(This entry was originally posted over at VariousAndSundry.com on 22 Dec 2010.)
I woke up at 2:00 a.m. to shoot the lunar eclipse, and learned a few things:
1. Batteries fade quickly in cold temperatures. I can’t complain because I got off plenty of shots, but the night’s shooting did end with a blinking red battery light indicator.
2. Gloves are your friend. It’s cold at night in mid-December. And the wind only makes it colder.
3. I’m paying the Tripod Tax. It’s a photography truism, and I finally ran up against it. I own a cheap-o $35 Best Buy tripod. And it can’t support my camera and long lens at an extreme angle in the wind without compromising the pictures.
4. The 10 second timer is your friend. I found that after pushing the shutter button, the camera would take 5 or 6 seconds to settle back down. Like I said, the tripod is a cheap piece of crap. With the 10 second delay, it was much better settled before the exposure is taken.
2 more pictures and 6 more bullet points after the break…
5. Remember the ISO. I was having a tough time getting a shorter exposure time. Stupid me was about 3/4 of the night into shooting before it dawned on me to raise the ISO past 200. Once I got it to 800 and even 1600, the shutter speed was almost manageable with the tripod.
6. Ambient light is a pain in the butt at night. I live on a street corner that comes complete with a street light on it. I set up my tripod behind my car to block as much of that light as possible. I’m just grateful that the neighbor’s Christmas lights on their front lawn turned off before I went outside.
7. I love live view. Never thought I’d say that, but it’s key in focusing on the moon. Going to live view and looking at the scene in 10x magnification helped me manually focus better than I ever could through the viewfinder. It also showed me how pathetically awful my tripod was. I took my shots with a 10 second delay. After pushing the shutter button, I could see the camera settling down for the next 5 or 6 seconds, via the moon moving up the screen in live view.
8. Taking a picture of the eclipsing moon is hard. The bright part of the moon is many stops brighter than the orange/rusty part. You could take two exposures and sandwich them together, or even exposure bracket the thing. I didn’t trust my tripod enough for that, though.
9. Did I mention how bad my tripod is? Really, it was so bad that I left the lens stabilization on to help counteract some of the movement.
10. I miss my remote release. The one I have for my Canon XTi doesn’t work with the 60D. Also, I’m tired of the infrared being on the front of the camera. I don’t want to reach around my camera to set off the shutter. So my next shutter release will be cabled. I also want to try to do star trails with that.