Thanks to one of my good friends and photography companion, Paul, brought to my attention the occurrence of a lunar eclipse and supermoon early enough to do some planning for the event. After a bunch of fretting, I decided to take the pictures from the Elk Rock lookout on the way to Mount Saint Helens. I figures that this was the farthest, west of the mounting in which I could capture both the eclipse and Mt. St. Helens, also Mt Adams is just visible above the horizon a little to the right from where the moon rose. On Friday we received rain in the area and on Saturday I drove up to St Helens to check it out, only to find clouds surrounding the mountain. But with a decent forecast for Sunday, we were going to use this spot.
Sure enough, when Susanna and I showed up at the spot, along with one of my brothers, Scott, there was not a cloud in the sky. After arriving at our vantage point and setting up the cameras, people continued to show up making the parking area look like a drive-in-movie theater with everyone in their lawn chairs and barbecues ready for the show. However, when the moon finally showed at around 7:20 pm it was already in totality, so it was just barely visible as we were still in twilight. Unimpressed with the early showing, many of the people began to bail with 1/2 of them gone withing the hour. The images captured run from around 7:30 to 10:30 and at the end there was only one other car besides us at the viewing point.
To capture this image, I used information from Michael Frye’s blog post (http://www.michaelfrye.com/landscape-photography-blog/2015/09/22/lunar-eclipse/#more-8218) and the book Night Photography and Light Paining by Lance Keimig for recommendations on camera settings, ISO, f/stop and shutter speed and wrote them down for notes while up shooting on the mountain. Two camera’s, the Sony A7rII on the Canon 400 f/2.8 (rented) with shutter release cable and the A7r with a 35mm lens and interval timer set for every 10 minutes, the first of these started at around 6:30. (Gitzo tripods and Really Right Stuff ball heads on both) One of the best suggestions that came from Michael Frye was to turn on the highlight warning in the SLR’s. In the Sony A7 bodes and in some other ones as well, they have a feature called Zebra. This is a variable highlight control setting which comes from the video industry. I set this at 95, slightly less that other DSLR’s would warn you at. (it’s called Zebra because it produces Zebra lines through were the highlight is going to be blown out). This was the first time I used it and it is now one of my stock settings within the cameras. With this setting and the live view through the electronic view finder (EVF), they allowed me to control the exposure on the moon particularly as it was increasingly lit by he suns. Everything was shot at f/8. The Moon was shot between 1600 and no more than 4 seconds (deep into the eclipse) to 400 1/1000 for the fully lit moon with the A7rII. (The book recommends not letting a telephoto lens get beyond 4 seconds to keep the image sharp. There was only one at 4 seconds a couple at 2 sec. but most of the rest at 1 second for the 1600 settings. They recommend dividing 400 by the mm of the lens, 400/400 = 1 second, 400/35 = 11sec) These were more or less the same settings for the A7r.
For assembling the image, I first tried to use a stacking software, but I found the software that I used couldn’t get matching elements from the black images with just the pinpoint of light from the moon and crashed so I gave up on this process. I decided to selected one of the early images from the A7r with the 35mm lens for the base image, lust showing Mt. St Helens, blended a couple of the later images to get a feel for the path of the moon, selected images from the A7rII at approximately the 10 minute interval, copied each onto their own layer at about 15% of its original size, but about double the original size in the wide angle image and Voila.
I’m sorry, I cannot end this post without taking a shot at Ken Rockwell. Now Ken has a great web site and I refer to his site and information there a lot, particularly when it comes to Leica lenses. Secondly, it is the photographer, not the camera that makes great images. With these caveats in place, Ken recently posted his review of the Sony A7rII in which he asserts the this body is not for the big boys, not for real photographers. Well technology happens to just make a persons life easier and two qualities of this camera made Sunday night significantly easier, live view through the EVF so I could see what the camera was “going to record” before I took the shot, not afterwards and Zebra so that I could monitor the brightness of the moon. I cannot count how many times I have missed on this factor. The smaller and lighter is a big plus as well.