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.

Snowmageddon 2019

I went out for a wander in the snow to experience Vancouver’s own version of Snowmageddon 2019. My favourite first signs of spring got a timely reminder of winter (I guess that pesky rodent saw its shadow last week) and if you zoom in on the photo you might be able to see some cute little snowflakes.

And snow it continues… Snowmageddon 2019 is well and truly here! I love seeing snow on the beach, even one that’s decorated with a stranded yacht.

It’s been a long time coming but we finally get some wintry weather in Vancouver. Despite its rainy and mild reputation, Vancouver does see some snow most winters, invariably causing the city to grind to a halt as the car drivers freak out and the buses try and get up hills without winter tyres. At least it started on a weekend so we could get outside to admire it before it turned to a frozen or slushy mess.

I took quite a few photos that I was happy with, and my original plan was to post five or six of them on Instagram. For some reason I preferred the idea of separate posts to a multi-photo post but I probably should have stuck with the latter as I ran out of steam posting the individual photos.

One of the problems with a multi-photo post is that it’s the first photo that is the one that catches a viewer’s attention; if that’s not the strongest of the bunch then the viewer probably is not going feel inspired to swipe to see the others. Now I know that Instagram will show the second in a group if you didn’t swipe the first time but I don’t want to rely on that. I’d prefer that my photos were noticed first time round (uh oh, that begins to sound like I’m being sucked in to the whole social media game…). But often the first photo of a group isn’t always the one that makes the most sense, to me at least.

So there’s always some tension when creating a multi-photo post (and that’s before you get to the issue of remembering the exact sequence so you can write a meaningful caption!), which, at some unconscious level, is probably behind my initial thinking about posting the photos separately. Alas in this instance I only had the energy/inspiration to post the first two and so my approach failed.

With that in mind, let’s get to the two photos above. The first is a no-brainer for me: colourful witch hazel blooms wearing a hat of pure white snow? I’ll take that picture every time, especially for a tree like this one with the multi-coloured flowers. I don’t think I realized at the time that I could make out the individual snowflakes so I was really pleased to notice that when I viewed the photos on my laptop. Instant post!

The second appealed to me for several reasons. There’s the obvious feature of the snow on the beach, especially as it’s right up to the water’s edge. The second is how the city fades into the background, the high-rises barely visible across False Creek. Third is the stranded yacht, which we’d seen being buffeted by high waves a week or two earlier, having dragged its anchor in the storm. Finally, the beach is empty, a rare sight indeed. This is a popular view in the city, but there’s one thing about that that bugs me: the beach is just too straight! It drags my eye to the middle and forces me to look there, making it hard for the other elements in the scene to be appreciated. Ideally I could have taken a few steps to my left to keep some perspective along the edge of the beach but what can’t be seen is a large tree that would make that shot impossible.

And there you have it. Only a couple of photos from the storm of the year. If I post some more on Instagram I may add them to this article. But don’t hold your breath…

Another moonrise

Another month, another (almost full) moonrise, this time with the city as backdrop. We had seals for company (plus a few other photographers) on this clear, calm evening, perfect for picture-taking and kayaking…

I was hesitant to put in the effort to get yet another set of moonrise photos. After last month’s experience with getting less-than-sharp photos my hopes weren’t particularly high. Plus at the weekend I’d been reminded of how our telephoto lens has a sharp side and a very blurry side. With a city skyline as the likely feature of the moonrise photos, how could I work around this? Did I even feel like trying to work around it?

The weather and timing were in our favour though. I got home from work, we grabbed some food, and drove out to Locarno Beach with just enough time to spare. I ran over to the pier by the Jericho Sailing Centre, trying to undo the tripod as I went (not recommended, especially when on a sandy beach) as I could see the moon just clearing the tops of the condo towers.

