PetaPixel

How I Shot the Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse Rising Over a Flowery Field

eclipse

Over the past few years, I’ve become overly obsessed with photographing the night sky, so when I saw that we were going to be able to see the lunar eclipse on April 15, I knew I had to shoot it. I had been planning this shot for about two weeks before Tuesday morning.

With every lunar eclipse that occurs, my social media feeds blow up with shots of the moon, but they all seem to be extremely tight compositions. Don’t get me wrong, they are great shots for detail, but I’ve always felt they lacked a bit of… “life.”

With that said, I knew that I wanted to create a composition that not only showed the amazing eclipse, but tied in an incredible foreground as well. I mean, why not include the Earth? We are kind of the reason for the lunar eclipse, right?

With the spring wildflowers blooming all across Texas, they caught my eye for a potential foreground. I searched online for a large bluebonnet field somewhat close to home, but far away enough from the heavy light pollution of Dallas. After getting a few suggestions via social media, I took the ride down to Ennis, Texas — just southeast of Dallas — with fellow photographer friend James Langford.

Where Ennis is located in the state of Texas.

Where Ennis is located in the state of Texas.

I set out around 11 p.m. and spent the next 7 hours shooting the moon transitions. The first shot was the field of bluebonnets, shot at a 30 second exposure using the light from the full moon to illuminate the field. I shot this with my Nikon D800 at 24mm. Then, I shot the moon approximately every 10 minutes with a 200mm lens from the beginning to the end of its transition.

It was somewhere around 4 a.m., I was standing in the middle of this bluebonnet field, freezing my tail off (the pain isn’t so bad once you go numb) that I started to have doubts that the shot I had imagined wouldn’t come together. I wondered to myself, “What in the heck am I doing here?” The moon transition was taking a longggg time, and was much further up in the sky than I had hoped for. I still continued too shoot though and hope for the best. Things finally wrapped up around 6am, and then, finally… sleep.

In post, I started with the initial foreground image that I had shot and edited it to my liking. I then began the process of sorting through quite a few moon phase shots, pulling out one every so often to create the transition. Each phase was then masked in to the sky to create the final composition.

A closer, more detailed, look at a section of the final composite photograph.

A closer, more detailed, look at a section of the final composite photograph.

What you see in the image is a pretty close representation of the moons path across the sky throughout the night, just brought a bit closer to the horizon to help balance the composition.


You can find a larger version of the final photograph over on Facebook.


About the author: Mike Mezeul II is an award winning, professional photographer currently based out of Allen, Texas. His portfolio consists of professional sports, advertising, wedding and concert photography, but his work in landscape and skyscape photography truly separates himself from others. Visit his website here and Facebook here.


 
  • scatterbrained

    Best blood moon sequence I’ve seen so far. Bravo.

  • Moon Rivers

    I don’t want to take anything away from Mike’s talent and hard work; however, since he’s kind of calling out all the other mere mortals who shot the eclipse tightly, I think as someone who decided against a composite, I should at least explain why.

    I am a photographer and not a graphics or mixed media artist. Sure, I use Lightroom to correct white balance, maybe lift up shadows a bit or lower down highlights and maybe I use photoshop now and then to do a panorama, but the picture still looks realistic and still a photograph.

    Mike’s work stopped being a realistic composite of a photograph as soon as he changed the camera settings – that is the moon fully became eclipsed and is camera settings went from somewhere in the f/8 1/200 down to f/8 6 seconds. In my photographer’s mind, there is no way that I can believe that picture because the exposures of the red moon was so much different than a full moon. The relative size of the moon and the motion is also all speculative at this point too since he shot the landscape with a wide angle lens and the moon at 200mm.

    So you can admire the work, pat him on the back, publish is picture in the local news, etc. but don’t you dare call it a photograph or even a composite of a photograph. It’s graphic art. Us mere mortals who shot the moon tight made sure our white balance was correct and it’s not something one sees every day so the moon on its own was just perfect.

  • Andy Austin

    I for one love it. I agree that it seems everyone takes just straight moon shots, which are nice but over played. If you want something marketable you have to do something unique.

