Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

The supermoon lunar eclipse as viewed from the UK between ~3:00 – 5:30am on Monday, 28th September 2015.

4 thoughts on “Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

  1. Tim, these are fantastic! I was all set to take pictures, but at the moment of total eclipse, the sky suddenly filled with cloud.

    Out of curiosity, how the heck did you photograph these? Lens? Settings? I have absolutely no idea how to photograph the sky and could definitely use some tips.

    • Thanks Shane. It is a pity that the conditions weren’t favourable for you to view the super blood moon and eclipse.It really was a spectacular event to witness through all it’s phases.

      I’ve captured images of the moon before and they’re relatively easy to obtain. The super blood moon and eclipse though were a different matter and stretched the limits of my equipment. I’ll explain how I’ve done both.

      Camera Equipment

      I have Nikon gear and tend to use a body with the DX format(cropped sensor) for shooting the moon. It can be argued that the pixel density of DX sensors is advantageous over full frame (when comparing cameras with like-for-like mega-pixels). As the moon will occupy only a small fraction of the captured image (even when obtained with a telephoto lens), the DX sensor will resolve more detail in the subject than a full frame sensor due to that pixel density. This results in a sharper image, even after a tight crop.

      I use a Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Lens, which I think is a great piece of glass. My copy produces really sharp images, especially at it’s sweet spot of f8.

      I’ve used both the Nikon D5100 (16MP) and D7200 (24MP) cameras in conjunction with this lens. Both produce great images.

      How I photograph the moon

      To photograph the moon under normal circumstances, my settings and technique are:-

      ISO 100 – ISO 400.
      Single point focus.
      Spot Metering.
      RAW (NEF) format as post processing will be required.
      Manual mode.
      Aperture f8.
      Vibration Reduction (VR) on.

      The first time you try this, you will be astonished how bright the moon actually is in the night sky.I’ve found that I can shoot hand-held with this lens and with shutter speeds that exceed any danger of picking up shake from holding such a large telephoto lens. I’m sure you already know about the rule of thumb here: that to avoid blur from hand-shake, the shutter speed must be faster than the reciprocal of the focal length. With this lens at full reach (300mm) and the 1.5x crop factor for the DX sensor, a shutter speed faster than 1/450s is required. I’ve found that I am able to shoot with shutter speeds faster than this, typically 1/800s when the moon is full and bright.

      With the camera in Manual mode, focus on the moon with the camera’s centre spot. Aim to keep the moon in the centre of the frame as this will result in the sharpest image (lenses tend to be not as sharp in the corners).

      Through the view finder, dial in a shutter speed that will give you an under-exposed shot (say, -1EV, or even -2EV). You will find that aiming for optimal exposure blows out all the moon’s detail.

      Take the shot and review it.

      At this point, you may need to make adjustments to aperture, shutter speed or ISO. I tend to make alterations in that order. I’ve even brought out a mono-pod to steady things before sacrificing ISO quality.

      Take lots of images and make adjustments between shots. A lot of detail can be pulled from the RAW (NEF) files in post if you don’t get things quite right while you are shooting.

      How I photographed the super blood moon and lunar eclipse

      Equipment used: Nikon D7200 + Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Lens

      Obviously, this celestial event doesn’t occur often. I found it challenging and had to improvise quickly.

      I took lots of test shots prior to the eclipse with the aforementioned camera settings. Everything was good.

      As expected though, the light from the moon diminished rapidly once the event began so I mounted the camera on a sturdy tripod. I turned the lens Vibration Reduction (VR) off and configured the camera to use a remote shutter release.

      To gather enough light, I opened the aperture to f5.6 and opted to drop the shutter speed to maintain a decent ISO range. Shutter speeds were calling for anything between 2 and 5 seconds. Images with these shutter speeds were blurred due to the earth’s rotation and the apparent movement of the moon in the sky. So, to get the shutter speed up I had to sacrifice ISO, which I don’t like doing – but it’s more important to get the shot. The super blood moon shots were captured at ISO 800, f5.6, 1 second shutter speed or faster. The shots of the eclipse itself (where there is slim crescent of light) were shot at ISO 1600, f5.6 and similar shutter speeds of 1 second or faster.

      All the images were cropped and post processed in Lightroom 6. Increasing clarity then adjusting blacks, shadows and highlights improves everything. I then applied a small amount of sharpening, masking out the areas that did not require it.

      There was some chromatic aberration on the crescent moon photographs, but that too is easily remedied in Lightroom.

      As I eluded to earlier, even with a telephoto lens at 300mm, you will find that the moon occupies approximately 5% of the sensor area and consequently, the captured image. This means that final cropped photographs would not be suited for large wall prints and such forth. With that in mind, I’m actually surprised they look as good as they do.

      Of course, if I were doing this all the time, I’d invest in a faster and longer lens. But today, I just grabbed what was in my camera bag.

      I hope this helps and look forward to viewing any images you obtain.

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