I set up the camera and tripod as quickly as I could, remembering to take off the image stabilization but relying on autofocus this time as there was more light. I used the remote shutter release to take the photos, and I just kept pressing the button, changing the framing and/or focal length in between to capture different scenes. In retrospect this wasn’t the best idea as our tripod isn’t particularly sturdy and I ended up with more than a few blurry shots from camera shake. But thankfully enough turned out well enough, given the limits of taking distant photos towards a heat-hazy city, and I learned that the blurriness with this lens actually comes from the image stabilization mechanism; the lens itself is fine. Every single photo I took had uniform sharpness across the (important parts of the) frame. Yay!

  1. The moon just clearing the tops of the high-rises
  2. The moon on the edge of the belt of Venus, kayakers enjoying the calm evening
  3. The sun has set, the moon is getting brighter
  4. Set-up photo with my phone – I see a lot of these on Instagram and yes, I wanted to copy it 🙂

Well worth doing especially as the last couple of weeks of sunny weather has just given way to the first real taste of autumnal rain. Will I be able to make it three full (-ish) moons in a row? I guess we’ll see…

VanCity Views IV

1. Snowline. The North Shore mountains looking pretty this morning.

The morning after a chilly rainy night shows up the lovely snowline across the flanks of Crown and Grouse Mountains. I took this photo from the roof of the Mountain Equipment Coop building on Broadway. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I really like how the snowline angles upwards as it gets nearer to the water, perhaps the air stayed cooler in the Capilano valley?

2. Winter sunset

I love seeing this boundary between night and day: the sun has set on the city but the mountain tops are still bathed in lovely warm light. Such a contrast compared with the previous photo! I’d rather be up in the mountains in this light – watching the snow change colour is amazing – but I’ll settle for a view over the water and the city.

Here, along the foreshore just west of Kits Pool, is one of my favourite spots to catch the sunset in the winter with its unobstructed view across English Bay and the peaks of Crown and Grouse Mountains, Mt Fromme, and the ridgeline of Mt Seymour beyond.

3. Morning view on day 3 of my Walk To Work Week 🙂

At the time I took this photo I was working about 4.5 km from home. While it was an easy bike ride, I’m not a fan of riding in the winter, so I thought I’d try walking it. To my surprise I found myself really enjoying the walk (on dry days) and could make it door-to-door in about 45 minutes. There’s a tiny park along the way called Choklit Park – and yes, the name is associated with chocolate – with a nice view over towards the high-rises of Yaletown and the mountains beyond. Now if only I had the Photoshop skills to remove that straggly little branch in the top right corner…

4. I’m not a morning person but I love mornings – good morning from a frosty Kits Beach

I remember taking a photo of Kits Beach covered in frost way back in 2009 and wanted to repeat that shot. It took until early 2016 for that to happen! Things I like about this photo include the shape of the beach, which is close to a classic “S” curve, the strip of sand forming a pathway between the silvery-blue water and frost, and the mist behind the city high-rises. It’s a chillier-looking photo than my earlier attempt – I guess I must have sooner after sunrise than in 2009 which had some nice early-morning sunshine lighting up the frost.

So with that I think I’m caught up on my backlog of miscellaneous Vancouver shots for now. I wonder what next week’s Throwback Thursday has in store?

VanCity Views II

Part II of a variety of Vancouver views and vistas.

1. Vancouver on a beautiful, chilly November morning

How can you resist taking such a photo? So calm, so still. So just take the photo and get on to work!

2. It’s all a matter of perspective

I’m a big fan of perspective in photographs (and art in general) and I liked this view underneath the Cambie Street Bridge looking over towards Cooper’s Park in Yaletown. It’s not the most exciting photo but I thought the light was good enough to capture the scene. I would have liked the tide to have been higher to cover up some more of the untidy rocks and bridge the reflections on the pillars closer together. I think that would have been more effective. Maybe someday I’ll repeat it.

