May 15, 2022. 9:00 a.m. Camera battery is charging. Backup camera battery is already charged and tight.
SD card is clean and ready for hundreds of pictures.
Nikon Df camera with different super-ultra-wide lenses – my Irix 15mm and my Vivitar 19mm – packed. Double-check to make sure the manual shutter release is in the bag. It is. Double-check to make sure the hot shoe bubble level is in the bag. It is. Double-check to make sure the tripod mount is on the Nikon Df chassis. It is.
Packing my car with a folding chair and lots of snacks. And a garbage bag. Chuck is not a litterbug.
Put on my lucky “Green New Deal” T-shirt.
That’s all Sunday’s preparation.
But for weeks, I’ve scoped weather reports throughout the area. Not just the Capital District, but weather reports in the Adirondacks, in the Berkshires, in the Finger Lakes, all over the place. And nothing’s panned out to my satisfaction. Thunderstorms and cloud cover. Ugh. And the next lunar eclipse won’t float through the Capital District until 2025.
And last year, I prepared and prepared and prepared … only to arrive at my preferred shooting spot, and have Mother Nature flip me the bird and ruin my perfectly-framed lunar eclipse photo with a nasty cloud cover.
I’m checking all the websites, all the apps. I need clear skies, or at least mostly clear skies, from 9:30 p.m. (the start of the lunar eclipse) to 3:00 a.m. (the end of the eclipse). Anything less than that is unacceptable.
I need a shooting location that’s free of street lights and distracting illumination.
And I don’t get a do-over.
And then … after scouring every weather website for something suitable …
I got a possible break.
If the screen shot is accurate, I will have mostly clear skies throughout the lunar eclipse phases … if I go to Baldwinsville, New York, just north of Syracuse.
Okay, now to scout out shooting locations. And parking is at a premium. I don’t want to park on the side of the road and worry that some imbecile will swerve off the road and hit my car. And I can’t just knock on peoples’ doors and hope for a kind soul to allow me free parking in their driveway.
Looking, looking, looking …
I think I found something. There’s a small parking lot off Oswego Road that leads to a nature trail. A closer examination reveals this is the location of Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area. I can safely park my car and get some great shots in the process.
I only get one shot. Choose wisely.
We’re road-tripping to Baldwinsville. Me, the Nikon Df, Lightning’s Girl and a lot of big hopes.
Arrive in Baldwinsville. And after the satellite navigation took me three laps around Onondaga County … GRR … I finally found the wildlife reserve parking area.
It’s 9:00 p.m. The eclipse starts in 30 minutes. No time for messing around. Get everything ready.
Tripod set up along the side of the road. If all goes well, I should be able to capture the moon and the road at the same time.
Irix 15mm camera lens on the chassis. Let’s take some test photos.
Ugh. I’m not showing you those test photos. They were fugly. The moon looks smaller than a pin prick, and there’s a weird green light in the distance from whatever industrial park is near the wildlife preserve.
All right. No worries. The Irix doesn’t do what I want, let’s slap the Vivitar on there. 19mm, f/3.8, and …
No. These shots are uglier than the ones from the Irix.
Damn it. My two best ultrawides and neither one of them give me satisfaction. Two and a half hours of driving, I’ve got the only clear skies in New York, and I’m totally screwed on my lens choices.
At that moment in time, I had three options.
- (A) shoot with the Irix lens and just pray I can fix everything in Photoshop.
- (B) shoot with the Vivitar lens and just pray I can fix everything in Photoshop.
- (C) go sit in my car and cry for hours.
And in the end, I chose Option (D).
Option (D) was … I brought a third lens to the party.
I brought my Maksutov MC MTO-11CA 1000mm F10 mirror lens. The supertelephoto. The one I used last June to photograph the strawberry supermoon. The lens that’s heavy enough to double as a barbell.
But with 1100 millimeters of view, I should be able to snag some great shots of the moon itself. And the clouds have cleared away.
Okay. Just a few moments. Slap the lens on the chassis. Mount it on the tripod. It’s now or never. Adjust the focus – the Maksutov focus is notoriously soft unless you hit that sweet spot.
Let’s take some photos.
And here’s one of the photos from that 9:40 a.m. shoot.
Let’s see. Neil Armstrong’s footprints, Alice Kramden’s body… yeah, I think I hit the sweet spot.
Now comes the procedure. For the next five hours, at 10-minute intervals, take photos. Adjust the camera as necessary – when the eclipse goes toward totality, increase shutter speed. When it hits that blood-red totality, switch to a higher ISO. And do everything in reverse as the moon comes out of the eclipse.
I used my cell phone to give me 10-minute alarm blasts. That way I wouldn’t fall asleep in the middle of this photo excursion. I mean, it’s not like the eclipse is going to wait for me, right?
And for the most part, nobody bothered me. The only time I saw anybody even enter the parking lot were a few bikers who stopped to regroup and then continue on their way; and someone in a pickup truck who wanted a safe place for a U-ie.
Oh, and the cops.
Yeah. I’m in the middle of shooting a blood-red totality … at this point in time …
Trooper car pulls up. Spotlights in my face. Johnny Badge.
“What you up to?”
“Just photographing the lunar eclipse, officer.”
“Have you had anything to drink?”
“No sir, other than this bottle of Gatorade.” I walked over to the cop car. “It’s a great night to capture this. I had to drive all the way from Albany to get away from cloud cover just to capture this.”
“Are you driving back after this?”
“I may sleep at a rest area, depending. I don’t want to take any chances.”
“Are you sure you haven’t had anything to drink? This area gets a lot of teenagers and drunks.”
“Just the Gatorade, officer.”
“You don’t look very steady on your feet.”
“Diabetic neuropathy in both feet, officer. Sometimes when I stand for long periods of time, I just need to keep my balance.”
“You sure you haven’t had anything to drink? You wouldn’t lie to a police officer, would you?”
“No alcohol or anything like that. I’ll take a BAC and a field sobriety test right now, if you like. I have nothing to hide.”
“Get some great photos,” the officer said. “Have a good night.” He drove away.
Man, I’ve never had so much relief telling someone I have diabetic neuropathy. Wow.
I kept the photos going. At 2:30 a.m., I was done.
Drove home. And like I promised, I did take a couple of cat naps at well-lit rest areas.
Got back to the 518 at around 6:30 a.m. Quickly posted a blog post for Monday that was scheduled for another day, crawled in bed, and went to Slumberland County.
Okay. I’ve got these photos. Let’s assemble them.
I pulled 30 images – one for every ten minutes of the eclipse …
Stitched them all together.
You know you do.
Oh my God. I got this. I GOT THIS!!
Short pile Competition Season 2022 has a new entrant. For sure.
Hoo boy. Months of planning. Months of preparation. A last-minute decision to bring a third lens to my shooting locale.
I GOT THIS FROM ALL MY EFFORTS!!!
Excuse me while I dance around the house.
Well, dance slowly. Diabetic neuropathy in my feet and all. 😀