Lunar Eclipse | Images of Totality

The previous post explained the nature of a total lunar eclipse and what to watch for. The post also described the four consecutive total lunar eclipses we can expect in the next two years, known as a tetrad.

I set the alarm for 2 am. Total eclipse was to begin for my location in eastern Iowa at 2:08 CDT. The camera settings were made the night before. It was already on the tripod. Images were from my front lawn.

For the photographers:

  • Fuji FinePix S602 ZOOM at 6x
  • ISO 200
  • White Balance set to incandescent
  • Exposure 2 seconds using the self-timer mode to avoid shake
  • Focal Length 47 mm
  • White level was set in each of the next four images using the star Spica at lower right

This diagram shows the path of the Moon across the penumbra and umbra of the Earth’s shadow. Times are for the eastern time zone. Times for my images are for central time zone.

© Sky & Telescope

2:09:03 am CDT

About 1 minute after total eclipse started. Note the bright region on the lower right limb of the Moon which was last bathed in direct sunlight moments before.

2:17:52 am CDT

Almost 9 minutes into totality. The lower right limb is a bit less bright.

2:27:52 am CDT

Now nearly 20 minutes into totality. The Moon is showing some signs of redness. It is more evenly illuminated and slightly dimmer.

2:28:53 am CDT

At 21 minutes into totality, I changed the white balance on the camera to shooting outdoors in shade. I was curious what difference it would make in the blood color. Incandescent tends to give better blue tones for star photography. This change did enhance the reds.

While I waited for the Moon to progress through the umbra, I looked around the sky. It was perfectly clear. Almost overhead was Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. Scorpius was peeking over some rooftops as it traversed the south sky. Mars was to the upper right of the Moon and Spica. At this time, Earth and Mars are at their closest as we pass the red planet in our closer and faster orbit. Here is an animation from my planetarium software.

I turned the camera slightly and zoomed out a little to include Mars and the Moon in one image.

Moon – Spica – Mars

If you missed the show this time, North America and the Pacific will get the second total lunar eclipse in the tetrad October 8, 2014.


20 thoughts on “Lunar Eclipse | Images of Totality

  1. Wonderful photos. I’m going to commend this post to some friends who still are trying to figure out nighttime photography, especially the moon. Two were frustrated this time around. Maybe this will help them get their techniques honed before October.


    • They should practice on mundane things before a ‘big’ event. Being familiar with the workings of your camera is so important. I have always found that trying to figure out something in the dark when I am a little sleepy is a mistake. Practice before hand.

      If there is anything more I can do to be of help, don’t hesitate to ask. I would be happy to help.


  2. Brilliant pics! Really well done. Though I woke at 2, the rain and heavy cloud cover caused me to miss this event entirely, I was able to follow on twitter, but it’s SO not the same. Great job on your pictures, Jim!


    • Thank you, Alex. I appreciate that.

      Too bad about your clouds. It’s a good thing we have 4 of them coming in the next 2 years. You ought to get your chance(s) with them.

      Being there in person is really the best way to experience eclipses. Although, if one was happening nearer to dawn, there could be some real bird tweets in the area. Our birds get up early. 🙂


  3. Congrats on a clear sky for the event! Worth getting up in the middle of the night for that. Interesting the difference in color at totality with the two camera settings. That’s why seeing it in person is the very best experience, although photos are better than not seeing it at all. I do very much appreciate seeing how it unfolded over there.

    After several beautifully clear days in the PNW it got cloudy that afternoon and by evening it was completely gray. Quite dark when I went to bed. At ten to two (I checked the clock) I was awakened by bright white moonlight coming through the window. We don’t use curtains (I like seeing the outdoors). Usually moonlight isn’t a problem but on this orbit the moon has been very far south, so it’s been angling right onto the bed, an actual problem for sleeping. And what do you know, but the sky had completely cleared while I slept. I might have seen the totality. But once the shadow passed, the moon brightened up quite a bit. I watched it for a while and in a half hour or so clouds began pouring in again from the west, patchy, so I decided to try for a photo before the moon was obscured. Standing outside on the deck, with my point and shoot, I got the pic at this link (I don’t know how to embed photos in a comment here). You can see a little bite out of the right side of the moon, the last bit of shadow. Shortly after, the clouds completely covered the sky, and I went back to bed. So I got a little bit of eclipse observation anyway. I’m hoping the weather will be more cooperative in October, but as always in astronomy in the NW, I am grateful for any observations I can get!


    • Actually twenty to two, ie 1:40 am, meaning about 20 minutes after totality when I first saw it. The timing was surprising to me since it appeared only a small crescent of the moon was visible right then, and I would have expected much more uncovered, since I read totality ended at 1:23. Couldn’t get a photo just then – with the contrast so high the camera can’t autobalance a bright moon against a black sky (the clouds later helped diffuse the light).


    • You link to the picture worked fine. You can’t embed images into these comments as far as I know. I could make out the edge of the shadow just as you described. Nice job…especially for point and shoot.

      I was up at 2 for the totality part. Went back to bed by 2:45. At 3, Melanie had to get up. She was awake the rest of the night. I slept in until 7.

      I’m glad you had a good time with the eclipse.


  4. The pictures are wonderful. I’m surprised that there will be another lunar eclipse in October. Do you know if these two lunar eclipses closer together than is typical?


    • It is not very common, but does happen. What is much more rare is to have four total lunar eclipses in a row. North America is the lucky part of the world to get this rare gift over the next two years. That is called a tetrad.

      We get more chances soon after having a sort of dry spell in recent years.


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