The Magazine About Learning and Teaching Astronomy

Here is a link to an article on the Lunar Parallax experiment done on the June 2011 eclipse, in The Classroom Astronomer magazine, Issue 9, Fall 2011.

How do you take good photographs of a lunar eclipse?  Here are three photographers' advice on 'shadow shooting'!

Advice from Italy

From Italy, here's how the panorama (minus the Chinese moon image) was taken

If you wish to learn the basics of astrophotography, the Moon would be your best choice: it's easy to spot, it's easy to align your instrument with, it's very bright and it also allows you to increase exposure times at low magnifications.

But if you'd like to get nice photos out of a lunar eclipse, it'll get a little harder than that. If you're not familiar with astrophotography, you can get great results even without a telescope:  just get your DSLR, a 70mm lens, a stable mounting and you'll be ready to go.

You can setup your camera with a remote controller or with a software provided when you first bought it: connect your DSLR to your laptop and you can set the camera without even touching it. It's very useful and you get full control of each settings.

Because during a lunar eclipse the moon's brightness will lower a lot, it's very important to keep changing exposure times throughout the whole event. I'd suggest to set the camera's sensitivity between 500 and 640 ISO, to keep full aperture and set exposure time between 4 and 10 seconds for each shoot. When you're about the totality, you may want to push exposure times a little bit longer in order to get better results on your final sequence.

During the last lunar eclipse, in Italy things were even harder: it was just after sunset, the sky was still bright... so we basically had to change exposure times both to match the sky getting darker as well as the moon losing its brightness, but the two things didn't happen at the same time, so it was a lot of fun!

--Fabio Checchin, Dario Tiveron, Giacomo Maltese Gruppo Astrofili di Padova

Advice from Turkey

  • Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ8
  • Taken on 2011/06/15 22:26:37
  • Exposure: 1.000s
  • Focal Length: 66.70mm
  • F/Stop: f/3.300
  • ISO Speed: ISO200
  • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
  • No flash
 and this is my camera's properties; 

Product Features

  • 12x Optical, 4x Digital Zoom
  • Leica DC Vario-Elmarit Lens - 11 elements in 8 groups (3 Aspherical lenses / 3 Aspherical surfaces)
  • 2.5-inch Polycrystalline TFT LCD (207 K Pixels), 100% Field of View, Turkish language
7.2 Megapixels, up to 3072 x 2304 resolution, 848 x 480 at 30 fps - We recommend purchasing a 1GB SD Memory Card for practical usage

Technical Details

  • Brand Name: Panasonic
  • Model: DMC-FZ8P-K

The photo which is taken at night is a matter of patience. If you are an amateur like me, you may need to try a lot of times. At least, you should use semiprofessional machine. I advise you to use a tripod for night shots. If you haven't got any tripod, you should fix your machine on the ground. When you press the shutter button, the camera vibrates; to stop the vibration, you can use the automatic timer. Also, you can use exposure control types (Candle or Starry sky mode). Best wishes from Turkey to everybody.

SeÁil Berna KUZU

Advice from China

     You need a telephoto lens. The moon looks too small if you donít use a telephoto lens. The camera I used last time was a Canon 5D with 70-200mm lens. It would be better if I had used a larger lens than 200mm.  The shooting mode was manual mode (M). Since the (eclipsed)  moonís brightness is constant, you need to set the mode only once. I think we donít need automatic mode in this situation.  The easiest way to find the exposure ... is just trying it. I say this because digital cameras are very popular these days. When you use digital camera, take a picture and check it out. Take a picture and enlarge the image to make sure your exposure is appropriate. Of course the exposure might be rather longer than usual.  So if you find the proper exposure, as mentioned above, you can keep taking pictures. You may check the pictures from time to time to make sure.  

     When I took the lunar eclipse pictures, I suddenly got the feeling that it would be great to get the dark part of the moon which was hidden by the shadow of the earth. If you want to do this, you need to set the exposure longer.  For example, in my pictures,  my exposure was ISO 400, aperture 5.0, and shutter speed 1/30 second when I focused on the brighter side of the moon. When I took the photos of shadow, I used ISO 800, aperture 4.0 and shutter speed 1.3 seconds.  The difference between the exposures of brighter side and the dark side is more than six stops. One stop means 50% difference of light exposure. 

     I want to point out that it would be better to determine the exposure in the situation because the exposure value can vary depending on many variables.  

     There are a couple of more things to suggest. First, because the moon moves, the picture will be blurry if the exposure time is too long. When I took the pictures,  the shutter speed was too long (eight seconds).  If taken with 200mm lens, as long as 1.3 seconds was acceptable. If your lens is less than 200mm, your shutter speed needs to be shorter. The only way to make your photos brighter in this situation is to make your ISO higher, and a tripod is essential!  You cannot shoot a lunar eclipse without a tripod.  Even if you use a tripod, it would be a good idea to use a remote controller or a release instead of pressing the shutter button in order to prevent the effect of your finger pressure when you take a picture. If you donít have such accessories, you can use a timer when you take a photo. 

An Kwang Jin (Korean photographer in Qingdao, China).