How to photograph a Total Lunar Eclipse

Getting an image of a ‘blood moon’ is easier than you think

A lunar eclipse is much easier to photograph than a solar eclipse, but it is just as much about timing and positioning.

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The best photos tend to be landscape shots that capture a rising eclipsed Moon low on the horizon, though what you will see, and when, depends exactly where you are on the planet’s surface. It also helps if you have a DSLR camera, or any camera will fully manual settings.

The easiest tactic is to use a telephoto lens or a telescope and just photograph the Moon’s changing hues. Try autofocusing on the Moon itself using the LCD screen, then switch to manual focus and use masking tape to secure the lens. Set the camera at ISO 200 and the aperture to F11 and attempt exposures of 1/60 second down to 1/15 second, and even to one second.

When the Moon is completely colored – totality – experiment with four-second exposures at ISO 800 and ISO 1600. Take a photo every ten minutes and each one will show the Moon to be a slightly different color. You’ll also get stars around the Moon, which are normally lost in the glare.

Since the Full Moon will still be in the faint penumbra shadow of Earth well before and well after totality, it will be much dimmer than usual. It’s therefore relatively simple to produce some unusual-looking photos of the Moon, and generally it’s just easier to photograph.

What about using a smartphone?

A smartphone can be used for a wide-angle shot in the rising light of dawn in some places. But if you’ve got binoculars, prop them up or mount them on a tripod and try taking a photo of the colored disc of the moon through one of the eyepieces. The results are basic, but good enough for social media. A video – sped-up later to create a 10-second time-lapse – can be dramatic, especially if you use a wide angle to capture a city skyline.

Image credit: CC0 Creative Commons