With the recent Super Blood Flower Moon Lunar Eclipse that happened on May 15th, 2022 I thought it would be fun to write up a blog on how I not only captured but also created one of my images from that night.
It's one thing to just go out and shoot the moon by itself, and another to include a foreground of some sort to give the image a little more sense of place. I had been to this old house before and with permission from the landowner I was able to go inside and light the house up. I used PhotoPills to make sure the moon was going to be in the correct position when it was fully eclipsed. Once I had the plan in my head I just needed clear skies to make it happen. My friend Chuck and I arrived early to do one final check before committing to this location for the night. Again we used the Night AR feature of PhotoPills to make sure the moon was going to be on the correct trajectory over the house.
So now we knew where and when the moon was going to be when it was fully eclipsed. We were able to set up our cameras and tripods and get our comps how we wanted in the daylight.
Shooting techniques - This was really the fun part. Both Chuck and I had 2 cameras and 2 lenses for the occasion. I don't remember exactly what Chuck's setup was but I think it was something very similar to mine.
On one tripod I was shooting a Sony A7r4 with a Sigma 100-400mm DG DN lens for the moon. On my other tripod I was shooting a Nikon D850 with a Sigma 28mm 1.4 DG DN lens for the house and stars. Most of my photography life I have only had one camera at a time and only recently have I added a second camera to my kit. My Nikon D850 is an astro modified camera with a Visible + H Alpha filter, dedicated to night photography. My Sony A7r4 is my main camera for all other work.
As the moon was rising and becoming more and more eclipsed, we shot several back to back images of the house with the sky. This was shot with my Nikon D850 and Sigma 28mm 1.4 Art lens. The reason for doing this is so we can stack those images into a program like Starry Landscape Stacker (Mac) or Sequator (PC). Stacking the images in one of these programs will remove most of the noise if you use enough images. The above image was about 60 images total. In this image you can see the eclipsed moon and the glow around it.
With the moon fully eclipsed we now take our shots for the moon. The moon doesn't have to be fully eclipsed, you can use any progression of the eclipse for your image. I just knew that for this image I wanted the moon fully eclipsed in the final image. I had already done the planning and location scouting so I wanted to follow through with my vision. Using the Sony A7r4 and the Sigma 100-400mm DG DN I was able to get a very nice image of the fully eclipsed moon. This is a single exposure of the moon.
Now that I had my images for my house and stars and the image for the moon, I knew I had all the images to create the final image back home on the computer. Because I was shooting for optimum print quality, it would have been impossible for me to get an image like this with just a single shot. Applying what I know, I used the tools I had to see my vision through. Could I have done this all with one camera and 2 lenses, Yes I could have. I've always lived by the mindset of "work smarter, not harder" and messing around changing lenses in the dark seemed unnecessary when I already had the right camera and lenses for the job that I only had to set up one time.
Post Production -
Back home in front of the computer the first thing I did was identify the images for the house. I selected them and stacked them in Starry Landscape stacker to create a good single image with almost no noise. Even though the house image had the moon in it, that was ok. If you look at the moon in that image you will see a nice glow around it, I used that in the final image to add depth so the moon didn't look so cut and pasted.
Once I had the good stacked image of the house and stars I then did my normal editing and set that image aside. I then found the image of the moon I wanted to use and did my normal processing. Not much processing had to be done on the moon since nature already colored it red for me. All I really did was make a slight exposure adjustment, resize the image to better fit with the house and be more realistic to what we saw while we were shooting.
Now that I had by good house image and my moon image I could go to work blending the 2 together.. I tried several ways that didn't work before I found one that did. Blending images is not the same for all images. Depending on your subject matter, light and colors it may take some time to find the one process that works the best.
I opened the house image in photoshop as its own document, the moon as another document and then used the healing brush and selected the moon and "healed" it into the house image in the exact position where the moon was. I made sure to make the moon slightly smaller than the glow from around the moon and this gives it a more natural feel.
After the moon was "healed" into the house image and looking good I then did a little more post processing on combined image to bring my vision to the finish line. I am including this final image below to show the image as it was seen with my iPhone.
All in all I ended up with 3 good final images from the night with the moon and house in various eclipse phases and different angles of the house.
If you have any questions at all please don't hesitate to ask. I am always willing to help people better their photography. I appreciate your time you took to read my blog.
To learn more about the products used to create this image you can simply follow these links