Sometimes landscape photography clashes with other events. At other times it seems that everything comes together to create the perfect opportunity to take great photo's. What happens when both of those situations occur in the same 12 hour period? Last week I found out.
On Thursday morning the longest Lunar eclipse since 2000 occurred just before dawn. To get photo's which conveyed a sense of the drama of the occasion meant an early start. The biggest challenge was how it clashed with helping family members who needed help with uni assignemnts due on that day. It meant I got to bed just after midnight, and really needed to be up at 3am. At 4am I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed my gear and jumped in the car.
One bit of software I use regularly for choosing vantage points is The Photographer's Ephemeris. It calculates sunrise, sunset times, moon phases, and a whole lot more. Using this tool allowed me to work out exactly where I wanted to take photo's from. The location I had chosen is a 45 minute drive away, heavy patches of fog meant it took a little longer. Then came the biggest challenge. Knowing how cold it would be I had prepared for that with multiple layers of clothing. The challenge was climbing up a hill in the dark through long wet grass. By the time I got to my chosen spot I was hot, puffing, drenched and in a huge hurry to be taking photo's. From the moment I got in the car the eclipse was under way. By the time I finished driving the moon had begun to turn pink.
I had hoped to capture a time-lapse of the whole eclipse - I had missed some of it, but did manage to capture the final stages. Firtly I set up my trusy Canon 450D on a tripod with a remote shutter realse and timer. The trickiest part was trying to get the camera set up so that the moon would stay in the frame for the whole sequence. That was a challenge in the dark when you're wet, in a hurry and starting to get cold. Surprisingly, even in the cold I did dry out and warm up. Later in the day I converted the individual frames into a movie. The video is short, but gives a sense of what it was like to see the eclipse. At this stage it is on my Facebook page.
Now I had the chance to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the moment. There was fog in the valleys and the sky was cloudless. It was a beautiful night, and the moon seemed huge. Mt Barney, with all it's rugged peaks and imposing presence, was lit up by soft moonlight. The moon itself was, by this time, had a red shadow across it. The colour really was amazing.
Having set the time-lapse camera going I could concentrate on getting some photo's with my main camera. Firstly I took a few photo's of the stars with a wide-angle lens to give some sense of the setting. Then my 70-200 zoom came out to get some close-up shots of the moon itself. Having done that it was time to use the panoramic head to capture a series of photo's for the panorama of the night sky. There are six photo's in the panorama below, each is a 30 second exposure. That means there is actually movement in the stars and moon. The long exposures also meant that some colour was reflected off the face of Mt Barney. I have added this photo to my collection. You see a bigger verion of it here.
For the last stage of the eclipse, as the moon set behind the mountain, I went back to using the zoom lens to get close-ups to show the amazing colour. The moon set behind Mt Barney at 5:53, sunrise was at 6:38, but the sun would not appear over the hill behind me until about 8:00am. Thankfully, by then I was having breakfast with the wonderful folk at Lillydale as they began another busy day.
Despite feeling exhausted later in the day, and despite having been drenched and cold at times, it was a great morning. To be able to see a long lunar eclipse with such rich colour as it set just before sunrise was a rare privilege.
It reminded me of why I go out to take landscape photographs. There is so much beauty around us, but occasionally we get glimpses of even deeper wonders and beauty.