The Eclipse Challenge

Capturing the eclipse by Alan Dyer
… The challenge is capturing an image of the scene. The problem is not the technical difficulty – you can hand hold your iPhone up to the sky and do the job – but simply remembering to do so.

A total eclipse, even for veteran shadows chasers, is so overwhelming that carefully rehearsed photo plans often go by the wayside as the photographer simply stands slack-jawed in amazement.

Before you know it, totality – which at this eclipse lasts no more than 2 minutes and 40 seconds – ends as sunlight bursts out from behind the Moon in a brillant “diamond ring”.

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Alan Dyer is an astronomy author and astrophotographer in Alberta, Canada.

more in EV Mag: Issue #59

How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse

How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse
A lunar eclipse occurs whenever the moon passes through the Earth’s dark shadow, which can only happen during a full moon. There are two or more lunar eclipses a year.

lunareclipse1Types of Lunar Eclipses
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. This occurs when the moon passes through the Earth’s penumbral shadow. These eclipses are subtle and hard to observe.
Partial Lunar Eclipse. This occurs when a portion of the moon passes through the Earth’s umbral shadow. These eclipses are easy to see with the unaided eye.
Total Lunar Eclipse. This occurs when the entire moon passes through the Earth’s umbral shadow. During the total phase (totality), the moon turns a vibrant red color. These are easy to see as well, with the unaided eye.

lunareclipse2A lunar eclipse begins as a small notch slowly appears along one edge of the moon. During the next hour, the moon gradually dips deeper into Earth’s dark umbral shadow. If the eclipse is a total one, the last remaining minutes of the partial phases can be quite dramatic. The crescent of the moon grows thinner as darkness propagates through a night sky now deprived of moonlight. If you’re away from city lights, the Milky Way becomes bright and beautiful as the total phase begins.

lunareclipse3No matter what kind of camera you own, there are a variety of techniques that you can use to photograph a lunar eclipse: wide-angle, telephoto, multiple exposure and star trail. While you can also use film cameras to photograph eclipses, this article specifically discusses digital camera use.

lunareclipse4Geometry of the Sun, Earth and Moon During an Eclipse of the moon. Earth’s two shadows are the penumbra and the umbra.
(Sizes and distances not to scale)

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