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Lunar Eclipse over the Flatirons

Lunar eclipse over the Flatirons, November 8, 2022, Boulder Mountain Parks, near Boulder, Colorado

Lunar eclipse over the Flatirons, November 8, 2022, Boulder Mountain Parks, near Boulder, Colorado

Total lunar eclipses are rare, so I try not to miss an opportunity to photograph one. It would have been particularly disappointing not to photograph the lunar eclipse of November 8, 2022. If I failed to shoot it, I would have to wait nearly two and a half years, until March 13, 2025, to photograph the next one.

As the big night approached, I used Photo Ephemeris Web to begin planning a shot. The app made it easy to explore a number of possible shooting locations. I planned to make a “string of pearls” shot by making one exposure every five minutes during the eclipse sequence, then combining the images in Photoshop to show the phases of the eclipse. In addition, I wanted the moon to be setting over some dramatic landscape. Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park was my first choice, but the point forecast for 10,000 feet in the park called for 30 percent sky cover and gusts to 35 mph, which were certain to produce a ground blizzard at a wind-whipped location like the eastern shore of the lake.  I decided to seek out a lower-elevation location. After using Photo Ephemeris Web to examine a number of possible locations near Boulder, I settled on a spot near the Skunk Canyon trailhead on Deer Valley Road. In the afternoon before the eclipse, I confirmed the plan would work by driving to that trailhead and walking about 100 feet up the Skunk Canyon trail. I wanted the moon to play a significant role in the composition, so I decided to use a 70mm lens and photograph the phases of the eclipse from totality until the moon set below the Flatirons. If I photographed the entire eclipse, I would have had to use a wider lens, which would have rendered both the moon and the Flatirons much smaller in the frame. With a compass, I confirmed that the totally eclipsed moon would be slightly left of the Third Flatiron when it entered the frame. The moon would emerge from totality soon after I began shooting and would set, still partially eclipsed, between the Third and First Flatiron.

The next morning I got up at 3:30 a.m. and went back to that location to shoot the eclipse. My planning paid off; the red, fully eclipsed moon was perfectly positioned just left of the Third Flatiron as it entered the frame. The sky around the moon was clear when I began shooting, but thin clouds soon appeared near the horizon. The cloud cover expanded as the eclipse progressed. About 15 minutes before the moon would have set below the horizon, thin clouds covered the moon. I shot one last frame of the moon shining dimly through the clouds before the clouds thickened and the moon disappeared. I waited, hoping it would reappear, but my eclipse shoot was over. I had hoped for perfectly clear skies, of course, but even with the clouds I was able to make my first and perhaps last "string of pearls" image of a lunar eclipse over the Flatirons.

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