Thomas Jefferson appears to check out the lunar eclipse above the Jefferson Memorial on Sunday night. (Kevin Ambrose)

The moon began to glow red just before midnight last night as the lunar eclipse approached totality. During a total lunar eclipse, the sun’s direct light is blocked from reaching the moon by the Earth’s shadow and the moon glows red because sunlight is refracted, or bent, around the edges of the Earth and directed toward the moon. The reddening of the moon is very similar to the process that makes sunsets glow red before the sun appears above the horizon.

This particular lunar eclipse was dubbed the “Super Blood Wolf Moon” because it was a:

1. Super moon, meaning the full moon was approaching Earth at about the nearest point in its orbit.

2. Blood moon, for the reddish color the moon turns during an eclipse.

3. Wolf moon, which is the name for January’s full moon.

I braved the brutally cold, subzero wind chills with my friend, Dennis Govoni, and set up my camera and tripod on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial to capture the eclipsing moon above the memorial. I knew it was going to be very cold, so I dressed in many layers and packed boots, gloves and usual cold-weather gear.

But I truly underestimated the strength of the wind. The gusts blowing across the Potomac River and Tidal Basin on Sunday night were extreme, the kind that seem to want to knock you off your feet.


The lunar eclipse photographed from Arlington, Va. (Kevin Wolf)

On the elevated steps of the Jefferson Memorial, we experienced the full fury of the wind. I used my body as a wind shield to keep my camera and tripod from vibrating as I took photos. I felt the sting of the wind on my exposed cheeks and nose as I fine-tuned my camera’s settings.

Then I made my big mistake. I bent over to reach into my camera and immediately heard a loud “Bam!” It only took a second for the wind to lift my camera and tripod into the air and slam it onto the granite steps of the Jefferson Memorial.

I ran over to my camera, a Sony a7R II, to check for damage. I didn’t see any cracks or breaks, but the camera displayed a single error message, “Turn camera off.” I turned the camera off, but it stayed on. I repeatedly turned it off and on, but the error message did not disappear and the camera did not power off. I was done for the night. It was so cold and windy I was actually happy to quit, but worried about the camera.


The lunar eclipse above the Jefferson Memorial. (Dennis Govoni)

After I got home and tinkered with the camera, removing and reinserting the battery and memory card, the camera seemed to work fine again. If it suffered no permanent damage, I’m lucky. But I did learn a lesson about wind and tripods, and at least I got a few photos of the eclipse before my camera crashed.

Below are a number of photos from Washington Post photographers and Capital Weather Gang readers:


The total lunar eclipse over Washington on Jan. 20. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Total lunar eclipse on Jan. 20. (Kevin Wolf via Flickr)