Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash
Night photography can be a particularly tricky genre of photography to get right, but there are few key things to consider so that you’ll be in the best position to get that perfect shot next Wednesday night. Read on to see our best tips, ideas, and suggestions for capturing this rare event, or if you’d like to join us next Wednesday night, check out Lunar Eclipse event that we’re running in conjunction with Canon Australia.
Before you can get your perfect shot of the total lunar eclipse, you need to plan where you’re going to be shooting from. Wherever possible, try to get away from the big cities and all their light pollution. As best you can, you want to be in a spot that is as dark as possible. A half hour drive away from the city will likely result in a better photo – but remember to factor travel time into your planning!
If you are travelling to a dark, isolated location, keep safety in mind and bring along a friend, or even better a fellow shooter! Not only will it be beneficial for your safety, but it’ll make the experience more enjoyable! It’ll also keep you company as the whole lunar eclipse lasts just over 5 hours.
Be sure to find a nice high location that allows for an uninterrupted view of the sky. You don’t want to find yourself suddenly worrying about the moon creeping behind a building or a tree, as it will move a fair distance across the sky. We would also recommend checking the weather forecast for both rain and cloud cover.
Photo by Daniel Apodaca on Unsplash
The good news is that there are many types of cameras and lenses you could use for this type of photography. You’ll get a much better photo if you’re using a camera where you can switch it over to a manual or semi-manual mode. The Automatic functions will not give you the result you’re looking for in this situation.
Low light performance is going to be a big consideration when taking photos of the total lunar eclipse. A camera that doesn’t have high ISO performance or a large sensor size will still allow you to take photos of the eclipse, but the result could be quite noisy. Generally, a DSLR or Mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is the preferred choice, however, those with a superzoom or bridge camera should bring them along as these can bring up some magnificent results with their larger zoom capabilities!
A tripod is a must for this type of photography. Normally, when shooting the moon, you might be able to get away with some handheld shots at 1/100th or similar, as the moon can be quite bright. This won’t be the case during the total lunar eclipse though as the sun’s rays that normally reflect off the moon will be blocked by the earth, and you’ll likely want a slower shutter speed to let in more light.
In case of windy conditions, you can bring along a sandbag and hang in from your tripod’s centre column – this’ll go a long way to keeping the tripod steady and shake free.
The larger the focal length of your lens, the larger the moon. A good telephoto lens will let you see much closer and help you get greater detail in the shot.
Finally, a remote release will reduce any camera shake you might create by pressing the shutter button, and you can even go wireless and control this from your phone. This is also a great option if you’re looking to shoot a time-lapse of the eclipse.
Don’t forget a warm jacket and some snacks!
Any good athlete will tell you that one of the keys to success is visualisation and we think this goes for photography as well. You need an idea in your mind of what you want your outcome to be. Come prepared and you’re much more likely to get your perfect shot.
Give thought to whether you would like to shoot wide, focus on the eclipse alone or even shoot multiple images that you will later stitch together?
Have you considered if you want stars in your image? If so you may want to consider multiple shots (some without the moon). This is because when you try to shoot the moon and the stars together it can be extremely difficult to get both sharp, free of movement and correctly exposed. Separating what you’re trying to achieve in each shot and then stitching them together later in photoshop will likely result in a better image.
To that end, feel free to go wild with some Photoshop! Mash a few images together in order to capture the foreground correctly, the stars correctly, and then add in a large moon sequence.
Getting your settings right will be a bit of trial and error, depending on your camera, your location, the what the sky is doing, but here’s a basic starting point. Remember - the lunar eclipse will change in brightness quite significantly from start-peak-finish.
As the eclipse starts, we suggest firing off your first photos with a shutter speed of 1/125th, your aperture at f/11 and ISO set to 100, and fine tuning from here.
As the eclipse progresses, stop your settings down or increase your ISO slowly all the while keeping an eye on your histogram. As far as autofocus goes most lenses these days should do a good job while the moon is bright, however as it darkens, if you find that you are missing focus try manually adjusting the lens whilst zoomed in during live view. Once the focus is set leave this on manual focus at infinity to ensure sharpness throughout.
Photo by Celso on Unsplash
If you’ve not shot any night photography before this is the perfect chance to go out and put your skills & gear to the test. Don’t be afraid to try something new! Remember that you can mix things up too, you don’t need to only shoot super-zoomed super-sharp images of the eclipse. You can shoot a 3-hour trail shot showing the progression of the moon through the sky, or a wide angle shot showing your surroundings and foreground. The key is to be as creative as possible to create that award winning photograph!
If you want to learn more, you can join us at our Lunar Eclipse event in Brisbane.
We’re looking forward to seeing what you create!