28 Sep 2015

Capturing the Super Blood Moon


It was quite a strange experience, standing on my front path in the early hours of a Monday morning, with my tripod and camera pointed towards the South-West, watching the earth's shadow gradually pass over the bright supermoon, waiting for the super blood moon! Although it's a nice area of London I still felt a little nervous. There was quite a lot of action - a couple of cats trotted by, a couple walking their two dogs, a few police cars, night buses every half hour, and a huge number of Prius Uber cabs, mostly on the main road, but a few creeping silently past me, as they sometimes do. I spent most of the time looking upwards, though, and moving my camera every few minutes to capture the moon as it moved quickly across the sky, getting smaller and smaller as it did. It reminded me of the rather unsuccessful attempt to capture the previous year's blood moon over Arches National Park in Utah. At least here I was within a few steps of my home.

By 3.10am the moon was completely eclipsed, although a bright edge was still seen around the bottom left area. It looked very ethereal, almost silver, until the redness became more pronounced. I had to move onto the pavement and eventually stand between a couple of cars in order to still see the moon as it moved further westwards. By 3.50am it glowed a very dim orangey-red, with most of the light now gone, and it was about to disappear behind the rooftops. I watched it for over two hours, from the very start of the eclipse to a point at which the light was about to return, but I began shivering and started to worry about how I was going to face a day at work with only 4 hours' sleep. I would loved to have watched the light return and watch the sky brighten, but I was just too cold and sleepy and had already managed to take about 300 shots. At 4.10am a jogger ran past and I decided it was definitely time to call it a night, since some people thought it was morning already.


A bit about how I took the shots - I used my Canon 70-200mm f/4L lens at 200mm with an old Jessops 2x converter on my old Canon 60D (wanted the extra length from the cropped-frame). Stuck it on a sturdy tripod with mirror lock-up and used a remote trigger. When the moon was fully bright I was able to expose at ISO 100, f/7.1 at 1/100th second speed (approximately - each shot was slightly different). By the time the moon was eclipsed I had to push up the ISO to 500, the f-stop down to f/4 and the shutter speed of around 0.8 seconds. At full eclipse the moon was very dim so the shutter speed was around a second, and needed quite a bit of increase in exposure in post-production. I didn't want to push the ISO much higher, as it gets pretty grainy on the 60D, but any slower than that and you start seeing movement in the moon (in fact you probably do at that speed).

To process I chopped a square around each moon (very laborious!) and added them to a new file and then placed them in order (which I then played around with). The moon actually moves in pretty much a straight line (or rather, we do).

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