Conjunction

I didn’t think we’d see this tonight – the most slender of crescent moons, a hint of Earthshine, and Venus with some lovely clouds for extra decoration. Swipe to go back in time 🙂

The email from spaceweather.com appeared in my inbox this morning. I scanned it and, after a quick consultation with the weather outside my window, deleted it immediately. There was no way the clouds would part to allow us to see tonight’s conjunction of the Moon and Venus. And so it looked throughout most of the day.

But as luck would have it, those clouds drifted away towards sunset leaving us with a pure blue sky, albeit one that was still dotted with clouds thick enough to hide any celestial body. I stepped out onto our balcony and took the third photo in the series while the Moon was barely visible in the pale evening sky. The big cloud below it looked like it would prevent me from getting any photos as the blue hour progressed until it, too, began to dissipate.

The clouds continued to disperse until they were but decorative framing to the stars of the show (ironic pun intended). As night fell I took some longer exposures to pick up the Earthshine, which worked surprisingly well given that the Moon moves during the 5-8 seconds of the photograph. I even like the glow of the bloom around the brightest parts of the image; it lends a dreamy, ethereal quality to the scene.

Given that I used the little RX100II, I couldn’t be happier with these photos. The combination of just enough zoom and plenty of pixels gave me the flexibility to reframe and crop, though the position of Venus meant that I couldn’t be tempted to crop in too far, which is a good thing and results in more balanced photos in the end. A bonus set of photographs for sure!

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Ominous

Ominous clouds to the west

Today was one of those spring days where the weather gives us all four seasons in a day. We had sun while other parts of the area had hail and/or snow. Towards sunset, the clouds gathered and threatened a downpour. It never came – at least for us – but the clouds looks dark and foreboding as the weather system tracked north along the Salish Sea and up towards Howe Sound.

I looked out of our west-facing window to see the dark rain clouds. Thinking there must be a picture in there somewhere I stepped out onto the balcony and sized up a few photos. As I looked through them on the computer I found I just hadn’t been able to capture the feel of the weather. Until I got to this photo: the full 3×2 frame was just of the cloud formations, and I took it because it looked kinda interesting. However, when I first saw it on the screen I passed over it because it looked, well, boring and dull. It was only as I went through a second time with a more critical eye – having processed a couple of others and not feeling they conveyed anything – that somehow I instantly saw a square crop, the frame neatly divided into light and dark, with some really interesting cloud shapes along the boundary. I loaded it into DxO PhotoLab, desaturated the colours (after setting the white balance to “shade” to make it nearly grey) and applied some contrast to emphasize the extremes.

I set out to capture the dark clouds over the city and instead ended up with a more abstract cloudscape that actually captured the mood far better. I’m really happy with it.

Light on Brunswick

Light on Brunswick – the view from the sunny summit of Black Mountain.

We’d spent a good while basking in the sunshine on the rocks at Eagle Bluffs and on our return opted for the quick detour up and over the south summit of Black Mountain. To our amazement, the summit was silent. I was expecting at least one group of people to be there, but it was vacant. Not even a whisky jack or raven to be seen. The view towards the Lions and other nearby peaks isn’t that great from here (the view from the north summit is better) but it was good enough and we had some superb dappled light hitting Brunswick and the East Lion. Having just posted a whole series of photos of the Lions, I figured today should be about Brunswick Mountain!

I grabbed a couple of shots, ensuring I didn’t blow out the highlights (thinking back to Sean Tucker’s excellent recent video called Protect your highlights) which is still quite easy to do on the little Sony RX100II. This meant that the shadows fell really dark, but I felt that was the point of a photo like this one. With the dramatic dark cloud behind the peaks, my idea was to produce something “moody”, maybe a little ominous, in contrast with my photo of the Lions from Hollyburn a couple of weeks ago which had a more ethereal feel to it. I’m not sure I entirely succeeded with the processing I went with – perhaps I should have increased the contrast even more, especially in the mid-tones. I may re-edit the photo for the Flickr version.

Still, I like the way the clouds rise up over the summit of Brunswick, keeping their distance as if giving it some respect, and the gleaming white snow does look good against the dark background. And every time I look at Brunswick, I’m transported to the wonderful day we had up there.

