The total lunar eclipse is the first of two total lunar eclipses, and if you’re planning on photographing this event, here’s what you need to know.
What is a Lunar Eclipse?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the Sun and Moon, causing it to be fully or partially blocked from view by our planet’s shadow. The shadow is cast by the Earth itself, which causes an umbral region (the part of Earth’s shadow that blocks sunlight from reaching the Moon) and a penumbral region (a lighter area where sunlight is still able to reach). The penumbra takes on a subtle reddish hue due to refraction of light through our atmosphere.
If you want to photograph a lunar eclipse, you’ll need to know where to look in the sky at what time. You can find out exactly when each phase will take place by using some online tools
How to Photograph the Lunar Eclipse
If you want to photograph an upcoming lunar eclipse, then you should start preparing well in advance. You will need to find out where exactly it will take place in your area and where you should stand to get good shots with minimal interference from other objects such as trees or buildings.
The main gear you need is a DSLR with a telephoto lens. You don’t need anything fancy. If you have a full-frame camera, then I would recommend using that because it will allow more light in and give you better images. But if you have cropped sensor camera and you’re looking for something cheap that will work well for photographing the moon, then I would recommend getting either the Nikon D5600 or D3400 (both crop sensors), or the Canon EOS Rebel T6i/T6s cameras (crop sensors).
You can use auto settings on your camera if you don’t know how to manually set up your camera correctly for taking pictures at night or when there’s little light around. However, if you’re willing to take control of your camera and learn how to set up its settings properly then I highly recommend doing so!
Use a tripod if possible.
A tripod holds the camera steady and can be used outdoors or indoors. If you don’t have a tripod, a sturdy chair is OK, but make sure it doesn’t move when you press the shutter button. If you have no option but to use your hands to hold the camera steady, make sure the camera has a wide-angle lens and that the shutter speed is fast enough to prevent blurring caused by the movement of your body.
The size of the opening of the aperture determines the amount of light coming through the lens. The wider the aperture, the brighter the picture. But if you are using a large aperture, you will need to use a tripod or hold the camera still with your hands.
To make the most of the eclipse, open up your lens and close down your aperture so you get a nice shallow depth of field, meaning that the foreground and background blur together. However, you must be careful to open the lens wide enough so you don’t end up with a picture where the moon is just a small dot in the distance.
The best time to photograph an eclipse is in the minutes around totality. The moon is at its darkest when it’s nearest to the earth. This means that the shadow cast by the moon falls directly onto the surface of the earth, casting a black silhouette around the moon. For more information, see our previous blog post: ‘The Eclipses – A Guide to the Moon’.
A wide-angle lens allows you to capture a wider view than a standard lens. The advantage of this is that you can see more of the landscape. To make the best use of this, it is a good idea to have a camera with a viewfinder and a live view screen. This will let you see exactly what your image is going to look like. When taking photographs with a wide-angle lens, you will need to take more steps back to create a composition that works, so ensure that you can stand back far enough to take the shot.
Photographing the eclipse is tricky. If you are shooting with a telephoto lens, you will be able to shoot from a distance, but it will be tricky to take the photo without your camera shaking.
The best angle to photograph the moon at totality is with the horizon to the left or right. At this point, the moon is at its widest and appears to be a perfect circle.
If you are photographing the eclipse, you should choose a location with a good vantage point. Ideally, you will want to be facing west or east, depending on your local time.
Take lots of photos during the eclipse.
After the eclipse has ended, you can check your photographs on the camera’s live view screen. Some cameras have a feature that lets you display a grid over the live view screen so you can use it as a guide to how your photos will appear.
Use a remote shutter release
This will prevent any shake from your finger on the button from ruining your photos.
Use manual focus and manual exposure modes
You’ll need to manually put the focus point on the moon and then set the exposure time based on what kind of light there is around you at the time of shooting. The best way to do this is by using live view so you can see what parts of the sky are darkening as more of its surface disappears behind Earth’s shadow.