Lunar events are some of the coolest events to take place. Throughout the year a lunar eclipse happens at least twice a year and it can be seen in different parts of the world. The occurrence of the lunar eclipses are not as rare as many might think.
However this particular occurrence of the lunar eclipse seemed to be on a lot of people’s radar. The Blood Moon was a very popular event. At least that was the perception that I was lead to believe via social media. It seemed that a lot of people were excited and were planning to stay up late to photograph the event. The event was going to take place from 11:00pm to about 3:00am. So it would be challenge, but great reward for those that stayed up late to watch it.
To be honest, at first I was not going to photograph the event. The reason being was that I knew that a lot of people were going to do the same. I felt that I didn’t need to photograph since I would see a lot of photographs of the same event. At the time I didn’t see the opportunity that was there. It wasn’t until I read an article by Sean Bagshaw, a Pacific Northwest photographer that changed my mind about photographing the Blood Moon.
In Sean’s article he told of the story that he didn’t expect to capture the lunar eclipse because he at first wasn’t aware of it. However he took the opportunity to make something of it. And what he did was take a time lapse shot of the eclipse over Mt. Shasta in Northern California. The final image was simply beautiful. When I saw it I was amazed at the image. But I was also intrigued with it as well because there were some “things” about it that didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t until further in the article Sean mentioned that he does know that the final image he created wasn’t the way that actual event occurred. He talks about what he’s vision was for the event and instead of trying hard to capture the event the way it would present itself, he decided to make it an image that he felt “would be the best artistic composition and visual impact. Upon reading this, I thought to myself, WHAT?! He fabricated the image?! No way! But what made it me rethink my thoughts was what Sean mentioned next: “my main goals were to create something visually exciting that told the story of the eclipse with enough detail to capture the imagination and perhaps allow people to experience it in a way they otherwise could not.” After reading that the light-bulb went off in my head.
“Always strive to create and tell better stories with your images”
I told myself that I wanted to create an image that would best tell the story of the Blood Moon. I know that some people might find that sneaky or just completely wrong. However my thoughts on the matter is that if you can tell a better story through your image, you should. And that is what I did. I would not hide the fact that the image is a composite. So with my mind set, I went out to photographed the event.
In my past experiences I had problems photographing the lunar eclipse or any lunar event for that matter. So this time around I did some research and I stumbled across an article that was pure gold. The article was great as it gave a play by play of how to photograph the moon. It outlined almost every minute, with every setting, for the whole duration of the Blood Moon. So after reading that article, I used the following general shooting settings and schedule. The first thing is I would shoot the moon every 8 minutes. Next, for the majority of the shoot, I would keep these settings with my Canon Mark 5D Mark II and 70-300 at 300mm: ISO 400, f/11.0, with a 1 second exposure. And I would refer back to the article from time to time during the shoot.
So with the inspiration, knowledge, and with a 4 hour nap, I headed out to a park near my house to meet up with some friends and photograph the event. The evening was pretty standard. My friends and I met, discussed what settings we were using and such. And we started that around 11pm and finished up around 2am.
The challenge that I think a lot of photographers in my area experience was that there were some clouds in the sky that evening, which would dim the moon from time to time. Unfortunately the moon was slightly covered by the clouds during the peak of the event. However for about a 6 second span the moon was clear and I was able to get a picture of it. Other than the clouds, there was not any other challenges that night.
After the evening of the blood moon I downloaded the images into my computer and uploaded them into Lightroom to edit. Before I began to edit the moon photos, I decided to draw out my concept for my final photo. I knew for my concept I wanted it to show off San Diego during the event. I decided to show off one San Diego’s best asset, the downtown skyline and San Diego bay. Since I wasn’t near downtown San Diego to photographed the event, I had to go to my archives to see if I did have a photo that would close resemble what the conditions were like for a full moon event in San Diego. And luckily I did go out several times earlier this year to photograph the full moon. I found a shot that I photographed of the full moon rising above San Diego bay for my shot.
After I found the photo, I drew out how and where I wanted the moon to be for the final image. Using Photoshop, I’m imported the base image and used the guides to lay out where the moons were going to go. Now with the moon placement set and arranged, I began the process of editing the photos.
The cool thing about knowing what your final image would look like helped tremendously in selecting the shots of the moon. I knew that I needed 15 images of the moon. So now I had to go through the image and select 15 of the best shots that would tell the story. And with the 15 selected I did my first round edits of those in Lightroom. With the images fully edited the way I wanted them to look, I exported each image into Photoshop to do the second round edits.
The second round edited required me to extract the moon from the background and resize the moon to show up in the image. I decided to size the moon about 30% larger than you would have seen it with your bare eyes. The reason I did this was to make the image look proportional to the city and also to help with the balance of the photo. Now with all of the images selected and edited, I started my final compositing edits.
With the moons extracted and placed, I notice that the base image’s sky made the moons stick out more than they should. So I decided to add a gradient layer to clean up and simplify the sky of the image. With that completed, the final touchups were done to the image to make the image seamless and complete. And the final image that you see is complete.
My advice to you? With some inspiration, knowledge, and some planning, you can create images that excite and inspire the imagination that also share your voice and vision with the world. Always strive to create and tell better stories with your images.
Got a question or comment? Let me know below, I’d love to hear from you!