Blood Moon Rising

The lunar eclipse between January 20th and 21st was an incredible event to witness as well as to photograph. Astrophotography is not usually my focus and I only occasionally turn my camera towards the moon, but I knew this was my only chance for a couple of years.

I unfortunately forgot to get a photo of my setup, but used pretty much the same gear as I do for wildlife, the Sony a6000 with Canon nFD 400mm 4.5 SSC. For the pre-red moon I had the 1.4x teleconverter on as well.

The supermoon was incredibly bright, and when I went out in the 0°f cold, the eclipse had already started.

ISO 160, f6.3, 1/160s + 1.4x

I took every shot on a two second timer, and my entry level Manfrotto tripod held the shots still very well. I quickly got very cold and headed in leaving the camera, seat, and timelapse camera out in the cold.

ISO 100, f6.3, 1/30s + 1.4x

This more symetrical crecent is actually my favorite shot of the evening. It was one of the most detailed and gives the moon a gorgeous 3D effect that we dont often see in our silver saucer in the sky. As more of the moon was covered, more exposure was required.

ISO 640, f6.3, 1/100 + 1.4x

On deciding my exposure settings: I wanted to break out the 1.4x teleconverter for these photos, but the downside to that is a loss in a stop of light, as well as a decrease in sharpness. Shooting stopped down to f6.3 or f8 helps the sharpness, but at the cost of shutter speed. The rotation of the earth causes motion blur beginning at 1/125s, or so I have read. But the high ISO needed to combat this will also affect image quality more on a subject so low contrast and isolated. So once I had my shots dialed in at 1/125 and the lowest ISO I could muster, I was free to experiment with slower shutter speeds.

ISO 320, f4.5, 1s

This was the highest quality image that I got after totality, and I am not sure what allowed the 1 second exposure time to work so well. The eclipsed moon is many many stops dimmer (10 stops? compared to my first photo) than the fully reflective version of itself. Focusing, even with zoom aids, was especially difficult.

After I felt I got as clean of a shot as I could, I got experimental.

ISO 25600, f4.5, 1/40

Straight out of camera at max ISO, uncropped.

Same photo cleaned up

Same photo again, levels adjusted to maximize digital noise

ISO 100, f6.3?, 30s

This is how far the moon moved across the frame in 30 seconds. As you could tell, in just a few minutes it would be out of frame, needing adjustment at an awkward angle. I had a lot of fun experimenting with motion blurring the moon by wiggling the camera slightly on the locked down tripod during the 30 second exposures.

I also took a timelapse of the eclipse to totality on an older Moto Z phone.

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