April 15, 2014 Lunar Eclipse

 

So you didn’t want to venture outside at 2:00am to see the Lunar Eclipse?  Don’t worry; Blue Light Pix has you covered!

kinda…

This was not an easy shoot, and these are not the best images taken of the April 2014 Lunar Eclipse.  However, they ain’t bad, so here you go.

After the alarm got me out of bed at 1:45am, I got my gear hauled outside and waited for things to get rolling.  I was hoping for a quick 10, maybe 15 minute shoot, and then back to bed for my 6:30am wake-up for work. 

A quick 10, maybe 15 minute shoot…haw!

Despite having reasonable experience with moon photography (plenty of examples on this site), I found myself poorly prepared for this Lunar Eclipse.  The first issue was the COLD outside!  With a slight breeze, the 25F temps just ripped through me; especially my hands.  Next, scattered clouds were present, so opportunities to see the eclipse were somewhat hit and miss.  Finally, it took me a while to figure out how to shoot it, which you will read about.

The music for this page is two songs;“We Are All Made of Stars” by Moby (for obvious reasons) and “Find a Way” by Amy Grant (seemed appropriate).

 

APR_15_2014__001aNikon D7100 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF lens and 2X tele-converter shot at F/20 and a 1/2 of a second shutter speed.  ISO 100.  Focal length: 600mm (APS-C).

One of my early failures.  I was hoping to get the nice crescent before totality, but there was a huge mismatch in the lighting of the moon.  My graduated ND filter did not fit my Tamron, but I’m not sure that would have helped anyway.  The clouds also made focusing difficult; not to mention using a tele-zoom with a 2x doubler at 600mm!

After totality began I fired away, but all I saw were disappointing results in my monitor.  I was very cold and my hands had just about seized up, so I had to bail.

Warming up inside, I reviewed my work.  Everything I shot was total crap (the above image proves that).  There was no color to them, and worse yet, they were soft because of the multi-second exposures and the stupid moon kept moving…haw!  My subject was just too dark to use a low ISO.  Although it’s really difficult for me to ramp up my ISO, my self-imposed “default” setting of ISO 100 clearly was not sensitive enough to get what I wanted.

I bumped it up to ISO 800, and back out in the cold I went.  I could see improvement but it wasn’t good enough.  I then went to ISO 1,000.  Better yet but not there.  Finally I landed on ISO 1,600 and here’s what I got:

 

APR_15_2014__002aNikon D7100 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF lens and 2X tele-converter shot at F/11 and a 1 second shutter speed.  ISO 1,600.  Focal length: 600mm (APS-C).

Ok, now that’s better.  At 2:33am the ISO bump finally worked.  However, it was admittedly not quite this colorful; I tweaked the white balance in RAW processing to bring out the red.  I could have tweaked things even more to make it the famous “Blood Red”, but elected not to.


 

 

APR_15_2014__003Nikon D7100 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF lens and 2X tele-converter shot at F/11 and a 1 second shutter speed.  ISO 1,600.  Focal length: 140mm (APS-C).

A wider view to sneak in some of the nearby stars (please tell me you see the one in the upper right).  This was pretty much straight out of the camera with very little added in post-processing, but the moon was not that red; at least to me, it wasn’t.  Also note that with all these I was using my Bogen Honker (“honk honk”) and a ML-L3 remote shutter release, with the “Mirror Up” mode on my D7100.  They still seem a little soft to me, but not blurry.

 

 

 

APR_15_2014__004aNikon D7100 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF lens and 2X tele-converter shot at F/11 and a 1 second shutter speed.  ISO 1,600.  Focal length: 600mm (APS-C).  IMAGE CROPPED.

Another angle with the neighboring stars.  My D7100 is decent at high ISO settings but you can clearly see the noise in all of these shots.  That’s where a high-end Full Frame DSLR (such as a Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D4s) wins the day.  Time; 2:36am.

The shoot ended around 2:50am.  After that, I didn’t fall back to sleep for another hour, so I was rather tired at work the following day.

 

Gosh, this was tough!  Plus, it took well over an HOUR to get these 4 shots.  Most of that was spent trying to figure out how to shoot an event like this, but I also had to wait for breaks in the clouds for a clear view.  The biggest key here was the high ISO.  It seems like a must for an event such as this.  However, don’t just use ISO 1,600 that I picked; experiment.  Your camera, lens, and scene will likely be different, so try various settings.  Also, camera stabilization is critical.  Click on this page HERE for more details on moon photography

Hopefully, you will learn from my episode here, and you’ll get better shots with less trouble than I had.

 

I must admit feeling rather underwhelmed by the Lunar Eclipse, but in hindsight, I am glad I was up to see it.  I had tried for one in 2012 but clouds prevented me seeing it.  Your next chance to see one (if you live in the USA) will be in 6 months (October of 2014).

 

It’s snowing outside with temperatures 23F below average as I’m finishing up this page.  Just like 2013; we have another Winter that will not end…

 

all images © Scott Woelm – April 2014