On Saturday, 4th April 2015, Western North America was able to witness a lunar eclipse before dawn. Having been unable to witness the previous two lunar eclipses that should have been visible from our West Canadian location due to cloud cover, I once again was determined to try and catch this event.
Thankfully this meant only getting up as early as 04:00 am; so I set the alarm, prepared the camera and tripod, and went to bed hoping that the clouds would stay away for once.
Having done some research I knew that this eclipse would be visible on the lower western horizon and the event would start at 04:15 am. For the first time ever our teenage daughter was actually awake before me, so we took up our seats in one of our upstairs rooms which had an unobstructed view of the full moon. Having fired off some test shots I soon realized that whilst the moon was so bright I would get some reflective interference on my shots. So, I put on some boots, my winter jacket and went to set up on our front porch from where I had a great view. Thankfully it hadn’t snowed for a few weeks and the temperature was only at a balmy -7C.
This particular eclipse would be unique in that totality would last for less than 5 minutes, which is the shortest this century, however, to lead up to this I would have to wait for almost 2 hours. Having taken a few shots before the moon started to move into the shadow of the Earth I decided that a coffee was needed to wake me up properly and keep me warm from the inside. After that I started to play around with my camera settings. One of the challenges I faced was the bright light from the street lamp just to the side of our front porch. Having settled on my settings I shot a photo every few minutes.
Now, despite the fact that it wasn’t as cold as it could have been, standing outside on the front porch did prove to be colder than expected, so I left our front door open for me to pop in and out between shots, which kept me nice and warm, but confused the heck out of our dogs, who were trying to sleep in their crates. The other issue I eventually faced was that not only was the moon aligned with the Earth and the sun, but during this eclipse it was also starting to perfectly align with the aforementioned lamp post. There was only one thing for it, I had to move.
Imagine the scene, it is early hours in the morning, still dark, nobody outside but me and there I am shouldering a large long object making my way around the side of the house into the shadow. There was a point where I thought that I might spook any would be intruders more than they would spook me. I did actually hope that no police car would decide to make its round in our neighbourhood during this time or otherwise I would be having a very interesting conversation with the law enforcement!
Standing in the shadows between our house and the neighbouring house, suddenly feeling the cold very much (pyjamas don’t seem to be designed to keep you warm outside the comfort of your home), I managed to carry on shooting until the moon had dropped further towards the horizon, which meant that I needed to move inside, for which I was rather thankful, firstly for the warmth, but more importantly, I was starting to feel rather conspicuous standing between the houses in the shadows. So back up to the living room, move some furniture to secure a good position right by the window (by this time the teenager had gone back to bed) and carry on shooting whilst my body was thankful for the sudden warmth. At this stage reflection was no longer an issue as the moon was suitably subdued and I was able to finally get a photo of the blood moon, of sorts, as just before totality the moon also decided to align with some clouds! And that was that – they stayed for the rest of that day.
Despite the fact that I didn’t get a full shot of the blood moon, I am still pleased with the photos I did get, and the experience of actually having watched the shadow of the Earth falling onto the moon was priceless.
The above photo is a combination of those photos to show a time lapse of the eclipse until the clouds arrived. I created this fairly simply in Photoshop Elements using layer masks to achieve this result.