How to photograph the lunar eclipse

August 24, 2007

Moon eclipse 17 October 2005_Nick Lomb

Partial Moon eclipse 17 October 2005, image by Nick Lomb

On the evening of Tuesday 28 August 2007 one of Nature’s most spectacular events will take place, a total eclipse of the Moon. This will be visible throughout Australia with the Moon starting to move into the Earth’s shadow at 6:51 pm eastern standard time and being totally eclipsed from 7:52 pm. When the Moon is totally eclipsed it generally takes on a dark red colour. Seeing a faint red disc hanging in the sky is a most impressive sight.

With modern digital cameras the eclipse is a great photo opportunity. Try photographing the partial phases first as then the Moon is much brighter and easier to photograph. Use the highest zoom on your camera and try different exposure modes. Do not use flash (unless you specifically want the foreground exposed)! Support the camera on a tripod or by other means, though that may be unnecessary for the partial phases if your camera has an image stabilising system.

Photography becomes harder when the Moon is fully eclipsed as its brightness is much less. Long exposures will be necessary and firm support will be essential. A good trick to avoid creating vibration when taking the image is to use the self-timer to trigger the shot.

If you have access to a small telescope than it is possible to do afocal photography by holding the camera up the eyepiece. The image above was taken in this way through a 25-cm Dobsonian telescope.

If you do succeed in taking a good eclipse image send it into the Observatory and we will put some of the best ones on the blog.

Sydney Observatory will be open on Tuesday evening for an eclipse picnic. Details here. And Australia-wide details of the eclipse here.


6 responses to “How to photograph the lunar eclipse

  • Hi All,

    It was amazing!

    Just for your interest (and mine), the photographic stop range ie. ratio between reflected light from total full moon and the moon in mid eclipse was between 10 – 12 stops!

    Happy shooting,

    cheers, matt

  • Taking some really good photos and still recording as im writing this, thanks for the help Nick and Matt.

    It really is a sight to see…

    Phil Xander

  • Hello Matt. Your calculations are fine except that 10:24 pm the Moon will be at 48° east of true north.

    When photographing or filming the eclipse bracket the exposures as much as possible. For guidance here are some rough exposure times at, say, 100 ISO and f/4:

    Partial eclipse 1/250 second
    Total eclipse (light) 6 seconds
    Total eclipse (dark) 135 seconds

    These figures are from the book “Astrophotography for the amateur” by Michael Covington.

  • Phil,

    My research shows that at 6.51pm when the partial eclipse begins you should be looking East
    at approx. 90 degrees. The moon will be about 16 degrees high in the sky.
    By the time the total eclipse commences the position will be around 82 degrees NE.
    The entire eclipse cycle ends with the moon at about 43 degrees NE at 58 degrees high in the sky at 10.24pm.
    Maybe some one from the Observatory could double-check this data!

    Matt Butler

  • I wish to film the phases of the eclipse, though can anyone give me a heads up on which direction I should be looking? East? West? etc…

    Phil Xander

  • Hi,

    I’m planning to film a time lapse sequence of the lunar eclipse.

    I’m OK with relevant timings of the event, eg.beginning,totality etc., but have you any info on the exposure variation between the “100% illumination” of a full moon disc just before the partial eclipse begins and the exposure value of the actual middle of the eclipse?

    I’m aware that it is not an exact science to get accurate “stop-loss” data due to atmospheric
    conditions but any suggestions on exposure compensation to hold my exposure range?

    35mm cine neg can handle several stops over-exposure so I can set my base exposure a little on “bright side”.

    Here’s to a cloudless night!

    Matt Butler

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