Moon over Metro: photographing Sunday night’s lunar eclipse

If you’re into photography, tonight is a big night. An eclipse of a supermoon — when the moon is closest to the Earth — is a rare thing. The total eclipse begins at 7:11 p.m. tonight local time and will peak at 7:47 p.m. This is the first supermoon eclipse since 1982 and the next one isn’t until 2033, according to NASA.

Photographs of only the moon are nice. But photographs with something in the foreground are often even better. Sage advice from the NASA website:

Enter Bill Ingalls, NASA’s senior photographer and a fixture at NASA Headquarters, with a salt-and-pepper ponytail and a ready smile. Bill has traveled all over the world for more than 25 years photographing missions for NASA, but he can also be found right in his own backyard – the DC area – anytime there’s a supermoon, meteor shower or other eye candy in the heavens. 

Bill’s #1 tip for capturing that great lunar photo: “Don’t make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself with no reference to anything,” he said. “I’ve certainly done it myself, but everyone will get that shot. Instead, think of how to make the image creative—that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place.” 

I’ll be out tonight, trying to get a photo with something Metro-oriented in the foreground: perhaps Union Station or the Gold Line crossing the 101 freeway. I haven’t decided which yet.

Some numbers that will help those of you into photography:

The sunset in Los Angeles tonight is at 6:42 p.m.

The moonrise in Los Angeles tonight is 6:39 p.m. and will be almost directly east. At peak eclipse at 7:47 p.m., the moon should be at 13 degrees over the horizon. In other words, still low in the sky. At that time, the moon will be at 98 degrees, a little south of directly east.

If trying to work Metro into your photograph, you obviously want to point your camera to the east. A few suggestions of vantage points that might work:

•The Expo Line runs to the southeast between the Culver City and Western stations. Please no tripods on station platforms — and if shooting from a station, you do need to pay fare to be on the platforms. There is an Expo train leaving Culver City at 7:48 p.m. and a train arriving at Culver City Station at 7:49 p.m.

•The Gold Line bridge crosses the 101 freeway on a bridge in DTLA. You might find unimpeded views of the train and the moon from any of the bridges just west of there carrying the following streets: Alameda, Los Angeles, Main, Broadway, Spring or Hill. There is a northbound train due to arrive at Union Station at 7:48 p.m. and a southbound train leaving Union Station at 7:49 p.m.

•There are views east of the Gold Line from the bridge carrying Lake Avenue over the 210 freeway and the tracks in Pasadena. Most views are hindered by chainlink fence — you’ll need to poke your lens through that or shoot from the end of the train platform. Again, please no tripods on platforms and entering the platform requires you to pay fare.

If you’re really into getting a technically great shot, I recommend reading this post on the PhotographyLife website. A full moon is very bright but during the eclipse the challenge is properly exposing both the bright and dark side of the moon, along with anything you have in the foreground. (You can also take different photos and use software such as Photoshop to later combine them).

Good luck! If I don’t strikeout, I’ll post anything I get Monday. If looking for group gatherings to watch the eclipse, here are some — including the big one set to music at Griffith Observatory. Please feel free to share any pics you get on our Instagram or Twitter streams, using the tag #metrolosangeles or user name @metrolosangeles.

2 replies

  1. Red Moon over the soon to be closed Red Car in San Pedro, perhaps?

    For some good news: The people running the Red Cars today told everyone who showed up today expecting today to be the last day that they just got a last minute 30 day extension to keep the Red Car running while they hope to re-figure things out.

    • “they just got a last minute 30 day extension to keep the Red Car running while they hope to re-figure things out.”

      Can vouch for this as I was there yesterday for Lobster Festival and was also surprised to hear this news first hand from the operators.

      Proof that this is true can be heard by watching California Rail Productions’ Youtube video of what was supposed to be last ride of the Red Car yesterday, but you hear one of the rail car operators saying “we’re going through the end of October now”