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.

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Before the eclipse

Before the eclipse – the full moon rises over the mountains between Stave and Harrison Lakes.

I was heading back to the car having finished yet another round of attempting to photograph bald eagles in flight when I thought to check the time of moonrise. It turned out to be less than 20 minutes away so I drove back down to the dyke on Boundary Bay and waited for the Moon to appear. There were some wispy clouds near the eastern horizon so my hopes weren’t particularly high.

However, that didn’t stop me trying to get a clear line of sight to where I suspected the Moon would appear. A mature cottonwood on the golf course, bare of all leaves, made for a convenient point of interest, and (if necessary) an object on which to focus. I watched the light turn orange and pink on my favourite mountains – Golden Ears and the Cheam Range – before fading completely. A pair of bald eagles chased each other into the top branches of another cottonwood.

And yet, within ten minutes of rising, I caught a glimpse of something through the clouds that I knew was our nearest celestial neighbour. At first a faint semi-circular outline that gradually brightened as the sky simultaneously grew darker, eventually freeing itself from the clouds to begin its day, interrupted briefly by the passage of the Earth’s shadow across its disc.

I snapped a few photos while the sky was still pink before packing up and heading back home. And I’m really glad of that cottonwood tree for something to anchor the scene.

Lunar eclipse

A few shots of Sunday’s lunar eclipse, in reverse order from totality back to the beginning of the eclipse about 90 minutes earlier. So happy we had clear skies!

Against all the odds, the clouds drifted away and we were left with clear skies for the eclipse. I was looking forward to trying out the new camera and after watching the Moon rise down at Boundary Bay, I headed home and set up the tripod and cameras (new and old) so that they were ready to use. We’re fortunate in that we have an open balcony with an unobstructed view of much of the sky which meant we didn’t have to venture out and hang around in the cold night to admire the eclipse.

In a thinly-disguised attempt at attracting eye-balls I posted my sequence of photos in reverse order, starting with mid-totality. I don’t think anyone was fooled 😉

We could make out the first suggestion of a shadow around 7:15 pm, which was clearly visible about twenty minutes later when I took the final picture in the sequence above. Another fifteen minutes later and the Earth’s shadow was casting a very clear arc across the face of the Moon (fifth photo).

By about 8:25 pm the Moon was reduced to a thin crescent (fourth photo) and by 8:40 pm – moments before totality began – the Moon was mostly eclipsed, turning a deep red with only a bright edge remaining lit by direct sunlight (third photo), almost like the diamond-ring effect of a solar eclipse.

Even after totality had begun, there was still a visible glow along the outer edge of the Moon (second photo) which lingered faintly even into the middle of the eclipse (first photo). After that I was too cold to continue taking photos and I convinced myself that the photos of the second half of the eclipse would probably look much like those from the first!

All in all I’m happy with the photos I took, though there are definitely some inconsistencies between the new mirrorless camera and the old SLR. For example, after totality began I couldn’t see the Moon on the screen of the mirrorless camera, but still had no trouble viewing it through the viewfinder of the SLR. Despite apparently identical settings, a 1-second exposure with the SLR showed the Moon clearly, while the same on the new camera showed barely anything. I’ll have to look into that more closely as that was a big surprise.

Most of all I’m just happy the skies were clear enough to see another lunar eclipse. I feel like we’ve been quite fortunate over the years here in Vancouver: this is the fifth we’ve seen for sure.

As the Oatmeal might say, THBBBBTTTT!

Harvest moonrise

Watching the Harvest Moon rise over Burrard Inlet.

A clear evening for a full-moonrise is not that common in Vancouver so I jumped at the chance to scope out a good place to set up my camera for this one. Using the Photographer’s Ephemeris I decided on the Stanley Park seawall with a clear view towards the Second Narrows bridge to the east and, with moonrise at around 7:25 pm, I knew I had just enough time to get home from work and get down to the park. I hoofed it down from the parking lot by the aquarium onto the seawall and walked along to my designated spot, pulling out the tripod on the way and extending the legs just as I reached a convenient bench.

