Tonight, Wednesday 31st January, we will experience a once-in-a-lifetime event – the collision of three lunar sights in the form of a ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’.
The ‘Blue Moon’ is the rare moment when a second full moon appears during one calendar month, and a ‘Super moon’ is when the sun, the moon and the Earth line up perfectly as the moon orbits the Earth, making the moon appear to be much bigger in the sky than usual.
For the first time in 150 years, both will be visible at the same time.
Canon Ambassador and landscape photographer, David Noton, has shared his best advice for learning how to photograph the ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’.
01 Download the right apps to be in-the-know
The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle.
The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone.
Armed with these two resources, I’m planning to shoot the Super Blue Blood Moon rising over the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, England. It’ll be a fascinating logistical exercise requiring military precision, although cloud cover often scuppers even the best laid plans. No one said this game was easy.
02 Invest in a lens with optimal zoom
One of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface.
It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition.
I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.
03 Use a tripod to capture the intimate details
As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredible challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly.
As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image.
Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.
04 Integrate the moon into your landscape
Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source.
The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison.
Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.
05 Master the shutter speed for your subject
The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.
By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem.
Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.
On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60s!