The short answer to the question posed above is “yes” if today is May 15-16, 2022. It is the first of two total lunar eclipses in 2022 – so you’ll want to get out and shoot it, especially if you’re on the Western side of North America where moonrise happens near mid-eclipse. This is also a very long eclipse with Totality lasting nearly 85 minutes. The Moon should be a dark one as the northern edge of it passes through the center of Earth’s shadow. The following total lunar eclipse will be on November 7-8, 2022 when weather may be more of an issue.
Capturing a beautiful photo of a Lunar Eclipse is a crowning moment for many astro and nightscape photographers. But to get that shot, you’ll need to know when the eclipse happens and what happens as the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow. Eclipses don’t just happen randomly – they are predictable down to the second. Knowing that will help you plan before the next eclipse and significantly increase your success at achieving such a photograph.
First, let’s look at the types of eclipses, when and where you can see the next lunar eclipse, some recommended online eclipse resources, how to plan your eclipse photo, the best camera gear for lunar eclipse photography, and recommended camera settings. Finally, we’ll close with a few compositional ideas and suggestions to improve your lunar eclipse photography.
Types of Eclipses
There are two types of eclipses as seen from the surface of the Earth – Lunar, and Solar.
- A Lunar Eclipse happens when the Moon enters the shadow of the Earth. This only happens on the day of a Full Moon.
- A Solar Eclipse happens with the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, casting its shadow on Earth’s surface. This only happens on the day of a New Moon. Solar eclipses require eye protection to view.
Since solar eclipses are only visible from a small part of the Earth’s surface and require special techniques to view and photograph them, we’ll discuss them another time. So let’s focus on Lunar eclipses!
Lunar eclipses can take three forms, depending on how far the Moon goes into the Earth’s shadow. There are three kinds:
- Partial Penumbral Lunar Eclipse – The Moon partially enters the Earth’s outer, lighter shadow, called the Penumbra. It’s hard to see this phase, and usually not much of interest.
- Partial Umbral Lunar Eclipse – The Moon partially enters the Earth’s inner, darker shadow, called the Umbra. This part is easy to see, even with the naked eye.
- Total Lunar Eclipse – The Moon fully enters Earth’s darker umbral shadow. The Moon often takes a reddish color and is sometimes called a “blood moon.” This is the most interesting phase for lunar eclipse photography.
When and Where is the Next Lunar Eclipse?
Although this article discusses lunar eclipse photography, let’s take a quick look at the upcoming solar eclipses too. You may notice that lunar and solar eclipses often come in pairs – a lunar eclipse always occurs within two weeks before or after a solar eclipse and vice versa.
2022 Eclipse Dates
2022 has two eclipses of the Moon and two of the Sun.
April 30, 2022 – Partial Solar Eclipse
This partial solar eclipse is visible in southern South America, parts of Antarctica, and over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The Moon never fully covers the Sun, only reaching about halfway across the sun’s disk.
May 15-16, 2022 – Total Lunar Eclipse
The first total lunar eclipse of 2022 is visible from nearly all of North and South America (sorry Alaska!) and western Europe and Africa. We’ll discuss more details on this eclipse below.
October 25, 2022 – Partial Solar Eclipse
This partial solar eclipse is visible to nearly all of Europe, parts of northern Africa, the Middle East, and western parts of Asia. The Moon never fully covers the Sun, only reaching about halfway across the sun’s disk.
November 7-8, 2022 – Total Lunar Eclipse
This eclipse is visible around the Pacific Ocean – Asia, Australia, North America, parts of northern and eastern Europe, and most of South America. But it favors observers in western North America, Korea, and much of Japan, who can see this eclipse in its entirety. More details on this eclipse can be found here.
Total Lunar Eclipse of May 15-16, 2022
This eclipse should be a good one! As you can see from the diagram above, the Moon will travel deep into Earth’s shadow, with the northern edge of the Moon passing through the center of Earth’s shadow. That also means that totality will last for a fairly long time, nearly 85 min! While not the longest possible time a lunar eclipse can be, it’s getting close. And it’s certainly much longer than the May 2021 eclipse – totality then lasted a mere 14.5 minutes!
