How To Photograph A Lunar Eclipse
How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse
A lunar eclipse is a beautiful phenomenon that is fun to watch and photograph. Photos of lunar eclipses can be taken multiple ways with digital or film cameras. Four major techniques are the wide angle, star trail, multiple exposure, and the telephoto technique. Each technique involves taking long exposures in order to capture the full eclipse in one photograph. Grab up your camera, choose a location, and be sure to be present for the lunar eclipse from beginning to end.
Using the Wide Angle Technique
Choose your camera.An expensive, professional camera is not needed to use the simplest method, the wide angle technique, which involves shooting long exposures for one single photo of a small moon in the sky. Any camera that is capable of long exposure of at least five seconds is okay to use. A film camera, digital camera, or even your smartphone will work.
Make sure the flash is not turned on.A flash keeps the exposure time short. In this case, you don’t have to worry about an overexposed photo.
Use a self timer or cable release.A cable release allows you to control the shutter without touching the camera. A self timer or cable release prevents vibrations that could blur your photo.
Set up a tripod.A photo can be taken without a tripod, but it is best to use one. A sturdy tripod will keep your camera from moving and messing up the photo.
- Tripods for smartphones are available.
- Propping the camera on a wall, fence, or rock can act as a makeshift tripod.
Determine the focal length.The type of camera you use will determine what setting is needed. Choose a speed film setting or an ISO setting of 400, if you are using a digital camera. An exposure range from 5 to 40 seconds is best if you are using a camera with a manual exposure setting. A longer setting than that may cause the photo to come out blurry.
- ISO (International Standards Organization) determines the sensitivity of the sensor in your camera. This affects the exposure of your photos.
Pick an interesting foreground.A photo of a lunar eclipse using the wide angle technique will make the moon appear pretty small. An interesting foreground will fill up the negative space left by the small size of the moon in your photo.
- Consider a cityscape. The shape of the skyline will provide an interesting foreground for your photo.
- Go out into nature. A clear sky and natural landscape is a sure way to have an interesting foreground. Go to the mountains or a forest for a sure way to fill the foreground in your photo.
Take the picture.Wait for your chosen duration of the lunar eclipse, and the duration of exposure time. Enjoy the lunar eclipse in the meantime.
Taking a Photo with the Star Trail Technique
Use a digital or film camera.This technique takes long exposures of one hour or more so that the path of the moon during the lunar eclipse appears like a long light trail. Make sure your camera has a manual bulb setting. A manual bulb setting is needed to lock the shutter open.
- The shutter needs to stay open for a long duration photo, so make sure your camera has the ability to take long exposure photos.
Plan the camera placement in relation to the positioning of the moon.Research the position and duration of the moon ahead of time. You will need to line the camera lens up with the path of the eclipse.
- Try estimating the moon’s direction and elevation one or two night before the eclipse. The moon will appear in the same position 50 minutes later each night. If the eclipse begins at 10 p.m., then the moon will be in the same position at 8:20 p.m. two nights before.
Use a tripod.A tripod is necessary tool because this technique captures the path of the moon, and the exposures need to be steady to capture that path. Use a makeshift tripod, like a wall if necessary, but make sure the camera stays very still.
- Be sure the tripod is sturdy and not prone to vibrating from surrounding movement.
Make sure you have a full battery or an empty memory card.Long exposure photos can drain the battery quickly. A fully charged battery will prevent your camera from dying before the photo is completed.
Choose your camera setting.Pick an ISO of 200 or 400. Choose an aperture of f/stop, f/8, or f/11. The photo exposure will be between one and three hours for this technique.
- Aperture is the hole in the camera’s lens that allows light to pass through.
- The larger the aperture, the more light allowed in.
- The lower the aperture, the less amount of light allowed in.
Turn autofocus off.Focus manually. This will help the photo to be as steady as possible.
Position the moon in the corner of the frame.Make sure that the camera’s field of vision lines up with the path of the moon.
- The camera’s line of vision can be traced by planning the positioning of the moon one or two nights before. This should have been planned already, so that it won’t be a problem to line the camera up with the moon.
Use a cable release.The cable release prevents vibrations. This is a necessary tool to use for for a photo that relies on a steady camera.
Lock the shutter open with the cable release.Open and lock the shutter when you are ready for the photo to begin. Make sure to time this with the beginning of the eclipse.
