Stripy sunset

Nature is pretty good at coming up with abstract scenes – last night’s stripy sunset is a good example.

Who doesn’t love patterns? I really liked the way these clouds formed parallel lines, and in particular the way they receded into the distance. It’s a bit like a colourful barcode in the sky.

I do have one confession surrounding the processing of this image: I rotated it by a few degrees to make the clouds horizontal, which I think makes it a much more effective photograph. Thankfully, there’s no distant horizon for which that matters!

Snowmageddon 2019

I went out for a wander in the snow to experience Vancouver’s own version of Snowmageddon 2019. My favourite first signs of spring got a timely reminder of winter (I guess that pesky rodent saw its shadow last week) and if you zoom in on the photo you might be able to see some cute little snowflakes.

And snow it continues… Snowmageddon 2019 is well and truly here! I love seeing snow on the beach, even one that’s decorated with a stranded yacht.

It’s been a long time coming but we finally get some wintry weather in Vancouver. Despite its rainy and mild reputation, Vancouver does see some snow most winters, invariably causing the city to grind to a halt as the car drivers freak out and the buses try and get up hills without winter tyres. At least it started on a weekend so we could get outside to admire it before it turned to a frozen or slushy mess.

I took quite a few photos that I was happy with, and my original plan was to post five or six of them on Instagram. For some reason I preferred the idea of separate posts to a multi-photo post but I probably should have stuck with the latter as I ran out of steam posting the individual photos.

One of the problems with a multi-photo post is that it’s the first photo that is the one that catches a viewer’s attention; if that’s not the strongest of the bunch then the viewer probably is not going feel inspired to swipe to see the others. Now I know that Instagram will show the second in a group if you didn’t swipe the first time but I don’t want to rely on that. I’d prefer that my photos were noticed first time round (uh oh, that begins to sound like I’m being sucked in to the whole social media game…). But often the first photo of a group isn’t always the one that makes the most sense, to me at least.

So there’s always some tension when creating a multi-photo post (and that’s before you get to the issue of remembering the exact sequence so you can write a meaningful caption!), which, at some unconscious level, is probably behind my initial thinking about posting the photos separately. Alas in this instance I only had the energy/inspiration to post the first two and so my approach failed.

With that in mind, let’s get to the two photos above. The first is a no-brainer for me: colourful witch hazel blooms wearing a hat of pure white snow? I’ll take that picture every time, especially for a tree like this one with the multi-coloured flowers. I don’t think I realized at the time that I could make out the individual snowflakes so I was really pleased to notice that when I viewed the photos on my laptop. Instant post!

The second appealed to me for several reasons. There’s the obvious feature of the snow on the beach, especially as it’s right up to the water’s edge. The second is how the city fades into the background, the high-rises barely visible across False Creek. Third is the stranded yacht, which we’d seen being buffeted by high waves a week or two earlier, having dragged its anchor in the storm. Finally, the beach is empty, a rare sight indeed. This is a popular view in the city, but there’s one thing about that that bugs me: the beach is just too straight! It drags my eye to the middle and forces me to look there, making it hard for the other elements in the scene to be appreciated. Ideally I could have taken a few steps to my left to keep some perspective along the edge of the beach but what can’t be seen is a large tree that would make that shot impossible.

And there you have it. Only a couple of photos from the storm of the year. If I post some more on Instagram I may add them to this article. But don’t hold your breath…

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!

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…

Streaming

Streaming sunlight, streaming crows at tonight’s sunset.

I had ventured outside to photograph the rays of light shining up in front of the cloud when I noticed the crows flying east to roost for the night. Hoping I’d capture a large group of them flying over I snapped a handful of photos. Despite missing the largest groups, I was happy to see one photo in which the perspective of the crows’ flight seemed to mirror the crepuscular rays from the setting sun. Obviously, I would have preferred more crows (and it is a little hard to see them in the Instagram-sized version of the picture) but the effect is still there, at least to my eyes. Maybe that’s because I took it, and I knew what I was looking at?

Either way, even if you ignore the crows, it was still a spectacular sunset.

Phone Friday III

The camas is blooming after still only being buds earlier in the week, joined by bunchberry and its showier and blousier cousin – the warm sunshine has worked its magic.

The first four pictures are sort-of looking back in time at the camas. It’s been really nice to keep an eye on it and watch the buds to start out green before taking on a blueish tinge and then finally emerging in their full lilac/purple glory. The fourth photo was taken only a matter of a few days before the others showing just how quickly the flowers bloomed in the warmer weather! I’m not sure if these actually are the usual common camas as they’re enormous, standing a couple of feet tall; the camas I photographed last year in Victoria forced me to crouch down quite low to get the shot I was after.

