Sunday, December 19, 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse Mon, Dec 20 (Last Chance 'Til 2014)!

I've been poring over maps, examining moon rise and set angles on Google Earth maps, calculating what lenses might cover various phases of the total lunar eclipse Monday night, and anxiously checking weather forecasts.

This will be the only total lunar eclipse until 2014, so to me it's worth an investment of time and effort to witness and to shoot. It might even be worth renting a lens for. Unfortunately, the entire West Coast looks out of the question due to weather, so I'm heading to Southern Arizona. I still have to cross the Sierra Nevada twice in the blizzard today, then I'll have a 15 hour drive to Arizona (maybe 20 hours total, if I'm lucky). On the plus side, capturing the lunar eclipse over a tall saguaro cactus could offer some stunning possibilities, not to mention sunrise and sunset.

If you're as crazy as I am and dying to get shots of the eclipse, I'd like to invite photographers to join me. I can save you days of research and I can help you line you some nice sunrise and sunset shots in addition to improving your chances of capturing nice eclipse photos and/or timelapse sequences. During an eclipse the exposure of the light coming off the moon changes dramatically, and it's helpful to have others nearby to compare exposure information with.

All I ask is that you have some night photography experience, a tripod and remote trigger (wireless or corded, even better if you have an intervalometer timer-trigger), and that you can work around your camera at night without letting any light leak forward into the shot. That last point is very, very important. It gets extremely dark during a total lunar eclipse, and a timelapse sequence of the entire event can be ruined by one stray flashlight or headlamp.

We'll set a time and place, meet around sunset, and shoot through dawn. Anyone heading back towards California after that is welcome to join me in searching for favorable light and weather over the following day or two (no guarantees that the weather will cooperate, which is why I'm not offering it as an official workshop add-on, but unsettled weather is the most dramatic visually, so I'm very excited about the forecast). Possibilities include Imperial Sand Dunse, Anza-Borrego State Park, the Salton Sea, Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley (a huge range, but the National Weather Service will help narrow down the choices). The Grand Canyon isn't out of the question geography-wise, but it's currently directly in the path of the storm, so a low probability (and it's snowy and very cold).

If you need to check airline flight availability and cost, the closest airport will be Tucson. If you'd like to extend your trip, I can offer some suggestions if you'd like to shoot within a few hours of there for an additional day or two. The weather there is forecast to be a low of 46 degrees, 70s during the day.

Whatever you decide, best of luck to you on your weather and your eclipse shots!