Tips for taking epic shots of tonight’s ‘blood moon’ total lunar eclipse

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A lunar eclipse, captured by Jamie Malcolm-Brown in November 2021. Used with permission.

Starting tonight, May 15th, through the early hours of tomorrow, May 16th, skywatchers in Europe, the Americas, Antarctica and Africa will be able to view the first total lunar eclipse in almost a year. The moon will turn a ‘blood red’ hue for a brief period as it passes entirely into the Earth’s shadow when lined up with the sun. Depending on where you are located, there is a specific time you can witness this phenomenon.

Time and Date, a top-ranking site for times and timezones, created a useful tool that allows you to make a plan by entering your viewing location. From there, it gives you pertinent information including the total duration, what time each phase of the eclipse starts and the direction it’ll travel plus altitude during these phases. A helpful animation gives you a visual of how it will appear, minute by minute, once it starts.

Time and Date created a free tool to help you plan your total lunar eclipse viewing, depending on your location.

If you plan on bringing your camera out for the ‘blood moon’, photographer Jamie Malcolm-Brown has some helpful tips for camera settings. Describing his process for capturing the lunar eclipse last year, he tells DPReview that ‘it was taken with [a] 200-600mm lens at 600mm, ISO 800, F6.3, at 1/3 sec. I bracketed the shots at 5 shots with an EV (exposure value) change of 1. Next time I would probably bracket 5 shots but with only an EV change of .3. The final image was cropped fairly significantly to fill the frame with the moon. ‘

While useful for capturing more detail on the moon’s surface, you don’t necessarily need a long lens that extends to 600mm to photograph the blood moon. John Weatherby released a quick, helpful tutorial on Instagram recently outlining his process for getting the best images possible. For one, you can shoot at a focal length between 100–200mm if you want to include a foreground.

Weatherby also explains that having a sturdy tripod and ball head is an absolute necessity. Ensuring that the lens is locked in securely will yield clearer images of the moon. Using the camera’s shutter delay or self timer, or an external remote, will also help prevent blurry shots as the camera is likely to shake a bit once you press the shutter. PhotoPillsan app that helps you identify where the moon will travel in accordance with your specific location, is recommended as well.

It’s important to check the weather in your area as cloud coverage can potentially conceal the moon completely. Windy.com is a free app available on desktop, iOS and Android that, in my opinion, does a decent job of forecasting weather patterns. It’ll give you a visual of where clouds will appear at specific dates and times so you can determine where the best place is to set up in your state or country, depending on how much you’re willing to travel.

Windy.com, a free app, is an effective tool for forecasting weather elements including cloud coverage.

The next total lunar eclipse will take place on November 8th. After that, it won’t appear again until March 13, 2025. If skywatching interests you, you’re in or near one of the locations where the eclipse is visible and weather permits, I recommend getting out for a few hours and witnessing this wonderful event first-hand.





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