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What would you prefer? A total lunar eclipse early on a Tuesday morning (middle of the night early), or a four day weekend?

Well, we had the former here in Colorado earlier this week. However, if I were headed home to the UK, I’d have the long Easter weekend to look forward to starting on Good Friday. Both are good for photographers, but I suspect many people might well prefer the two extra days off work.

The long weekend will provide many of you in the UK, and in other countries that have public holidays at Easter, with the chance to get outdoors with your camera.

In this post, I’ve pulled together a handful of locations in the north of England that, were I there, I might well be heading out to this weekend. Not only that, but you can download the locations as a KML file that can be imported into TPE.

I’m happy to say that we finally offer KML import on all versions of the app, so, no matter whether you’re on Desktop, Android or iOS, go ahead download the file and get importing. When you have the locations imported, you can start to explore the light conditions for some of these place over the coming weekend:


A KML file containing the coordinates of 8 photography locations in the north of England. You can import these locations into TPE on Desktop, Android or iOS.
File size 5.13kB | Last modified Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 23:10 | Download count 55

Malhamdale

Malhamdale

Malhamdale in North Yorkshire. In addition to the famous Cove, and its remarkable limestone pavement, the area offers many wonderful views of the countryside, moors and waterfalls.

Crag Lough

Crag Lough

Crag Lough on Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland is a wonderful, dramatic location with stunning views. The north side crag is nicely side-lit at sunrise/sunset during the spring months.

Alwinton

Alwinton

Alwinton, in Northumberland National Park, offers fantastic views of the Cheviots and surrounding moorland, together with many rural photographic subjects.

Skiddaw

Skiddaw

The summit of Skiddaw in the English Lakes seen from the eastern shore of Derwent Water. A few days after this was taken (early January), the lake froze over for the first time in at least 10 years.

Blawearie Cairn

Blawearie Cairn

Blawearie Cairn is a bronze-age burial site located on Hepburn Moor in Northumberland, England. This view shows the Cheviot Hills on the horizon to the west on a late November afternoon.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle lies on the beautiful, varied Northumberland Coast, north of Newcastle upon Tyne. You'll find 45 pages on castles in Northumberland on Wikipedia, although I'm pretty certain there are more than that, if you look hard enough!

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

The famous castle at Bamburgh, Northumberland, probably one of the most popular photographic subjects in the area. The castle looks very different dependent on the light and aspect, so be sure to explore the options thoroughly!

The Tyne at Night

The Tyne at Night

The view up-river on the Tyne in Newcastle taken from the famous (infamous!) Quayside, home to the city's party scene once twilight has faded.

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Total Lunar Eclipse, April 15 2014

Here’s what I captured from last night’s eclipse.

This is a composite sequence showing the moon during totality. The image on the right is the earliest, taken at the start of totality, and the image on the left is the last, showing the moon right at the end of totality.

These were taken in our back yard using a Nikon 70-300mm at 300mm on a D800.

I’d looked into to trying a sequence in the front of the Flatirons, but the main event was taking place too far to the south to get much of a decent angle. So, I decided to go for the simple telephoto shot of the moon only.

We’ve been moving house over the past week, so rather than stay up for the entire event (i.e. from start to end of penumbral eclipse), I decided to get some early sleep, and set the alarm for 12:40am and get up in time for the end of the partial eclipse. That made for an enjoyable 2 hours of moon photography, while following what was going on on Twitter in between shots – there was lots of eclipse news and photos from around the Americas and Australia!

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I wish I could be there to try this out, but I’ll be in Colorado, not DC, on Monday night.

As you probably have read by now, the night of Monday/Tuesday 14-15 April 2014 will see a total lunar eclipse, the first of four that will occur between now and the end of 2015.

I’ve added a couple of other posts on the site about this upcoming upcoming eclipse which you can find here and here.