  • jon

    Hit the nail on the head. This isn’t photography. It’s beautiful and was labour-intensive, no doubt. But you’re right, it’s absolutely more in line with graphic design than photography.

  • Joey Duncan

    Dude, it’s a composite, he used multiple CAMERA settings and multiple LENSES and you’re upset with him? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    It seems like you’re mad because he’s better at photoshop than you. Do you still wish you used film?

  • Joey Duncan

    Very nice, very well done.

  • Bay

    I tend to agree. At 24mm, the moon should be less than 1mm on his sensor (actually about .25mm), or 1/100th of the frame – see http://photo.net/learn/nature/sunmoon). There’s a reason people don’t take wide angle eclipse photos, and this is it. I enjoyed some of the other images on his web site much more. I think a long telephoto that incorporates some earth features and the moon would be a much better and realistic photo.

  • ityllux

    I don’t think anybody’s mad. This composition just feels unnatural and jarring. Changing lenses and digitally moving things around in the sky like that results in a (correct) sense that the moon is the wrong size and distinctly out of place.

  • M_A

    The moon is far too large. The transition takes more space in the sky. Well executed but it looks cheap and unprofessional. You might as well photoshop it all.

  • Moon River

    Use all the straw man’s arguments that you want, but you’re missing my point. First of all, I’m not mad at anybody. Second, my point is that this is being passed as a realistic composite which it is not.

    Composites can be realistic. If he would have used a wide angle lens on a tripod and took pictures of the field and showed the moon without the eclipse and then combined the images showing the moon exactly as it was at exactly the same relative size, it would be both photographically and scientifically correct and a non-issue even if his original foreground picture was a 30 second exposure.

    There is also nothing wrong with taking a photograph from very far away and using a telephoto lens to make the moon appear bigger relative to the foreground the way the Olympic moon looked. It’s beautiful and again, realistic.

    This composite however is not believable because
    1. It has at least 3 completely different exposures – the bluebonnets, the moon before the eclipse, and the moon after the eclipse.

    2. The foreground and the moon were shot at very different focal lengths artificially increasing the size of the moon.

    3. The motion of the moon was staged and actually looks backwards (the motion should be going up as the night progresses)

    Maybe he’s better in photoshop than I am, and maybe he’s not. There are thousands of people who are better than both of us so that’s another pointless comment.

  • Miles Montague

    100% right. When i first saw the picture, I looked quickly and was interested in how the photographer calculated the correct exposure settings and timings to create the “photograph.” That’s the way it used to be done! In fact, he’s just slapped a pile of bits of lots of photographs together in photoshop, which is something altogether different. This is a contrastingly simple process to achieve and very far from the TRADITION of skill required for this type of shot. The comment is right and fair. I was disappointed when I read down and saw that he used completely different shots and focal lengths!!! NOT the skilled, single frame aperture and exposure timings I was hoping for! Pick up a photography magazine from the ’80s (or before) and you’ll see this type of shot, but it’ll be created by a skilled photographer, not the ‘sellotape and string’ of today’s ‘photographers’! It is pretty, but as you correctly say, it isn’t a photograph, it’s graphic art and has no place on a photography site.

  • OtterMatt

    Oh sure, denigrate a photographer’s skill (one who you’ve never met, no less) because he tightens up a shot that would otherwise be compositionally void no matter who shoots it or where he was.

    God, but the whiners piss me off.

  • TrustHimNot

    Aww kid please

  • TrustHimNot

    The trolls are quite funny. The guy spends 7 hours to make a photo and all these hipster trolls are upset about is that it’s not one photo only. Oh well. The rest of us enjoy it.

  • TrustHimNot

    Well guess what applebutt he didn’t do what you wanted him to do, and this is not a critic his photos post. How about showing us a photo of your family so we can critic them?

  • http://www.flickr.com/mattdavidphotography Matt King

    Predigital editing predates digital editing. I think you’d be surprised what secrets lie in the darkroom.

    Here’s another point: that’s a pretty nice foreground shot taken at 11 at night. Sure it’s not the best blah blah but it’s a nice photo and I wonder on this thread who actually has the talent to capture that shot.

