Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shooting the goblin moon

View of the moon on April 15 at about 3:30 a.m. as the Earth
came directly between the moon and the sun for a total eclipse,
also known as a blood moon.

Full lunar eclipse on a cold dark morning

Tuesday morning we experienced a rare celestial event - a full eclipse of the moon. Also called a “blood moon” for its dark red hue, the entire event lasted around three hours. As the full moon swung in orbit behind the Earth’s shadow it picked up red highlights from sunrise and sunset bouncing off opposite sides of the globe, turning it into a ghastly red goblin, then silently traveling back into the sun’s direct beams to once more becoming a pale white ghost.

Of course I had to be one of the crazy ones that couldn’t bare to miss out on watching the show. Setting my alarm for 3 a.m. before I turned in about 11 p.m. Monday night was not exactly a happy moment. Funny thing was, I didn’t even sleep until three, as I was awoken at about 2:30 a.m. by a little girl who had a bad dream. Well, needless to say I conceded the rest of the night’s sleep was lost and began to don winter layers for my frigid pursuit of the famous celestial body.

The night before I had prepared the DSLR camera by fully charging the battery (it drains quick in the cold), affixing the tripod mount to the camera, and laying everything out to cut down on finding reasons not to go outside in the dark, cold morning. You know how these things go, the more obstacles you can eliminate through preparedness, the less excuses you give yourself to not follow through.

Finally all suited up, gear at the ready, I set foot into the black. I remember turning the doorknob and thinking about all the times my father left the house to work long before the sun rose and couldn’t help but smile. I understand it better now, the drive to get out and trap something. I might be capturing photos and him furbearers, but I believe the principals are the same.

From reading reports online the day before, I knew viewing the eclipse would be best for Central Time from about 2 to 4 a.m. The night before I had peeked out the window before bed and saw the world lit up by the full moon. That was not the case when I got outside at about 2:40 a.m. Tuesday. In fact, the moon was already so dark it took me a minute to find it hanging high in the south-western sky.

“Oh…wow,” I caught myself gaping at it when I found it. There in the crisp clear air, in the darkest and deepest hour of the night, slipping silently westward while all the world slept, was our moon turned almost completely rust red.

I got to work setting up the tripod and the camera settings. The DSLR I had to work with was a far cry from what I’d have liked to have had at my disposal, but it was better than nothing. After a few test shots and settings adjustments I found a decent aperture, ISO and switched to manual focus. Here’s the fun thing about shooting the moon - it keeps moving out of your viewfinder.

My fingers went numb and I had to step inside a couple times to warm up, but I stuck with my subject until it became too great a burden to shoot anymore and I was confident at least one photograph would look good at full size. In the end, there were very few shots that were suitable, less that were acceptable, and fewer still you could call decent.

People out in California had it easier. Their best eclipse viewing was right around midnight, and I’m willing to bet the weather was a lot warmer too. Though I suppose on the flip side we had cleaner air and a lot less light pollution to look through.

The photo I did get out of the experience doesn’t do the true view justice, but for me at least, it’s a token reminder of the morning I spent with a goblin moon.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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