Monday, September 28, 2015

The Blood Moon and Photographic Mistakes

A couple of weeks ago I photographed the partial solar eclipse that was seen over South Africa, and that just made me more excited about the blood moon that was set to appear in the early hours of this morning over South Africa.

A friend of mine invited me over to his place, since he lives on a hill, and our view of the transformation of the moon wouldn’t be obstructed. So, last night I went to bed around 22:00 (10pm) and then woke up this morning at 02:30 (2:30am). I arrived at his place around 02:50 and then we set up in an open patch of grass next door to his house.

Early phase
Early phase of the moon’s transformation to becoming a blood moon.

Taking pictures of the early phases of the transformation to becoming the blood moon was easy. It was nailing the actual blood moon that gave me problems. I basically created these problems for myself due to not thinking clearly what I wanted to accomplish.

Halfway mark
Halfway through the transformation into the blood moon

The first problem I encountered was with my camera. Just to make clear, the camera isn’t the problem; it was my interpretation of what I saw on the LCD of the camera. I use a Sony SLT-A37, and for the price I paid for it, it is brilliant! I’ve had it now for 2 years and 8 months. I got this camera for free, since my insurance replaced my old Sony A200 after it was stolen. It was definitely a major upgrade to what I had. What I really like about the Sony cameras is that it makes use of an electronic viewfinder, which shows the photographer what the photo will look like before it is taken. That can be seen on the viewfinder and the LCD. However, that is the very thing that messed with my mind in the early hours this morning. When the moon was darkened, to get more light I started slowing down the shutter speed. But then, watching it on the LCD, it looked very grainy, but like one guy on Facebook said, even if he took grainy shots, he could still say that he did it. So, I took up the same philosophy. Yet, I started realizing that the photos I took of the blood moon didn’t have the grain in it like on the LCD (I didn’t feel like peeping through the viewfinder the whole night). They seemed ok. However, I had set the shutter speed down to somewhere between 6 and 10 seconds. Big.Mistake! When viewing it on the camera, it looked fine. However, when I got home I saw that they weren’t fine. So, what is usually very helpful, the electronic viewfinder (and LCD), in this case messed with my mind.

Blood Moon completed
When this photograph is enlarged, you can see a slight movement of the stars. Shutter speed 2 seconds.

The second problem was the fact that setting the shutter speed so slow actually picked up the movement of the moon and stars! Who knew that in 2-10 seconds there would be movement by these heavenly bodies?! I didn’t expect that, and so I never compensated for it. The right thing would have been to push the ISO higher in order to make use of a quicker shutter speed. But, that is how we live and learn.

The good thing is that I have 3 years to prepare for the next total lunar eclipse that will be seen over South Africa. Maybe I will be better prepared then?

Blood Moon accomplished
Here the stars actually make a long line of movement. Shutter speed 5 seconds.

Both of the blood moon photographs are blurred due to the long exposure, and you can see the stars making trails. Next time I will know better!