Utilizing the Multiple Exposure Technique
Decide between a film and digital camera.This technique combines the star trail and wide angle technique by capturing multiple individual pictures and combining them into one photo. The details for the multiple exposure technique are different depending on what type of camera you use. Whichever camera you use must have an ability to shoot double or multiple exposure.
Use a tripod.A tripod is necessary because multiple exposures are being taken, which requires a smooth shot. Make sure to use a steady tripod or makeshift tripod.
Position the moon to the corner of the camera’s field of vision.Like the star trail technique, this technique will capture the path of the moon. Make sure the camera will capture the full path of the moon during the eclipse.
- Calculate the positioning of the moon by determining where the moon is one or two nights before. A lunar eclipse that starts at 11 p.m. will be in the same position at 9:50 p.m. two nights before.
Capture multiple exposures with a film camera.A film camera captures multiple exposures on one frame on film. Your final photo upon development will have multiple exposures compressed into one picture.
Capture multiple exposures with a digital camera.A digital camera captures multiple exposures and saves them as separate image files. To complete the photo, multiple photographs will have to be layered into one image in Photoshop.
Take the first exposure.The first exposure needs to be taken when the lunar eclipse begins. From there, an exposure will need to be taken every five to ten minutes.
- Make sure to be consistent with your time intervals so that the eclipse will be documented evenly.
Change the exposure settings throughout the eclipse.The moon’s brightness will change throughout the lunar eclipse. Because of this, the exposures will need to be changed for the duration of the eclipse.
- An initial ISO setting of 400 at f/8 would call for a shutter speed of 1/1000 second at the beginning of the eclipse. From there, the shutter speed would be 1/500, 1/250, 1/125 and 1/60 second.
- Consult the Lunar Eclipse Exposure Guide to determine the setting for your camera.
Working with Telephoto Technology
Use a camera with a long zoom focal length.The telephoto technique relies on a long zoom to take a photo with a large appearance of the moon. It is best to use a long telephoto lens or telescope. A point and shoot camera can be used if the zoom lens is 6x or more.
- A point and shoot camera can be used, but it will not fill the frame of the photo like a SLR (single-lens reflex) or DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera.
- A lot of telescopes will allow you to connect a camera with an adapter.
Use a large tripod.You will need to use a larger than usual tripod if you’re using a telephoto lens or telescope. In this case, a makeshift tripod probably won’t work.
Calculate the focal length depending on the size of the camera lens.The focal length determines how large the moon will appear in your photo. The moon size will appear larger with a larger lens.
- An SLR photo with a 50mm lens produces photo with a moon size of 0.5mm across. This is probably too small.
- A 200mm lens will make the moon appear 1.8mm across.
- A 500mm lens produces a moon size of 4.6mm across. The lenses cost between 0 to 0.
- DSLR cameras follow almost the same rules about lens size, but then lens can be smaller than an SLR camera’s lens and produce a larger moon size. A 750mm lens in a DSLR camera will produce the same moon size as a 740mm lens in an SLR camera.
Take a bracketed series of exposures.Bracketing photos means taking two extra photos at different brightness levels for every photo you take. It is best to take a bracketed series of exposures every ten to fifteen minutes.
- Consult the Lunar Eclipse Exposure guide to determine how to time your exposures. This guide will tell you how to change your camera’s settings for the different stages of the lunar eclipse.
- The exposure times will depend on the specific eclipse you are photographing.
How can I use my cell phone to take a picture or record the coming Solar eclipse?
- Research the lunar eclipse in your area ahead of time. Knowing where, when, and specific photos of the eclipse will help the photo taking process.
- If the eclipse occurs during early evening, the motion of the moon will be up and to the right.
- The moon’s motion will be from left to right if the eclipse occurs in the middle of the night.
- The moon’s motion will be down and to the right if eclipse occurs during the early morning.
- If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, the motion of the moon will be from left to right.
- Practice taking shots of the moon ahead of time. Knowing how to get a good photo of the moon will be helpful when it comes to taking a more complicated shot of the lunar eclipse.
- Turn the camera’s noise reduction feature on. This will improve the image quality of your photo.
- Do not sacrifice safety for a photo. Make sure you’re taking your photo in a location that does not risk your safety.
- Make sure to turn the multiple exposure setting off of your camera once the photo is complete. If not, your next photo will have superimposed images on it.
- Don’t trespass or take a photo in an area that you’re not allowed in.
Video: How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse
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