Trillia

The trillium is blooming at UBC so I went over to take a few photos. Taught me a few things about our new camera too.

It’s been over a month since I posted these photos on Instagram, and the trillium are now reaching the end of their bloom. But ever since I discovered this patch of native wildflowers on the UBC campus, I’ve been revisiting it often to check on what’s flowering when. I particularly enjoy seeing the trillium as they are plentiful and close to the path which makes them easy to photograph. Usually I just use my phone camera these days for Instagram posts, but on this day I had brought in our newest camera as I was eager to try it out on the first wave of spring flowers.

The downside to delaying the writing a blog post is that sometimes I forget the context of what I’ve written in the photo caption. A prime example is the comment above, as I can now no longer remember precisely what I learned from taking these trillium photos. I think I have an inkling, but, a month later, I can’t be 100% sure.

My suspicion is that I was referring to its focusing behaviour. Despite being a recent mirrorless camera with state-of-the-art(-ish) focusing capabilities (for the price bracket, anyway), I’ve found that I can’t always trust the autofocus. In the situation above where I was photographing flowers, I think the issue I ran into was that the camera would often focus on the edges of the petals rather than the part of the flower where I had placed the focus point. The solution was to use autofocus to get an initial lock and then switch to manual focus to ensure that the intended subject was actually in focus using the focus-peaking display (which is extremely handy, though not infallible).

Getting to know a new camera involves a lot of experimentation, trial and error, and patience. After some initial disappointments, I can now say that I recognize the fact that camera is definitely capable of producing good images, but that I cannot assume that it will always do the right thing. I suspect my expectations may have been a little too high; with it being the first serious camera we’ve bought in 6 years and having read some very positive reviews, I think I expected the focussing system to be, well, perfect. Of course, our previous cameras were not short of their own foibles and issues; they just seemed to be different ones…

Advertisements

Tantalus Views

A mellow hike to ease into the season, the highlights are definitely the views of the Tantalus Range but the trail also passes through some nice forest.

It’s the end of March, and we’re really feeling out of shape when it comes to hiking. As such, we’re starting slowly but surely to build up to the summer hiking season with a mix of easy-to-moderate hikes. After doing so much hiking on snow over the winter, it definitely feels good to be on solid ground again! We’ve done the Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest loop a couple of times before and really enjoyed, so it seemed like a suitable choice for warming up our legs again.

One of the best features of this hike is the exceptional views of the Tantalus Range, as seen in the first three photos. The third is annotated using the PeakFinder app which is very handy for when you simply must know what the peaks are called! Another good view is of Cloudburst Mountain seen from the bridge at the south end of the lake. Strangely, I don’t remember seeing that view before so it was a nice surprise, especially with Cloudburst reflected in the perfectly-calm lake.

But it’s not all about the views. The trail wanders through a mixture of forest – sometimes open and airy, other times darker and more enclosed – past some fine cedars and Douglas firs, and has a few gorgeous rocky bluffs overlooking the lake which would make great sunbathing spots. It’s a popular lake for swimming in the summer but I’m not much of a swimmer, and it never looks appealing to me.

So there you go, a few photos of our hike. Nothing earth-shattering, just a nice day out.

Stripy sunset

Nature is pretty good at coming up with abstract scenes – last night’s stripy sunset is a good example.

Who doesn’t love patterns? I really liked the way these clouds formed parallel lines, and in particular the way they receded into the distance. It’s a bit like a colourful barcode in the sky.

I do have one confession surrounding the processing of this image: I rotated it by a few degrees to make the clouds horizontal, which I think makes it a much more effective photograph. Thankfully, there’s no distant horizon for which that matters!

Frozen

Couldn’t resist stopping off at Alexander Falls after a couple of hours snowshoeing the trails at the Whistler Olympic Park. Unfortunately we ran out of time and had to make do with the view from the parking lot instead of getting down to river level. Hard to believe there’s a creek under there!

With our prolonged spell of fine, cold weather, we knew that the local waterfalls were mostly frozen over. Our original plan was to take in the trail that ventures to the base of Alexander Falls, but our desire to explore new trails got the better of us and we wandered up the slopes and through the forests of the west side of the Whistler Olympic Park instead. That meant we ran out of time before getting to Alexander Falls, so we had to be content with parking up on our way back and doing the short (but treacherous) walk across the snow-buried parking lot.

It was an impressive sight, the falls almost completely frozen over with only the smallest sign of running water. It definitely would have been worth exploring the bottom of the falls, as I’d done with a friend on a previous visit, but we’ll just have to wait until next winter.

I also realized that one problem with photographing the waterfall this late in the day meant that it was partially in shadow; it would be better to catch it either in full sun or full shade rather than have to deal with the large difference in brightness between the shady waterfall and the sunlit snow. Something to remember next time!

The full moon of the equal night

Equinox full moon rise over Vancouver – a nice way to welcome the arrival of spring.

I’m way behind on posting about my photos… Anyhow, back to it!

