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Photographing the Historic Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

How to capture a once in a lifetime lunar event
By Fletcher Jackson - December 22nd, 2010

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Editor's Note: 

Fletcher Jackson, who lives in Eastern Oregon, had been anticipating the recent lunar eclipse for some time. His photographic skill, and the near-perfect environmental conditions near Bend--a clear atmosphere on a cold night--made this spectacular image possible. Here, Jackson describes how he captured this image of the first Winter Solstice lunar eclips  in centures.

This is an event I have been anticipating for a long while. I mean not very often do you get to see a full lunar eclipse on the shortest night of the year. According to NASA, this is the first time since 1638 that a total lunar eclipse and the winter solstice have happened on the same evening. The next time we have both in the same evening will be in 2094.

At the beginning of the day the clouds started to cover the sky, which worried my party of photographers because you can't see the moon through clouds. We watched the weather very closely all day to see if our highly anticipated night was about to come to a quick end. With lots of talking, and phone calls between my wife and a friend we decided to make it a go no matter what.
As we set out for the perfect spot we started to head north or into the cloud cover, and quickly decided we were going the wrong way. After about 15 minutes of driving we finally found a spot that wasn't so cloud covered and made the decision to go no further. We unpacked the car and as we started looking through the lens we were amazed by how brilliant the moon looked. It was so bright you could see every crater and almost all the detail of the moon, never like I have seen before.
We started taking pictures around 9:30 pm, keeping in mind we were going to create an timeline image later. When I started shooting I had to keep the shutter speed fast or around 125th of a second due to the brightness of the moon- which at this point was as bright as daylight.With each shot I would do a little bracketing to make sure I capture the correct highlights and shadows I was looking to get. From the beginning to the end my shutter speeds ranged from 125th of a sec at f/8 to 3 1/2 seconds at f/5.6.
There were a few trying times when the clouds came in an fully covered the moon, making us think the fun had ended no with climax. Instead of leaving we held down our spot and chatted, did jumping jacks, running in place and other fun things to keep warm to pass the time. Oh did I mention we were standing outside in 28 degree weather for about 4 hours? 
After the fun ended I took each shot into Photoshop raw- did my global adjustments then opened them into Photoshop. This is where I "created" the image I was hoping for while shooting during those 4 hours.
I would open each image separately and cut it out and paste or move it onto another picture, set up a few layers and masks and about 20 minutes later I had the image you see before you.
Each image was about 126.2 mb to start out and after creating my image the master was 220 mb.
In the end I am glad that we made the decision to go no matter what. Other wise i would have just been hearing about this spectacular show instead of witnessing something that many my age won't see in there life time.



Lunar Eclipse photographs

Dear outdoor lovers and photo buffs,
I must say that the series of photos taken by Mr. Jackson of the Lunar Eclipse are the most spectacular that I've ever had the pleasure of viewing.Its not everyday that you will find a person that will stand out in freezing temperatures to take these shots for nothing more than the enjoyment of sharing something so special with people that he does'nt even know,or has ever meet.
The world needs more people like Fletcher Jackson,unselfish and with great photographic skills and the kindness to share them with us all.Thank you Mr. Jackson for capturing something that most people will only see once in a lifetime.

Posted on November 25, 2011 - 5:35pm
by Rico Rey

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