Supermoon Eclipse time lapse

I met up with some people last night to watch the eclipse and brought my gear with me. It was a beautiful night for it. I thought it was going to be too cloudy, but the clouds went away right before it started and didn't come back until it was almost over. Clear skies for almost the whole thing!  I didn't set out to do a time lapse composite, but a friend on Facebook planted the seed, so I figured why not?

I used a Nikon D800, a 70-210mm f2.8 zoom lens, and a 2x teleconverter (for a total of 420mm). Because of the teleconverter, the widest I could open the lens was f5.6. Even with all that magnification I still couldn't come close to filling the frame. Ideally I would have had at least a 1000mm f2.8 lens. Here is one of the full moon shots in its original full frame.

Exposures were a little tricky because there is such a huge brightness difference between the fully lit moon and the eclipsed moon. With the lit moon I was shooting around ISO 2000, 1/1250 @ f27. I tried to keep my shutter speed fast to reduce camera shake and moon movement. As the moon became eclipsed however, I had to really change the exposure just to be able to see it. For the full eclipse I was shooting around ISO 6400, 1/50 @ f5.6. You can really see the difference in the seventh moon from the left in the composite. I wanted to start capturing the shadow side of the moon, but in doing so I had to blow out the thin crescent that was still lit.

I did try going above ISO 6400, but the image starts to get pretty noisy at that point, and the blacks start to wash out. Here is a cropped example to see how grainy it looks at those really high ISO speeds.


The composite image was simply done in Photoshop by dragging and dropping just the moon from each frame onto a larger canvas. I made slight adjustments to the density of each moon just to even them out a little, but other than that the color you see in the final composite is how the camera captured it. The arch of the composite is not the actual trajectory of the moon, that is my own simple design that I thought looked cool. The moon actually went almost straight up from the horizon. Clouds rolled back in before the eclipse had fully finished, so the full moon at the right end of the composite is a copy of the moon from the left end of the composite. I wanted to finish the sequence so I allowed myself that one cheat. Also, the composite does not proportionally represent the time duration of the eclipse. The center image of the fully eclipsed moon was the longest portion of the event, lasting over an hour.

At one point I managed to capture an airplane passing near the moon. All you can see are the lights on the plane, not the body of the plane itself. Its the three lights at the bottom of the image below. Another time while readjusting the camera (which I constantly had to do as the moon moved across the sky) I was looking through the viewfinder and saw a shooting star! I wish I had captured that! Even if I was quicker I wouldn't have captured it since I was using the camera's self-timer set to 2 seconds to help reduce camera shake.

It was a fun and much needed night out of the house (I've been dealing with a cold the last few days and haven't gotten out much). I met some new people, drank some wine, took some pics, and witnessed a wonder of nature!