How could I resist capturing a full moon-rise over the city, especially one on the Spring (Vernal) Equinox? Initially I set up on the pier at Jericho Sailing Centre but moved down onto the sand to avoid vibrations from the wooden deck. An inquisitive seal came to visit while I was concentrating on lining up my view of the city skyline.

With my tripod set up, camera focused (checked with the focus-peaking feature in manual mode) and a few test exposures done, all I had to do was wait.

Well that didn’t last long! Barely a couple of minutes after setting up the moon appeared behind the high-rises and I just started taking pictures. I gave up on using the in-camera timer and opted for controlling the shutter with my phone instead, which meant I didn’t have to touch the camera at all except to recompose and check focus. Very handy!

All in all I’m pretty happy with the results, and after capturing similar moonrises in September and October) of last year, I think I might be done with city moonrises for a bit as I’m not sure I can make them better. I think the current results are an improvement as it was much easier to be confident that the shots were in focus, which has been bugging me for a while with the dSLRs.

However, zooming in to check focus, the heat haze towards the city was really noticeable – I wish I’d recorded a video of it to capture just how large an effect it was having. All the focusing aids in the world can’t help a scene blurred by the atmosphere (something I know well with my astronomy background!). In the end the photos turned out fine, and in those where the blurring can be seen (look at the Moon in the second shot), I think it only adds a degree of realism.

Waiting for sunset

Waiting for sunset on Black Mountain, a good little hike for when you’re getting over a cold. Plus we got to hang out with creeks.and.peaks and her pup Abby – we were all a little chilly by the time we headed back down!

We didn’t get out hiking at all in February, and we paid for it towards the end of the month when we were both struck down with colds. That knocked us out of action for a couple of weeks, and today’s hike was our first attempt at some exercise in well over a month. I struggled on the ascent, stopping often to do battle with a fit of coughing, the cold air and exertion threatening to stop me in my tracks.

Thankfully we had chosen a short hike, and we eventually levelled off on the Black Mountain plateau. As we wandered up to the north summit I recognized Ngaio whom we’d met at Keith’s Hut back in September 2016. We stopped to chat and swap stories of our respective colds.

While the sun was shining, the air was cool and we discussed the possibility of hanging around for an hour to catch the sunset. Somehow we all thought it was worth doing and so we wiled away the time taking photos, chatting, and commiserating with a shivering Abby – poor thing! When the time came, the clouds cleared and the snow turned pink-ish. The colours weren’t very strong, especially to the eye, and by now we were all cold – I was also shivering and having a hard time holding the camera still having decided to leave the tripod at home – and I’m not sure anyone thought it was actually worth our time.

However, when I looked at the photos at home I was pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out. The three above are all square crops from photos taken with my phone (my preferred source for Instagram) and I really like them all. The light in the first one is just lovely, the pink light on the trees looks stunning in the second, while the last light is cast across the uppermost slopes of the mountains in the third. I must admit I’ve gone back to look at these photos multiple times even before I posted them on Instagram.

Keep your anemones closer!

“Keep your friends close; keep your anemones closer” as seen on a t-shirt at the Seattle aquarium. Not to mention urchins, seastars, giant clams, and other fishy friends.

Aquarium photography is hard. Most things are behind glass that varies from clear to water-splashed to grimy, or are under moving water. There are lights everywhere, reflecting off water and glass alike. But sometimes it’s possible to get an angle that allows a half-decent photo.

The first photo is my favourite, perhaps my second favourite of the day after the close-up of the octopus tentacles. I love the reflection of the anemone in the underside of the surface of the water above it, both for its colour and its striking symmetry. With all the tiny barnacles on the black rock, it’s almost as if it were in outer space…

The second photo is probably my next favourite: the plumose anemones were just so delicate and had so much detail just waiting to be captured. My phone did a really nice job of focusing on the tiny tentacles too. I wasn’t sure what colour to make this. I was tempted to take out the colour caste to make it black and white, but I felt that the picture lost something in the process. The original blue tint felt more natural and more effective somehow.

Next up are some sea urchins in a touch-pool. It wasn’t until we were able to watch some live sand dollars in Parksville that we realized urchins have soft tentacles as well as the well-known hard spines. Very cool! In the touch pool you could place a finger between the spines and have the tentacles latch onto your skin briefly.

Sea star on the glass: irresistible! Unfortunately I cannot remember the species, though it may have been a blood star.

I was thrilled to see live giant clams and hadn’t appreciated they were quite so large. I mean, I knew the shells were large but for some reason I hadn’t made the connection that the animal’s body would completely fill that shell. Fantastic to see, and the little orange blenny (not an eel as a nearby young lad’s father insisted on calling it) just adds the perfect contrast.

Walking through the aquarium to the outside exhibits (seals, sea lions, sea otters, etc), the corridor goes directly under a tank full of salmon. They’re a bit chaotic in this shot (they arranged more symmetrically later!) but it’s still really cool to see a large school of fish from underneath. I like how there’s no sense that they’re in water; the impressions is that they’re just floating in the air.

Classic clownfish and anemone pairing. Just lovely to see. The clownfish would occasionally wiggle its way through the arms of the anemone as it having a scratch. (OK get it out of your system… It’s Nemo!!! Happy now?)