7 Tips For Photographing Tonight’s Lunar Eclipse

The second lunar eclipse of 2014 occurs this evening and can be viewed from most of North America. This eclipse occurs two days after the moon’s perigee and means that the it will appear 5.3% larger than the April 15 eclipse.  Weather permitting, this should be a great opportunity to photograph a “blood moon” eclipse.

(1) Determine the Time of the Eclipse

Penumbral Eclipse Begins:
Partial Eclipse Begins:
Total Eclipse Begins: 
Greatest Eclipse: 
Total Eclipse Ends: 
Partial Eclipse Ends:
Penumbral Eclipse Ends:
1:15 AM       Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
2:14 AM
3:25 AM
3:54 AM
4:24 AM
5:34 AM
6:33 AM

2) Use a Tripod & Shutter Release.
Nothing is steadier than a good quality tripod and although your exposures will be surprisingly short, if you’re using a long lens, you’ll need to keep it as steady as possible.
TIP: If you forgot your remote release, use your DSLR’s 2-second timer.

_MG_9277 SQ

3) Choose the Right Lens
For close-ups a focal length of 200mm is quite good, but a 300mm or 400mm is better… If you have a 2x converter, use it. For most shots you’ll want to fill the frame as much as possible.
However, if you are including scenery, than a normal or wide angle lens will do nicely.

4) Shoot in Manual Mode
Most photographers overexpose their moon photos when they rely on the camera’s auto modes. The moon is actually quite bright. Think about it, it’s being illuminated by the Sun so the Sunny 16 Rule is a very close estimation. Once the eclipse starts and the moon gets darker you will have to make some adjustments.

Lunar Eclipse JMg
Total lunar eclipse / December 10, 2011
Exposure: 1.6 seconds @f/5.6 ISO 1600

5) Shoot Wide Open
Select the widest aperture on the lens so you can use the fastest shutter speed possible. Remember, the earth is rotating and a long focal length will amplify movement.

6) Compose and Re-compose
Because of the aforementioned rotation of the earth, the moon’s position in your viewfinder will constantly shift. Make the necessary adjustment to keep the moon centered.

7) Create a Multiple Exposure of the Entire Eclipse
Capture multiple exposures of the entire eclipse sequence to create a montage. Mount your camera with a wide angle lens, compose the scene with some interesting foreground, and capture an image every 15 minutes. Afterwards, you can blend the different phases of the eclipse into one single image using Photoshop.

Four stages 800px

It takes time, patience, and a willingness to forego sleep for most of the night, but photographing these total lunar eclipses is a rare event. That being said, tonight’s eclipse is the second in a tetrad of four lunar eclipses spanning two years. If you miss tonight’s event, you’ll have another shot in April and October 2015.

Fiat lux!

-Jeff Greene

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Clean Your Own Camera Sensor

dust banner

Sensor dust.  The scourge of  DSLR photographers everywhere…

The hot, dry summer months, along with increased camera use during vacation adds up to lots of dirty sensors. Considering that most photographers have likely never cleaned their sensors,  it’s a sure bet that most digital cameras in use today have a significant amount of debris on their sensors.

“Not me. I take great care of my camera…”

Not your camera, you say? Trust me, if you have never cleaned your sensor, it’s filthy – you just don’t know it.  And don’t say to me, “But I never take the lens off…”  either…  Camera systems are not hermetically sealed. All brands and models are prone to contamination when used regularly.  Ironically, the bigger the sensor, the more likely it will attract dust.

Since most photographers shoot  between  f/4 and f/11, they don’t realize that their sensors (actually, the anti-aliasing filter protecting the sensor) are dirty.  At that range the depth of focus is relatively shallow so any dust on the sensor may not be visible. Once you start shooting at f/16 and smaller, it’s quite likely you will start noticing dust spots. Especially in areas that have consistent tonal values, ie:  the sky.

Should you send your DSLR in for cleaning,
or should you attempt cleaning it yourself?

Frankly, it’s not that scary or difficult and you can easily clean your own sensor with the right materials.  The first step is to determine if you  actually NEED to clean the sensor at all. Although there’s certainly some dust on it, you should only attempt a cleaning if there’s visible dust on your images.