Washington Monument

In this final installment, we’re going to use TPE for iOS and its sister app, The Photographer’s Transit, to make a plan for a composite sequence of the eclipse happening behind the Washington Monument in DC. If you don’t know it, the Washington Monument is a 555 ft (169m) tall obelisk that stands in the National Mall in DC. A quick Google search reveals that shooting the moon behind this structure is a highly popular activity!

The plan will be to position the Washington Monument in the frame such that we can capture multiple shots of the moon without repositioning, and then combine them appropriately in post production to generate a single composite image showing the progression into and then out of total eclipse. We’ll need to find a shooting location and suitable lens selection to achieve this.

Let’s get started. First thing we need is the timing information for the eclipse, which, as before, we can get from NASA’s page :

EventTime (UT)
Penumbral Eclipse Begins:04:53:37 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins:05:58:19 UT
Total Eclipse Begins:07:06:47 UT
Greatest Eclipse:07:45:40 UT
Total Eclipse Ends:08:24:35 UT
Partial Eclipse Ends:09:33:04 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends::10:37:37 UT

Translating these times to UTC-4 hours, we can see that the penumbral eclipse starts at 00:53 on Apr 14, and ends at 06:37. From TPE, we can see that moonset occurs at 06:38 on Apr 14, meaning that we in theory, we could capture the entire sequence. However, the sun also rises at 06:31, which would mean we would have to deal with going from darkest night to brightest day in our composite, which could be rather difficult to achieve convincingly.

If instead, we plan on shooting until just after the end of partial eclipse, the light levels will be much more manageable, and we still capture the most dramatic phases of the eclipse event. Partial eclipse ends at 05:33, just after the start of Nautical twilight, when the sky will still be a deep, dark blue.

So, shooting from, say 5 minutes before until 5 minutes after partial eclipse gives us the following range of times and moon positions:

EventTime (UT-0400)AzimuthAltitude
Partial Eclipse Begins -5 mins:01:53195.9°39.3°
Partial Eclipse Begins:01:58197.5°39.0°
Total Eclipse Begins:03:06216.2°33.0°
Greatest Eclipse:03:45225.7°28.0°
Total Eclipse Ends:04:24233.6°22.4°
Partial Eclipse Ends:05:33246.1°11.1°
Partial Eclipse End +5 mins:05:38247.0°10.1°

You can use the time slider and details panel in TPE to obtain these figures. It’s also possible to get a sense of the moon’s motion by sliding back and forward while observing the azimuth and altitude indicators:

TPE screenshot

In order to capture the moon during this timeframe, our field of view will need to accommodate:

  • The Washington Monument (narrow, but tall)
  • The moon’s lateral motion from +195.9° to +247.0° (change in azimuth)
  • The moon’s vertical motion from +39.3° to +10.1° (change in altitude)

From TPE, we can see there are a couple of possibilities for shooting location:

  1. East north-east of the monument (with the monument at the right of the frame), so that the moon “falls” towards the foot of the monument
  2. North of the monument (with the monument to the left of the frame), so that the moon starts out towards the top of the monument and “falls” the lower right corner of the frame

Instinctively, I like the feel of the second option more:

Photo plan sketch

So, now we need to determine an appropriate shooting position and camera/lens selection to capture this shot. We can use Photo Transit to help us get some answers.

We’re going to need a horizontal field of view of at least (247.0-195.9) = 51.1° just for the lateral motion of the moon, and at least (39.3 – 10.1) = 29.2° for the change in altitude. We identified five distinct times in the table above, which will correspond to the moon in different positions in our final composite image. The Washington Monument itself will be a sixth item. So, to determine an ideal horizontal field of view, we should add another 20% for the monument, and a further 20% as margin so our subjects aren’t hard up against the edge of the frame. Hence: 51.1° * 140% = 71.5°.

