Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Night at the Trona Pinnacles

The lunar eclipse between 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

Somehow, I've never photographed a lunar eclipse. I've seen bits and pieces of them over the years, but I didn't make the effort to record the experience. So when I learned a total eclipse was coming up for last night, I decided I had to finally push my ass into a car, drive out to the Trona Pinnacles and see what I could do to contribute to the thousands (millions?) of chronicles of the event.

I came semi-prepared with data that the wonderful photographer, Michael Frye, had put on the Internet for anyone who wanted shoot the moon, so to speak. When I got there, I first thought I wanted to compose an image with the moon coming at me with one of the pointier pinnacles in the foreground. I began to suspect it wouldn't work, but I waited for the moon to show me its intended path and I could then always revise if necessary.

And then an SUV drove up. A man got out and breezily greeted me. "Here for the lunar eclipse?" I asked. Yes, he said, and walked up to me. It was the man himself, Michael Frye. He introduced me to his wife, Claudia, and we talked for a bit. While I expressed my  appreciation for his work, Frye held up an iPhone with an app that showed the moon's path across the sky. (The app I had wasn't quite as explicit, plus I didn't have cell phone reception there.)

The rising moon three hours before the eclipse.

Based on the information from his app, I moved the camera to another location. Frye decided to look for another spot. He had never been to the Pinnacles before and he apparently wanted to scout around before settling on a shot. Before the eclipse began, I changed my position two more times and finally got the combination of foreground and moon path that seemed good to me.

The picture I came up with is a blending of many exposures. The foreground was shot before the eclipse and illuminated both by moonlight and a flashlight painted over the pinnacle on the left. The eclipse sequence was done by photographing the moon every ten minutes (I first intended on doing it every 20 minutes, but after a couple of tests, the separation between each picture of the moon impressed me as being too much). The final picture was combined in Photoshop after adjustments in Lightroom. I'm now hooked and have ideas for the next eclipse which is coming up this October.

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