3. Vancity. Nuff said.

Another day cycling in to work. I was stopped at the traffic lights at 10th and Cambie and just liked the scene to my left: the Vancity sign and mountains on the horizon. I’ve just noticed that this photo is not level. Oops – that’s going to bug me for eternity…

4. Stoned

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Stoned #vancouver #englishbay #westend #seawall

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A bit of a silly shot: I spotted this kinda spaced-out looking face on the rock as we were walking the seawall between English Bay and Stanley Park. I was never happy with the colour cast in this photo, though I think I posted it before I had tried out Instagram’s own editing features. It’s also not the kind of photo I normally take but then that’s partly why I started my Instagram account in the first place as somewhere to post odds and ends kind of photos. It’s since evolved way beyond that and I probably take it far too seriously now!

5. After the rain. Next up, the cold…

I remember the days leading up to this photo when it absolutely poured with rain. Cold, cold mid-winter rain. Even the short walk from the bus stop to the office was enough to get me soaked. But then the skies cleared and the temperature dropped further. I longed for a zoom lens for this shot, but in the end I quite like the overhanging tree acting as a frame for the main subject – the snowy mountains of course!

City sights on a sunny Sunday

City sights on a snowy sunny Sunday – mountains, birds, the sea, the city, snow, ice, and signs of spring. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe that I live here.

Winter came to the city last night, and to everyone’s surprise, the clouds parted and we were treated to a gorgeous sunny day. Maria and I wandered out for some fresh air, heading down to the beach before grabbing a hot chocolate and walking home for lunch. And a lovely picturesque walk it was too!

1) The beach between Tatlow Park and Trafalgar Street has a nice tidal shelf with a few little raised rocks. This seagull was perfectly placed with the Vancouver skyline behind it, with the peaks of Mt Seymour and the Fannin Range forming the horizon.

2) I love this view of Kits Beach, especially when the tide is out a little like today. The ripples of the incoming waves add some lovely foreground interest – spot the seagull down on the beach too!

3) A couple of the streets offer a great view of Crown Mountain. I liked this one showing the street scene with the mountain as an imposing backdrop. The original version of this image (in a vertical 3:2 ratio) looks much better though. The square crop loses too much for my liking, and I wouldn’t post it alone in this format, but it works well enough for a multi-photo post.

4) I found some witch hazel still in bloom! Yay! This tree is the same one I photographed last year, and it’s a lovely hybrid tree with a mixture of yellow and red “petals”. Most are just one colour of the other, but this one blends the two into its own little spectrum.

5) I was hoping to find a scene like this: a dot of last night’s snow perched on top of some flowers. And with the blue sky behind, how could I resist?

6) Possibly the closest witch hazel tree to home, I hadn’t noticed this one before but it was a gorgeous pure yellow complete with a little icy hat!

Kits Beach

Kits Beach is a 20-minute walk from our apartment. If ever we need a quick dose of outdoors, and don’t feel like taking the bus or driving anywhere, then we walk in the direction of the sea and usually end up by Kits Beach. It’s a great place to catch the low tide, and it’s been our go-to spot for photographing the aurora, at least for 2017 when we were treated to two great displays in May and September. I’ve already written a number of posts about photos taken at or near Kits Beach. What’s one more for Throwback Thursday?

1. Crescent moon at sunset.

For a few years I was quite obsessed with taking photographs of the moon in all its phases. These days it takes something more than the moon itself to inspire me to take a photo, such as a colourful sky, or a colour gradient, which is perhaps more likely to catch my eye. I like how the moon is holding on to the blue sky while the sunset tinges the sky pink and orange below it.

2. Admiring the sunset.

We’ve seen quite a few sunsets at the beach over the years. I particularly like the colours in this one, reflected in the blissfully calm water, with Maria walking across the sand to stand and admire the view from the water’s edge.

3. Blustery day at Kits Beach.

In stark contrast to the photo above, a rare windy day whipped up some great waves, their white caps standing out against the bottle-green water. Dark clouds over the North Shore complete the picture. One of my favourite phone photos: not only did it turn out quite well (at least for viewing at Instagram size) but it was a clear example of the best camera for the job is the one you’re carrying.

