Shooting for the Moon – An Amateur Photographer’s Challenge

Transitioning from an iPhone 5s to a Sony a6000 mirrorless camera was akin to stepping from the driver’s seat of a Model T Ford into an Audi R8. Sensory overload. The myriad number of camera settings, lens choices, photo composition, lighting – it all seemed quite daunting.

But here I was six months later, feeling pretty confident, awaiting the rise of the blood moon over the iconic Vikeholmen lighthouse in Skudeneshavn, Norway. The scene was set. The tripod was levelled and armed with my Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera along with the Sony telephoto SEL 55-210mm lens. Remote shutter release was at the ready and Samyang 12mm wide-angle lens on standby. I was shooting on manual. All I needed now, was for the sky to darken and the blood moon to awaken.

Man looking through camera on tripod
Getting those camera settings just right for the big night ahead!

It’s all in the Planning

It wasn’t by chance that I was standing there in the twilight casting my eyes south. There was a degree of planning behind all this. Earlier in the day, I’d checked the  Moon Calc website which gave me the vital azimuth and elevation values of the moon enabling me to plan the foreground composition of the photos.

Map showing moon azimuth and elevation for moon
www.mooncalc.org gave accurate results for moon azimuth and elevation

If all went to plan, then the lighthouse would feature with the blood moon. And maybe, just maybe, we’d be lucky enough to capture a glimpse of Mars.

Wide angle photo of a sea landscape
Testing the Samyang 12mm at F/8 aperture, shutter speed 0.5s, ISO 100

First Glimpse of the Blood Moon

The predicted time of moon-rise was 10:05 pm but it teased us and didn’t make its grand entrance until 11 pm.

First glimpse: Sony SEL 55-210mm, f/13, 6s, ISO 100

That’s when its full splendour was revealed. As they say, ‘good things come to he who waits’.

Blood moon over a lighthouse near the water
The full eclipse of the moon: Sony SEL 55-210mm, F/9.5, 6s, ISO 160

Over the next two hours, we watched the moon transition through its lunar eclipse. Even Mars shrugged off any initial shyness to join us on this auspicious occasion. Look to the right of the house below and see a small red-ish speck of light – yep, that’s Mars.

Moon coming out of Earth’s shadow: Sony SEL 55-210mm, F/8.0, 6s, ISO 200
Moon just coming out of earths shadow , so light on left side and pinky red colour on right
Sony SEL 55-210mm, F/8.0, 3s, ISO 500
Sony SEL 55-210mm, F/9.5, 8s, ISO 400

As they say, practice makes perfect and I had great fun playing with the different camera settings. For a mere novice, I am happy with the end result. All things considered, I think photography is a bit like golf, there are many things that have to be just right to get the shot you want.

I might also add that whilst I was busy capturing the moment, Michelle was pondering deeper, more profound issues about the blood moon. Her article, about it being a time for ‘letting go of what is holding us back’, makes for interesting reading.

I would like to hear from you about your challenges and successes from behind the viewfinder.


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Author: Lars

Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.

10 Comment

  1. What beautiful pics – sadly, we didn’t see the moon at all due to the stormy weather. Though the sheet lightning flickering around the sky was blood red.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment 🙂 We were very lucky with the weather that’s for sure – though it sounds like you had a spectacular display with the lightning!

  2. Wow, those photos are gorgeous. I loved reading about the planning that went into your final shots. And when you mentioned the planet next to the house I muttered, “Sooo cool!”

  3. Lars, these photos are excellent and I’m sure you were chuffed to get them. I’ve been taking photos most of my adult life, and from the standpoint of gear, it’s been a pendulum swing from super simple to as many bells and whistles as I could afford. I even had a home darkroom for a while. After all these years and struggles to get the best shot, I’ve learned a couple of truths: no matter how fancy the gear, nothing can compensate for bad compostion, and thank God for the digital format. Really good photos. ~James

    1. Well thanks for the positive feedback James. I was happy after I got to see the images on the big screen as viewing them on the rear camera display doesn’t give you much of an idea of what you have captured. I agree with you 100%, composition is no.1 priority and all the post-event tricks can’t compensate for that. My learning curve is steep but I really do enjoy the challenge. I think photography is a lot like golf; everything has to be just right to get that perfect shot. Great to hear from you.

  4. I love photography and seeing the beautiful photographs that others take. I am not the best photographer myself though and I could learn a lot from you on this subject.

    1. I’ve come to love photography since we’ve been travelling, I’ll be posting as we go and sharing what I learn. Also, hope to hope to hear tips from others. Thanks and keep clicking!

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