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.

Phone Friday VIII

It’s been a while since I did a Phone Friday post, so here’s a selection of photos I liked from the past week, including some from our hike last Saturday, a walk down to Tower Beach (including a fogbow!), Monday’s moonrise, and some nice afternoon light through the leaves.

  1. The Chief and the Tantalus Range above the Squamish River valley – the more I look at this photo, the more I like it. It’s such an incredible view to be so high above the Chief, itself such an imposing mountain from the valley floor, and I find my eye is naturally drawn across to the pointy summits of the Tantalus Range.
  2. Bendy trees – we had just levelled off beneath this cliff face when Maria called to me to look up. I’m glad I did as these Douglas firs are amazing! I love the way they curve out over the cliff before turning upwards. And the four together look like they started growing at about the same time.
  3. Half-and-half tree – this tree is a lodgepole pine on the open bluffs and I was struck by the fact that one half is completely dead while the other is doing just fine with a well-established crown of pine needles. Not only that but the symmetry of the branches is also evident. It’s hard to say what may have caused one side to die off, but perhaps a lightning strike?
  4. Mushrooms galore – I was really pleased to find a few tree stumps festooned with these little mushrooms. I haven’t taken many fungus photos this autumn, it feels like there haven’t been as many on the trails. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty on Instagram so they are definitely out there…
  5. Dew on redwood sorrel – a group of us at work decided to walk down to Tower Beach while the weather was fine. Along the way I noticed this patch of redwood sorrel (note: must come back next year when it’s in flower), a few of the leaves still covered in droplets of either dew or water from the university’s irrigation system. Either way they looked really striking.
  6. Snowberries – I still think of my photo-a-day project when I see snowberries. I tried many times to get a good photo of them and failed every time. Thanks to the wide aperture and computing power behind the phone camera, all I needed to do was to get the camera to focus on the desired spot and then just tap the button. Just like that, I have a better photo than any of those I took with our SLR back in 2011-2012!
  7. Fogbow – this is only the second fogbow I’ve ever seen! I wasn’t thinking about how misty it might be down by the water, but as soon as I saw the mist I wondered if we’d see one. Sure enough – it’s only a partial bow, but it’s good enough for me. Awesome!
  8. Moonrise – my phone camera’s view of last Monday’s moonrise. Such a beautifully calm evening…
  9. Afternoon light – Friday afternoon on the UBC campus and the setting sun lit up a couple of trees just outside our building. I ran downstairs to take a few pictures before the light disappeared. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with any of the shots I got, as it didn’t feel like they captured the light or scene as I could see it, but this one’s not bad.

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…

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…

Moonrise in motion

Time lapse video of Wednesday’s moonrise over Robie Reid and Golden Ears – made a few mistakes but it worked out well enough 🙂 🏔🌝

OK so I know I posted the full video with the previous post but I couldn’t resist posting it on Instagram too. As I mention above and in that post, I did make a few mistakes that I’ll correct next time. In no particular order I think these were:

  • I didn’t clear the memory card beforehand – the video stops where it filled up, but the timelapse program (and the camera!) kept going and didn’t report any problem
  • I should have used manual focus – the focus hunts a couple of times during the video, which is pretty distracting.
  • Actually I should have used manual everything for the camera – I should have checked my exposure time for my best aperture and just set it accordingly.
  • Next time I’ll shoot a shorter interval – one photo every 10 seconds isn’t enough, so I’ll try 5 seconds to aim for a smoother video.

I think that’s about it. Nevertheless, I’m still quite pleased with how it turned out! A bigger learning curve comes with the video editing software – iMovie doesn’t really think the same way I do, so it’s taking a bit of fiddling to work things out. We’ll see what the next one brings!

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!