January 20-21 2019: The Super Blood Wolf Moon!

The first full moon of 2019 featured a total eclipse visible across much of North America. I have always enjoyed the night sky, starting when I hunted at night with my Dad. When my family and I lived in northern Kenya in the late 80s, we were astounded by the brilliance of a moonless starry night.

Orion in the night sky
Orion over Mom’s house

We even experienced a lunar eclipse not long after moving there.

Lunar eclipse, northern Kenya, 1985

So I was pretty excited about this event. There was a lot of hype leading up to it as a “Super Blood Wolf Moon”! “Blood Moon” because the moon is somewhat reddish from light scattered through earth’s atmosphere when it is in total eclipse. “Super Moon” because the moon is at its closest to earth. And some native cultures called the January full moon the “Wolf Moon”.

There was also good information on the photography websites about equipment and settings to use. My camera is an Olympus EM-5, a mirroless, micro 4/3 piece. I chose to use the longest lens I own, a 200mm Minolta manual lens that I bought on eBay for $25. I have an adapter to mount it on the EM-5.

A few nights before I set the camera up on the tripod to take some shots and see what settings worked best for me. For a bright moon, what looked best to me was to set the ISO to 200, manually set the aperture on the lens to f/11 and shoot at 1/350.

Camera settings test

Sunday the 20th turned out to be very cloudy and blustery, almost gale force winds! But the weather report called for it to clear up later that night. I was up in the St. Pete/Clearwater area for the weekend and headed for home about 7 pm.

As I approached Ft. Myers the clouds thinned and the moon was bright. It was actually very interesting to watch the fast moving clouds pass in front of the moon. At home I got set up and the eclipse started about 10:30 pm. The sky was totally clear by then. At first the bright settings looked good – f/11, ISO 200, 1/250 with the Minolta 200mm.

Beginning of the eclipse
Beginning of the eclipse

As the eclipse progressed, I needed to adjust settings. The second shot about halfway into the event, I lowered the speed to 1/180.

halfway ecllipsed
About halfway eclipsed

The third, nearing totality, at f/8, ISO 640, 1/90.

Almost to total eclipse
Almost total

And then right about midnight the eclipse was total and the moon turned somewhat red. The last shot settings were f/8, ISO 1000, 1 second exposure.

Blood moon
The blood moon

And then it was time to get some sleep!

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Tropical Agronomist