Tonight’s sky offered a total lunar eclipse, and I thought I’d go out and shoot it. This was the first total lunar eclipse I’d watched like this since I was a kid. I can remember sitting outside with Mom and Dad, sometime in the ’70s, watching a total lunar eclipse on a nice summer night.

Tonight was not summer-like! The temperature was 15°, with a windchill easily down near zero. It was coooold. I braved it through to totality, and enjoyed watching the show.

For shooting, I set up two cameras. I set the 20D up for a timelapse shot. I expected I would take a frame every five minutes, and then stitch ’em all together at the end, and make this great image. Well…… I sorta shot myself in the foot on that one. Midway through the shoot, I thought I had the lens on autofocus, and changed it to what I thought was manual focus. Bad move, as I had it exactly backwards, and once the lens was on autofocus, the camera wouldn’t shoot because it could get a focus lock on the very dark sky. Bummer.

The second camera was the 40D, and I put the Celestron 750mm/f6 lens on it for shooting near-fullframe images of the moon as it descended into darkness. I’d say that the biggest majority of those images were not very good. I had this set up on my Bogen trike, but even that didn’t appear to be stable enough for this big combination of lens and camera, especially in the light wind. Essentially, I got a log of blurring. I also shot some exposures, especially during totality, that were too long, causing the moon to drift in the frame…. blurring again.

So what are the lessons? Well, the first is to set manual focus on the lens while still in the house! 🙂 I’d also recommend a heavier tripod, and frankly, a motor drive would’ve been peachy. Having a drive would’ve eliminated some of the drift problems, and would’ve make the shoot much easier. I have that kind of mount on my Celestron C8, but I didn’t pull it out. That was a big mistake.

The last thing would be practice. I need to work with my equipment more for this kind of shoot, perhaps shooting the moon through its phases. That’d be a good training ground, since the shooting conditions are similar, at least up until totality. Since the next total lunar eclipse visible from North America isn’t until late 2010, I think I have some time to hone my skills!