In the early hours of the 21st January we will experience a total Lunar Eclipse, known as a Blood Moon, when, if the skies are clear, the moon will appear red as light from the sun is blocked by the earth as it passes in front. This rare event will be visible over most of west and northern Europe.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer, David Noton, has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.

 

1.         Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weighty tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.

 

Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon this January over Dorset’s famous UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Jurassic Coast. I’m aiming to capture the Blood Moon during the period of total eclipse (between 0441 and 0543) when it will be high in the sky to the south west,

 

2.         Invest in a lens with optimal zoom 

Essentially, I’ll have two choices, shooting wide to capture the moon in the context of the landscape, or framing the moon tight in the frame, so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. The latter is a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS R with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens, and also the ubiquitous 24-70mm f2.8 L III for the wider shot.

 

3.         Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you probably be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

 

4.         Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as Canon’s EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon’s recently launched, EOS R now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

 

5.         Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.

 

By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon with a shutter speed fast enough to stop the motion from blurring. How fast will depend on your focal length, but if you’re filling the frame with the moon using a long lens you’re going to need a shutter speed of about 1/250th sec.  Get the technique right and with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

 

About David Noton:

With a portfolio of jaw-dropping landscape and travel images, including the BBC Wildlife Photographer of The Year on multiple occasions, David has been leading his field for over three decades. After 34 years as a pro David is still specialising in landscape and travel photography with his preferred Canon camera and lens being the EOS 5DS R, EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.

 

For a full list of all ambassadors within the programme, please visit

www.canon-europe.com/pro/ambassadors