Thursday, December 23, 2010

Moonlit Magic

Late Monday night, we experienced a once in a lifetime total eclipse of the moon which coincided with the winter solstice. All evening long, I would peek outside, and return indoors quite disappointed to see overcast skies. The eclipse was to begin after midnight and peak around 3:15. I was still hopeful but it didn't look promising.

Then at around 11 p.m., I began to see patches of clearing in the sky. The full moon made a brief appearance and then vanished once again, teasing me with a game of hide and seek.

A half hour later, the sky was mostly clear and the moon shone brightly in the southern sky. Thank you, Universe!

Earlier in the day, I had set up my tripod and was ready to go. I brought it outside with my camera and discovered that there was no way I could focus on the sky and get beneath it in such a way that I could actually see the moon, much less focus on it. And there was nothing that I could have used to raise the tripod high enough to facilitate the task.

The camera came off of the base and back into my hands where it spent the rest of the night, in 15 minute intervals focused on the moon. I held my breath for each shot. Some worked out well enough. Others not so much.

1-one hour before
This first image was taken about an hour before the eclipse began. The brighter the moon, the faster the shutter speed. This means that shaking or twitchy hands had little negative effect on the photo.

This photo looks much like the first but you can see the penumbral shadow beginning to slip over the left side of the moon.

3-early stages
A while later, the eclipse is well underway. Nearly one quarter of the moon is in darkness.

Halfway there, it looks as if the moon is grinning off to the right.

It's getting late but it's so exciting to be a witness to this celestial event. Nearly three quarters eclipsed.

6-almost covered
As the moon's light diminishes, I need to slow my shutter speed down in order to allow enough light to see the image. This is where my heavier camera lens begins to make it difficult to hold still enough.

Finally, at 3:15, we see a total eclipse of the moon in all her reddish, copper glory. This was the most difficult image to capture as I needed to decrease my shutter speed considerably and raise my ISO to allow as much light as possible. This is the reason for the blurred and "noisy" image. It was the best I could do without a tripod and all things considered, I'm not unhappy with the results.

Reb over at Sibu Pegasus Power took some impressive shots of the eclipse and some starlight with her point and shoot digital camera. She managed a nice capture of the fully eclipsed sphere with very little shake and blur. She also had the great idea to show three stages of the eclipse within one image as often seen on astronomy sites online. I've borrowed that idea and done the same with my images below.

Thanks for joining me under the moonlit sky.

Wishing all who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas.


Tom said...

Great pictures, Hilary! I was looking forward to the eclipse so much but we had our second big winter storm here and there wasn't one place on the island you could see the moon and the eclipse. Maybe next time, but I'm glad you got to see it!

Mele Kalikimaka to you and family from the islands!


Frank Baron said...

They turned out quite well, considering the circumstances. It was a nifty sight. :)


Tremendous efforts. Love these pictures.

Dawn said...

These are great Hilary!
What a good job, and what patience!!

Shrinky said...

Oh my goodness, what amazing photography, Hilary!

Tabor said...

Great photos, Hilary. I took several as well but it was so cold I didn't try very hard with settings and all. I did not take it off the tripod as I know my shake would have been to great. One blogger, can't remember who (!) shot with a 400 and got some really good photos.

Sueann said...

Wonderful capture Hilary!! Hand-held and all...perfect!!
I missed it completely...totally overcast here. So it is great to see your pictures phase by phase. Thanks so much!
Merry Christmas and hugs

Pauline said...

Thank you for sharing these photos! I was up and out in the wind and cold but clouds obscured my view of the eclipse - now I've seen it through your eyes and camera - what a nice gift! Happy Christmas to you and yours, Hilary!

Brian Miller said...

nice...thanks for sharing these hilary...have some friends that missed it...will send them along to see your pics...

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

Fabulous! What a devoted photographer you are Hilary. Thank you for sharing these incredible pics - love the last montage.

Steve Gravano said...

Beautiful job! Astral-photographer Hilary!

Hilary said...

wow, can I come take some lessons???? I am so clueless most of the time with my camera.
Great shots, and I admire your persistence in the middle of the night.

Leah J. Utas said...

Hilary, you did an amazing job with those.

Anvilcloud said...

I think it should be a rule that eclipses should only occur in warmer seasons and before midnight.

Cricket said...

Wow. Those are spectacular. Are you telling me I'm supposed to use those knobs and dials on the camera? Friggin' thing... I'm happy when it doesn't tell me "low batt."

How about a little Glenn Miller: Moonlight Serenade ? One of my favorites. No vocals, so I don't have to hear about the "Junelight." A very lame rhyme, I think.

And, since Christmas isn't your thing, let me bid you Wassail, and wish you and yours every blessing in the New Year.

Unknown said...


Thank you Hilary. The world is pretty amazing . You must have felt the wonder of it all sitting there witness to that.

Lori said...

Wow! These are great Hilary...thank you for sharing these! Happy day Hilary. XX

Rick Watson said...

I'm so envious. I set the clock and got up for the event, but we had clouds as thick as wool blankets.
Very nice shots.

Anonymous said...

Your photos are great...the best I've seen! We had complete cloud coverage and a snow storm, so we we had no visiblilty. Thanks for sharing your shots : )

DJan said...

Yes, these are the best I've seen, Hilary. I got up to see if I would be able to see the eclipse but I really couldn't see much, although it did look like the clouds would cooperate. My neighbor saw half of the eclipse. Your pictures are just awesome! Thank you for letting me see it, too.

Linda at To Behold The Beauty said...

These are magnificent, Hilary, even the grainy red one. Just amazing. I'm a little envious, but I'll get over it. Thanks so much for staying up all night and enduring the cold so that we could all see this event through your camera's lens and your gifted eye.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I know what you mean about the tripod...although mine is broken a little and swings way back so I can actually get a photo of anything directly above, so I guess that little glitch helped me out a bit!

abb said...

Beautiful! And I must tell you, that leaf photo is just gorgeous. I don't know why, but for some reason I am drawn to it.

Out on the prairie said...

Amazing capture and patience Hilary. I didn't see it until 6AM Central time and it was setting in the west.

Friko said...

A wonderful series of photographs in spite of your difficulties.

Have a lovely Christmas, it's been so nice meeting you.

What Karen Sees said...

Oh My, this series of photos is fantastic and very beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with all of us who are not brave enough to weather the cold!!! Hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

the Bag Lady said...

Excellent shots, Hilary!
All I managed with my point and shoot was black. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful wonderful! It was cloudy here so I missed it.

Reb said...

Wow, those are stunning Hilary! I think I hurt my back using my friends film camera with the big telephoto on the tripod, but I hope they turn out (taking it in today). I admire you for not using the tripod and still getting such great photos.
Thanks for the link.

ds said...

Thank you for these stunning photos, Hilary! Nature is an extraordinary thing, and you capture her magnificently. All best to you!

ellen abbott said...

beautiful work Hilary. it was completely overcast here. such a disappointment since it had been clear skies during the day and then a little after sunset the cloud cover moved in.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Fantastic shots Hilary. A steady hand indeed.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year. Eddie x

Kelly H-Y said...

Wow, Hilary ... I think those shots are quite impressive! Gorgeous! Love that one at the end that shows the whole sequence.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

Oh WOW, nice job!

Mental P Mama said...

Wow Wow WOW! We were cloudy. I knew i could count on you;)

blunoz said...

Beautiful photos! I especially like the one of the time-lapse with the multiple stages of the eclipse at the end. My eldest son and I got up to watch and enjoyed the time together talking about it, watching it, checking out diagrams and explanations and history of it on the internet, etc. I tried taking a few photos, but I'm nowhere near as good a photographer as you and didn't come up with anything worth sharing. So thanks for sharing your excellent photos!

messymimi said...

Amazing, thank you.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

So wonderful! Thank you for sharing these.

Anonymous said...


sage said...

Great shots--and hand helded no less! At least I get to see the eclipse on your blog!

Hilary said...

• Thank you, Tom. It's a shame that weather didn't permit you to see the eclipse. I got very lucky this time as well as back in February, 2008. Thanks very much for the kind wishes and I wish you an yours a very Merry Christmas. :)

• Thanks, Frank. It really was. ;)

• Jagdish, thanks very kindly. Much appreciated. :)

• Thank you, Dawn. I'm so glad you enjoyed them. :)

• Thanks kindly, Shrinky. :)

• Thanks, Tabor and I'd love to see your photos. I hope you posted some. I can only imagine how lovely that moon would look through a 400. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• SueAnn, thank you so kindly. What a shame that clouds got between you and this wonderful event. Maybe next time. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and hugs right back at you. :)

• Pauline, thank you so much for such lovely words. I'm sorry you missed the real thing but I'm so pleased that you enjoyed my own take on the eclipse. I wish you the Merriest of Christmases as well. :)

• Brian, thanks so much. I'm happy to share. :)

• Bonnie, thanks very much. I'm glad you enjoyed them. :)

• Ha, Steve. Thanks kindly. :)

• Hilary, I'll trade you for weaving lessons. ;) You are so NOT clueless with photography. Your images are always beautiful. Thanks so much for the kind words though.. they're always appreciated. :)

• Thanks so much, Leah. :)

• Anvilcloud, I'm inclined to agree with you there. I think I could hold the camera steadier while lying back in a deck chair. ;)

• Cricket, thank you. Yes, you are supposed to acquaint yourself with those buttons on your camera. Even if you don't know what you're doing, people will think that you do. ;) My own charge ran low that night - long before the camera's batteries did. Thanks for the Moonlight Serenade instrumental. Would it help at all if the lyrics were "June night" rather than "Junelight?" because I think that they are. ;) Thanks very much for the kind wishes, my friend. And I wish the same for you and your beautiful family - a very Merry Christmas. :)

• Deb, you bet I did. In between shivers, that is. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very much, Lori. I'm glad you enjoyed them. :)

• Welcome, Life 101 and thanks for the kind words. I'm sorry you missed the event but I'm glad you stopped by so that I could share my pics with you. :)

• LadyCat, so nice to see you. Thank you so much for such a kind comment. It's a shame that you and the Bach weren't able to see it for yourselves but I'm glad I was able to share with you. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• DJan, thank you so much for your kind words. I'm touched that you'd come by to visit. I'm thinking of you at this very difficult time. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Hilary said...

• Linda, thank you so kindly for such nice comments but I've seen your beautiful photography and you have absolutely no cause to be envious - especially since I was outside in the cold while you were probably all warm and cozy under your blanket. ;)

• Thank you, Rainy. I think my tripod would angle itself well enough but it was too short for me to be able to get beneath it to see at that angle. I needed a higher surface on which to place it and I didn't think my neighbours would appreciate my using their cars. ;)

• TSannie, thanks kindly. It often surprises me which photos appeal to others. It didn't strike me as a great shot when I took it, but it grew on me a lot once I saw it up on the monitor. I'm glad you like it too. Thanks for letting me know. :)

• Thank you, OOTP. That would be an interesting time to see it, I suppose - though probably less dramatic. Still I'm glad you caught some of it. :)

• Thank you kindly, Friko. That feeling is mutual. A very Merry Christmas to you and yours. :)

• Karen, thank you so much for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos and very glad you stopped by. Merry Christmas to you and yours. :)

• Aww thanks, Baggie. Perhaps you could remove the lens cap next time? ;) Thanks for stopping by, my friend. :)

• Thank you, Lady Fi. It's too bad you missed it but I'm glad you stopped by to share in mine. :)

• Reb, thank you. I can so understand the hurt back from the large lens. It's a really awkward angle. I'm feeling it in my neck and shoulders today - I need a good massage. I was very impressed with your images from a point and shoot and can't wait to see the photos from the film camera. Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

• DS, thank you kindly. Such a lovely thing to say. Very much appreciated. :)

• Thank you, Ellen. I'm sorry you found yourself under cloud at that time of the night. I was lucky enough to have the opposite here. I'm glad you came by and enjoyed seeing my photos. Thanks for that. :)

• Eddie, so good to see you stop by. Thank you so much for the kind words. A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, right back at you and yours. :)

• Kelly, thank you kindly. I'm so glad you enjoyed them. :)

• Thanks very much, Gary. :)

• Aww thank you, MPM. Sorry you missed out but I'm glad you stopped by. :)

• Kevin, so nice to see you stop by. Thank you very much for the kind words. I'm glad you had the opportunity to share this event with your son. You're a great dad and no doubt he will remember this night always. Thanks for sharing your kind words. :)

• MessyMimi, thanks very much. And to you and yours. :)

• TNE, thank you so kindly. Very much appreciated. :)

• Thank you kindly, KC. :)

• Thank you, Sage. I'm glad you did stop by to see it. I'm happy to share. :)

Joanna Jenkins said...

Thank you Hilary! These are gorgeous photos. There were way too many rain clouds in Los Angeles to see any of the eclipse so this is a real treat.

Have a wonderful Christmas! xo jj

Dawning Inspiration said...

Awesome... amazing... wish I had been able to try and capture - but it'll wait til next time!

Merry Christmas!

tattytiara said...

Very well done!

Zuzana said...

My goodness Hilary, this is what I am talking about... These images leave me breathless... STUNNING! Wow... I lack words...
Instead let me wish you, from the bottom of my heart a wonderful Holiday season and all the best in 2011.
Thank you for a great friendship and kindness this past year dear Hilary,
much love

Nancy said...

Thank you so much for posting these shots! It was totally overcast where we are and I missed the whole thing.

Russell said...

Most, most interesting. I am thinking of a multi pane frame with the sequence of images - as in your last photo.

AND last night I watched the movie Apollo 13 - !!. I had never really seen that movie from beginning to end and it was very good. I was in high school when that happened.

I really enjoyed these images, Hilary. Very nice and a way for me to see something that I was not otherwise able to see.

Kat said...

We had a storm here that night so we were completely overcast. I was so disappointed. :(

I think the moon is the hardest thing to capture. I can never do a decent job. Maybe I should just get a point and shoot! Or a tripod would help. ;)

I think you did a fabulous job on the pics! Thank you for letting me see what I missed. :)

June said...

Wow! I missed this post and I'm so glad you let me know about it! I knew you were all set to go, but didn't come back to check.

It really was red, then huh?
I am SO impressed that you were able to hold still enough!!!!!
Now I can say I have seen the hoop-de-doo eclipse! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Great lunar pics ...thanks for sharing. We had cloudy skies and didn't have a chance to enjoy the total eclipse. Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Lord Thomas of Wellngton

D said...

Hillary, great capture!!! We were able to get photos up until the final hurrah, so yours adds to the finale. Thank you and have a joyous and blessed Christmas.

solarity said...

Thanks for the marvelous photographs and for having such luck with the clouds. Here it was overcast all night and raining for most of it, so I didn't try.

Mary Anne in Kentucky

Midlife Roadtripper said...

I'm so glad I saw this today. The moon has been incredible this month. I stayed up many nights last weeks until the wee hours watching it set over the lake. Eclipse night, we had clouds as well. So pleased to see your work. Thank you.

Country Girl said...

AMAZING!! I am in awe of your skilz, Hilary.

Happy Holidays.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Absolutely SPECTACULAR, dear Hilary!!! You are so phenomenal!!!! Love this!!! And thank you so much for your thoughtfulness!!! I truly miss you!!! And send you the warmest wishes and much love this holiday season!!! ~Janine xoxo

SandyCarlson said...

Your photos are amazing. I can relate to holding your breath for a shot. Holding a camera teaches us how long a second can be! You amaze me.

Thanks for the Christmas greeting.

Anita said...

Wow Hilary! I missed it, but I am surely glad to see that you captured it and have put it on your blog. Fascinating!

You may not be totally satisfied, but your camera knowlegde and photography skills are worthy of envy.

Passing a little time at the moment, waiting for my kids to be deeply asleep before I put their presents under the tree.

Merry Christmas!

Emeniano A Somoza Jr said...

What gorgeous gorgeous photos, these are! Thanks for sharing. Btw, I love the soul in this blog.

Unknown said...

Hilary: I always think of my hero Colonel Frank Borman when I gaze at the Moon, because he commanded the Apollo 8 space capsule that circled the Moon for the first time ever in 1968. That I interviewed him was a miracle. But this post brought back that excitement.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, my friend! I hope today is especially Joy filled!! :)

Scott Law said...

Way to go Hilary! We had a lot of clouds also that night, so I didn't even try. Later I heard that it may have cleared some here, but I'm afraid I was too tired to stay up all night anyway. You did very well.

Bossy Betty said...

