Sunset on Sunday night…
We pulled off the side of the road at a mountaintop vista in Kneeland, California (population: 244). We were in Humboldt County for the weekend visiting a friend who just moved up there. He figured this open space was the prefect spot to see the famous “super blood moon” lunar eclipse.
And it was! We had a clear eastward view of the moon rising over the mountains.
We had our tripod, so I decided to try photographing this unusual phenomenon.
Here are our photos from Sunday’s total lunar eclipse.
First, in the red “blood moon” phase…
And then, photos of the partial lunar eclipse…
I don’t have the best camera for low light photography–a cropped sensor Nikon D5100 we bought back in 2011–but I’m pretty happy with our results. I think any camera with manual settings and a tripod can take similar shots. Just not a cell phone…
There are a few things I forgot to do when we were out in the field, and other things I would have done differently. One example: I never tried increasing the ISO in the dark, blood moon phase of the eclipse. Also, I never turned Vibration Reduction off, which could have caused some of the fuzziness. Next time!
I’m certainly no pro, but here’s my personal cheat sheet and tips for how to photograph a lunar eclipse. Let me know if this helps you out!
Camera Settings for Lunar Eclipse:
- Secure camera on sturdy tripod.
- Change these settings on the camera:
- Turn on 2 second exposure delay mode (Custom Setting Menu » Shooting/Display » Exposure Delay Mode » ON)
- Turn off Auto ISO (Shooting Menu » ISO Sensitivity Settings » Auto ISO Sensitivity Control » OFF)
- Set the ISO to 100 to start. If the scene is very bright (e.g. your lens is long enough to zoom right into the bright moon) or increase it to 400, 600, or 800 if you can’t get in that far and the scene is relatively dark, especially in the total lunar eclipse phase. Going much higher than 800 will make the shot really noisy, unless you have a high end, full-frame camera.
- Change these settings on the lens (if the lens has these):
- Switch from Auto Focus (M/A) to Manual Focus (M).
- Set the Manual Focus knob to the infinity sign: ∞
- Turn OFF Vibration Reduction (VR).
- Shooting tips:
- Put the camera in Live View mode and zoom in to see if the moon is in focus. If not, adjust manual focus knob.
- Start with ISO=100 and f/8 and take a few shots at different shutter speeds. If the photos are too dark, try longer exposures. If they are too bright, try shorter exposures.
- For the darker (red) phase of the total lunar eclipse, here are the settings I used: ISO 100, f/7.1, 2 seconds. If I had the chance to do this again, I would have tried increasing the ISO to 600 or 800, and tried a faster shutter speed of 1 second or less. I think that would result in a sharper photo.
- For the brighter (white) phase of the partial lunar eclipse, here are the settings I used: ISO 400, f/18, 1/100 seconds
Note: All settings are for Nikon cameras and lenses–they may be labeled differently on other models.
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