    And don’t even talk about that tradition skill bullcrap. The photos of the moon are fantastic, and he sat in the frigid elements for 7 hours, and probably another 3-6 in the digital darkroom.

    Shutup and go make your own pic.

  • D.G. Brown

    I hate to say it, but I was a little disappointed. I’d seen references to this picture before and was pretty excited to see an article explaining it, but I really was hoping it was not the artistic composite that it is.

    I also knew the comment section would be aflame :-P

    I wonder if the two sides are really able to relate to each other, though. One side likes things that visually look cool, regardless or the process involved. The other side has stricter requirements for the honesty of an image (and will feel betrayed otherwise).

    A few years ago, I was taking a picture of the moon. I had a this huge, cheap assembly of a 300mm lens, a 3x tele, and a little crop body to get as much reach as I could. As I was setting up, a bald eagle flew though the shot. I started going crazy trying to get a picture of the eagle (the moon wasn’t going anywhere), but just couldn’t get the settings switched fast enough to get much before it flew out of sight.

    I went back through my pictures and was even more heartbroken when I found a picture of the moon in frame and the eagle blurred and half in frame. So close, but so far!

    When I was talking to a friend about it later, he didn’t get why I was sad. He suggested I take take one of the pictures I had of the eagle and one of the shots of the moon and make one picture from them. I was appalled he would even suggest such a thing.

    But it was then I realized that it was just a difference between us. For me, it felt like it would violate my integrity to composite an image that I wasn’t capable of shooting naturally. It felt like it would be a lie. But for him, it was just a matter of what would make a cool picture.

    And so with that, I can’t criticize the photographer/artist of this picture. He set out to make a cool composite and that’s what he did (and hasn’t tried to pass it for anything else). But I’m definitely disappointed that that is all that it is (I had imagined something else entirely).

    (and if you don’t understand that disappointed, you can either say “I can’t relate, but it’s interesting to hear” or you can troll the heck out of everyone else — it’s up to you)

  • badhairpiece

    Sorry, but I too am not a big fan of these composites, especially when they are described as if from the eyes of a new world explorer. The photographic process and technique seem OK, but in this image I almost expect to see a unicorn jumping from moon to moon. And to be critical, I have to question the moon’s path here. In Nevada, we are geographically a neighbor to Texas in a worldly sense. That is to say, we are going to see the same moon that Texas sees. When I look at all of the time-lapse, still, and video images taken from our group as well as images taken from across the U.S., no other images or footage share the trajectory of this designed image. My 2 cents.

  • Graf Almassy

    Composite is one of the oldest photography process! 100 years ago your grandpa spend a half day in his darkroom to produce only one well processed composite image.

  • Jake

    I was with you until your claim that it’s not “even a composite of a photograph.” It basically boils down to several different photographs cut-and-pasted on top of each other to make one work of art. Sounds to me like a composite, or at least a collage. Also, you seem to have quite a few hangups about being a “mere mortal.” He’s not saying anything about having super powers or immortality, he’s just saying that he wanted to stand out by creating a picture of more than just a moon – and he did.

  • Jake

    Just because it was hard and takes talent, doesn’t make it something it isn’t. I can spend 10 hours out in a blizzard writing a poem that I claim is a novel, but that doesn’t make it one. And people used to make composite photographic images with those techniques you’re talking about, not single photographs. The same argument about this picture applies to those made 100 years ago with those “secrets” of yours.

  • Jacob

    You just sounds jealous. And dumb. This is composite photography.

  • Lilith P.

    You can say that you don’t like it of course, but you can not say that this is not photography. It is photography. Just maybe not the kind you prefer.

  • Sinnister

    Tremendous shot. Congrats!

  • http://camiloart.com Christian Camilo

    man…this is art…..and for some could be photography too. For you not….

    This situation remind me this history:

    Picasso was travelling by train from Paris to Spain when a working man confronted him. “Your paintings don’t look real!” To which Picasso protested and asked “What art looks real to you?” The man pulled out a photograph of his wife. “There! That looks real. That is my wife!” Picasso silently studied the image for a while and then asked, “This is your wife?” The worker sat back triumphantly and said, “Yes! That looks just like her!” Picasso turned the photo over and over in his hand. “Really! You know… your wife is very, very small. And flat!

