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Zion by Moonlight

Many times the human eye sees things much better than what a camera can see. The eye has a much larger contrast ratio with a lot more dynamic range.

Other times the camera comes out on top and can see things that our eyes can not. This is one of those photos.

Zion-by-Moonlight-1400

 “Zion by Moonlight”
Zion National Park, Utah

Looking at this photo, one can see all of the detail in this landscape at Zion National Park in Utah. When I was photographing it, however, it was much, much darker than this.

The sun had set behind me almost 30 minutes prior to me taking this photograph. A nearly full moon had come up over the horizon in front providing some illumination. The rest of the illumination in this photo came from the light still present in the sky behind me after the sun had set.

A long exposure and higher ISO – 15 seconds at ISO 400 – was used to provide me with a photo that I couldn’t quite see with my own eyes but what the camera had no problems in helping me see.

The making of my Blood Moon over Abiquiu photo

Early morning on October 8th, 2014 I had the good fortune of photographing my second blood moon of the year. In April I was in North Scottsdale, Arizona when I photographed my “Lunar Eclipse Blood Moon over Phoenix” and this time I was in Abiquiu, New Mexico – about an hour north of Santa Fe. Here is how I created it.

Lunar eclipse blood moon starting at 3am in Abiquiu, New Mexico at La Santa Rosa de Lima - an old adobe church built in 1734 by Espanoles.

First the planning:

Two days prior to the eclipse I went scouting in the Abiquiu area with my colleague Christine Hauber. I had a very specific idea in mind and we spent all day looking for the perfect spot. I was looking for an old adobe building – preferably an old church – that I could use in the foreground of my photo. When people looked at the photo I wanted them to think of New Mexico.

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The making of my blood moon lunar eclipse photo Part 2 of 2

This is part 2 of how I photographed the blood moon lunar eclipse on April 15th.
For info on how I photographed it with camera settings visit part 1. Here in part 2 I talk about how I enhanced it on the computer.

Following the 5 hours or so of sleep I got after photographing the lunar eclipse till 2:45 in the morning I began to create the final image on my 15″ MacBook Pro laptop.

The saguaro cactus scene that was photographed with my Sony a7 and Sony FE 35mm f2.8 lens was processed in the RAW converter Capture One Pro.

Looking at a before and after photo of the enhancements made in Capture One Pro.

Looking at a before and after photo of the enhancements made in Capture One Pro.

In the above screen shot you can see a before (bottom photo) and an after photo in C1. I made a number of slight tonal adjustments and color/saturation adjustments. I also corrected the perspective of the photo to remove distortion brought on by the wide angle lens, and corrected some lens vignetting. Notice the shadow detail I was able to bring out of the original photo. I have found I can pull out a great deal of shadow detail from the Sony a7/a7R cameras and Capture One Pro.

I exported the processed file as a tiff file to my computer, then opened it up in Perfect Layers in Perfect Photo Suite 8. While Perfect Photo can be opened as a plugin from Photoshop, I prefer to use it as a standalone program.

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The making of my blood moon lunar eclipse photo Part 1 of 2

In part 2 you can read how I enhanced and built the composite photo using Capture One Pro and Perfect Photo Suite 8. Read it here.

Overnight on April 14 through early morning April 15th we were treated to a wonderful total eclipse of the moon that at it’s peak turned the moon a blood red color. The eclipse was visible to most of North and South America – at least visible to those of us who had clear skies that night.

Suess Lunar Eclipse over Phoenix web

“Lunar Eclipse Blood Moon over Phoenix”
North Phoenix, Arizona
Purchase prints of this photo right now during a special limited time promotion.

The event is rare, with the most recent total lunar eclipse happening on December 21, 2010. However we are in for a treat as we will have 3 more total eclipses in North America within the next 1.5 years: October 8 of 2014, April 5 of 2015, and September 28 of 2015. After that we will have to wait another 3 years before another one happens.

Some pre-planning first

I knew of the April 15th eclipse a few weeks prior to it happening, which gave me plenty of time to prepare. I was still going to be in Phoenix which was great as the weather is usually perfect and rarely cloudy & rainy. So I started planning my final image and what I needed to do to create it.

Right off the bat I knew I was going to somehow incorporate saguaro cacti in my photograph, as they are a unique feature here in the Sonoran Desert. I have been spending numerous evenings photographing sunsets this winter out in the desert where my RV is parked here in North Scottsdale and knew the location would be perfect for the eclipse.

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