Night Stock Photo
Tips on Photographing a Total Lunar Eclipse


Dear Photography Friends,


As many of you are aware, there will be a total lunar eclipse next week. The eclipse will begin on Monday December 20 around 11:00 PM, and will finish on Tuesday December 21 by 3:00 AM.


A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the sun and the moon. When the moon is covered by the Earth's shadow it makes the moon appear red or orange. During a  lunar eclipse, residual light and particles bouncing around in the atmosphere scatter the blue, green and violet rays of light, while refracting the red, and orange light. This is what gives the moon it's signature eclipse colour.


I've had the privilege of photographing a lunar eclipse on two separate occasion, so I would like to take this opportunity to share with you what I learned.

Lunar Eclipse August 28, 2007
August 2007 Eclipse
Eclipse captured during a night photo shoot at Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park
Sometime you're just in the right place at the right time. When I photographed this eclipse from the summit of the "Nub" in Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park,  I just lucked out.  I was a little shocked by the rapid change of the moon, until I saw the red colour and realized I was witnessing and photographing my first eclipse.  This image was photographed with a Nikon D2X. It was 2 seconds at f/4 with ISO 400.
How to photograph a lunar eclipse?

1.  Use a sturdy tripod, and cable  release or remote.
2.  Use your longest lens with the lens hood. 
3.  Set the camera on  daylight white balance.
4.  Place  camera on manual mode, and use the spot meter to meter the moon.
5.  Set the camera to manual focus, and ensure the  focus spot is lined up with  the moon.
6.   Turn off  the Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction on the lens.

7.   Use mirror lock up to minimize vibration.

8.  Focus moon with your eye by looking through the view finder, or set the focus ring to infinity.

9. Preview the image. Zoom in with the preview to ensure that the moon appears sharp.

10. Because the earth is rotating, the moon appears to travel quickly through the sky. Check the position of the moon in the frame between shots. 


One of the advantages of photographing a lunar eclipse is that over the course of the evening, you have the opportunity to photograph different phases of the moon.   Let's look at shots taken at different phases of the eclipse to give you exposure guidelines.

Lunar Eclipse February 20, 2008
Eclipse Starting
Beginning Phase of the Lunar Eclipse

This photograph demonstrates the earth's shadow as it begins to cover the moon.   During this stage, the exposure was set at 1/60 @ f/8 with ISO 20O. I was using the Nikon D3 and a 300 mm lens.



Crescent Moon During Eclipse
Crescent Moon During Eclipse

The exposure for this crescent moon was 1/60 sec @ f/8 with ISO 200.

Middle Stage of Eclipse
Earth's Shadow Partially Covering the Moon


Here's where the fun begins! The moon is now partially covered by the Earth's shadow and it's beginning to appear red.  When the moon is covered in shadow it's much darker, you now need to open up your camera to the largest aperture, increase the ISO, and decrease the shutter speed. This image was captured at 1/15 second @ f/4 with ISO 1600. 

Lunar Eclipse Feb 20, 2008
Lunar Eclipse February 20, 2008

This shot was taken in a river valley location outside of Cockrane, Alberta.  When the moon  is in complete shadow, it's no longer a high contrast scene. Here, I was able to reduce the ISO, which decreases the digital noise.  The exposure was 1 second @ f/4 with ISO 200.


I hope you get a chance to photograph the eclipse.  It's going to be an amazing night.  Shoot the moon... and have a Merry Christmas. Make it a Christmas photo shoot to remember.


Enjoy the night,



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Phone: 780-417-1919


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