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…!).

Evening(ton) Crescent

Last night’s most slender of crescent moons 🌙

On Sunday night I scanned the western horizon to see if I could make out the tiniest sliver of a crescent moon with no luck. Last night I thought I’d stand more chance (given that it was now 4.5 % illuminated), but was still unable to spot it for some time after sunset – until about 25 minutes later and suddenly there it was: a slim crescent low in the sky. Knowing how unpredictable our 55-200 mm lens has become, I opted for resting it on the balcony, propped up on a small wedge (rather than wobbling in the wind on a tripod), and using the 10-second timer. Before I took my moon shot (ha ha), I made sure to focus on something distant as the camera was having trouble focusing on the faint moon (I used the radio towers on the summit of Mt Gardner), and turned off the autofocus and image stabilization.

I took 4 or 5 photos with that arrangement and picked the one that suffered least from atmospheric effects too (a problem when the moon is so low in the sky; barely 7 degrees above the horizon). The wind had blown around the foreground trees to a distracting blur, so I cropped them out of the final picture. Then all I needed were a few adjustments to the exposure, contrast, and vibrance and I had my photo. I really like the gradient from blue to yellow across the image.

I don’t think it’s the thinnest crescent I’ve captured, but it might be one of the faintest. I like that subtlety.

Postscript: I feel I should explain the odd title of today’s post. The BBC radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue has a “game” called Mornington Crescent, where the aim of the game is to be the first person to say “Mornington Crescent”. (Read more on Wikipedia to learn how this can even make sense!) Since the photo is of a crescent moon taken in the evening, I couldn’t resist the play on the name of the game, although it would actually make more sense if the photo were taken in the early morning. Maybe I’ll save that for another day?

Solstice sunrise

Summer solstice moonset over Vancouver Island – welcome to summer!

OK so it’s not a picture of sunrise itself, but it was taken more or less at sunrise…

I’m not a morning person but I love mornings, and every now and again I simply have to catch a summer sunrise, even if it does mean getting up at 3:15 am. And what better a sunrise to capture than that on the summer solstice. Of course, if it was just a matter of watching the sunrise itself I can do that well enough from home or by just walking down to the beach.

But this year the solstice coincided with a full moon which meant I wanted to be somewhere where I could watch the moon set. OK yes, strictly I could have done that from home as well, but I liked the idea of watching it set over Vancouver Island. And the lookout on the way up to Cypress Bowl seemed like the perfect vantage point.

So there I was, one of only half-a-dozen cars on the Lions Gate bridge at 4 in the morning, and then one of only two cars at the lookout. The sunrise was a bust with too much cloud in the east (I was hoping for lovely light on Mt Baker), so I was doubly glad of the clear skies to the west. I have to say I enjoyed every moment of the morning, and it was especially nice to hear the dawn chorus of robins and countless other birds singing away in the trees around me.