Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shooting the Lunar Eclipse - December 20th-21st 2010

All right then. So I decided to stay up late, early or whatever depending on who's point of view, to capture this phenomenon that we know as the full lunar eclipse. Simply put, the "blue marble" (a.k.a. this big ball you are sitting on that we sometimes call "Earth") gets in front of the sunlight and blocks the full moon from being lit.

So if the "blue marble" as we call it is blue, then why does the moon show an orange-red-ish martian look when this happens? There is an explanation for this. And it's pretty simple actually. You see, all the cities around the world turn on red lights to see the moon. The moon picks this up and displays red. It's actually very cool. Go ahead, ask any astro-person, they'll tell ya. Just like a "blue moon", except there they use blue lights.

Actually, the atmosphere of our wonderful planet "bends" light, much like a prism. Hence, the aura (or umbra) just happens to be in the orange-red spectrum when it comes out the other end, or on the moon's side of our planet. Hence, the stray light from this effect lights the moon up in these wonderful, yet martian looking colors. So in simple terms - the earth blocks the sun from the moon, the moon gets lit by the diffracted light that literally "wraps" around the earth's atmosphere and hence renders that warm color spectrum or simply red. Simply Red - wasn't that a singer at one time? Oh, and a "blue moon" isn't really blue. It's just another weird phenomenon that happens rarely, but it happened this year too. It's basically when we have 2 full moons in the same month.

Of course there were a couple of other events this night as well. For example the winter solstice. This is when the earth's axis is tilted the furthest away from the sun at the north pole. Now that would be cool to film as well. Just think, sit at the north pole, put a stake in the ground and film it. Better yet, see if we can get a ride on one of the space shuttles and film it from up there. Just draw an imaginary line through the earth and watch it tilt. Or even better than that, just tilt your head a few degrees. Yeah - something like that.

Then as a third treat, there was a meteor shower a few days ago, and it was still letting some straggling meteors come down. Really! I saw some. It just always happened when the shutter was closed. Really. I kid you not. Trust me.

Speaking of shutters.... yes, that is what worked its little tail off to get what you see in this clip. Over 700 times the thing had to open and close. Poor shutter.

So how was this all done? Here a few pics of the method used:

Here is my nifty laptop loaded with Canon's software to drive the camera crazy. Maybe not crazy, but if you had to do the same thing over and over again, as in 700+ times, you may be crazy thereafter. 

The complete setup. Notice the perfectly square table. I even tilted it in the same direction as the earths axis just for good measure. (It's that Solstice thing again.)
It never fails! Whenever I am out shooting some celestial event, I get visitors! However, they never show themselves until I actually process the photos. See the UFO hovering over my rig? They are always pulling pranks on me. But to be honest, when I saw this thing in the photo, I couldn't explain it. Weird stuff.

So now for my next goal. Should such an event ever happen again, and I am ready with gear and all, I am going to try to make the moon hold still until I am done shooting. No matter what I did or said, that moon refused to hold still. So I had to whip out my secret weapon and make it look like the moon posed for me through this whole sequence, actually 13 sequences of shots as the moon moved on its path and having to make adjustments in positioning etc. But as I am what some call a "photomagician", I used my secret weapon. Just in case you want to know what that secret weapon is... a few hours of work in After Effects. There, now you know my secret.

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