16 May 2022 Total Lunar Eclipse Time Table
|Difference from UTC||-7 hr||-6 hr||-5 hr||-4 hr|
|Event||May 15||May 16|
|Penumbral Eclipse starts||P1||6:32:07 pm||7:32:07 pm||8:32:07 pm||9:32:07 pm||1:32:07 UT|
|Partial (Umbral) Eclipse starts||U1||7:27:53 pm||8:27:53 pm||9:27:53 pm||10:27:53 pm||2:27:53 UT|
|Full Eclipse starts||U2||8:29:03 pm||9:29:03 pm||10:29:03 pm||11:29:03 pm||3:29:03 UT|
|Maximum Eclipse||MAX||9:11:28 pm||10:11:28 pm||11:11:28 pm||12:11:28 am||4:11:28 UT|
|Full Eclipse ends||U3||9:53:56 pm||10:53:56 pm||11:53:56 pm||12:53:56 am||4:53:56 UT|
|Umbral Eclipse ends||U4||10:55:07 pm||11:55:07 pm||12:55:07 am||1:55:07 am||5:55:07 UT|
|Penumbral Eclipse ends||P4||11:50:48 pm||12:50:48 am||1:50:48 am||2:50:48 am||6:50:48 UT|
What to Expect
Let’s look at what you can expect to see from several areas of the world.
On the east coast of the USA, the eclipse begins about an hour after sunset. The Moon will rise in the southeast. Over the next hour, it moves deeper into the penumbral shadow. The show really gets exciting as it heads towards totality, starting at 11:29 pm. The greatest eclipse (MAX) happens 11 minutes after midnight with totality ending just before 1 am. The partial eclipse ends just 5 minutes before 2 am.
As seen from New York, it will be about 21 degrees above the horizon as the partial phase begins. At the greatest eclipse, it will be nearly due south, nearly 30 degrees elevation. By the end of the partial phase, it will be heading down into the southwest, still about 27 degrees up.
The Moon will rise in the western USA around sunset as it enters the Umbral shadow and approaches totality. That means it will be low on the eastern horizon in the southeast. It could provide some unique opportunities for photographers in the west of North America.
Viewers in Europe will see the beginning of the eclipse as the Moon is near the western horizon. While the entire eclipse will not be visible here, much of western Europe will see totality just before the moon sets. This will give some interesting photographic opportunities for those in the UK, France, Italy, and Spain.
Planning Your Lunar Eclipse Shoot
You can see a total lunar eclipse from anywhere on the night-time side of the Earth. And since a lunar eclipse progresses over several hours – parts of the eclipse are visible from more than one-half of the Earth!
But getting down to finding a specific shooting location will significantly affect your photographic results. If you want to get close-ups of the Moon as it goes through different partial phases, find a site with a clear view of the sky.
Think about finding a spot that will have an attractive landscape feature along with the Moon. Use an app like PlanIt Pro or PhotoPills to choose your location.
Arrive at your shooting location about an hour or so before the eclipse begins. If possible, be there while it’s still light out. Find a stable spot for your tripod and start setting up.
Use the Virtual Reality feature of PlanIt Pro or PhotoPills to determine the Moon’s path. If you’re going to follow the Moon across the sky, double-check there are no foreground obstructions, like unwanted buildings or trees, that will force you to move your tripod mid-eclipse. Also, verify that your tripod setup allows you to follow the Moon easily – some tripods are harder to operate when aiming higher into the sky.
Best Camera Gear for Eclipse Photography
There are three things you’ll want to get the best results for your lunar eclipse photography. First is a camera you can run in Manual Mode. Second, a sturdy tripod. The last item you need is – a lens. Yeah, it’s a pretty basic setup!
An external shutter release or intervalometer can help you get sharper photos. Use it to fire the shutter so you don’t shake the camera.
If you have a cell phone that meets these needs, you could use it. But you’ll probably be happier with a dedicated camera.
Lunar Eclipse Lens Selections
So let’s look at lens selection for a second. There are generally three focal length ranges used for eclipse photography – the wide-angle, the normal to short telephoto, and the super-telephoto lens.
With a wide-angle lens, you can capture the motion of the Moon across the night’s sky in a single composition. Check out the image above as an example. If you want to incorporate the Moon with a grand landscape view, you could use lenses as wide as 35mm or even 24mm.