Using a full frame SLR, such as a Nikon D800, Photo Transit shows us that a 25mm focal length will give us what we need, assuming a horizontal composition:

TPT screenshot

While it would be nice to use a longer lens to capture the moon so that it is larger in the frame, the fact of the matter is that for this shot, the degree of movement over the few hours of the eclipse is too great. A telephoto lens would simply have too small a field of view to capture the moon without repositioning between shots (which would rather defeat the purpose of this plan – although I suppose you could always do a multiple shot panorama and stitch it back together afterwards; getting the geometry right would be a challenge though!).

The next question is to determine where we should stand to ensure we can capture the full height of the Washington Monument. Using Photo Transit’s elevation profile features, we can specify the height of the object at the subject location (560 feet or thereabouts):

TPT screenshot

This shows that with our camera set to 25mm we won’t capture the top of the monument without some adjustments. So let’s tilt the camera up and check that we can capture the full height of the object in the frame:

TPT screenshot

Good – we can now see that by tilting the camera up to point to around +20° we will have the full height of the monument in our shot.

The final step is to adjust the subject position to place the monument to the left of the frame. As a sanity check, we can confirm that the field of view will capture the end of the eclipse. From the table above, the moon will end up at +247°. Our camera is pointed at a bearing of 216°, and has a horizontal field of view of 71°. That puts the far right of the frame at (216 + 71/2) = 251.5°, so we know the moon will remain in the frame for this shot:

TPT screenshot

So, we have a plan. All that remains is to pack the spare batteries (it’s a long shoot) and the warm coffee and head out for an overnight shoot on Monday. If anyone is able to have a go at this, I’d love to see the results!

You can view the shot plan we developed using Photo Transit here: http://phtrns.it/1qPOOR4

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Postscript: of course, it often pays to check the weather forecast too. I’ve just had a look, and it isn’t looking great for DC :(

Happily, however, the techniques we used apply globally, so go have fun making your own eclipse shot plans!

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Total lunar eclipse

We’ve added a new tutorial to the site with some ideas on how to plan a lunar eclipse shot using TPE for Android.

Over on Google+ reader Stephen Schwam asks:

[H]ow can I figure out exactly where I should place myself to photograph this event ?? I have the hand held unit , gives [m]e a trajectory of moon rise. I am in Oregon and wanted to go to Smith Rock state park, capture a good foreground and also the phases of the eclipse, thanks.
Let’s run through the process using TPE on Android.

The tutorial shows how to determine exact times, direction and altitude for the moon during the eclipse event, and how to use TPE’s geodetics tools to explore potential shots in Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.

Read the tutorial

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Full Lunar Eclipse

Exciting times ahead for fans of moon photography: in addition to a ‘super moon’ in August, 2014 sees the start of a sequence of four total lunar eclipses, a so-called ‘lunar eclipse tetrad’.

The first in the series occurs in just over two weeks from now, on the night of April 14/15, and is timed perfectly for photographers in the Americas.

Apr 15 2014 Lunar Eclipse Details

Here in Boulder, Colorado, total eclipse will begin at 1:06am early on the morning of Tuesday April 15 (Mountain Time zone is 6 hours earlier than Universal Time). By then, the moon will be high in the sky to the south, as you can see from the screenshot below:

TPE Details for April 15 2014

Given the moon’s altitude above the horizon, it may be tricky to photograph it in the context of landmarks, although, if you position yourself close to tall building or mountain, it may be possible to juxtapose the two. Possibly the best approach will be to take a time lapse series of exposures to capture the entire event, with the moon transitioning into partial eclipse, then full eclipse (that’s when the striking red colours emerge), and then back to normal full moon.

The photograph at the top of this page shows the sort of effect that is possible.

There are a good number tutorials out there on the internet with details of the technical aspects of photographing a lunar eclipse. Here’s a short list to consult:

I’ve never managed to photograph a total lunar eclipse before myself, but I’m looking forward to trying to capture this one.

And if it doesn’t work out due to weather, technique or timing, then there’s always October 8 2014 to look forward to (although European/African readers will likely need to wait until September 28 2015 – the preceding lunar eclipses aren’t well timed for that part of the world).

Good eclipse hunting!

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