We had a total lunar eclipse overnight. It started early in the evening here in Grand Junction, Colorado. Fortunately, we had a clear night. So many times, when amazing things happen in the sky, we have clouds. But this time we lucked out!
John and I went out in the backyard and sat in our comfy patio chairs with the newly placed summer red cushions on them. The temperature was probably in the upper 60’s for most of the time we were out there. It was quite pleasant.
I remember when we went to Fort Laramie, Wyoming to witness the total solar eclipse several years ago. At the moments of totality, all the birds took to their nests and the entire sky was like twilight. Straight up above, stars could be seen. It was lighter around the horizon in all directions. There was no noise from either people or animals. That was a truly rare event that I’ll never forget. There was only about four minutes of totality during that eclipse. During this lunar eclipse last night, I think it was about 90 minutes of totality.
As the eclipse continued, it began to get chillier. I was wearing my flip flops and my legs and feet were starting to get cold. John went in the house to get his sweatshirt. I had plenty of time to change the battery in my camera. Lunar eclipses take much longer than solar eclipses do and you’re not necessarily under the gun nor do you really have to stay on it in the same way you do with a solar eclipse.
While we were still in totality, a bat flew by. I didn’t see it. I heard it. It was making those little squeaks like sonar. I never did see it in fact, but I heard it fly past us and over into the neighbor’s yard. The dogs in the neighborhood were barking. During an eclipse of any kind, things can seem a bit other-worldly and out of sync.
I’m not as happy with my photographs as I would have liked to be, quite frankly. I took a couple cell phone shots that came out better than the ones I took with my Nikon. Well, I don’t know if they’re technically better, but at least they weren’t under exposed. You can see the red hue in the moon during totality, but the moon looks really small. I have a 400mm lens for my Nikon, which is generally enough for my use, but somehow the photos didn’t seem close enough. The only solution was to crop them, which I did. I cropped them into square images.
It occurs to me now, that when photographing a lunar eclipse, you must continue to adjust your settings as the moon gets darker. You really need to up your ISO, which I didn’t do. Since I live in a valley, with an 11,000-foot mountain on the eastern horizon, it takes the sun or the moon longer to be visible from my location. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to see the moon, it was already more than halfway eclipsed. You can only start from wherever you are.
I know some photographers who spent days scouting out the perfect location for their photographic lunar adventure. Now they’ll spend the better part of the next few days merging photos together to make photo art. They can insert the moon into any other night sky photo to make art with it. Some of these art pieces are quite beautiful. It just depends on what you want to do.
There is another total lunar eclipse that will be visible from North America later this year, on November 8th. You can start planning where you want to be for that now. I’ll probably be down in the four corners area somewhere during that time. It’ll probably be a lot colder than it was last night, but who knows? Maybe I’ll even feel motivated to make photo art by then.
For me, the joy is more in being in the present moment out in the field, rather than in spending time stacking and merging photos together afterwards. It’s that moment of awe, when something amazing happens that really makes it for me. The camera is my excuse!