Thursday, March 22, 2018

Lunar Eclipse at the VLA

Very early in the morning of January 31, about 90 minutes before dawn in New Mexico, the earth passed directly between the sun and the moon, and the moon was in full shadow for over an hour.

To photograph this event, my friend (and former PBS colleague) Bruce Shah and I thought it would be cool to shoot from the grounds of the Very Large Array (VLA) of radio telescopes in central New Mexico.

(If you are not familiar with the VLA, click here for an overview post.)

Bruce and I visited the VLA a couple of weeks before the eclipse to scout out positions for capturing the moon and one of the antennae in the same frame.  After driving and walking around in the areas that are accessible -- most are fenced off -- we found a spot we thought would work.

After that, we made a few images of interesting scenes with the antennas and drove home.

Fifteen days later, on the evening before the eclipse, we returned to the VLA in hopes of getting some shots of the full moon rising in the east.  No such luck -- clouds all over.  

But looking west we were treated to an awesome sunset.

And just before it dipped below the horizon, the sun found a tiny window in the clouds and illuminated the plains for about 90 seconds with an amazing golden light:

There was still enough color in the west for a few more shots . . .

. . .  then it was over and we packed up for the night.

The next morning we arrived at the VLA around 4:45, and it was COLD:  7 degrees!  For over two hours we alternated between shooting and jumping back in the car to warm up.

Most of my images of the moon were out of focus, due to the difficulty of drawing focus with shivering hands and body, so I'll include only one.  But you get the idea:

I was able to get a few shots of the moon and a portion of an antenna (as you saw at the top of this post), but it turned out that, although we were probably a quarter of a mile away from the antenna, we were too close to get the moon and entire antenna in the same frame.  Live and learn.

As the sun came up, the moon faded, but there were still a few images to be captured . . .

If you would like to view these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


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