January 2018’s Blue Supermoon

January 2018 brought us a special celestial treat, the Blue Supermoon, or Super Blood Red Moon eclipse.  The blue part just states that it is the second full moon in a single month.  The Supermoon part is when the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit, this time about 14% bigger and 30% brighter!  Blood Red is the total eclipse part.  This was a rare event and worth getting up for.

I set the alarm for about 4am but realized that the article I read was in Pacific Time Zone, so I was an hour early.  This was good, however, as it was a warm night and it gave me some time to experiment with my camera’s settings without the rush of being in the eclipse.  The morning was hazy but the moon was shining through.  There were clouds that passed over that covered the moon; so not perfect but not a total bummer either!

Once the moon went into totality, it got very dim.  At the same time it was low enough on the horizon that it went behind the lenticular clouds that often form in the winter over the mountains.  At this point it was game over; but still an awesome show!

Wyoming Solar Eclipse

Wyoming Solar Eclipse.  August 21, 2017.  We knew the crowds would be large, we knew the traffic would be bad, but we had to go anyway…it was just too close to miss.  August 21st brought the total solar eclipse through the middle of Wyoming.  My sister, dad and I decided to witness it first hand.

Wyoming Eclipse

My family stayed with my folks that weekend, they live on the Colorado side of the Wyoming border up near Red Feather Lakes.  The plan was for my sister to come up and meet my dad and I near the Wyoming border on 287.  We’d carpool from there.  The target was south of Casper on BLM land, staying clear of the I-25 corridor.  There we’d be in the center of the shadow for the longest totality without the crowds.

We drove on Wyoming 487 and there was a good amount of traffic so we jumped off onto Wyoming 77 and was just looking for a nice spot with a good view.  Just so happened we hit the Shirley Ridge which had an amazing 360 view, and only two other cars were there.  We got there a couple of hours early.

Eclipse Roadtrip Map

Here was our target area. We jetted over to 77 once we realized the popularity of 487.

Since we were early, we set up our cameras and then I started wandering around looking at rocks.  There were agates and jaspers laying everywhere!  Cool.  So a rock hound and celestial road trip together!  Can’t beat that!

Shirley Basin Agates and Jaspers

Agates and Jaspers were everywhere.

For the photography buffs out these, here was my setup.  I had a Sony Alpha with 2x teleconverter and 70-200mm lens zoomed.  That gives me 400mm, and then I used APS-C mode on the camera to give me another boost to 600mm.  My dad had purchased a solar viewing film and I had that taped on the lens hood with painters tape to not leave residue.  All of this was on a tripod which was a lot of weight, but luckily the mirrorless cameras are light in comparison and it didn’t get too windy so I felt we were safe.

Photography Setup

The setup, my Sony Alpha (covered with a cloth to prevent overheating in the direct sun) with a solar filter taped to the hood.  On the screen it shows a picture of the eclipse at about 75%.

My plan was to take pictures every 3 minutes both coming into and leaving the eclipse and then during totality I would remove the lens hood, refocus, and take shots at different settings to capture all the different features of the totality.  All of this worked except one thing, I realized about half way into the waning of the eclipse that I was out of focus.  I didn’t realize that my focal point was the film several inches off of the end of the lens (affixed to the lens hood).  So I didn’t focus correctly getting many of the waning shots.  Oh well, rookie mistake.

taken from mreclipse.com

Taken from the Mr. Eclipse article on photographing eclipses, this is an amazing article that everyone interested should read!

Leading up to the totality the birds and crickets started to sing and make noise as if it was dusk.  There were no trees so we didn’t see the kaleidoscopic effect that others saw which would have been amazing.  It also got considerably cooler, fast, and the winds started to blow adding to the chill factor.

Start of Eclipse Chill Out

My dad Alex and sister Kristy chilling out as the Eclipse was starting.  You can see all the people that got at this site after we did; but we were all very comfortably spaced out.

During totality it was a scramble, I was taking many shots with different settings per Mr. Eclipse‘s chart above and then I sat the camera down and just observed.  What was cool was the 360 degree view we had, and the 360 degree color spanning the horizon!

Solar Eclipse moon shadow

During totality, looking NE towards Casper-ish. You can see the shadow of the moon in the clouds! That was really one of the coolest things about the eclipse is watching the shadow progress across the horizon.

Sun before the eclipse started

Here is the sun at the start of the eclipse. You can see some spots.

