Columbia lilies

Columbia lilies in an open meadow for wildflower Wednesday – many of the orange blobs in this photo are Columbia lilies. Unfortunately my attempts to capture the extent of their bloom didn’t work out: I have a picture of orange dots in a field of mostly green. I’ve never seen so many in one place before, and it seemed like most of them had multiple flowers per stem, with as many as 5 on one.

I think this is my first Columbia lily photo on Instagram. I don’t have many photos of them because we simply don’t encounter that many on our hikes. I can think of a few places I’ve seen them, but they’re not as widespread as other flowers, and they don’t usually grow in abundance. Even where they do – such as the meadow in the photo above – trying to capture the sense of their number is really difficult as they’re tall and gangly flowers and they tend to be fairly spaced out. So I was happy to see that many of the stems had multiple flower heads, allowing me to get some more interesting photos, rather than simply a single flower atop a tall stalk.

One thing I noticed in taking pictures of these flowers with the Sony RX100II was that the red channel clipped very easily. As a result I have quite a few photos where the flowers are much yellower than in reality, and even processing from raw can’t bring the full detail back, so they remain kinda washed-out looking. I’ve got used to being a little cavalier with my exposure thanks to the dynamic range of the SLRs, and I guess this is one case where I well and truly hit the limits of what the smaller sensor can do. Darn. But now I know.

Evening(ton) Crescent

Last night’s most slender of crescent moons 🌙

On Sunday night I scanned the western horizon to see if I could make out the tiniest sliver of a crescent moon with no luck. Last night I thought I’d stand more chance (given that it was now 4.5 % illuminated), but was still unable to spot it for some time after sunset – until about 25 minutes later and suddenly there it was: a slim crescent low in the sky. Knowing how unpredictable our 55-200 mm lens has become, I opted for resting it on the balcony, propped up on a small wedge (rather than wobbling in the wind on a tripod), and using the 10-second timer. Before I took my moon shot (ha ha), I made sure to focus on something distant as the camera was having trouble focusing on the faint moon (I used the radio towers on the summit of Mt Gardner), and turned off the autofocus and image stabilization.

I took 4 or 5 photos with that arrangement and picked the one that suffered least from atmospheric effects too (a problem when the moon is so low in the sky; barely 7 degrees above the horizon). The wind had blown around the foreground trees to a distracting blur, so I cropped them out of the final picture. Then all I needed were a few adjustments to the exposure, contrast, and vibrance and I had my photo. I really like the gradient from blue to yellow across the image.

I don’t think it’s the thinnest crescent I’ve captured, but it might be one of the faintest. I like that subtlety.

Postscript: I feel I should explain the odd title of today’s post. The BBC radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue has a “game” called Mornington Crescent, where the aim of the game is to be the first person to say “Mornington Crescent”. (Read more on Wikipedia to learn how this can even make sense!) Since the photo is of a crescent moon taken in the evening, I couldn’t resist the play on the name of the game, although it would actually make more sense if the photo were taken in the early morning. Maybe I’ll save that for another day?

Mountain double act

Gratuitous mountain view for Mountain Monday – Brunswick and Harvey, a superb double act of Howe Sound summits. Which do you prefer?

Brunswick and Harvey, often mentioned together in conversations about the peaks of the Howe Sound Crest Trail (a backpacking trip I’ve yet to tackle), and two of several tough hikes that begin in Lions Bay. From what I’ve read, Brunswick – being the higher, slightly tougher, and more technical – seems to have the majority mindshare among hikers. I don’t disagree that it’s an impressive peak, and the summit is a fantastic area, but personally I prefer Mt Harvey because the approach is more pleasant (or less unpleasant depending on your point of view!), and I really liked the closer view of the Lions.

Both hikes are hard, involving over 1450 m of elevation gain at an average gradient exceeding 20%. Brunswick has the additional excitement of some scrambling and tricky terrain to negotiate (with some exposure too), whereas Harvey has only a few places near the top where hands are helpful. But for me, the hike up to Brunswick is just awful: over 2 hours of logging road followed by a direct line up the mountain through scrappy second-growth forest. Only once the trail hits the Howe Sound Crest Trail does it become interesting and fun. By comparison, the hike up to Harvey passes through more pleasant forest (even though a lot is second-growth), and winds its way up the steep slope in a more manageable fashion.

Maybe it’s only because I only recently saw the view from Mt Harvey for the first time, but, at least for now, I’ll take the less exciting summit with the more interesting approach!

And that was my 400th post on Instagram. It’s only taken me two years 🙂

Aflame

The only fire I wanted to see at the weekend – backlit paintbrush in the afternoon.

There’s a campfire ban in BC at the moment, which is fine with me as I don’t really care much for them. It’s much nicer to camp without all the smoke and haze to be honest. I couldn’t help but think of fire when I saw these paintbrush lit by the later afternoon sunshine; fire from the sun, and fire-red paintbrush. What you can’t tell from this photo is how many mosquitoes and black flies I was having to keep at bay while lying face down, shielding the lens from the glare of the sun and trying to keep the camera steady…

My happy place

OK so yesterday’s flowers were pretty nice, but nothing beats a meadow full of glacier lilies! Truly, my happy place 🙂

Much as I love seeing all those other flowers, there is one in particular that I get a little giddy over. Yes, it’s the humble glacier lily. I was hoping that there would be a remnant snow patch or two in the higher elevation meadows that would be ripe for a glacier lily bloom. Sure enough, there was one little snow patch that had a handful in bloom, but my eye was drawn to a bigger patch of yellow in a more distant meadow. There was something about the particular shade of yellow that had me thinking I was not just seeing more arnica. We tiptoed our way around the flowers to get to a well-placed rock at one end of the meadow where we could see without doubt that this was a great big patch of glacier lilies in peak bloom. Yay!

I had found my happy place.

Wildflowers galore!

Wildflowers galore on the way up to Mt Outram. Best viewed from the trail, of course.

As we plodded our way up the steep trail to Mt Outram, we met a hiker on her descent who exclaimed that the flower display awaiting us was possibly the best she’d ever seen. When we broke out of the trees onto the open slopes, we could barely believe our eyes. The meadows were absolutely filled with all manner of flowers; the blues, reds, and yellows of lupine, paintbrush, and arnica making for a truly eye-catching view. I think every colour of the rainbow was well represented.

It’s always a little difficult to capture such rich displays. Either the flowers end up looking like little dots, and there’s nothing to draw you into the photo, or a small number of flowers becomes the focus, and some of the grandeur and extent of the meadows is lost. But this one seems to strike the right balance, especially with the distant mountains lending a bit of depth and providing a level horizon to emphasize the steep slope.

Unbuffered output to stdout from Python programs

I recently had cause to debug a Python program that extracts data from a remote (MySQL) database and stores in a local SQLite database. I did the usual thing of inserting print statements to check a handful of variables at different stages of the process, but it wasn’t helping because the program would stay obstinately quiet until the end and then print all the information at once.

Wait, but why? Then I remembered that the info being written to stdout was buffered, so that I was only seeing the messages once the buffer had been filled. That’s all well and good, and perfectly efficient and all, but it was getting in the way of my debugging.

The solution I found was to configure stdout in the Python code to be unbuffered. Thanks to this helpful blog entry at Turnkey Linux, I added the following line to the start of my program (plus the required imports):

sys.stdout = os.fdopen(sys.stdout.fileno(), 'w', 0)

Bingo! No more waiting for my print statements to show up. Cue happy dance. Now I can get on with solving the actual problem I’m having with the code…

(I tried the other solution mentioned, stdbuf, but either I was using it wrong, or it wasn’t doing what I expected it do to.)