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Lunar eclipse on the winter solstice

by Doug Hoke Modified: April 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm •  Published: December 21, 2010
Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.
Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.

Tuesday’s lunar eclipse was the first time that it has coincided with winter’s solstice since 1638, 372 years! A once in a lifetime occurrence, so I decided to stay up and take photos. First thing was look up the times that the eclipse would occur and hope that there were no clouds. I gathered my equipment and then took a nap for an hour, setting my alarm for 12:40 am., which was the start time. After waking and going outside to see if it was clear, I grabbed my camera gear.

Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.
Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.

To shoot the moon you need a long lens, 300mm minimum, the longer the better. I used a 300mm f2.8 Canon L lens and added a 2X extender to create a 600 f 5.6 lens. I then used a 50D body which has a 1.6 crop factor for the chip, which basically gave me a 960mm f 5.6 lens. Next thing to grab was the sturdiest tripod I had which had a Slik Pro Ball head on it. The eclipse was almost straight up, so the ball head worked well.

Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.
Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.

Not having a remote cord handy, I set the self timer to the 2 sec. delay. That allows the camera to settle down after the shutter button is pushed. Next thing is to determine exposure. Because of the 2X extender, I knew I wanted to use f8 so that the lens would be stopped down one f-stop from wide open to improve sharpness. I started with iso 800. While the sun was still on the moon that gave me a shutter speed somewhere around 1/500. There were light clouds that cut the exposure down some.

Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.
Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.

I used the camera in manual mode and proofed the exposure on the camera monitor. Automatic will not work in a situation like this because of all of the black surrounding a bright white object. If your camera has a “spot” meter setting, this is the time to use it!

Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.
Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.

Once the earth’s shadow had completely covered the moon, about 1:40 am, I had to move my iso to 2500 and slow the shutter down to about 1/2 sec. to expose the red glow of the moon. I was really  glad the Oklahoma wind was still, or everything would have been shaking at those slow shutter speeds. Next time there is a lunar eclipse, plan ahead and give it your best shot!

Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.
Lunar eclipse Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman.

-Doug Hoke

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by Doug Hoke
Photography Manager
Director of Photography Doug Hoke started his career at The Oklahoman and Times as a part-timer December 1976. After just his third semester at Central State University (now University of Central Oklahoma). Hoke was moved onto the full-time staff...
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