I got through the Sunday eclipse and helped a couple of friends with their first time try at eclipse imaging. It got me thinking about what I've learned over the years that might save you some time when the next one comes along.
Cameras, Equipment, People
Almost any decent camera will do, but you are ahead of the game with a DSLR and a pretty long lens. I do most of my eclipse photography with a 75-300mm ƒ5.6 zoom. Not ideal, a prime lens would be better, and even a lens with a tighter image, like a 400 or 500mm lens, but as your image gets tighter the requirements for a really steady tripod escalate.
I'm using the Canon lens with an MC-11 Mount Converter on a Sony A7 III and it all worked quite well.
There are lots of articles on shooting eclipses around, we've run our share, but I want to touch on some of the less obvious things, as well as some good solid tips to keep in mind.
First, if your camera has some variant of Live View you are ahead of the game. Getting the moon in focus is a big priority. If it isn't, the rest of these tips won't matter. With a Live View of what your camera sees, you can get aperture set properly, make sure you are in focus, and centered the way you want. Focus should be manual, not automatic. Some cameras will hunt forever for that correct focus point when in automatic. Once you are in focus, don't accidently change focus in the dark.
Just before an eclipse, the moon is bright, and some people get out in the field expecting to shoot time exposures all night, but the reality is you have to keep adjusting your settings as the moon grows dimmer and dimmer. With a fully bright moon I was shooting at ISO 80 and ƒ22 at about 1/6 of a second, but by the time the moon turned red I was at ISO 400, ƒ5.6 with a 6 second time exposure. There aren't any set rules. Conditions and your equipment will make all the difference. Whatever the settings, be prepared to change frequently as the eclipse progresses. You'll know your settings are right when you see some detail on the surface of the moon, most prominent are the lunar Maria, which are darker lava flows that make up what we call the "man in the moon".
One thing I noticed Sunday with my first timers was they were afraid of tripping over their tripods in the dark, and flashlights were out in abundance. If you aren't shooting alone, get the cameras far away from each other to minimize that risk, and keep everyone from hauling out bright flashlights which will kill your night vision.
You will want some light, but just enough to see your camera controls. Flashlights or headband lights with red light will really help, but even my iPhone with the flashlight turned all the way down was good enough. Too much light from bright flashlights will dazzle your eye to the degree that you might not be able to easily find the moon in your viewfinder. It can take a minute or two for that temporary "blindness" to settle down, so warn everyone in advance. No bright lights.
If at all possible, never touch your shutter button, as the image will likely blur from the vibration. Use some form of remote switch, wireless or cable connected to trigger the photo. Failing that, most cameras can be set to take the image a couple of seconds after you press the shutter button, allowing vibrations to settle down.
There's no need to rush. Eclipses move slowly. Sunday's blood red moon stayed red for almost an hour, allowing me and my colleagues to experiment with different settings, and to swap lenses between us, since I was the only one with a longer lens. Luckily, my guests had Canon cameras.
What to Do With Those Images
So you've got the images, now what? You'll probably have a collection of small photos of an orange moon. You can turn the best shots into individual images, and even add a label in Photoshop or your favorite editor.
I think the best option is to show the gradual change of the moon over time. My method is to crop each image to get the size I want, and paste each moon image as a new layer over a black background in Photoshop When you have several layers of shots, you can arrange their position, and Photoshop will show you guides that can help you line them up.
I added text above each moon image to show the time, getting that time info from the file itself.
There are others ways to display your eclipse images, but the collage of images always seems to get the best results. If the moon had been lower I would have used some single images as the moon came up over our local mountains, but for this eclipse the moon was far away from the horizon.
You may have some of your own methods for getting the most from an eclipse, so please feel free to share below.