Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse

"Photographing a lunar eclipse is easy and fun," says Mr. Eclipse. OK, sounds good to me. Mr. Eclipse has lots of directions for setting the camera for a night shot, and this will be the last full eclipse for some time. The night is clear and cold. It's not 3:00 in the morning. I can do this. It will be fun! First, crank the ISO setting up. My Panasonic Lumix only goes to 400, so that's the best we can do on that. Get out the tripod. It's old and doesn't move without creaking, but it's better than nothing. Be glad the Panasonic has a swivel on the viewing screen. Since the moon rises higher every few minutes, I kept pointing up to keep on the target. At least I could pull the screen down and didn't have to get on my knees to see through it. Still, for future reference, take a lawn chair out to the driveway, and don't have the tripod fully extended. Better yet, do this in the summer, so your toes don't freeze!

Mr. Eclipse gave explicit instructions for setting aperture and speed, but I had a little trouble reading the guide on the magnitude of brightness of the moon. In other words, the full moon was very bright in the beginning, but got less bright as it moved into the Earth's shadow, and it was necessary to change the settings every few minutes, as well as move to keep the moon in the frame. Just to be cautious, I kept changing both the aperture and shutter speed to take in more light as the evening progressed, and I'm glad I did. Not sure the metering feature was set right, since I'd been experimenting with those settings in relation to photographing white birds. Taking the flashlight outside was a good idea.

In the dark and the cold, I somehow managed to turn on the AutoBracket feature. Not only did I not know what it was for, I couldn't get it turned back off again. It kept taking three shots each time I pushed the shutter. Now I've looked it up, and learned something new about my camera. Setting the delayed shot timer helped to reduce any shake from releasing the shutter myself. At one point, I thought I'd re-position the tripod - big mistake. I couldn't find the moon again, and it was just reaching totality. Turned out I didn't have the zoom all the way out, and the dot I thought was a star, was actually the red moon after all. Whew! See, my telephoto can actually reach 239,000 miles!
Why is the moon red during the eclipse? Mr. Eclipse answers this. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks the Sun's light from reaching the Moon. Astronauts on the Moon would then see the Earth copletely eclipse the Sun. (They would see a bright red ring around the Earth as they watched all the sunrises and sunsets happening simultaneousely around the world!) While the Moon remains completely within Earth's umbral shadow, indirect sunlight still manages to reach and illuminate it. However, this sunlight must first pass deep through the Earth's atmosphere which filters out most of the blue colored light. The remaining light is a deep red or orange in color and is much dimmer than pure white sunlight. Earth's atmosphere also bends or refracts some of this light so that a small fraction of it can reach and illuminate the Moon.
Ah well, it was really fun, my fingers and toes got cold, but I enjoyed going where I've never gone before (as they say). One really good shot out of about 90. Not too bad... it could have been none at all. Carpe Diem (or Nitem, in this instance)!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"carpe nitem" I like that. A great picture, honey.