Full moon shining

The nearly-full moon shines through the clouds above Cox Bay beach on New Year’s Eve. Hoping for clear skies next week to see the full moon, and maybe the lunar eclipse too – if I can wake up early enough…

Wasn’t it only yesterday that I was saying I don’t take many photos of the moon these days? Well, technically this isn’t a moon photo; it’s a cloud photo with the moon merely providing the light. I really like the crepuscular rays from the moonlight shining through gaps in the clouds, as well as the colourful iridescence. It almost looks like a photo of a distant nebula out in the Galaxy…

The weather forecast doesn’t look good for the full moon next week, but if it’s clear then I might try and drag myself out to see the early-morning lunar eclipse. I’d love to catch the moonrise like last year but there’s this thing called “work” that prevents that from happening this year. It’s about time I tried another timelapse though…

At last, a sunset!

It takes a good sunset to entice me to take its picture these days – or maybe it was just the novelty of actually seeing a sunset? Either way, I love the patterns on the underside of the clouds highlighted in pink.

I almost didn’t bother. I’ve been a bit out of sorts with photography lately, and just haven’t felt like picking up the camera or even looking through past photos (the gloomy weather may have had something to do with that). Yesterday we had a foggy walk along the seawall in English Bay and Stanley Park and I took the camera for the first time in a while; I even got a few photos I like (the highlight was the otter sighting). Earlier today I was doing some camera shopping in the hope of finding an upgrade to the DSLR I’ve been carrying since 2009. Perhaps between the two it gave me a bit more inspiration to look for photographs again. In any case I figured I had nothing to lose by taking this photo, so why not?

As I sized it up I immediately envisaged it working as a square crop which meant only one thing: after nearly a month, I finally felt like posting something on Instagram! I like the way the view is divided into four sections – the black horizon, the sunset glow, the lit clouds, and the blue sky above – even though they’re not equal, as well as the pattern of pink on the clouds. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have another sunset photo like this one, so I’m quite happy with it.

Highlights of a grey day

Today in Vancouver could not have been described as a nice day. And yet, looking back I realized there were still a number of moments that really stand out as worth noting. There are many who extol the virtue of expressing gratitude daily; I haven’t got to that point yet, but perhaps this is a good start. It’s just nice to remember the good things that happen, and the good things you’ve seen.

The first moment was just after sunrise: despite heavy cloud, the sun found the smallest of gaps to shine through and for just a minute or two, lit up a couple of small cotton-wool clouds in pink. As that faded, a partial rainbow appeared. Soon that too had faded away and the fullness of the grey took over.

The second was meeting and stopping to chat with a couple of friends at the Vancouver Farmers’ Market, always a good thing. Once we were back home the rain returned and we watched the mountains play peek-a-boo with the passing showers. It may have been grey, but it was a soft, pale shade, almost like a mist ebbing and flowing. A gentle rain, not like the downpour to come later.

In the afternoon we braved the rain and went for a walk along the beach between Spanish Banks and Jericho. As we passed in front of the Jericho Sailing Centre, the sea had a lovely hint of green as it washed up onto the wave-smoothed sand. Even the grey mountains looked a fine sight across the water, its surface dotted with goldeneye and roughed slightly by an easterly breeze.

Now for the standout highlight. As we walked back to the car, a pair of bald eagles flew overhead, scattering the beached seagulls into flight before flying out of sight and landing in a distant tree. As it happened, that tree was close to our car, which we’d parked next to Spanish Banks Creek. We were about to drive off when the pair dropped out of the tree and over the water in front of us, wheeling around and chasing one another. I ran down to the water’s edge where they were more or less overhead at times. A second pair joined in for a moment, though the two didn’t interact, as if they were separated by an invisible line that neither pair would cross. Perhaps the creek marked a territorial boundary. Perhaps there were salmon in the creek awaiting their talons (though we saw none). In any case I stood in awe watching these giant birds soar and swoop above me, the smaller male calling all the while. Our guess is that they were a courting pair, or at least reaffirming their partnership since they mate for life. Whatever it was, it was a joy to watch.

Eagle sightings are something I will always notice, especially as they form the backbone of what I call “BC Moments”, those times that really seem to sum up living here in BC most appropriately. The picture below wasn’t taken today (it’s from our Cape Scott backpacking trip in 2016), but I really felt like showing an eagle photo.

Experiment Bight, 6 Aug 2016

Dinosaurs in the sky

I, for one, welcome our new giant flaming pterodactyl overlords.

I hadn’t even seen that shape when I took the picture – I just liked the contrast between the deep red sky and the frame provided by the blue-grey foreground clouds. It was only when I showed it to Maria that I said I thought it looked like a dragon. “Or a pterodactyl” was Maria’s reply. And so it came to be a giant flaming pterodactyl head. At which point the quote from the Simpsons immediately popped into my mind, and I just knew I had to post the photo on Instagram.