Journeys Around Seattle, #63: Chasing the Lunar Eclipse

October 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

On September 27, a lunar eclipse happened simultaneously with a supermoon, a confluence which only happens once every eighteen years or so. Lisa and I had gone chasing a lunar eclipse a couple years ago, however, thanks to Seattle's frequently-cloudy weather the best we were able to do was a few good views of the skyline.

But the forecast for September 27 was clear, so we decided to see what we could find. In a bout of optimism, I even rented a 400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter for the occasion. Since our photo target was the moon, we figure we didn't need to get out of the city to see it, and decided to head to West Seattle to try to get some shots of the moon rising over the skyline-- on the West Coast, the moon was due to rise with the eclipse already underway.

On the shore of West Seattle, there was a line of photographers and sightseers stretching for miles, eyes and cameras trained on the skyline across Elliott Bay. However, as the moonrise time passed with no sign of the moon, we began to wonder if we'd miscalculated in some way. Finally, I was able to see the moon through the camera, but barely-- the lunar eclipse had dimmed the moon so much that it was only barely visible as it rose over CenturyLink field. Perhaps we'd have been better off getting out of the city after all.

As it rose over the haze in the eastern sky, the moon grew more visible, but it soon became clear that by the time the moon grew bright enough for good photography, it would be too high to get the skyline in the shot as well. So we packed up and headed to our next destination, an overlook near the top of Queen Anne, to see what kind of view and photography we could do there.

By the time we got there, the sky had grown fully dark and the eclipse was bright overhead. The lower edge of the moon was already starting to lighten as the eclipse neared its endpoint, but I was able to get some decent shots of the eclipse from this vantage point. There were quite a few helicopters hovering over the city-- whether for news organizations or private flights I couldn't tell-- and occasionally one of them strayed into my shot, which I actually didn't mind, as it made for some interesting light patterns in the photo.

After hanging out on Queen Anne for a bit, we headed for Gasworks Park. By the time we got there, the moon was already emerging from the Earth's shadow. Trying to photograph it, it was interesting to see just how much darker the eclipse was than a standard full moon-- if I metered my photo so you could see the now-partial eclipse, the bright part of the moon was too washed out to see anything but white, and if I metered for the bright part of the moon, the eclipse was too dark to see.

So I took a few photos, then moved my camera to get some photos of the moon through the pipes and metal railings of the Gasworks. We watched the moon until it had just about fully emerged from the eclipse, and I snapped a final photo of the regular ol' Supermoon before we headed home to bed.

Below you can see a few of my favorite photos from the evening. At the end, you can also see two photos from the next morning, when I managed to take a few photos of the full moon in the sky before it set in the western sky. I'd gotten up early in the morning to take advantage of my rented lens to go out in search of wildlife-- mostly to no luck, sadly, but at least I got to see the supermoon one last time.


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