Super Wolf Blood Moon Whatever… 2019 Western Hemisphere Lunar Eclipse

I don’t know what half of that title means, but there was a lunar eclipse on 20 Jan 2019. Because the moon turns red, some call it a “blood moon,” and since it occurred at perigee, it’s sometimes referred to as a “super moon,” as it looks 10% larger than normal due the closer distance during the moon’s slightly elliptical orbit.

Normally, I would try to seek out an ideal location that included the opportunity for some foreground, but I really didn’t care to get stuck in a crowd of people with no respect or consideration for others, like what happened the last time I went to Kerry Park. Instead, I simply went up to the roof of my building and resigned myself to the idea that I can just assemble a composite in Photoshop if I really wanted a shot with foreground elements. Plus, the high angle of the moon in the sky once the eclipse was scheduled to begin would severely limit where I could shoot, further increasing the chance of a crowd no matter where I chose to set up.

I set up both cameras: the X-T2 with 50-140mm lens was set to fire at 30 second intervals for assembly into a composite or video time-lapse while the X-T3 would be the primary, with the 100-400mm and 2x teleconverter for a 1200mm equivalent field of view. This allowed me to nearly fill the frame with the moon at full extension, however, the teleconverter would end up softening the image slightly, increasing in softness as I zoomed in. Unfortunately there’s no way around this as neither Fujifilm or any third party has released a telephoto lens longer than 400mm. Once I began the time-lapse on the X-T2, I quickly wished I’d had a longer lens and also realized my plan wasn’t going to work out since lunar eclipses last much longer than a solar eclipse. Without a robotic base, even at 200mm equivalent, the moon quickly traversed the frame multiple times during the event and forced me to reset. The results will require me to create a composite that holds the moon in a static position or i can create a stacked composite using multiple frame grabs. Either way, it’s not optimal and the results will most likely end up in the trash can.

Anyways, on to the handful of photos. The first three were taken before the penumbra even reached the moon. The weather had just begun to clear but a few clouds still managed to cross the sky before clearing moments before the Earth’s penumbra began to cast itself upon the moon’s surface. The full moon’s glow and reflection on the passing clouds created an eerie look that was just too good to not photograph. All three were bracketed shots but the second is an HDR stacked in Lightroom. The first and third were fully recoverable from single images at the proper exposure.

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Fujifilm X-T3 with 100-400mm and 2x teleconverter. 800mm (1200mm equiv.) ƒ/11, ISO 160, 1/13 sec.
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Fujifilm X-T3 with 100-400mm and 2x teleconverter. 285mm (428mm equiv.) ƒ/9, ISO 160, 5 shot 15 EV bracketed exposure.

The next shot was taken just as the umbral shadow began to overtake the moon in the lower left just as a large cloud began to pass in front of the moon. Unfortunately, the highlights were blown out in an attempt to expose the darker regions without increasing the ISO to 640 or greater. From a technical perspective, the X-T3 uses a dual gain sensor and processing method where dynamic range in the highlights increases 200% at ISO 320 and 400% at ISO 640. This is separate from its ISO invariance, where you’re able to shoot at low ISO despite underexposure, to raise the exposure as much as 3.5 EV in post with no noise penalty as opposed to increasing the ISO in-camera and paying a noise penalty in the shadows. The sacrifice comes at the loss of shadow detail and a higher noise floor… because of the night sky, I was reluctant to make this trade by increasing the ISO, choosing instead to “expose to the left,” preserving shadow detail with the benefit of reduced noise, but it left me with little headroom for highlights. Ultimately I should have “exposed to the right” to better preserve the highlights or raised the ISO to 640 for more headroom for the highlights. Or I should have bracketed this shot and created an HDR in Lightroom, which is the correct answer, as the dynamic range of the backlit scene was just far too great for my camera.

Yes, it looks a bit like the moon is passing IN FRONT of the clouds due to the moon shining through the clouds passing in front of it. Unlike a Peter Lik Photoshop composite fail, at least I’m not lying about its provenance… this was done completely in-camera, blown highlights and all.

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Fujifilm X-T3 with 100-400mm and 2x teleconverter. 800mm (1200mm equiv.) ƒ/11, ISO 160, 1/2 sec.

The next four were all taken as the Earth’s umbral shadow began to creep across the moon’s face, slowly turning the moon red while the areas covered by the penumbral shadow had a faint, bluish tint from the light filtered through our atmosphere.

The umbra taking over 50%.

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Fujifilm X-T3 with 100-400mm and 2x teleconverter. 800mm (1200mm equiv.) ƒ/11, ISO 160, 1/60 sec.

The penumbra has now completely enveloped the lunar surface.

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Fujifilm X-T3 with 100-400mm and 2x teleconverter. 800mm (1200mm equiv.) ƒ/11, ISO 1600, 1/15 sec.

The faint, bluish glow as the final stage of the penumbra engulfs the top of the lunar surface as it’s pushed out by the reddish cast of the umbra.

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Fujifilm X-T3 with 100-400mm and 2x teleconverter. 800mm (1200mm equiv.) ƒ/11, ISO 1600, 0.8 sec.

Only the slightest edge of the penumbra remains, casting a bluish, purplish glow on the upper left edge of the lunar surface while the rest of the surface is bathed in the reddish umbral shadow.

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Fujifilm X-T3 with 100-400mm and 2x teleconverter. 800mm (1200mm equiv.) ƒ/11, ISO 1600, 0.6 sec.

There are many more photos remaining from the shoot, many I have yet to process, some that will never see the light of day. These are, by far, the best of what I shot during the lunar eclipse.

All images Copyright © 2019 oakie. All Rights Reserved. Images may not be used, copied, downloaded or repurposed in any way without my expressed, written consent.

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