the phases of the eclipse, if possible. Try to capture the moon by itself, in a tight shot, but also surrounded by stars, trees, or silhouettes against the moon, if possible.

Happy photographing the moon and the lunar eclipse!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

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