How I Got That Shot: Blood Moon at Antelope Island

It’s all too often people ask me to put my camera down and join the party. I get that stink eye on many occasions when I plop myself in the corner of a campsite, drag my cooler within reaching distance, and point my camera towards the night sky. Friends wouldn’t at first, but then start to realize that they were missing someone around the fire ring. "Where did Nick go?" I could hear people snarkily asking, like I was off doing something more interesting than they were.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good laugh around the fire pit but when you're camping and the sky is screaming at you, it’s time to leave those revolving conversations and break out the camera gear.

I'll be the first person to tell you that I don’t consider myself a photographer. I consider it my hobby (like model airplanes and collecting pogs).  It’s a really expensive hobby, but a hobby it is none the less. I broke into photography a little over two years ago and I can’t let go of this little black box. It just feels so good, all the knobs and dials and beeps; it’s a tech gurus dream. I purchased my first "big boy" camera at Pictureline in Salt Lake City, and I chose the FujiFilm XT1 mostly because it’s water resistant and shockproof; this seemed like a good fit for my lifestyle.

Fast forward to last April during the first of a four blood moon tetrad occurrence; I broke out my Fujifilm XT1 and hauled up Shoreline trail around 11pm. I set up my equipment, the little I had, and began taking shot after shot of that slow progressing lunar eclipse.  I wrapped up my shooting field trip around 4am and headed home. I couldn't wait so I edited until sunrise to produce the "Wasatch Blood Moon".   I was happy with the results and thought I could do better, but that would have to wait another 6 months.

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Jump ahead to the image we are featuring, the Blood Moon at Antelope Island.  I had been planning on shooting the lunar eclipse for a while; however, what I didn’t realize until the day of is that this eclipse was to begin much later in the night than the previous. I called a few friends to see if they wanted to join me, mostly because I wanted someone to hold my hands while the coyotes chewed my limbs off. It was a hard find and found out quickly none of my friends were singing the same tune. I got a message from a local friend via Facebook asking if I wanted to join him on Antelope Island at which I accepted.

We traveled out to Antelope Island around 9pm during the eclipse night. We drove to the far western area of the Island and broke out our gear. Starting to snap photos, we didn’t care that we had a solid 6 hours before the main event would even take place. I soon realized that the two people I travelled with, Karen and Peter, needed a little beauty sleep before they could point to the sky. While they were sleeping, I decided to move further away from our original spot. I hiked up and over a bluff to get a birds eye view of the Great Salt Lake with little obstruction. The view was 360 degrees and amazing.

The eclipse had officially begun around 3:15am, and I started just snapping tons of photographs. Using my 12mm Zeiss Touit 2.8, I set my position looking for some unique rock structures close to my area. I finally found the prime spot where I felt like I was on Mars. Mars you say! Yeah, Mars; the funny little red planet that our moon will resemble in just a little under an hour. Finding "the spot" was much more difficult than shooting the moon. Framing is so important; and while I’m no expert, I knew this was decent framing.

I finished shooting five or six landscape shots and quickly popped on the  XF 55-200mm lens to finish the eclipse. Time passed, shooting the moon as it began to turn rusty orange, slightly changing settings. Fully engulfed in oranges and reds and a hint of white along the rim, I knew it had to be at it’s peak. I snapped a few dozen more and thats when my iPhone alarm went off, signaling that the greatest eclipse had began to end around 5:24 am. At this point, it was time to pack it up and go home. I trekked a little less than a mile back down the bluff, and said my goodbyes to my friends who were shooting in another location, I was just too excited to see what I got and to start editing.

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That night I began editing, sifting through hundreds of photos.  I will describe below how I obtained the final image, but first want to preface that YES I did use Photoshop, and I did use LR, as well as Photomax Pro. I used three pieces of software to complete this final image; and I have no shame in saying so. Photography is an art. And in art, the artist has full control of the final artwork. People often say, "The picture doesn’t do it justice..." Well yeah, it doesn’t; mostly because you took it on your smartphone, uploaded it to your favorite social channel, and got one and half likes on it. Pictures don’t do justice and that’s the truth. I’m a firm believer that it’s up to the photographer to bring that photo back to life. Bring it back to what you felt when you were there. Bring it back for your audience, so they can feel that same feeling you had while sitting under the sky at 4am, under a totally blood drenched moon. Always remember it is up to you to capture memories that could otherwise be forgotten.

How I created the landscape and foreground image:

  1. Found "The Spot" be diligent, don’t be lazy and plunk down anywhere.
  2. (Photo 1) Focused on the rock directly in front of me (I used a laser pointer to grab focus. Settings: 12mm, ISO 500 (Note: Moon was bright so not much ISO was needed), f/2.8 with 10 sec exposure.
  3. (Photos 2-11) Moon Shots: 200mm (305mm equivalent)
    Early non-red moon: ISO 650, 200mm f/4.8, 1/3000 sec
    Almost full eclipse: ISO 640, 200mm, f/4.8, 1/5000 sec
    Full blood moon: ISO 1250, 200mm, f/4.8, 1/4 sec

Post Production:

  1. Slight corrections in LR: Sharpen, exposure tweaks, slight clarity.
  2. Brought landscape photos into Photomatix Pro for a slight HDR feel.
  3. Combined sequence in Photoshop.
  4. Re-import into LR and make my final filter adjustments. Typically I like to have a nice matte feel to my night photos. Adding warmth and a slightly dated feel give the photo a timeless feel, in my eyes at least.

Equipment Used:

  1. FujiFilm XT1
  2. XF 55-200mm
  3. Zeiss 12mm X-Mount
  4. Manfrotto Tripod
  5. Laser Pointer

 

If you would like to learn about Nick and see more of his unique photography, check out his website for awesome corporate art and still life.

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