    Is always an representation…come on guys…stop to be boring. This is a great work and photography of the moon transition;

  • Guest

    So this could have been a lot simpler using Magic Lantern on a Canon. Just set wait for it to get dark (after the foreground shot was taken) – then use the intervalometer to shoot ever 10 minutes or so on a fresh battery grip full of batteries.

    You could have went to sleep and gotten a solid six hours in while the camera did the work.

    Great photo by the way.

  • justme

    Too bad Mars isn’t in the shot.

  • Ian

    I was interested right up to the point where he said he switched lenses. It went from a really tough photograph (like the previous posts of the moon lined up with people on mountains and such) to a PhotoShop composite that many of us could make. The result is quite nice, but from a photography technique standpoint, it’s not very interesting.

  • Mandude

    This is a very stupid comment. Did you even read what he posted? He’s not critiquing the photo, rather the perception of how it was created to feel like a realistic composite.

    His point is that if you’re going to pass something off as real, then just mask it in so that the dimensions are all correct, rather than changing it so it looks more like a more graphic/surreal image as it’s not in proportion. This is simply one way to shoot.

    But to be honest, the moons don’t look in the correct perspective, it seems to just stay flat on the same plane giving it less form. Also, the tones are quite distracting with each other, those purple flowers are atrocious.

  • Mandude

    So when Oscar Reijlander and Henry Peach Robinson created the first ever composites (1857/1858) they were wrong?

    Perhaps you should look into the idea of photo manipulation and composition. See people only see photography as photography, and they make the assumption that the realistic nature of a camera is what makes it art. Art is art.

    As for Ansel Adams (and the f/64 club) he was quite the darkroom technician. He created the “Zone system” which was for tones, making sure nothing was blown-out/crushed. He would remove subtle things as trees and things that were distracting.

    For you to say this isn’t photography is a bit outlandish. If somebody creates a photorealistic painting – is it still classified as a painting? Or is it supposed to be held in its own genre? Much like painting, photography has the need for the abstract – and in the technical sense it might not be “out of camera”, but it’s still photography. Man Ray said to not be held to the inherent function of the camera, hence the reason for Rayographs/Photograms.

    Jerry Uelsmann was famous for his super realistic Darkroom composites that are beyond amazing even for today’s Photoshop standard….

    Please do your research before accusing people of such silly things.

    Sincerely,
    Disgruntled Student Photographer

  • http://www.flickr.com/mattdavidphotography Matt King

    Ever read Dante’s Inferno? Poetic novel.

  • joseph taylor

    You did a very good job but i think you know this, a lot of work i see.

  • Jake

    Ever read a comment on the Internet and miss the point?

  • http://www.flickr.com/mattdavidphotography Matt King

    No, I watch those around me do the same thing from a 3rd person perspective.

  • http://d.omini.ca/ Liz Madisetti

    Absolutely love this photo, but confused by the title. Wasn’t the moon setting during the eclipse? The title says “rising”.

  • stoner27

    My thoughts exactly. And as a graphic designer I could have done something like this using Google and a bunch of other people’s photos. . You want this over a field of roses? Done. Maybe a blue moon instead of red? Done. Add some unicorns in the field? Done. If this was done in film in one frame. The effort would have been much more appreciated. But to go through all that hours in the field. And then chopping them up in photochop is just a waste. The Google way would have been much more easier.. and comfier.. but nice photo anyways.

  • ProtoWhalePig

    That Picasso was a laugh a minute guy!

  • Miles Montague

    So there’s a debate about composite images Vs photography. That doesn’t give you the right to be abusive. Have a point of view and express it, but respect that others have that right too. If you want to be a big man, leave it to face-to-face encounters, instead of pathetic aggression posted from behind a computer

  • http://www.flickr.com/mattdavidphotography Matt King

    Well it started out with calling the original poster on being a snob, and I ended up punching back because it annoyed me. Kinda like slapping a fly. Don’t by a fly.

  • dodgit

    Ansel Adams’ photos were all fake PS crap; he turned down the saturation WAY WAY too much.

  • Anton Berlin

    Is it a blood moon if it’s in April ?