First, check your DSLR sensor for dust…

Don’t be fooled by the dust you observe in your viewfinder.  That’s actually on the ground glass prism and does not show up on your images. You need to create a test image to accurately determine if there’s is dust on the sensor.  Here’s a step-by-step process I use:

1) Attach your longest lens and rack it out to it’s maximum focal length.

2) Set your lens to manual focus. Now focus the lens to its closest distance.

3) Set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av) at it’s smallest aperture (ex: f/22, f/32) at ISO 200.

4) Take a photograph of a neutral colored / non textured subject. I usually photograph a patch of clear blue sky, or a piece of paper.

IMPORTANT:
The image should NOT be in focus and a long shutter speed is OK.

5) Review the image on your camera’s LCD monitor.  Zoom in to 100% magnification and inspect it.  If you’re at home, it’s easier to review the test image on your computer.

6) If you see some blurry dark spots, those are dust specks on the sensor.

clean spots

Time to Lean? Time to Clean!
Dry Method or Wet Method?

There are many different methods for cleaning sensors and much debate on which method is best.  Generally speaking, they’re categorized as either  “Dry” or “Wet”.  The “Dry” method uses a blower (not compressed air!) and/or and special brush. The “Wet” method uses a special methyl alcohol solution and swab. The most challenging jobs will require both.

Visible 2157 800px  Dry 2159 800px

Cleaning Your Own Sensor

1) Determine if you really need to clean the sensor by reviewing a test image shot at the lens’ minimum aperture (f/22 – f/32)

2) Activate the Manual Sensor Cleaning mode on your DSLR .  Make sure the battery is fully charged before starting.

3) Use the “dry method”  first by using a hand-held blower such as Giottos Rocket Air Blaster to dislodge any loose dust particles. It’s best to face the camera in a downward position while blowing off the sensor.

Blower 2153 800px

 4) If needed, continue by using one of the many specially designed sensor-cleaning brushes. These are use micro fiber bristles that are specially treated for cleaning sensors. Do not use a small paintbrush. Those are too harsh and will scratch the sensor.

For stubborn dust specks still remaining, you’ll need to switch to the ‘wet” method using a swab wetted with sensor cleaning solution.  I prefer using Sensor Swabs (Type 2 for cropped sensors / Type 3 for full-frame sensors) and Eclipse Solution.

5) Apply a very small drop of the Eclipse solution to the SensorSwap and, working quickly, swipe across the sensor in a firm and smooth motion.  The motion is similar to running a squeegee across a window.  I work from left to right, then pivot the swab, and then work back right to left.

6) Discard the swab. Do not use it again. Don’t even think about it.  If the sensor requires another pass, use a fresh swab.  Repeat as needed.

Cleaning your sensor can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools, the instructions above, and some basic common sense, you can save a lot of time and money by doing it yourself.

Fiat lux (mundi)…

-Jeff Greene

5 Cool Features on the New Canon EOS 7D Mark II

 
By Jeffrey M. Greene

Canon has finally upgraded it’s popular EOS 7D DSLR with the new Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

The 7D Mark II has a pro-level set of cutting-edge features
and a robust, ergonomic design. The new 20.2 Megapixel APS-C
CMOS sensor with Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors, plus a host of
new and refined capabilities, makes the EOS 7D Mark II the
perfect camera for photographers looking for a pro-grade APS-C DSLR.

Here are 5 significant upgrades:

20.2 Megapixels
APS-C CMOS Sensor utilizing Dual Pixel technology.Canon 7D Mark II

65 point auto-focus system
All cross-type 65 pt sensor utilizing Canon’s ‘Intelligent Tracking and Recognition’ (iTR) focus system.65pointAF Eagle

10 frames per second
When shooting in continuous mode. Shutter rated for 200,000 actuations.10fps bike

Dual memory slots:
For Compact Flash and SD (SD, SDHC, SDXC) memory cards.CF and SD

GPS
For geotagging images with longitude, latitude, and attitude…
Very useful when logging photo trip locations and details.
Geotagged

Most retailers are now accepting pre-orders with the first orders expected to be available on November 28th…
Canon EOS 7D Mark IIbody only   $1799.00
Canon EOS 7D Mark II w/ Canon 18-135 f /3.5-5.6 IS STM     $2149.00