Did you catch the lunar eclipse on Sunday night? It was spectacular! I’ll be honest, at first, I didn’t want to stay up all night to capture it. Though I was intrigued by the idea, the cold weather and long hours at night made me not want to even consider shooting it.
It was only after a few students emailed me asking for advice on how to shoot the Super Blood Wolf Moon that I quickly realized I too needed to see it for myself. So from 9:30 pm to about 1:00 am, I was out on my rooftop in Downtown Orlando, Florida, staring up at the sky. I don’t have the best telephoto lens (zoom). But I surprised even myself shooting an old 18-200mm Nikon lens on a tripod to capture this series.
With about 200 shots in between, all at different exposures, I enjoyed the magic show before literally falling asleep in bed, computer on, with Lightroom open, uploading and editing the night’s shots.
I learned a lot during this experience. But what always seems to blow me away is how every single time I “see” something, the camera “sees” something completely different. When our human eyes can no longer see the details but a tool we invented can begin to open our eyes to new visions and our mind to new understandings, we have entered a new phase of reality.
It is in choosing to stay awake, to force myself to witness such a simple yet profound phenomenon that makes this image series so special. It’s the experience that matters most. I’m not just glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to shoot late at night in the cold weather, I’m grateful for the lessons I learned with each click I made and each image that let me see further than my bare eyes could ever imagine.
Take, for instance, the rising and setting of the moon. It moved so much faster than I realized it would. I thought I’d be able to slow down my shutter speed a lot to let more light come in. But at just under 1/5 of a second, I could see there was motion blur. This challenge was enhanced even more as every 2-10 minutes I had to reframe the shot when the moon moved out of frame!
The Super Blood Wolf Moon is known for its reddish, orange hue that changes constantly during the middle 1-2 hours of the eclipse. Each frame showcases not only the change in color (sun reflecting off Earths atmosphere and hitting the surface of the moon) but also the initial full moon and first shadows before the sun’s colors emerged. The light reflecting on the moon was much brighter at the beginning, before the Earth’s shadows cast across it.
Then, as the Earth moved between the moon and the sun, initially each phase of light got darker so I had to compensate for that by going higher on my ISO, slowing down my shutter speed, and choosing an F-stop that would suffice.
The color effect became more visible as the sun’s rays shown more and more as the moon began to set. This of course brought with it more light. But if I let too much light come through the lens, no details were captured in the moon’s surface.
It was a constant game of prioritizing a high enough shutter speed to freeze the motion, but a low enough one to allow all that great color to come through. It had to be a high enough ISO to let the camera be more sensitive to that reflective light (so far away) but also low enough to capture a high-quality image. You can see the grain start to show up in a few of these shots.
In this unique photography scenario, the F-stop did not seem to take priority, though it was always essential to be as high as possible to capture a wide depth of field. In the end, I had to make changes to my exposure settings almost every few minutes, simply because of the constant change of light.
Overall, I’m happy with the results considering my lack of decent equipment. But I’m more happy with overall experiene and everything it’s taught me. So… now I want a new telephoto zoom lens! Especially since I’ll need it again soon…
What did you learn while shooting this interesting scenario? I’d love for you to share your results (and challenges) with me!
I just got an email from a recent Beginner DSLR Class grad, Eileen. Look at these great shots she got, all with a little practice and experimenting. You know, you can do this too. I promise.
If you didn’t catch the Super Moon this time, but wish you did, I’ve got some great news for you.
There are two more Super Moons coming soon!
February 19 & March 21
Mark your calendars because I’m going to host s Supermoon Photography Workshop for each one.
If capturing night photography, especially something as spectacular as a Super Moon sounds exciting to you, click the links below to register now.
We can see full moons all the time, but 3 Super Moons in a row ?! That doesn’t happen often.
Don’t miss this fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience!