How to Prepare to Photograph the Total Lunar Eclipse on Jan.20 (Useful Tools & Website)

Hi there, I am an amateur photographer. Most of my photos are about stargazing and landscape. Checkout my photography gallery here ( I would like to share with you some tips and useful tools that I used to prepare for photographing the lunar eclipse, which is coming soon on Jan. 20 2019.

Total Lunar Eclipse of 2000 July 16 (Lahaina, Maui)

Preparing to photograph a lunar eclipse requires much more knowledge and research efforts than preparing to watch a moon eclipse. When you decide to watch a moon eclipse, basically what you need to do is just going outside at looking for the moon in the sky.

Photographing a lunar eclipse, however, requires much more detailed knowledge on the direction, altitude and time of every phases during the moon eclipse. You need to plan ahead, pick a location, set up your camera, pointing your camera to the correction direction and wait for it to happen. Besides, you need to carefully set up a timer and adjust your camera exposure (ISO speed, shutter speed and aperture) during the entire moon eclipse. If you want to photograph the whole period of lunar eclipse, you may have to continue photographing for at least 4 hours, which may be an extreme task especially in winter season.

Preparing for the Eclipse
Fred Espenak prepares for the eclipse from lanai of his hotel room in Lahaina, Maui.

Here is a brief summary of what you need to plan in order to photograph a total lunar eclipse properly.

  1. Date and Time.
  2. Direction and Altitude.
  3. Weather Forecast.
  4. Location.
  5. Equipment.
  6. Photography Tips.

TimeAndDate is a useful website to check date and time, direction and altitude information at the same time. It provide you a location specific information of special astronomy events such as meteor shower and solar/lunar eclipses, which serve as a great solution to the requirement 1 and 2. Here is an example of the lunar eclipse event in Boston, MA

Time, phase, events, direction and altitude of the lunar eclipse on Jan. 20 for Boston, MA

Clear Sky Chart

Clear Sky Chart is the astronomers forecast. “It shows at a glance when, in the next 48 hours, we might expect clear and dark skies for one specific observing site.” It provide hourly rich information about all the factors which affect the astronomy seeing, including cloud cover, darkness, air transparency, wind, temperature and humidity. This website can serve as a accurate short-term forecast tool just before your photographing activity. Here’s an example of the Clear Sky Chart for Boston.

Clear Sky Chart for Boston, MA

Accurate Weather

Accurate weather provides a detailed and professional weather forecast in real time, short term and long term, including a great bunch of extra information. I use this website and its iOS app together with the Clear Sky Chart to check out the weather in my target location.

Weather forecast for Boston, MA

Weather Map

Besides short-term and long-term weather forecast, a basic need is to find a clear sky around your location when your location is suffering a bad weather. Here is a recently found solution provide by It provides a weather map that shows you a interactive map which visualize of the weather around your states. Here is an example of the weather map in MA (Link). You can slide the bar at the bottom to move forward the time by hour, at a maximum of 10 days ahead. Using the search box at the top right corner of the page, you can easily find the weather map of your state. According to the weather map, you can choose a location to visit, in order to obtain a clear sky to photograph the lunar eclipse.

Interactive weather map for Massachusetts

Photography Tips

Photographing a lunar eclipse requires a great bunch of basic photography skills and experience. The easiest way is to read a professional’s blog. Checkout this great tutorial about how to photograph a lunar eclipse. It covers how to set up your camera and many example photos with descriptions about how they shot those photos.

2000 Total Eclipse Over Maui 
The Multiple Exposure technique was used during the total lunar eclipse of 2000 July 16 from Maui. A Nikon 8008 in multiple exposure mode was used to capture the entire eclipse on one frame of film. 
The basic exposure of 1/125 second at f/5.6 was increased to 1/8 second within 15 minutes of totality and then set to 4 seconds throughout totality. A second exposure (metered) captures morning twilight and silhouetted palm trees. 
Nikon 8008, Nikkor 35mm f/5.6 Kodak Royal Gold 100: 1/125 to 1/8 on (partial phases), 4 seconds (totality)

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