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How to Get That Perfect Super Flower Blood Moon Photo Tonight

Whether you're using a bazooka camera lenses or just a smartphone.
IMAGE NIKON USA
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From smartphones to high-tech computer-assisted camera set ups with giant lenses, it really takes a good archer and a straight arrow to shoot a great lunar photo. We asked some experienced amateur and professional photographers and astronomy experts for some tips and insights on how to best view and capture the images of the upcoming lunar eclipse happening tonight (May 26). 

Weather permitting, tonight would be a great time to watch the moonrise and witness this year’s biggest Super Moon, and the first total lunar eclipse (also referred to as the Blood Moon) to happen in over two years. The total lunar eclipse happens as the full moon will pass through Earth’s shadow. The combined effect of these events is officially dubbed as the “Super Flower Blood Moon.” A Super Moon happens when the moon will be closest to Earth (this position is called a perigee) and will appear about seven percent larger and 15 percent brighter than usual to skywatchers. The Moon will also emit a reddish rust-colored glow. The flower reference is because this event occurs when spring flowers are in bloom.

When the Earth is aligned right in between the Moon and the Sun, it blocks some of the sunlight from reaching the full moon and as the Earth’s atmosphere filters the light, it softens the edge of the Earth’s shadow, giving it a reddish shade. According to weather bureau PAGASA, this rare celestial event will be visible in the Philippines and the eclipse will begin at exactly 4:47 p.m. and ends at 9:49 p.m.

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In other parts of the world, the eclipse will begin early morning on Wednesday, such as in parts of West Coast North America, Alaska, and Hawaii. In other areas like the southern part of Chile and Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, the eclipse will be visible at around the same time as here in the Philippines. You can track the path of the eclipse by clicking here.  

The next total lunar eclipse will be on May 15 to 16, 2022.

Joseph Uy

Astrophotographer

Following the footsteps of his dad, Uy was bitten by the photography bug very early since he was handed his first camera at the age of nine—a fully manual Canon FTB with 50mm f/1.2 lens. 

Joseph Uy uses this gigantic telescopic lens to take images of the moon and galaxies far, far away

Photo by Joseph Uy.

Born in 1960, Uy says that when he reached nine years old, it was the year of the first lunar landing, which led to his fascination with both astronomy and photography. 

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According to him, there are two basic ways to capture the image of the moon. “First, it is simply taking a photo of the moon, only the moon and no composition. You need a big lens with a minimum of 500mm to 700mm focal length. Since the moon will be very bright, set the ISO at 400 and choose aperture priority @f/4 and let your DLSR camera choose the shutter speed. The shutter speed can be as high as 1/100 or even 1/200. Always use a tripod and check your framing, because the moon will always be moving because of the earth’s rotation, so you will need to constantly move the moon into the center of the frame.

“If you want a bit of composition, with a nice foreground, then you need to take two shots of two different exposure and use Photoshop to merge the two images using layers and make a composite photo so that the exposure of the foreground and the background, which contains the moon will be at its best,” he adds. “With this, you need another exposure setting for the moon shot. Choose a nice foreground like a mountain range, ocean, river, old house, bright city skyline with the moon in the background.”

Uy also suggests checking out the multitude of how-to videos on YouTube about Photoshop blending and creating composite images. 

“This isn’t the best time to shoot images of the moon because of its brightness,” he notes. “You will not see the moon’s valleys, hills and craters. The light is very flat across the plain. I prefer shooting lunar photos when the moon is partially hidden so that these details can come out on the image.”

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The best way to get details of the moon's features is when it is not full moon

Photo by Joseph Uy.

Uy says the eclipse will start around 6 p.m., so make sure you are set up facing the eastern horizon where the moonrise will occur. It will then slowly move up. The eclipse itself will last only a few minutes but the whole event will last over two hours so the window of opportunity is not so large.