Final picture before totality

Here is one of the last shots I took before removing the lens hood with the filter affixed. From the next several minutes I explored different settings and took a bunch of pictures. Focus was a bit of a challenge as infinity was blurry.

Solar Eclipse corona

Here is a picture of the corona. Taken at f/8, 1/80 sec, ISO-100 at 600mm.

Final picture total totality

This was the last picture I took without the filter. f/8, 1/125 sec, ISO-100 @600mm.

Diamond Ring Solar Eclipse Totality

Here is the “diamond ring” feature of the totality. I’m pretty satisfied how this one turned out!

Chalk Cliffs, Shirley Basin, Wyoming

Here were the chalk cliffs which was the only feature on the horizon that is on google maps.

The trip home wasn’t too bad, although there was about an hour backup on 487 because of the stop sign in Medicine Bow at US 287.  But the state troopers had that engineered well and traffic slowly flowed through and no-one had to completely stop.

You can see the line of cars, looks like ants, on the horizon. This was no where near as bad as I-25 was. Good choice to my sister and dad on this route!

horny toad

We found this little horny toad lizard wondering around.

Blood Red Moon – October 8, 2014

For the second time this year we have the opportunity to view a full lunar eclipse, the Blood Red moon.  I watched the other 2014 full lunar eclipse as well and it was spectacular.  On the Palmer Divide where I live there was a slight haze due to an upper level thin cloud deck, but you could see the moon throughout the night, for the most part, so it was worth getting up and watching.

I set the alarm for 2:45 and the sky looked mostly clear.  I set up the digital SLR camera on the tripod with a 70-200 mm lens.  As with all nighttime photography, it is a bit of a trick to get the settings correct for the camera.  I focused the camera on the moon when it was still full and un-eclipsed while it was nice and bright using the auto-focus feature.  This is much easier to focus than when it is eclipsed and you have to guess.  Note that all the way out with focus does not mean infinity and will be very out of focus.

Once focused, I turned off the lens auto-focus and image stabilization (which will vibrate the camera making it a little out of focus i.e. fuzzy).  With the moon full it is very bright, I used a f/stop around 7 and 1/100th of a second exposure with an ISO at 200 or 400. Once the moon was eclipsed it was very dim and I needed a lower f/stop (lowest possible for the lens to let the most light in as possible) and I used an 800 ISO and cranked up the exposure to several seconds.  With more expensive faster glass you can get away with less noisy values, hopefully someday I’ll have this option!

I took these first few pictures in the late evening well before the eclipse with a Meade ETX-125 telescope.  I didn’t have the T-adapter to the telescope so I used the normal eye piece connector, which worked but I had to hold the telescope steady; which obviously won’t work in low light situations so I didn’t get any close up shots of the Blood Red Moon during the eclipse with the telescope.  Due to the magnification, I couldn’t get the entire moon in the field of view.

Full Moon rising about 8 hours before the eclipse started

The other side of the Full Moon rising about 8 hours before the eclipse started

Full Moon rising about 8 hours before the eclipse started

Full Moon rising about 8 hours before the eclipse started

I started viewing the moon about 2:45 am and about 3:15 the eclipse started.  I watched until about 5 am when the moon started to set behind the forest canopy.

The hazy cloud deck made viewing by eye difficult, and with the camera I still was able to see the eclipse but the definition was poor.   As the morning progressed, the cloud deck started to evaporate and the moon, for a little while, was more defined.

Moon heading into eclipse

Moon heading into eclipse

Moon nearly fully eclipsed, blood starting to take over

Moon nearly fully eclipsed, blood starting to take over

Blood Red Moon during total eclipse

Blood Red Moon during total eclipse

Blood Red moon coming out of total eclipse

Blood Red moon coming out of total eclipse

Eclipse ending as the moon set behind the forest of trees

Eclipse ending as the moon set behind the forest of trees

Was a wonderful evening and a rare event to see the Blood Red Moon!

Blood Red Moon – Lunar Eclipse 4-15-2014

Wow, the first Total Lunar Eclipse of 2014 was perfect!  What a show!  Was a clear (and cold) night with no wind, perfect for viewing the Blood Red Moon. This is the first of four eclipses that I hope to watch over the next couple of years. I was able to get Daphne and Erin up to see it, but Hunter said no way. Maybe next time! The next total Lunar Eclipse is October 8th. On my calendar, how about yours?

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014

Great to see the blood red moon!

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse April 2014