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!

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Christmas skies

I didn’t see Santa but I did find comet 46P/Wirtanen and the moon before the clouds drifted back in. Hope you all have an enjoyable holiday season!

Ever since I first read about Comet 46P/Wirtanen a few weeks ago we haven’t had clear skies at night to allow me to get out and try photographing it. But tonight, finally, there was a gap in the clouds, and I hauled the (new) camera and (new) tripod outside onto the balcony to see what I could capture.

Thankfully the comet was close enough to a bright star which I could use to 1) focus the lens and 2) use as a pathfinder. I set up the camera as best I could before heading out into the dark, and was pleased (if not relieved) to find that I could focus at full zoom, then zoom out and the focus remained good enough for me to photograph a larger patch of sky to find the little patch of fuzz that marked the comet.

I managed to get half-a-dozen shots, trying to strike the balance between noise and exposure time: too long an exposure reduced the brightness of the comet as it was smeared out by the rotation of the earth, while bumping up the ISO value to bring the exposure down obviously increased the noise. I settled on 10 seconds at ISO 3200 and I’m quite happy with the result. (Alas I still have to wait awhile before I can edit the raw files from the new camera – I only learned that DxO PhotoLab didn’t support the Canon CR3 format after I’d bought it…)

For the moon shot, I borrowed our friends’ camera, hoping to get a comet photo with it (since it is supported by DxO). However, the clouds foiled that attempt which left me just the moon to photograph. I fiddled with the settings and rattled off a few shots, and I must admit the results have turned out pretty well. Though the lens isn’t the sharpest, the processed photo is plenty detailed enough.

Spending this time outside looking at the night sky reminded me of another Christmas Eve, way back in 1985 when I first picked up a book showing the night sky (no convenient phone apps in those days!), and I borrowed my Dad’s binoculars to find a few celestial objects such as the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, and a couple of other star clusters. That was the evening that really launched my desire to become an astronomer, a journey that took me through the next 30 years.

Wishing everyone a joyful and peaceful festive season! Merry Christmas!

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…

Phone Friday V

Some views, some flowers, but all things I’ve seen in the past week. Wednesday’s trip to Bowen Island was lovely and is the source of several photos, mostly of the mountain range near Brunswick and Harvey but the crescent moon made an appearance as we sailed home. Throw in the usual array of flowers – including one final look at the camas – a campus view, and a rare sighting of one of my favourite animals, the snail.

How am I at week 5 of Phone Friday already?

  1. The view off the back of the ferry to Bowen – how can I resist another photo of that magnificent line of peaks?
  2. We went for a wander from Doc Morgan’s to give our ears a rest from the music session and found this beautiful reflection of those same mountains in the calm water in Snug Cove. Instant photo-op!
  3. As we left I wondered aloud about whether we’d see the crescent moon. I was skeptical given that the New Moon was only a day or so earlier, but I walked out on deck and sure enough the moon was right there, hanging low over Bowen. I lamented the fact I didn’t have a “proper” camera with me, but tried the shot anyway. Needless to say I was blown away by the fact that it turned out so well! Obviously, this is cropped heavily but it’s Instagram so a 12-Mpx image has a lot of scope for that. I’m absolutely delighted with this photo. The original had Venus near the top, but I had to make the difficult decision to omit it from this framing to show off the slender moon in the evening sky.
  4. Buoyed by the success of the photo above, I turned to face the opposite direction and attempted a low light show of Brunswick and Harvey. To my surprise, the camera not only focused but produced a respectable photo. Score two for the Pixel 2! The sea was so calm that night…
  5. I noticed recently that the pine trees were growing their pollen cones again, so here’s a close-up view of an Austrian pine, of which there are quite a few outside our office window. After overnight rain, I saw drifts of yellow at the edges of some former puddles, which meant that the cones were releasing their pollen. I couldn’t resist investigating more closely and tapped the end of the branch to see how much pollen drifted out. Turns out, a lot (depending on how hard you tap the branch)! Multiply that by the number of branches and the number of trees and it becomes obvious why allergy season can be so miserable for some. I looked for a pollen corona around the Sun later in the day but didn’t see one. I’ll keep looking.
  6. I really like geometric shapes, which means I’ve been looking for an excuse to photograph these bus shelters at UBC. I’d tried one shot before, just of the roof with blue sky above it, but wasn’t particularly enthralled with the result. But this day I noticed the shadow on the ground complementing the roof, and I felt that seeing the two in the same image was a much more effective photo. It loses a little in the square crop, but I still like it.
  7. Snail! We don’t see many snails in Vancouver so I was happy to find this one on the steps of a friend’s house. Actually there was about a dozen snails on the steps, but this was the only one I could get the camera to focus on. Fun fact: there was a time when I had a website dedicated to snails, and for a very brief time it was even the top result on Google.
  8. This is the flower of the Japanese dogwood, which we’d noticed a few days earlier and wondered what it was. Thankfully, there’s a specimen (with a label!) right outside the entrance to my building at work. The flowers stand out (literally) as they are on the end of a thin stem that protrudes up away from the branch, almost looking like a fake tree. I can’t believe I’ve never noticed this before…
  9. With a photo of the Japanese dogwood lined up for this week, I had to slip in an old favourite to go with it. The lovely red-tipped bracts on this particular bunchberry plant caught my eye. It’s not quite in focus (I probably got a little too close, or perhaps the focus picked up a different part of the plant) but it’s good enough for this collection, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one with such lovely coloured tips.
  10. The camas flowers are nearly done – the postage stamp of a meadow has only a couple of flowers still in bloom, so I just had to take one last picture especially as the yellow pollen contrasts so well against the purple flower. It’s been about a month since the first buds showed up, and I’ve really enjoyed keeping track of their growth. Now they’re done for the year, I’ll have to switch my attention to other plants. I think the tulip poplars are due to flower… 🙂

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!

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…

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.