The Lumix Diaries Shoots the Blood Moon in South Africa

Posted Sep. 28th, 2015 by Daniel J. Cox

The Lumix Diaries Shoots the Blood Moon in South Africa

This morning we were up at 3:00am to get prepared for the coming Blood Moon show that started around 3:15am. We scouted a site not far from our lodge the night before. I explained to our Explorers that my vision of the Blood Moon would include a landscape since I wanted the images to have a connection to our location of South Africa.

The Blood Moon rises over the Londolozi landscape in South Africa. Lumix GX8 with 15mm Leica Summilux F/1.7 ISO 800

The Blood Moon rises over the Londolozi landscape in South Africa. Lumix GX8 with 15mm Leica Summilux F/1.7 ISO 800

After all, a tight shot of the moon on its own says nothing about the location we were in. As I predicted, many people were planning to shoot just the moon itself which tells nothing about the story of where we were at. Half of my enjoyment of photography has always been the places I love to visit, the memories I have of being somewhere special. With nothing but a moon in the image it’s no different than what I could have shot in Indianapolis. Sorry Freddy, just had to add that, not that there is anything wrong with Indianapolis 🙂

A later rendition of the image from above. Lumix GX8 with 15mm Leica Summilux F/1.7 ISO 800

A later rendition of the image from above. Lumix GX8 with 15mm Leica Summilux F/1.7 ISO 800

Even as I write this thousands and maybe millions of images of the Blood Moon are showing up across the internet that were captured with eveything from iPhones to telescopes and they all look the same. To make ours different, I wanted a location that said Africa, so we searched for just the right tree. Pleasant memories of what you’ve done and where you’ve been in life is what travel is all about.

For this shot I used my Lumix/Leica Summilux 15mm F/1.7 lens. The idea was to have a wide enough view for a landscape (15mm MFT = 30mm full frame equivalent). Not only was the Summilux relatively wide but it’s also fast at F/1.7. For astro photography it’s helpful to have as fast of lens as possible. I also had with me my new Olympus 12mm F/2 which is the lens I thought I would be using but the 15mm was actually a better choice due to its speed and a little less wide perspective.

Same scene above but this time we through some light painting in to the picture. Typically I would have painted this from the side but due to lots of folks needing attention I did what I could from my tripod. Lumix GX8 with 15mm Leica Summilux F/1.7 ISO 800

Same scene above but this time I threw through some light painting in to the picture. Typically I would have painted this from the side but due to lots of folks needing attention I did what I could from my tripod. Lumix GX8 with 15mm Leica Summilux F/1.7 ISO 800

Most of the images were shot 20 seconds, ISO 800, and nearly wide open at F/1.7. If I did this again I would have went with a higher ISO to stop the stars. At 20 seconds the stars are actually moving just a bit. There is an astro photography rule often referred to as the 500 Rule that I recently learned which suggests you need to divide 500 by the focal length of the lens you are shooting to figure out what shutter speed you need to stop the movement of the stars for that particular lens. Based on this rule I should have shot my images at 16 seconds.

Don't forget vertices. The Blood Moon rises over the Londolozi landscape in South Africa. Lumix GX8 with 15mm Leica Summilux F/1.7 ISO 800

Don’t forget verticals. The Blood Moon rises over the Londolozi landscape in South Africa. Lumix GX8 with 15mm Leica Summilux F/1.7 ISO 800

I shot them at 20 seconds and I do see some small movements in the the stars. Don’t forget that the focal length of the lens is based on Full Frame equivalent. Since my 15mm was actually a 30mm Full Frame equivalent, I took 500 divided by 30 to get the 16 seconds. Do the same with a 24mm lens and you get 20 seconds.

This image was shot at nearly 70mm with Lumix Vario 12-35mm F/2.8. It does not have the depth of field I would like, since the trees are a bit soft and the moon is fine. That's onoe of the downsides to shooting a longer lens. Lumix GX8 with 12-35mm F/2.8 ISO 800

This image was shot at nearly 70mm with Lumix Vario 12-35mm F/2.8. It does not have the depth of field I would like, since the trees are a bit soft and the moon is fine. That’s onoe of the downsides to shooting a longer lens. Lumix GX8 with 12-35mm F/2.8 ISO 800

As the morning progressed the sky became lighter and it was the very first images I shot that I liked the best. One of the biggest downsides to the beautiful LCD screens on the Lumix GX8 and GH4’s, G7, etc. is how amazing your images look on the back of the camera. Especially in the dark. Don’t be fooled by this. You may actually be underexposed significantly. I know I have been when shooting night scenes, cityscapes with street lights etc. You have to check your histogram or you WILL be underexposed. Yes, you can open them up in post processing but anytime you open up a dark image you create a noise. Also, I shoot all these images with the Noise Reduction ON in the camera. It takes longer for the image to be processed while shooting but I’ve always found it to be better in the long run to have the camera add it’s magic with Long Exposure noise reduction.

Equipment used for this shoot:

Lumix GX8
Leica Summilux 15mm F/1.7
Lumix Vario 12-35mm F/2.8
MeFoto Tripod

One final thought. Part of what The Lumix Diaries are all about is my experience moving from full frame Nikon cameras to the smaller Micro Four Thirds Lumix cameras and explaining the pros and cons I’m finding as I make the transition. I’ve mentioned in the diary posts in the past that I will call it like it is when the MFT system may not be up to the standards of my Nikons. Shooting the Blood Moon is one of those situations that if I had my druthers, I would have shot this scene with a Nikon D810 Astro camera or possibly the new Sony A7sll. Why? Because the larger sensor full frame cameras are the low light kings without question. The larger the sensor, the less noise you have in long exposures. I was very happy with my images from my GX8 but I know I could’ve shot at higher ISO’s that would have eliminated the movement of the stars had I shot with a full frame Nikon or Sony. That said, I found the noise issues in the GX8 relatively minor at 1600 ISO and it was easily cleaned up with Lightroom’s noise reduction filter. So once again as a photographer dealing with the realities of weight and costs, at this point for the very few times I shoot the heavens above, I’m satisfied with the image quality the MFT cameras give me. Let me know if you have any questions I may not have answered.

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There are 4 comments on this post…
  1. ScottOn Oct. 6th, 2015

    Great pics! I only WISH I could have done the same. It was cloudy here in Memphis, TN that night (and I seriously lack the skill). 🙁

    Scott

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 6th, 2015

      Sorry to hear about the weather Scott. Don’t sell yourself short on your lack of skill. I shot this entire series of the Blood Moon on Program mode. The camera did all the rest. You can learn how to do it too. Keep your eye here on the Blog for more info and tips on improving your photography. Thanks for stopping by tot add your voice.

  2. Dennis HolcombOn Oct. 1st, 2015

    I especially like the effects of the approaching daylight on the items in the foreground. It gives a perspective of the real world, and it is serene and settling view. We saw our blood moon at about 8:30 p.m. in San Tan Valley, AZ. As beautiful as it was, it was not up to the view you have displayed here Dan.
    Our best to you and Tanya. Myrna and Dennis

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 2nd, 2015

      Thanks Dennis, it’s always o good to hear from you. I think of Roger so often when I’m here in Africa. He loved this place. Really miss both he and Bret. Thanks for visiting the Blog and hope to see you two again at some point.

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