A “supermoon” will be coinciding with a total lunar eclipse this Sunday, creating a beautiful sight that will be visible to most of the world â particularly in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of West Asia and the eastern Pacific, according to NASA.
For those out there who want to photograph this rare occurrence (both a supermoon and eclipse havenât coincided in more than 30 years, and won’t again until 2033), here are some basic tips to get the best shot.
Get the right equipment
When it comes to nighttime photography, itâs all about control. Your best friend will be a camera with manual controls, whether that is a DSLR, a fancy new mirrorless camera, or a properly rigged-up iPhone, youâll want a camera that can make adjustments to a situation that isn’t ideal for your camera’s automatic settings.
Reach for the sky
A wide angle lens might make sense when photographing a large scale beauty like the Perseid meteor shower or the Northern Lights. But the moon is a single point in the sky and youâll want to keep that as your focus. A telephoto lens will let you zoom in on the moon and achieve the best composition (more on that later).
Steady, steady, steady
The next bit of control to master is making that camera stay put. A tripod is essential to getting a clear, dynamic picture at night. Itâs also helpful to set a timer or use a cable release with your camera. That will minimize camera shake when pressing the shutter. The slightest shake or wobble, whether it be from hand-holding the camera or just pressing a button, can ruin what would have been a nice crisp photo. As a last resort, if a tripod is unavailable, any flat, stable surface can work.
Since this moon is âsuperâ after all, have some fun showing just how super it is! A compositionally isolated moon surrounded only by sky will show off its color and details, but youâll miss anything that gives the viewer a sense of scale. Try juxtaposing the moon against a recognizable landmark in the foreground to convey how close the moon truly is.
The high contrast composition of a bright moon and pitch-black sky will confuse your light meter and auto focus. If you stick with your cameraâs autoexposure mode, expect a properly exposed sky and landscape with a blown out moon that’s just a giant indistinguishable ball of light. W
hen the moon appears that big and that red in the sky, the best exposure is underexposure. Manual focus will also make your job a lot easier. Again, a blank dark sky and a bright object might confuse your camera’s autofocus, if you’ve got your composition set, and your camera isn’t moving, set your focus manually (this is a great opportunity to use your camera’s Live mode if you have it) and start shooting.
Since youâve got your camera steady, you shouldnât need to worry about a short shutter speed or wide aperture. Switch your camera’s exposure setting to Manual and set your ISO as low as it can go (ISO 50-200) to minimize noise that occurs during low light exposures at high ISOs. Set your lens to a high f-stop (f/8-22) to capture maximum sharpness. You might need to play around with shutter speeds but start at 1/60th of a second and adjust as necessary.
This isn’t some fleeting phenomenon or passing comet. If you plan ahead to get your camera ready to shoot, you’ll have more than enough time to capture the moon before, during and after the eclipse. NASA says the Supermoon will be viewable at nightfall for more than an hour, with the eclipse starting at 10:11 p.m. ET and peaking at 10:47 p.m. ET.
And if the weather isn’t cooperating, remember that you can still watch the NASA live stream from 8 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. ET.
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