Sunday, January 7, 2007

Eclipse in Progress

Until 2004, I’d never seen a full eclipse of the moon. To be sure, there were eclipses during my first fifty-seven years but somehow the timing or the weather was never quite right for me to see them. Probably there were occasions when the moon was ready for me but I was not ready for it. All that changed on October 27.

Besides, I had a new camera, a Canon EOS 20D digital wonder with eight megapixels of image capturing electronics. I combined a Canon 100-400 zoom lens with two 1.4X teleconverters and placed that long assembly on my new camera. This somewhat unwieldy arrangement was put on a tripod and placed on the driveway of our new house in Prairieville.

The full moon was bright and the sky was clear. Sure enough, the pre-eclipse moon was large and bright in the viewfinder. I’d read that the moon would still be somewhat visible with a red tinge at full eclipse. My goal was to get a photograph of the red moon and make a large print of it.

With the camera manually focused at infinity, I began to take photos a little after eight o’clock. At that time, the moon was still bright and white; I was disappointed. Since the camera was new to me, I carefully bracketed exposures. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/125 second when the moon was bright to 8 seconds at full eclipse. The ISO setting initially was 400 but was changed to 800 and then 1600 when the moon was dim. All shots were taken at an aperture of either f/8 or f/11. With the moon rising, the camera had to be repositioned regularly. As the eclipse progressed, the moon took on a reddish tinge. By ten o’clock, I had the photo that I originally wanted but was fascinated and compelled to watch the entire eclipse.

To watch the moon disappear – and then reappear! – was a truly amazing and wonderful experience. Even with a twentieth century education, I felt like cheering as the moon began to reappear. I can only imagine the fear and wonderment that our ancestors must have felt during an eclipse.

When it came time to print a photograph, a single large image of the moon just could not convey the emotion of watching the eclipse in progress. These nine images show the various stages of the eclipse in progress. The first image was taken at 8:21 pm CST; the last at 11:12 pm.

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