I had only a few minutes to set up, check focus and exposure before the bright yellow limb of the moon rose over a distant ridge. As with my full moon shoot from January 2017, I was surprised at how quickly the moon appeared to rise for those first few minutes, even though I’m well acquainted with sky rotation (being a former astronomer and all). I snapped away for those minutes, alas making a fatal error and not refocusing as I changed the zoom setting on my lens. Of course I didn’t realized this until afterwards…

This moonrise wasn’t quite as good as the one back in January last year, because the moon rose after the sun had set. This meant that the sky was much darker as the moon brightened, making it much harder to balance the exposure. In the end I mostly exposed for the moon itself, but the reflection on the water was too good to resist. I also didn’t have such an impressive backdrop, and I think I might have been better off trying to get the moon to rise directly over the steel girders of the bridge, although I didn’t want the moon to disappear behind Burnaby Mountain too soon.

Still, I’m pretty happy with the results. The photos on Instagram were from a quick processing session immediately afterwards. I took my time a couple of days later and processed the photos slightly differently to put on Flickr, with different lighting adjustments, noise reduction, crops, and a half-baked attempt to remove some of the red fringing around the bottom half of the moon caused by the lens being slightly out of focus. See for yourself.

Harvest moon rise, 24 Sep 2018

Harvest moon rise, 24 Sep 2018

Harvest moon rise, 24 Sep 2018

Harvest moon rise, 24 Sep 2018

No time-lapse video this time, though. For reasons unknown, my phone and camera were most definitely not on speaking terms, and of course I hadn’t checked that out beforehand. So, another lesson learned from my meagre time lapse experiences! There’s always next time…

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…

Red moon

This morning’s smoky full moon about an hour before sunrise. Normally a moon this red would be due to an eclipse, but today it was haze from BC’s wildfires.

So there I was a little before 5 am, standing on our balcony with the camera perched on the wall, angled upwards just enough to get the moon in the centre of the field of view using the neck strap bunched up to form a makeshift wedge.

And the moon was faint! Depending on the ISO setting and how much I underexposed the image, exposure times were anywhere between 1 and 5 seconds. I knew I had to keep it on the lower end so that the moon wouldn’t blur out as the Earth rotated, but I also needed to keep the ISO as low as possible to keep noise under control. (Sharpness and contrast also decrease with increasing the ISO value, especially in a camera of this vintage – 2009) In the end, this photo provided the best compromise on sharpness (the moon was low in the sky which makes getting a sharp image subject to the laws of probability), brightness, and noise.

It maybe wasn’t quite this red to the eye, but it was definitely very red and remarkably dark. While clearly visible, it probably didn’t attract much attention on account of its low brightness. Coincidentally, shortly after sunrise, the moon did actually pass through the Earth’s shadow for a lunar eclipse, although it was not visible in North America (obviously…!).

Mountain moonrise

A glorious nearly-full moon rise over Robie Reid with the last rays of the sun lighting up Golden Ears

How lucky for us to have clear weather for a January full-moonrise (or nearly full)! For some time I’ve wanted to catch the moon rising over Golden Ears, and when I realized I had a chance to photograph the moonrise, I spent some time using the The Photographer’s Ephemeris, Google Earth and searching for images on Flickr to try and work out the best place to capture this event. I was delighted to find that Deer Lake regional park offered a clear view across to the mountains, a view I hadn’t seen before as I’d only ever been to that park on cloudy days.

I cased out a parking spot along Oakmount Crescent (though I was nearly thwarted by the huge amounts of snow piled up at the roadside!), and jogged down into the snowy park to find my spot. I set up the tripod and camera, and waited. The moon soon rose right over the top of the gigantic block of Robie Reid, so not quite Golden Ears but close enough 🙂 It was fun to see how quickly the moon appeared to rise over the mountains. The sky turned from orange to pink to dusky blue, while the moon turned from orange to yellow to white.

While I was taking photos with the SLR, I had the compact camera (Sony RX100II) shooting a timelapse. I’ve never done any timelapses before so this was a first. I made a few mistakes but it still turned out quite well!

The evening was made all the more enjoyable by watching and listening to the crows as they flew overhead, cawing in pairs that created a stereo-like soundtrack to my ears. Soon after, a small hawk (Cooper’s or sharp-shinned probably) flew barely 10 feet over my head and settled in a tree behind me. Finally as I was getting ready to call it quits, a small movement caught my eye and I looked down to see a tiny vole dart back and forth across the snow before disappearing into a hole created by a patch of tall grass. What a treat!