Chephren at dusk

Take 2 for Mount Chephren, this time at dusk. We were making our way north away from the rain around Banff towards clearer skies in Jasper and the campground at Waterfowl Lakes was the perfect overnight stop for our first dry night in several days.

Another view of Mt Chephren, actually taken before the one I posted last week. Back in 2009, we spent two weeks in the Rockies, the first spent exploring the Mt Assiniboine area, and the second for us to do some touring and day-hiking. The weather had been mixed; we finally got fed up of the rain down in the Banff-Lake Louise area and noticed that things looked better in Jasper. Destination Jasper, then!

We took our time heading north on the gloriously scenic Icefields Parkway, stopping off at the viewpoints and fitting in a quick hike to Helen Lake. Along the way we cased out a few campgrounds before settling in for a comfortable and – more importantly – dry night at Waterfowl Lakes. The clouds drifted away, the skies cleared and sat outside for the first time in what felt like ages!

Signs of spring II

It may not look like much at the moment but in a week or so this will be a beautiful white fawn lily, one of my favourite spring flowers. There was no sign of any shoots when I was in Lighthouse Park a few weeks ago, but I was inspired to go looking for them again after I saw a similar photo from @plantexplorer. I also found a few salmonberry flowers down by the lighthouse, so despite our recent weather, spring is definitely on its way!

I was wondering how soon the fawn lilies would begin to poke up through the pine and fir needles given the very wintry winter we’ve had. Turns out they’re pretty much right on schedule (unlike last year when they were ridiculously early). I imagine I’ll be making a couple more trips to Lighthouse Park to catch their peak bloom, but I also want to check out another area to see if they’re growing there too as I have an indirect suggestion that fawn lilies may grow there too.

As soon as I started taking photos I immediately lamented not bringing my tripod. Bending over in the wet dirt (on a steep slope) trying to get a compact camera to focus on the right part of the green-on-green plant was an exercise in patience and frustration. I took a couple of dozen photos in order to get just 3 or 4 that I consider to have worked! After all, I can even set up the camera and just use my phone to control when to take the picture with no need to kneel in the dirt. Next time…

Waves, meet beach

A fine day at the beach from 5 years ago, the snowy peaks of the Tantalus Range on the distant horizon.

If I remember rightly, there were a few reasons for this photo. The first was the straight line in the pebbles on the beach marking the high-tide line. The second was the waves – it’s rarely windy enough here to whip up any significant waves. The third was the view up Howe Sound to the peaks of the Tantalus Range, 60 km away near Squamish. I still find it amazing that there are such impressive mountains within sight of Vancouver.

The full-sized photo is on Flickr.


Mt Chephren looking very photogenic above Lower Waterfowl Lake. Or should that be Lower Waterfowl Lake looking very photogenic below Mt Chephren?

A classic Rockies scene: a beautiful glacial lake and a striking summit. This photo was taken in 2011 on our tour of Banff and Jasper with my parents, and I think it may have been my Mum’s favourite spot. We had lunch at a picnic table in the campground with this view in front of us. Just beautiful…

I have two more versions of this scene that I’ll post for the next couple of Mountain Mondays.


And so we say farewell to the tropics for now with this view of the summit of Maunakea from my 2009 flight back to Honolulu and then home. Most of the observatories are visible here, with the exception of the most important one for me: the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope is hidden in the so-called submillimetre valley behind the main summit ridge. I’ll post some photos of that next time ๐Ÿ™‚

Getting a port-side window seat on the inter-island flight was always a priority for an astronomer in case it was clear enough to get a view of the summit of Mauna Kea. Fortunately, it was on this occasion and although I was not in a window seat, the person next to me was kind enough to swap when they realized how much I wanted to take photos. I love the fact that I have part of the aircraft wing in the frame – it lends some context to the picture. And the side lighting – even though it’s a bit hazy and the contrast is a bit low – is quite lovely. That was one of the nicest inter-island flights I’ve had – the sunset as we approached Honolulu was gorgeous! I’ll get round to posting photos of that at some point.

Sunrise shadow

Hawaii day 6: the enormous shadow of Maunakea cast on the clouds below at sunrise, the shiny enclosure of the Subaru telescope catching the morning light. In the bottom left is one of the antennas of the SMA interferometer.

I still remember the first time I saw the shadow of Mauna Kea cast onto the clouds below, on my very first trip to the mountain back in January 1991. It was a powerful demonstration of the fact that I was up here standing near the top of a very tall mountain, and one that is far enough from its neighbours to cast such a perfect triangular shadow. I may have taken a photo when I first saw this shadow all those years ago but if I did, it’s hidden away in a box of prints.

Fast forward another 22 years to my January 2013 trip to Mauna Kea. We finished the overnight observing shift and headed up to the summit ridge to catch the sunrise. The mountain shadow spread before us like a giant version of one of the Egyptian pyramids, an absolutely stunning sight. The shiny enclosure for the Subaru Telescope adds an extra touch, reflecting the colours of the sky. All my time on Mauna Kea has been as a visiting astronomer; I’d like to go back as a tourist and take my time to watch the sunset and sunrise from the highest point in the Pacific.

In flight

Today’s photo from Hawaii is of their state bird, the Nene or Hawaiian goose, captured in flight near Kilauea Point lighthouse on Kauai (nothing to do with Kilauea the volcano on the Big Island). A great place to watch and photograph birds! Happy World Wildlife day!

I generally don’t find geese that interesting, even rare ones. Sure, I marvel at the huge flocks of snow geese that descend on the Fraser River delta each winter, but it’s the flock that is the marvel not so much the geese within. And so it was with this photo – I was doing my best to capture whatever birds flew past (mostly frigate birds, red-footed boobies, and red-tailed tropicbirds), and it just so happens that a pair of nene cruised by at just the right height for me to catch them edge on. (This is only one of them: I had to crop the other out to get the photo to look like anything for Instagram.) And I have to admit, it’s now one of my favourite bird photos! ๐Ÿ™‚