Incredible, Hilary! Just stopping by to say Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Joanna. I'm glad I was able to bring the eclipse to your computer from mine. :)

• Stacey Dawn, next time is good enough, I'm sure. I know you had a lot on your plate this past week. Thanks and Merry Christmas to you too. :)

• TattyTiara, thank you kindly. :)

• Zuzana, thank you so much, dear friend. You know I feel the very same about you. I hope your upcoming year is everything you want it to be.. and more. :)

• I'm glad I could oblige, Nancy. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, Russell. I've never seen Apollo 13 either but I sure do remember the event. Thanks so much for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. :)

• Thank you, Kat. You really do need to play with the settings a lot. The moon is indeed tricky and usually requires a fast shutter speed because it's so bright. The eclipsed moon needed a slow shutter speed because it lacked light. So I kept changing as it progressed. Keep that in mind for your next moon shot.. fast shutter speed and I'm sure you'll do fine. Thanks so much for the kind words. :)

• June, it was pretty red. My camera exaggerated it somewhat, but it was a lovely bronzy shade, for sure. I'm glad I could oblige with the hoop-de-doo. Thank kindly for stopping by. :)

• Thomas, thank you. It's too bad you were unable to see it for yourself but I'm glad you came by for a look. :)

• Welcome, Diana and thank you for the kind words. Nice to have you aboard. Merry Christmas to you and yours. :)

• Mary Anne, thank you kindly for stopping by to have a look. It's too bad you had clouds but I'm glad I could share my shots with you. :)

• MJ, I'm sorry you weren't able to see the eclipse firsthand but pleased that you came by for a visit to see my images. It's lovely that you have watched several moonsets this month. At least you have that. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Aww thanks so much, Kate. That means a lot to me. :)

• Janine, thank you kindly. So good to see you making the rounds for the holidays. I hope your Christmas was wonderful. :)

• Sandy, thank you so much, my friend. You're so right about the breath-holding. It sure does make a second or several last forever. Thanks very much for stopping by. :)

• Thank you kindly, Anita. Such a nice compliment. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Welcome, Fistful of Moonbeams and thanks very much for the kind words. They're so appreciated. :)

• Thank you so much, Michael. I'm so pleased that my post brought back some marvelous and impressive memories for you. Thanks for the kind wishes. I hope that your Christmas was beautiful. :)

• Thank you, Scott. That means a lot to me coming from such a fine photographer as you. It's a pity that you were clouded over. I know your images would have been amazing. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks kindly, Betty. And Merry Christmas to you and yours. :)

Linda said...

Spectacular! Thanks for posting these. I missed it this time around. It is particularly interesting at the last phase where it looks like a big red ball.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas!

Cheryl Kohan said...

Oh, wow! That had to be such an awesome be part of that great event. The photos are wonderful and just've got them for posterity! Well done.

photowannabe said...

Wow, that's all I can say. Fabulous pictures. You can be proud of them. All we had was overcast. Very disappointing.

lime said...

wow! you did a great job! i'm impressed and enjoyed a few quiet moments during the peak of the eclipse myself.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Your worst shots are better than my best! Thanks for the breathtaking photos. I did stay up to try to see the eclipse, but we had very heavy cloud cover here, and not a glimpse of moon in sight.

Hilary said...

• Linda, thanks very much. I'm sorry you missed the real thing but glad you were able to catch it here. Thanks for the kind words. :)

• Cheryl, it was quite lovely to witness for sure. Thanks so much for your kind comments. Very much appreciated. :)

• Sue, I'm sorry you had clouds keeping you from the eclipse but thanks for coming by to see my photos. Your kind words are always very much appreciated. :)

• Lime, thanks very kindly. I'm glad you were able to enjoy the eclipse under a clear sky too. :)

• Pat, thanks so much. It's a shame that so many folks had a cloud-covered sky that night. I'm sorry that you were one of them. Thanks kindly for dropping by. :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful shots! I had the same experience with the clouds - only mine stuck around and blocked the total eclipse phase - and also the tripod. I had to hold mine. But they turned out pretty well, all things considered, in the pre-eclipse phase.

Hilary said...

Thanks Barbara. I just took a look at your wonderful photos. They're quite magical. Thanks for stopping by. :)