Clear Skies in Kodiak Greet Total Lunar Eclipse


The full moon is eclipsed by the earth’s shadow and takes on a reddish hue during Monday night’s total eclipse. Photo by Marion Owen

Kodiak photographer, and KPC photography instructor, Marion Owen, was out last night capturing images of the total lunar eclipse, and was kind enough to share with us a photo and her technique:

Marion Owen/For KMXT

In addition to setting up the camera and tripod (in the comfort of an upstairs bedroom and shooting through an open window!), we prepared for the evening moon show by making a batch of popcorn, sipping eggnog and hot blueberry-pomegranite spiced cider and nibbling on fruitcake. Yes, we were very blessed with a clear, calm night.


View of Monday evening’s total lunar eclipse shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, mounted on a tripod, and fitted with a 70-200mm (f/2.8) lens with a 2x extender. Exposure notes: ISO: 400 (at the beginning of the eclipse) and eventually moved to 1600 (as the moon darkened). A cable release was used to reduce camera shake.

Click "Read more" below for tips on exposure and focus.


As for determining the exposure, an SLR (single lens reflex) camera makes the job easier. Though "point and shoot" cameras are handy, they can produce disappointing results because the auto-exposure feature takes in too much of the dark sky and turns the moon a bright, white, textureless orb.

Thus, to shoot the "red moon" the camera’s light meter was ignored, and the manual exposure setting was used instead. To explain: The moon is a sunlit object, and believe it or not, photographing the full moon on a clear night isn’t much different than photographing any other sunlit object, (except that the moon is about 240,000 miles away).

Thus, the "Sunny 16" Rule was used. This is an easy-to-remember trick for photographing any sunlit subject, day or night. Simply put, the correct exposure "starting point" for an object lit by bright sun is a shutter speed of 1/ the ISO setting you’re using (turn it into a fraction), with an aperture (lens opening) of f/16.

For example, at the beginning of the eclipse, the moon was bright white and full, requiring less exposure. Thus, you could get away by using an ISO of 400. Thus, a good starting point for a correct exposure for a full moon on a clear night would be 1/400 at f/16. And since most cameras don’t have a shutter speed of 1/400, the shutter speed was rounded up to 1/500. Even so, many exposures were bracketed (taken faster and slower than the indicated exposure).


Getting accurate focus is probably the most difficult thing to do, especially as the moon darkens to a deep orange-red. Manual focus can be iffy, especially when your eyes become tired from staring and focusing on the same object. Fortunately, the 70-200mm lens’ autofocus function works particularly well, even with the 2x extender, which helped reveal the moon’s features of ridges, craters and mountains.

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