The moon has always called out to photographers because of its majesty. One important event that is even more exciting for photographers is the Lunar Eclipse. Photographing a Lunar Eclipse is always fun and it is safe, unlike Sun Eclipses. If you have ever wondered how to photograph a lunar eclipse, this guide is for you.
It happens when the Earth passes between the moon and the sun, and it only occurs two or three times a year. There are three types of Lunar Eclipses but you only need to know about two of them. Partial Lunar Eclipse, as the name suggests, occurs when only a portion of the moon is in the Earth’s shadow, whereas Total Lunar Eclipse occurs when the entire moon passes through its shadow.
Read along if you want to learn how to take mesmerizing shots of the Lunar Eclipse.
Essential Gear for Photographing Lunar Eclipse
Before moving on, it is important to have the essential gear in your backpack.
Tripod with Tracking Heads
The importance of a tripod cannot be emphasized enough. It is essential for photographing lunar eclipse because it will not only give a stable platform for your DSLR but will also take the weight off your shoulders. However, remember that a lunar eclipse occurs only for a few moments, so be sure to get to your location in advance. The tracking heads are important because they are set to track the speed of stars and even the moon.
Remote Shutter Release - How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse
A remote shutter will help you minimize the camera shake caused by pressing the buttons. Additionally, it will also allow you to have more freedom in your movement.
When learning how to photograph a lunar eclipse, you need to understand that if your camera allows the use of a long focal length lens, then it is perfect. Generally, crop sensors are preferred because they offer a narrow field of view, but you can work with almost any digital camera.
Photo edited in Lightroom.
Wide-Angle Lens - How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse
Using a wide-angle lens is probably the easiest and most used way for lunar eclipses. As mentioned above, it can be used with any camera that supports long focal length lenses. Also, it is better if the camera is capable of long exposure shots. While using a wide-angle lens for photographing lunar eclipses, start with an ISO of 400. Similarly, use the widest aperture allowed by your lens. The best way to go is to keep changing the exposure by using varying shutter speeds. However, remember not to use a shutter speed longer than 40 seconds. You will understand this in the next section.
If you use a shutter speed longer than 40 seconds, your camera begins to capture streaks or trails of stars in the night sky. You might be wondering why do you need to know this while learning how to photograph a lunar eclipse. The answer is simple, when you use a longer shutter speed, you can capture the motion of the moon on the frame.
The starting IS0 should be set at 400 whereas the shutter speed should be set to bulb. Also, f/8 or f/11 would be the perfect f/stops for this purpose. Moreover, never use the Autofocus while capturing star trails instead set the focus to infinity.
Telephoto Lens - How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse
For beginners, a telephoto lens of 300-400mm is a good start because the main features of the moon start appearing at this range. The main goal of using a telephoto lens is to capture the full moon in all its majesty. If you are using a DSLR, you can even combine your telephoto lens with a teleconverter. The purpose of doing this is to further increase the focal length and get more details.
The best way to capture the full moon is by using the bracketing technique in which you capture multiple under and over-exposed images. Then, in post-processing, you combine those images to get a perfect result.
The last part of learning how to photograph a lunar eclipse is to understand how to take multiple exposures of the moon. As the name suggests, you capture different images of the moon showcasing the full lifecycle of a lunar eclipse. The idea behind this is that you will have to spend hours trying to capture the moon in different stages and all of these images should be individual. After that, you stack them on each other and form a composite image.
The first exposure of the moon should be captured at the start of the eclipse and then wait for a few minutes to capture the next exposure.
Conclusion - How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse
It might be a lot to take in at a single moment. However, remember that learning how to photograph a lunar eclipse is simple once you understand the basics. The only thing that remains is that you should be ready when the next eclipse happens. You can try to practice with the full moon that occurs every month just to get an idea. Keep practicing and keep improving.
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