Superb owls

Today is Superb Owl Sunday so here’s a superb owl from 2011, the last time the snowy owls came to visit.

It was a couple of years ago that I first read someone’s post pointing out that the hashtags for “Superbowl Sunday” and “Superb Owl Sunday” were identical. I much prefer superb owls to the Superbowl, so I decided to follow suit and post a “superb owl” photo. I missed it last year but decided to post another today to mark the occasion. I don’t have many owl photos to choose from so I went back to December 2011 when the snowy owls spent the winter in Boundary Bay.

Looking back at those photos, I am appalled at the behaviour of some of the photographers, marching over the marshes to get closer to those birds that had perched further away from the dyke. That was despite warning signs to stay away from them. Some of the owls were startled into flight, which is goes against everything you ever learn about being a wildlife photographer. I guess they felt they had to justify the thousands of dollars’-worth of gear they’d bought somehow.

I’m also struck at how fortunate we were to have such good weather for photography, the golden afternoon sunlight on the reeds and grasses making for a beautiful warm contrast to the stark white of the owl. The only disadvantage with that was that the owls were (understandably) squinting in the bright sun so we couldn’t quite get to see those gorgeous yellow eyes. But that’s a small price to pay really to witness these beautiful birds in their natural (if not entirely native) habitat.

The photo was shot at full telephoto (200 mm = 300 mm 35-mm equivalent) and then quite heavily cropped. Even a lowly 12 Mp camera has enough pixels to crop quite closely for Instagram purposes 🙂 I must confess I would like a 20+ Mp sensor with a longer lens for wildlife photography but it’s hard to justify that kind of expense for a setup that would see only occasional use. Maybe one day…

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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…

Back in the mountains again

Good to be back in the mountains again! The Tantalus Range and a fine mountain hemlock looking good against that sky of unusual colour.

We set off from Vancouver in thick fog. Driving over the Lions Gate bridge, the tops of the uprights were hidden, the green arrows marking our lanes barely visible until we were underneath the gantry, blindly trusting our forward motion into the wall of grey ahead of us. The fog greeted us again on our return in the evening, our drive around a deserted Stanley Park proving quite eery with our headlights shining straight back into our eyes. But in between we had nothing but bright sunshine and a sky of a colour we barely recognized after the last two weeks of rain.

By coincidence, two-and-a-half months after our last hike (our jaunt up to Mt Parke on Mayne didn’t really qualify as such), we found ourselves at the same trailhead as that very same hike, this time with snow. We pulled on our snowshoes and made our way up through the snow to the same bluff with this incredible view. I was delighted to find this tree surrounded by untouched snow and I tried to take a leaf out of a landscape photographer’s book by actually finding something resembling a composition. Mountains on one side, big tree on the third-line, and lines in rain-washed snow against an azure backdrop. Unoriginal perhaps, but fine with me.

Sunshine and coffee

These last couple of days here in Vancouver have me dreaming of hot coffee and sunshine – flashback-Friday to sunset light on Coffee Pot rock in Sedona. Mind you it was pretty cold when I took this photo. I guess the fact it was December might explain that…

It feels like it’s been dull or raining all year so far (12 days in). I think we’ve had a couple of sunny breaks during the day, but they’ve only shown up during the working week, and when you’re working 9-to-5 you don’t get much chance to enjoy them. The highlight of this past week was seeing a barred owl right outside our office. Oh and hearing the first chickadees singing. But I digress.

Seeking winter sun was the very reason we headed to Sedona, AZ, back in December 2013. Alas it was not as warm as we had hoped; a large Arctic airmass had made its way south across western North America with sub-zero temperatures in Vancouver and distinctly chillier-than-usual here in this part of Arizona. We had driven up to Airport Mesa on the southern edge of Sedona to get a sunset view over the town and were greeted by a bitterly cold wind as we lined up to take our photographs. All I remember was shivering and trying to get out of that wind, and we escaped back down the mountain as soon as we could.

But it was worth it for the light: golden sunset light on red rock is unbelievably photogenic and we enjoyed glorious sunsets on every day we were there, from our drive in from Phoenix, to this view, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rocks, the Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest. It’s definitely a superb area to visit and explore. Just watch the red channel on the histogram…

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.

Light at the end of the day

A welcome sight after driving through rain, sleet, and snow on our way to Tofino.

We’d been watching the weather forecast all week, and thankfully our drive over to Tofino was mostly just a wet one, despite the recent snowfall. After settling in at our cottage, we noticed the clouds were breaking and there was a hint of sunshine to the west. That promise of sunshine right at the end of the day was enough to tempt us outside for a 10-minute walk to the beach. And we were well rewarded with a lovely colourful, if still cloudy, sunset. We walked the beach until last light, pausing to admire an eagle that circled overhead and dropped down to drink from the creek running onto the beach barely 40 m from us, before heading back to the cabin for dinner. A very satisfying way to end the day.

Seascape

Salish Seascape, inspired by the photos of Warren Keelan. I’ve tried a few of these panning shots before but they really work best when there’s a nice colour contrast. Having said that, I didn’t really know how this was going to turn out until I processed it given that it was such a grey day.

When you’re on a ferry on open water on a grey day, there really isn’t much to photograph. And so I remembered that I’d tried out a panning shot from a ferry a couple of years ago and thought it would be fun to try another. For that particular photo, the panning was essentially performed by the motion of the ferry over a half-second or so.

While the exposure time for today’s shot was not especially long at 1/30 sec, I could obviously mimic a longer exposure by moving the camera instead. I tried a couple of photos, and found it more difficult than I expected to pan the camera horizontally without drifting up or down (or worse, up and down). In the end, the technique I adopted was to start panning, and then press the shutter release while continuing to pan which helped me to avoid any significant vertical drifting. That way I managed to get a few keepers.

All that remained was to read the file into DxO PhotoLab and tweak the exposure, contrast, and colour to get something I liked, then post to Flickr and Instagram (with a couple of additional tweaks). I like the effect, so I’m tempted to try some more in different weather and/or lighting conditions.

The full photograph is on Flickr:

Salish Sea, 28 Dec 2017