Capturing the 2019 Lunar Eclipse
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
This January 21st, 2019 was a very hectic Sunday for me. That day was supposed to be a relaxing day with the night coming to a wonderful end as I photograph my first ever Lunar Eclipse; witnessing my first ever Lunar Eclipse as well. But alas, I also had a big project due that night at 10:00PM for one of my classes, and me being me, I didn't start it until that Sunday. So instead of a relaxing time getting ready for a cold, beautiful night, I stressed and rushed through my project (which I ended up getting an 89% on!) to try to finish before totality came and passed. As I was in my room (the Building, Cassat, pictured here), I had a good view of the moon through most of its phases, which was very nice as I didn't have to be out in the cold to get those pictures. Unfortunately, I the double pane window glass made clear imaging difficult; the moon would have a ghost effect that proved difficult to deal with in post-production. As I turned in my project (6m 45s late...sorry, Prof!), I rushed out as fast as I could with my camera gear to photograph this once in a 2-year event! I don't know if it is actually once every 2 years but I do know that the next one is in 2021. In hindsight, I should not have gone out in such a rush. Doing so created a lot of problems for me: I didn't dress as warmly as I should have, I left my extra batteries and SD cards behind, and most atrociously, I accidentally broke my camera's intervalometer. But none of those things stopped me from doing what I had anticipated doing all weekend!
When I first arrived at Bell Field, I set up my Sony a6000 with my Sony 18-105mm f/4 G Master lens. I chose this lens because of its long reach (the longest lens I own). Especially when combined with Sony's ClearImageZoom®, I had an effective zoom of 210mm. With this, I had pointed my camera at the moon, set my manual focus, and used a timelapse app I had downloaded onto my camera.
After my Sony started taking pictures, it was time for me to set up a second camera. I borrowed a camera from my school's checkout center: a Canon 70D with an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6. I had set up my StarTracker Pro on my school's much more sturdy Manfrotto tripod. I barely had any view of Polaris (which is needed to properly set up the StarTracker Pro) but I was able to manage okay a few feet farther away from my main setup. This is the point where my haste had affected me, I did not have an SD Card for this camera. I texted my girlfriend to bring me one when she had finished with her homework, so it was a while before that camera was of any use.
Until then, I had periodically (every 7-10 minutes or so) readjusted my Sony Camera position to keep the moon in frame. As soon as I got the SD Card, I started to use the Canon at 135mm. I could not figure out how to do a timelapse with this camera meaning I needed to take every photo manually. This did not help with camera shake at all nor with the warmth of my fingers. All-in-all, I ended up taking about 1900 photos (about 1700 more photos than I probably needed in all honesty).
Here's how the process for the image above went (the wide shot of Cassat with the stages of the moon behind).
Camera: Sony a6000
Lens: Sony 18-105mm f/4 G Master, Sigma 16mm f/1.4
Exif (Pre-Totatlity Moons): 1/200second, ISO 100, f/5, 210mm (105 digitally zoomed 2x)
Exif (Totality Moon): 1s, ISO 3200, f/4, 210mm (105 digitally zoomed 2x)
Exif (Building): 2s, ISO 100, f/1.7 (16mm), 9:40PM Jan 25th, 2019
Total Number of Images: Many
I did basic adjustments in Lightroom (exposure, contrast, curves, white balance for the building) and exported the JPEG files as JPEG. The process was similar for each of the moon phases. I opened the specific moon phase JPEGs into Affinity Photo and created a Live Stack of the (I don't recall how many photos per moon phase I used) photos; I had the same problem with alignment in Affinity Photo as before so I manually aligned the photos. From there, I masked the Live Stack to show only the moon. I repeated the process until I had each of my moon phases as their own moon JPEG. I opened the Cassat Building photo in Affinity Photo and I added each phase of the moon. I honestly was not sure what the position of the moons should be so I arbitrarily put them where you see them now. I had tested a few different positions out with the moons being a few different sizes but those looked "too fake" for my liking. I made the moons smaller than I had hoped they could be but the reduction in size made them look more "realistic." Finally, I added a curves adjustment to make the moons a bit darker, and exported it to the image you see.
Here's how the process for the image below went (the moon at totality with a starry background):
Camera: Canon 70D
Lens: Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Tracker: iOptron SkyTracker Pro
EXIF: 4s, ISO 800, f/5.6,128mm, 11:28PM
Total Number of Images: 11
I did basic adjustments in Lightroom (exposure, contrast, curves) and exported the CR2 files as JPEG. I then opened the files into Affinity Photo and created a Live Stack of the 11 photos; unfortunately, the automatic alignment of Affinity Photo did not do well so I had to manually align each photo (only 11 so not too bad). From there, I masked the Live Stack to show only the moon and set its blend mode to Minimum. I selected one of the 11 photos (arbitrarily) to use as the background for the stars. I added a curves and levels adjustment to bring out the stars more and make the blacks blacker. Then saved and exported to the image you see below.