Stormy (mountain) Monday Blues

Stormy (mountain) Monday blues – Crown Mountain reflected in the mudflats at the blue hour.

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago on Christmas Day as we walked along the sand on Locarno Beach. I was really pleased to get the top of Crown reflected in the still water ponded on the mudflats, something I’ve tried many times before without much success. It wasn’t until afterwards that I really noticed the low cloud hanging in the Capilano River valley, spilling out across the flanks of the enclosing mountains, and adding to the atmosphere of the scene. I had to work around the dust on the sensor of our RX100II, but I had a square crop in mind from the beginning so that was easy.

I came up with the title based on the weather forecast for the beginning of this week, which should surprise no Vancouverite: rain, rain, rain. And today is “Mountain Monday” on Instagram. The title is actually the name of an old blues tune, “Stormy Monday Blues”, of which we have a wonderful recording from 1948. The first couple of lines of the song are:

They call it Stormy Monday
But Tuesday's just as bad

which seemed fitting (given the weather forecast). Of course, with the photo being taken at the start of the so-called “blue hour”, the song naturally popped into my head.

As it happened, today wasn’t as wet as I expected, tomorrow’s forecast has improved, and I even got to see a barred owl chasing crows on the UBC campus. Not bad for a Monday.

Auroral reflection

Beautiful green aurora reflected in the still waters of English Bay. And all because I went out onto the balcony to watch the International Space Station sail by…

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve missed seeing the aurora in Vancouver. The one that still annoys me is the spectacular display on Thanksgiving 2012, the day we went home after a weekend backpacking at Garibaldi Lake (mentioned in my earlier post, Long Exposure). But last night I got lucky.

Earlier in the evening, I’d stepped out onto our balcony to look at the crescent moon slipping towards the horizon, when I noticed something bright in the sky, and moving from west to east. I looked over to Jupiter to compare its brightness and quickly realized that it must be the International Space Station (ISS). I watched it drift overhead (I always want to wave to the astronauts…) and then went back inside. I checked the timing and found I was right, and of course that the next sighting would be in a little over 90 minutes’ time.

Well, by now, it was getting late, and we had closed the balcony door as the apartment had finally cooled to a reasonable temperature after a hot sunny Saturday. But just at the time of the next flyover, I decided to go back out and look for the ISS again. Sure enough, there it was, its arc passing a little further north than earlier taking it a few degrees higher than the pole start. And then I did a double take: was that a green glow over the mountains? Maria confirmed that I wasn’t seeing things. I’d seen the alert from spaceweather.com but dismissed it on account of so many previous false alarms (Vancouver is not a great aurora-viewing spot for a few reasons). Yet there it was before my eyes: a faint green sky.

There was no question in our minds: grab the camera, tripod, and a jacket and walk down to the beach. The water was the flattest calm, it was a balmy evening (well, morning by this time I suppose), and we were treated to a gorgeous auroral display, which I photographed until the camera battery ran out. I think I have a few I’m happy with, though I would have loved to have been able to take a time-lapse as we could clearly see movement. Maybe next time.

Make no mistake: it’s never as in-your-face-green as the photographs, and it was evident to us that the young folks partying on the beach had no clue about the aurora. (At one point, we were approached by one of them, and I expected a question about the aurora or the photography. But all they wanted was a cigarette. And they sounded so disengaged that we decided it wasn’t even worth trying to point out the green sky.) But it was obvious to us, we had a near-perfect spot to capture it, and it was a very peaceful hour on the beach.

Two tone

Two-tone fog over Stanley Park.

Another shot harking back to my photo-a-day project, and yet another of those wait-until-the-end-of-the-day photos! I remember running down the street to get down to the water’s edge near Kits Beach to get this view of the fog that had been drifting around most of the day. I got there just in time to catch the sun lighting up the top of the fog bank while the lower half was in shadow, creating this nice two-tone effect. I always like shots of fog in the tree tops – I don’t have as many of those photos as I would like, something I should clearly work on!