Normal to Short Telephoto Lens
To get the Moon closer to the landscape, look at using a normal focal length or short telephoto lens. The image above was a single shot taken at 128mm effective focal length. That’s long enough to capture detail on the Moon’s face, yet it allows you to include the landscape. Compositions like this can be extremely rewarding.
Focal lengths 200mm or longer can give you close-ups of the Moon. But for that super moon effect, you’ll want to get into the 400 to 600mm range – or longer. And you may want to use a star tracker to keep the Moon sharp during the one-second or longer exposures you’ll need for a totally eclipsed Moon. The 8-second exposure above was taken with an effective focal length of 1200mm on a full-frame camera using a star tracker set to the lunar speed.
Recommended Lunar Eclipse Camera Settings
The brightness of the Moon changes significantly during a Lunar Eclipse. You could spot-meter the Moon and use the bright side to set your exposure. Remember to check your histogram to make sure you don’t over-expose the bright side of the Moon.
The Looney 11 Rule
Or, you can use the Looney 11 Rule, which states for lunar photography, with your f-stop set to f/11, the shutter speed will be the reciprocal of the ISO. That is, the Shutter Speed = 1/ISO. It is a lunar parallel to the Sunny 16 Rule for daytime exposure.
To use the Looney 11, before the eclipse starts, set your lens to f/11. Then select the ISO you want – let’s start with ISO 100. The Loony 11 rule then says to then set your shutter speed at 1/100 second. (If 1/100 second isn’t available on your camera, you could use 1/125 second.)
If you want to shoot at f/8, you can convert the Looney 11 settings by increasing the lens opening by one stop, from f/11 to f/8, while decreasing the shutter speed by one stop, going from 1/100 second to 1/200 second.
As the eclipse proceeds and the Moon darkens, lower your shutter speed. Try to keep your shutter speed above 1 second to prevent motion blur from the Earth’s rotation and keep the Moon sharp. As totality approaches, you may want to open your lens to say f/8, f/5.6, or even f/4.
During a total eclipse, be prepared to use an exposure of ISO 1600, f/5.6, and 1/2 second or longer, depending on how far into the Earth’s shadow the Moon gets. You may need to make adjustments based on the Moon’s elevation and atmospheric conditions at your location.
Check your histogram, and make sure you keep the bright part of the Moon from overexposing. You may want to turn on your camera’s overexposure “blinkies” to give you a warning that your exposure is getting too much.
You can try the Lunar Exposure Calculator at Xjubier.free.fr for more info on exposure settings.
Bracket, Bracket, Bracket
Once the eclipse starts, you bracket your shots by +/- 1 or 2 stops, with either 3 or 5 bracketed frames. Doing this helps ensure you get a photo with the proper exposure and also allows you to blend images to recover info from the darker or brighter parts of the Moon.
Focus at Infinity
Since the Moon is very bright, you can often use autofocus on the Moon – except for the totality phase. Doing this can be especially helpful with longer focal lengths as merely touching the camera or lens can make manual focusing a frustrating experience! Once your camera gets good focus, switch it out of AF mode and into Manual Focus mode, so your lens doesn’t try to refocus while you’re taking images.
Once the Moon gets darker, you’ll probably want to focus on the Moon manually. Set your lens to its widest aperture when manually focusing, and then set it back to your desired f-stop to photograph the Moon. Use your image review and zoom in on the Moon and make sure you have good focus. If there are any stars in the frame, examine them and check they are sharp. It’s much easier to see when the stars are well focused than by looking at the Moon alone.
Remember to recheck your focus occasionally through the night, especially as you approach totality. Changes in air temperature can cause the focus point of your lens to change.
The Histogram is Your Friend
When shooting the Moon against the night sky, your histogram will show most of your pixels are at the left edge. But you’ll see a little blip somewhere to the right which represents the brighter Moon. You’ll want those pixels to be about one-half or one-third of the way to the right edge of the histogram.
As the sky starts to brighten, most of those pixels will begin to move right on your histogram. You need to increase your shutter speed or lower your ISO to keep the sky from getting too bright and over-exposing your Moon.
Additional Lunar Eclipse Photography Suggestions
Since eclipses are a somewhat rare occurrence, you’ll want to maximize your shoot. You can do this with several of the following ideas – shoot with two or more cameras, use a star tracker, and mount an APS-C camera on your longest focal length lens.
