Six tips for Super Blood Moon photography

By Alex McClure, Olympus Visionary

We’d like to thank Olympus for providing these great tips for capturing this weekend’s lunar event. While Alex’s examples will be based on Olympus cameras and lenses, those of you with other cameras can benefit greatly as well. If you’d like help getting ready, feel free to ask questions in the comments below or come in to any Mike’s Camera and we will be happy to consult with you personally!

What is a blood moon?

On the evening of Sunday, January 20, the first supermoon of 2019 will enter the Earth’s shadow to produce a “blood moon.” Occurring during a lunar eclipse, this is when the moon enters the Earth’s shadow to produce a dramatic moment when the moon turns a reddish color. 

Check out these tips from Olympus Visionary Alex McClure to prepare yourself for capturing the total lunar eclipse (the last visible in most of North America until 2121), then visit the Olympus User Gallery to post your best #superbloodmoon shots.

Plan ahead

Pick a shooting location with clear skies. The last thing you want to be is in a place that develops afternoon clouds, so be sure to check the local weather reports.

OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II. 0.4 sec, f/6.7, ISO 100

Keep steady

Use a tripod! A stable platform is very important when shooting the moon. The longer the lens, the more support and stability is needed. You will have to slow your shutter speed down as the moon gets darker and changes to orange and then red colors. I also like using the Olympus RM-UC1 remote cable release to keep the camera from moving.

Editor’s Note: Using the O.I. Share App (or any camera-control app) to remotely trigger compatible cameras will also keep your camera from moving.

Moon over Flatiron. OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6. ISO 100

Pick the right lens

Shoot with a telephoto lens that is 300mm or longer. Try using the M.ZUIKO 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 lens, the M.ZUIKO 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO + MC-14 1.4x Teleconverter (resulting in 210mm in coverage = a 35mm equivalent of 420mm) or the M.ZUIKO 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO + MC-14 1.4x Teleconverter (resulting in 420mm in coverage = a 35mm equivalent of 840mm!).

When it comes to shooting the moon, the bigger the lens, the better!

OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II. f/6.7, 1/10sec, ISO 4000

Keep your eye on your settings

Monitor and adjust your settings during the different phases of the lunar event. As the moon begins traveling across the night sky, it’s moving at a rapid rate of speed, so you need to start your shooting at around 1/640 second, f/6.7 and ISO 200. As the moon gets darker, make sure to lower your shutter speed and raise the ISO. When the moon goes dark, you will have to open your aperture all the way up; with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 that’s f/6.7 at the far end of the zoom, but with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and MC-14 that’s f/4.

OM-D E-M1 Mark II, M.Zuiko ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO + MC-14, f/5.6, .4sec, ISO 2000

The exact value you will need to raise your ISO and lower your shutter speed will depend on your lens (and its aperture). With the M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7, I bumped it up to around 4000 and slowed my shutter down to 1/10 second. With the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO + MC-14 1.4x Teleconverter, I bumped my ISO up to 2000 and dropped my shutter speed down to .4 seconds. Lastly, as the moon comes out of the Earth’s shadow, you will need to do the opposite for your settings; remember to raise your shutter speed and lower the ISO.

Shoot from start to finish

Take multiple shots of the moon going in and out of the eclipse. Taking multiple shots ensures that you can create a composite post-production image that shows the total lunar transformation throughout the event.

Composite shot with the OM-D E-M1 & M.Zuiko ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II. The start of the eclipse 1/640 sec, f/6.7, ISO 200. Blood moon, 1/10 sec, f/6.7, ISO 4000.

Know your features

Try using your camera’s specialized features to help you capture the drama of the lunar cycle. For instance, try using Focus Peaking (recent model PEN and OM-D cameras) and Zoom Magnifier to focus on the moon.

Alex McClure, an avid photographer for over 30 years, joined the Olympus Trailblazer program in 2013. Alex works to achieve his stated goal to “make beautiful photographs that inspire and motivate people” through his nature, commercial and fine art photography.

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