Uy uses a dedicated astronomy camera to pair with the Stellarvue SV105 APO Triplet 735mm telescope. It can cool down the sensor while taking long exposure to reduce noise. On a hot summer day it can cool it down to negative 12 degrees Celsius and it uses a lot of electricity, especially at start-up mode.

Uy uses this astronomy camera to pair with the his SV105 APO Triplet 735mm telescope

Photo by Joseph Uy.
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Patrick Uy

Past president of Camera Club of the Philippines and Advertising Photographers of the Philippines

“Use a tripod! An open garden with good clearance and viewpoint or a rooftop from a high building is also good.” 

For camera settings, Uy recommends as a starting point to use ISO 100, F:4.5S and 1/160 shutter speed. Best lighting is after sunset and most ideal is a cloudless sky. For compositions, using the maximum length of your telephoto or lenses allows a close-up shot of the moon.

“For me, the Canon Powershot with up to 1000mm zoom or the Nikon Coolpix up to 2000mm is ideal,” he adds. “And it is important to use the mirror lockup mode to minimize vibration when you use DLSRs.”

Jojo Gloria

Product Specialist for Leica Philippines

“Having a camera that can shoot at very low shutter speeds, a sturdy and reliable tripod a zoom or telephoto lens equipped camera are the basics of this shoot. Set the camera at a low ISO to have cleaner images and minimizing noise.”

Gloria also says that fixed lenses with higher-than-normal focal lengths can make great lunar photos. Bigger telephoto and higher focal length lenses can make faraway subject like the moon appear closer.

“But you would be surprised with the newer compact cameras like the Leica C-Lux which has a long reach of which the lens retracts when you are shooting regular scenes, contributing to its overall compactness,” he says. 

Gloria also suggests checking out lunar images by different photographers and continuing to discover and develop your own style, so you can tell your own lunar story.

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Winston Baltasar and friends

Cellphone Photography PH

Winston Baltasar owns and runs a photography studio and is also a photojournalist. He also founded the Cellphone Photography Philippines Facebook page with close to 9,000 members, many of whom are serious and highly talented photographers themselves. The equipment and skill levels that the lunar photos they produce are top notch, considering the limitations of smartphone photography.

Here are some of their tips they offer on how to best enjoy and capture the best images of tonight’s lunar eclipse using only your fancy smartphone.

Photo by Winston Baltasar.

Among the nicest lunar photos recently posted was by member Ernie Bautista and it was this gorgeous pre-eclipse lunar photo taken with a hand-held position without any aid of a tripod using a Samsung Note 10 Lite Camera smartphone and a 66mm telescope.

Another member, Jojo Bart, recommends the Starwalk 2 app to track astronomical bodies. He also suggests reading this article posted by Dailymail.

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Raquel Carranza-Vivar says that some telescopes have mobile phone attachments. Although she hasn’t figured how to fully maximize the use of her telescope, she opted to use the manual method for aligning her camera phone viewer to the lens since focusing can be a challenge. The telescope she uses is a Celestron Nexstar 8se as seen in the photo.

Rachel Carranza-Vivar and her Celestron telescope

Photo by Rachel Carranza-Vivar.

Motoring journalist and F1 enthusiast Niky Tamayo says the tripod and telescope combo works great.

“When I do star and sky photos, a tripod is invaluable,” he says. “A tripod adapter for cellphones are about P150 at a mall kiosk or on Lazada and can get you one that will attach your phone firmly to a stable camera tripod. If your phone doesn't have a manual settings mode or a pro mode, download a camera app that will give you that control, otherwise your night sky photos may come out washed out, or your moon might come out too bright.

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“I am currently testing out Pro Cam X (costs under P200), but if you have a Snapdragon phone, you can download a Google Camera mod for your phone,” he adds. “Test out your phone's night mode versus manual mode. Sometimes the automated night mode has settings that will compensate for noise and movement better than you can while processing the photo.”

Ernie Bautista just used his Samsung Note 10 and a 66mm telescope for this shot

Photo by Ernie Bautista.

Check out the group’s Facebook Groups and you might learn a thing or two from these fine and highly talented members.

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