Two Camera Solution
If you have two cameras, you can use one with a telephoto and the other with a wider-angled lens. This way, you can get close-ups of the Moon with the telephoto, capturing the different phases, and let the second camera shoot a timelapse of the Moon as it travels across the sky.
If you have a star tracker, like the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i Astro Pack, you can use it to help keep the Moon centered in your camera’s viewfinder. Instead of using the star tracking speed, set it to the lunar tracking setting. Polar align your tracker as you would typically for star tracking. Then mount your camera and point it at the Moon.
There are two benefits to using a star tracker for lunar eclipse photography. It allows you to spend less time messing about with your tripod head, trying to keep keep the Moon framed. It also allows you to use longer shutter speeds without blurring the Moon from the Earth’s rotation.
Want a Longer Lens?
If you usually shoot a full-frame camera but don’t have a really long lens, grab that APS-C camera you have sitting around and use it with your longest lens. The crop-sensor in the APS-C camera will act as if it’s a teleconverter for your lens – giving it about 1.5x more apparent focal length.
For example, if I put my 1.5x crop sensor Sony a6300 on my 70-300mm lens set to 300mm, it will have the same field of view as if I put a 450mm lens on my full-frame camera. Super easy to do, and it doesn’t cost you a cent!
Online Eclipse Resources
My top eclipse resource is xjubier.free.fr – created by Xavier Jubier, one of the world’s premier eclipse photographers. Be sure to check out MrEclipse.com, TimeandDate.com, and Wikipedia.com for more excellent eclipse resources.
Xavier Jubier has created perhaps the best eclipse website in the world. Loaded with tonnes of photographs that will surely inspire your lunar eclipse photography, it also has all the information you’ll need for your eclipse chasing. For your local circumstances, interactive Google Maps, a Solar Eclipse Exposure Calculator, and a Solar Eclipse Timer are available for planning solar eclipse photography.
Numerous lunar eclipse tools are available as well – A Lunar Eclipse Calculator shows all the eclipses for any year. If you’re a macOS user, there’s Lunar Maestro to control up to 4 DSLR or CCD cameras.
One of the hardest things about shooting an eclipse is determining what camera exposure you need. My favorite tools on xubier.free.fr are the Time Exposure Calculators – one each for solar and lunar eclipses. They calculate the camera exposure you’ll need for each part of the eclipse. Knowing the proper camera exposure is, of course, critical to the success of your lunar eclipse photography.
To use the exposure calculators, enter your lens focal length and camera sensor size. The calculator shows you how large the Sun or Moon will appear in your photo. Be forewarned; you’re going to want a longer lens after playing with these calculators!
Finding a good eclipse photography location is also essential. Jubier has mean cloud-cover weather maps specifically for each eclipse date. You may find a nearby place with a lower chance of clouds by looking at these maps than where you originally planned to shoot.
Here is Jubier’s page for the Total Lunar Eclipse of 2022, May 15-16.
MrEclipse.com is the webpage of Fred Espenak, a retired NASA astrophysicist, photographer, author, and of course, eclipse expert. You can find guides to shooting Lunar and Solar eclipses, safely observing Solar eclipses and beginner guides. And the numerous photo galleries are sure to inspire your lunar eclipse photography.
Time and Date.com is an excellent site for eclipse info and converting times from one time zone to another. In addition to maps and times for eclipses, some engaging animations show the Moon’s motion through the Earth’s shadow. They are a great way to help you precisely visualize what happens during the eclipse. Click on your location on their Eclipse Map; it displays local times for the eclipse as well as the percent times for that day that were cloudy over the last 20 years.
Want to learn more about eclipses? Check out the Wikipedia entry for the eclipse. It gives a solid description of what an eclipse is and why they occur. For more info, check out the entries for Solar Eclipse and Lunar Eclipse.
Wikipedia has a page for every upcoming eclipse – you can find the May 15-16, 2022 eclipse here.
PhotoPills has a great video on how to plan your shot – How to Plan a Photo of a Total Lunar Eclipse – May 26, 2021 | Step by Step Tutorial
More Info on Shooting a Total Lunar Eclipse
We hope you found this info helpful. If you have any lunar photography tips or tricks you’d like to share, please post them in the comments below. We’d love to hear your ideas!
For more on shooting a total lunar eclipse – check out our article, How to Photograph the Total Lunar Eclipse.
This article was updated on May 3, 2022.
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