Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eclipse Photos

I have been one acquainted with the night.
Robert Frost

Last night's (er... this morning's) eclipse of the moon was quite an experience and very difficult to describe. At first I wasn't going to view the whole thing as it started at 1:20 am PDT and didn't end until 5:55 am. But I ended up doing just that and I am glad I did. Being up in the middle of the night is weird enough, but seeing the bright moonlight diminish gradually until the night was very dark and then to have it all come back again was exciting to me. When I finally opened my eyes and saw the sunlight later in the morning, after catching a few hours sleep, it seemed very strange and unnatural. The darkness, the moonlight, and the stars are the universe's natural state. I gained a whole new perspective on sunlight.

The first photo collage shows the passage of the moon into the penumbra of the Earth's shadow. There is a problem with taking photos of the moon. At a full moon, it is so bright that it overpowers the camera and all you get is a bright smeary blur. So I closed the camera way down, shot at high speeds, and purposely underexposed the shots to get some of the land features on the surface of the moon. When there was only a sliver still showing, I switched to a wider aperture and slower speed to get the details. The copper color is how I saw the moon through my binoculars and with my naked eye.

At totality, the moon and the sky were very dark. The moon had penetrated deep into the umbra of the Earth's shadow. Stars came out around the moon that you would not have seen otherwise because of the moon's brightness. I used this opportunity to look at some other stars through my telescope. My old friends the Pleiades and Orion are up in the early morning sky now and it was beautifully clear and dark around them even though they rose in the east and the city lights are very strong there. The "Seven Sisters" of the Pleiades (M45) shown like jewels on velvet and the Nebula in Orion (M42) was very apparent.


Gradually the light of the sun began to fall on the moon once again. Totality was ending and the partial eclipse of the moon in the Earth's penumbra was beginning on the other side. As the glare of the light started to wipe out my photos, I switched back to the earlier closed down mode, but went even further. It was hard to judge from the little view you get in the LCD display to know which settings would be best once the files were downloaded to the computer. Also, you are working in the dark and pushing buttons without being able to see what you are doing very well. Anyway, the last photos were a little too dark but you can see the advancing light very easily. In the very last photo, after the whole show was over, I took a shot of the moon in standard mode to show how bright it really was.

All shots were taken as High Quality JEPGs, and none have been altered in the computer, only cropped. But now I wish I had taken at least one photo during totality in RAW mode. I didn't think of it until later. And as I said, I didn't want to fuss with the camera too much in the dark. I also didn't want the technology to overwhelm the experience. I wanted to see the eclipse and not spend my time trying to get the equipment to work.

Camera: Canon Rebel Digital SLR
Lens: Canon EF 100 to 300mm zoom used at highest power
ISO: 200 and 800
Aperture: f7.1 and f5.6
Time: 1/1000 to 2.5 sec.

1 comment:

  1. What incredible pictures of the eclipse!

    Hello, I surfed in looking for pictures of Isomeris arborea, and ended up poking around your blog for quite awhile. I really enjoyed visiting Southern California's natural areas with you. I'm up in San Francisco, and a native plant enthusiast too. I recently grew Isomeris arborea from seed, and now it's time for me to figure out what to do with it. I think it would get too much rain in my garden, so I'm going to put it in a large pot and see how it does.