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How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse

Note: while this post was written for a previous Lunar Eclipse – it’s relevant for the next one too! Also check out this newer tutorial on photographing Lunar Eclipses by award winning astro photographer Phil Hart.

Today is be the final lunar eclipse of the year. It will be visible for those of us in Tokyo, Japan starting at ~4:20pm, it will reach it’s greatest magnitude ~5:17pm, will begin to recede at 5:53pm and will be over by 7:01pm. If you are not in Japan, you can check out NASA’s website for information on your area.

lunar-eclipse.jpg

I am going to try to shoot the eclipse if time permits so I wanted to make sure my ‘moon shooting skills’ were up to snuff. Shooting the moon is actually much easier than you might think. Here is how I approached it:

Focal Length:

First you need a focal length of ~300mm. I actually talked myself out of not buying new camera equipment (there is a first time for everything) and got away with a 200mm with a 1.4 telecoverter giving me a focal length of 280mm.

ISO:

You want to put your ISO as low as possible. In my case I used ISO100. I actually tried ISO 50 but the 100 shot looked better.

Aperture:

You’ll want to set your aperture at f/11 to make sure you capture all of the details in the moon’s surface.

Additional Setting:

I set my camera into Live View mode, I manually focused using the LCD screen and zooming in 10x and then released with Profoto Airsync remote release, all sitting on a Manfrotto 055CX3 with two 3KG weights to keep everything stable.

Post Processing:

In Photoshop CS5, I adjusted the curves to medium contrast and applied an unsharp mask filter (amount 150%, radius 1.0, threshold 0)

Summary of the settings:

Canon 5DMKII, Canon EF 200mm f/2.8 L, 1.4x teleconverter, 1/125, f/11, ISO100, shot in Live View, manually focused, released with Profoto Airsync.

Give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised…

Dave Powell is a photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. He writes Shoot Tokyo photography blog. You can see more of his work at www.shoottokyo.com or follow him on Twitter (shoottokyo)

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