Photographing the Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, 1:23 a.m. to 4:49 a.m., August 28, 2007, Yosemite NP, CA

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, 1:23 a.m. to 4:49 a.m., August 28, 2007, Yosemite NP, CA

On the night of April 14th and 15th viewers in North and South America will be able to see a total lunar eclipse. Most people should be able to see the whole eclipse sequence (weather permitting), though viewers in the far northeast will miss the very end of the event.

I’ve photographed several lunar eclipses, and they’re spectacular events to view and photograph. This one is special, however, because it’s the first time I might be able to see the whole eclipse sequence from beginning to end. In California the eclipse will be seen almost due south. This is not a great alignment for Yosemite Valley, though it should be possible to see the eclipse over Cathedral Rocks or Sentinel Rock. But California is a diverse state with many other possible locations, so I’ll be thinking about other possible locations between now and the 14th.

If you’re interested in photographing the eclipse, I’ve written a guest post about it for the blog. Although I’ve posted other articles about eclipses before, this new article is the most complete and comprehensive, with details about focusing in the dark, revised exposure times, how to align the eclipse with a foreground object (like a building, mountain, or tree), and more.

This is one night when I hope the clouds will stay away. :)

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Lunar Eclipse This Saturday; Eclipse; Winging It Through the Eclipse

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

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19 Responses to “Photographing the Lunar Eclipse”

  1. Kevin Reilly says:

    Thanks so much for the information. I’m always impressed by the amount of knowledge you share in these posts. I’m sure that coming up with your shooting specs took lots of trial and error and now we get to benefit from your hard work. BTW — It looks like this is going to happen right after April’s potential moonbow too. How fun.

    • Michael Frye says:

      You’re welcome Kevin, and thank you. Yes, you could stay up all that night photographing the lunar rainbow and the eclipse! There’s not a ton of water in Yosemite Falls right now, but there’s more than enough for a lunar rainbow at the Lower Fall bridge, and maybe for the Upper Fall from Cook’s Meadow.

  2. Good timing for an eclipse as some photographers will probablyl be up late that night working on their taxes!!

  3. Ben Patrick says:

    Hi Michael, I am admirer of your work, and these must be my favorites. I love night photography. If you don’t mind sharing, when during the process did you light the trees? How did you avoid blowing out the moon while lighting the trees? Thanks!

    • Michael Frye says:

      Thanks Ben. I lit the trees in between exposures for the moon. When blending the images in Photoshop, I added a layer mask to those layers and painted over the moon with black to mask off the moon.

  4. Don Nadreau says:

    Hi Michael, I have plans to try some eclipse shots over at Crex Meadows in Western Wisconsin. I don’t use Photoshop or Elements, I use Lightroom for all my work. I don’t think I can stack photos in Lightroom, other than Photoshop have you used any other software to stack photos? I’ve found several via Google, but I’m not sure how well they would work for this application (they seem to be used for focus stacking). Any help would be appreciated! Your blog and the shots of the moon rising have got me excited about this event, hope I works out.


    • Michael Frye says:

      Don, since I use Photoshop I don’t have much need to try anything else for combining photos. I have tried onOne Perfect Layers, but Elements can do all the same stuff, and so much more.

  5. Monica says:

    While doing a search on photographing lunar eclipses I found your article on blog and found it very helpful. At the last minute I discovered there will be a moonbow at Yosemite and a lunar eclipse between April 13-15 so I decided to make a trip and try and photograph both phenomena. I plan on purchasing your IPad app The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite. I was going to purchase your book but it would not arrive in time and then I saw your app! Does the app mention best places to photograph a moonbow and the lunar eclipse? If not can you recommend places?


  6. Todd Fox says:

    Hello Michael,

    As always, your expertise is enlightening and inspiring, but most of all it’s greatly appreciated. Thank you! I’m planning on shooting the upcoming lunar eclipse as well and I’m hoping the clouds stay away. All the wind in the desert will either blow them out or bring them in. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post (actually, I enjoy all of them!) and I’m getting my notes together for the shoot. I’m hoping to shoot the sequence with my 50mm prime lens and also do individuals through the phases with a longer lens. Maybe I’m biting off more than I should, but what the heck, life is short so live it with gusto! I hope all is well with you and Claudia.

    Clear skies and calm winds to you,

    • Michael Frye says:

      Thanks Todd, and good luck to you in your eclipse attempts. 50mm is too narrow to capture the whole eclipse sequence, but would work well for part of it. You’d need 28mm or wider, with a horizontal orientation, to capture the whole sequence from the beginning of the partial eclipse to the partial eclipse at the other end.

      • Todd Fox says:

        Thanks for that information, Michael. That would have been terribly disappointing to learn once the sequence started. I have a 10-24mm that I’ll use instead.

        • Todd Fox says:

          I understand the angle of view now. It’s such a simple, yet vital, piece of information that I did not even consider. Thanks again for saving me from a potentially disappointing revelation in the middle of the shoot, Michael.

          • Michael Frye says:

            You’re welcome Todd. I guess I should add that the shorter the focal length, the smaller the moons will appear in the photo. There are trade offs in everything. :) But this eclipse is rare because we could see the entire sequence, so I’ll be trying to capture that even if the individual moons are small.

  7. sumeet says:

    HI Micheal,

    Very nice blog on borrow lenses on lunar eclipse. i am going to taking pics on 8th oct (my first time). can you guide me on what lenses would be best to use ? i am thinking of renting a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lenses. would that be sufficient . or would a wide angle be better. please advice.


    • Michael Frye says:

      Thanks Sumeet. I can’t tell you what lens to use; it depends on what you’re trying to do. If you want to take closeup images of the moon, then the longer the lens the better. As long as you’re renting, you might look at a 600mm or even 800mm lens. Or at least get a sharper 400mm lens than the 100-400. The 400mm f/5.6 is much better, or there’s the 200-400 f/4 zoom, though that’s a lot more expensive. If you plan to capture a long sequence above a landscape, like I did, you’ll need a moderately wide-angle lens, probably something in the 20mm to 28mm range. Keep in mind that the wider you go, the smaller the moons will be in the photo.

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