In my life BK (Before Kids), I was not only a cabin attendant, but I also loved photography. These days the boys keep me so busy; there is not a lot of time to take pictures of anything. Except for some happy snaps of the boys with my phone. So my digital SLR has been in the closet for a quite a while. But last Friday it was time for my camera to come out and play. A total lunar eclipse is too good a photographic opportunity to pass up!
We had permission to go to the shooting range, which is a nice and open area. Good to watch the eclipse. Also good to see if there is not maybe a lion stalking you from behind! I made a comfy bed for Alex to sleep in the back of the car on top of the folded down seats. Jack was snug as a bug in his sleeping bag in his car seat in front. Both had been fast asleep when I woke them up and put them in the car. I was hoping the drive to the shooting range would have them completely passed out again by the time we got there.
Camera batteries charged, tripod and camping chair in the back of car we set off to the shooting range at 20:30. My three neighbours we also coming and it was a nice reassuring thought I was not going to be completely alone out there. It was a lekker outing for all of us.
As we got to the shooting range, the eclipse had already begun to obscure the bottom right side of the moon. I quickly set up my tripod and chair. The kids were still awake, but groggy. I silently hoped they would go to sleep soon.
In the dark, I was struggling to get my camera mounted onto the tripod! It took me forever! I could see the crescent of the moon get smaller and smaller as I was fumbling with the stupid tripod connection! The boys were now wide awake and bouncing up and down in the back of the car, which did not help my concentration. This whole expedition was all a big adventure for them. How could I blame them. Eventually after what felt like forever and with some help, I managed to get my camera mounted.
You know what? Lunar eclipse photography is flippin’ hard! When the sun was still casting enough light onto the moon for my camera to focus, I got some ok shots. But as that sliver of light disappeared, I battled. And battled. I am quite disappointed with the results as most of my shots blurred even though I had the tripod. Jack decided he had enough and started crying. So eventually I gave up and just sat back and enjoyed the show. Jack content on my lap. Alex was still happy in the car, listening to his own voice echo in the distance on this dark, cold night.
I have to be honest I only had a first good look at the sky after I left my attempt to take pictures. And it was amazing… The light of the moon faded quickly and as it did, the stars begun to shine so bright! The Milky Way curved overhead from horizon to horizon. And the moment the eclipse reached its totality, lions started roaring in the distance. When the lions stopped, jackals started calling. Almost as if the animals also noticed the special event that was happening in the sky above us!
Sitting out there in the dark brought back memories of a night Steven and I spent taking pictures of the stars during a camping trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe. We had a bit of a scare out on the Makgadigadi pans. The story is too good not to tell, and my pictures of that night a lot better;-) I will share that story with you in a separate blog.
We sat there on the shooting range in awe for a long time. The bright orange colour of the moon was just spectacular. I have never seen anything like it in my life! There were shooting stars everywhere, and Mars was also shining bright. It was a magical evening. And I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to experience it in the middle of the Kruger National Park, our wild home. Eventually though, I had to head home and get the boys into their warm beds. It was getting late and really nippy out there.
After I tucked them in, I had one last attempt at taking a few pictures of the eclipse. It was just coming out of totality. I turned my ISO all the way up to 6400. Which resulted in pixelated and grainy shots even my Photoshop CS5 could not sort out. So I definitely need some more practise in lunar eclipse photography. If any of my readers have great tips for me, I would love to hear them!!