Equally speedy in blooming was the bunchberry in the fifth photo. It went from leaves to flowers in barely a week, and suddenly it’s everywhere in the native plant garden. Bunchberry is yet another of my favourite springtime flowers and I was pleasantly surprised at the sweetness of the berries when I tried them last year.

Last but not least is the dogwood tree outside our building. The bracts have turned these flowers into saucer-sized blooms, and yet only just now have the tiny central florets started opening up. I’m pleased to have got these dogwood photos as I seem to miss them every year; the bracts start to go brown and die off very quickly which makes them a less appealing target for my camera. Just today I noticed how they were already looking worse for weather around the edges so I caught them at the right time.

(And yes I know it’s Monday but I forgot over the weekend and don’t have a mountain shot for today so this will have to do!)

Phone Friday II

Another batch of photos from the past week for phone-Friday – watching the trillium change colour, the first violet, dogwood, camas buds, blossom, the last of the blue sky, and trees galore

  1. Western trillium does this neat thing where the petals change colour as they age. For years I thought there were two species with different colours until I read about that in our plant book.
  2. This photo shows a group of trillium with fresh and older blooms. It’s rare to find such a dense group of trillium in the wild so I’m happy to keep taking pictures of all the flowers in this little native plant garden.
  3. The first of the Alaska violets has bloomed in the patch of ground near my office. They’re hard to capture with the phone as I need to get down low to frame up the photo, and I have to try at the right time of day to avoid casting a shadow across them.
  4. The dogwood blooms are coming along nicely! I check on them every day as they’re right outside the entrance to the School of Population and Public Health.
  5. It’s nice to see that the camas buds are beginning to show hints of blue, and I’m hoping to see the first flowers emerge next week after the warm sunshine we’ve had recently.
  6. The wind picked up towards the end of the day, Friday, blowing thousands of cherry blossom petals from the trees. I was struck by the contrast between the fresh pink and the grey of the concrete, as well as the line of the kerb, and it was nice to capture them while they were fresh.
  7. Friday morning was a lovely warm sunny morning, the first day where it almost felt like summer. With classes ended, the UBC campus feels so much more peaceful and I took advantage to capture this view of the Musqueam double-headed serpent post reflected in the still water. You’ll have to take my word for it about the reflection as it had to be left out of the square crop for Instagram.
  8. We went for a walk in Pacific Spirit Park last weekend and enjoyed the sunshine streaming through the forest of tall trees. I really like this effect of the trees filling all the available space even though the forest was bright and open where we were standing. (It reminded me a bit of the Olbers’ Paradox in astronomy, although it’s not really a valid comparison.) The original photo had quite strong perspective effects on the tree trunks so I used DxO’s geometry corrections to straighten the trees and give the photo the appearance I was after.

That’s it for this week. We’ll see what photo-opportunities the next seven days brings… I’ll try to write up the blog post on time too, which means posting the photos on Instagram a little earlier than 11 pm!

Green and blue

A gorgeous spring day down at Spanish Banks: sweet-smelling cottonwoods, blue sky, chatty eagles, nest-building crows, and a dozen herons in the shallows.

The re-appearance of the sun prompted us to head to the beach for some fresh air and as we got out of the car at Locarno Beach we turned left to walk west, facing into the cool wind. As we neared Spanish Banks we saw the first eagle of the day, quickly followed by a second, third, and a fourth. We stopped underneath an aromatic cottonwood tree to get a better look at the eagle perched in its upper branches. I couldn’t get a good shot with my phone, but I liked the view towards the city so I took that instead (photo #3) with the puffy clouds following the line of the beach.

I wanted to show Maria the large cottonwood I’d found a couple of weeks ago so we detoured off the main path over to the forest to admire the trees. Looking up the mossy trunk I was struck by the contrast between the trees and the blue sky, especially with the bright green leaves backlit by the sun. I tried another shot, this time trying to see the phenomenon known as “crown shyness” where trees grow to within a short distance of one another but don’t overlap, most visible in the winter when the branches are bare. It was hard to make out if that was happening here but it was such a nice sight that I took the photo anyway.

We continued on to the end of the beach, stopping to admire the dozen or so herons fishing in the shallow water, before turning our backs to the wind and walking back to the car. Good timing on our part as the clouds rolled in again by the end of the afternoon.

(And yes, I’m a day late again… Must try harder to keep on schedule!)

Phone Friday I

A selection of spring scenes taken at various times over the past week, mostly up at UBC. It’s great watching all the new growth appear and develop. Expect to see a few more of these in the coming weeks as I track progress of the trillium, dogwood, magnolia, false lily-of-the-valley, common camas (especially looking forward to seeing this!), and horsetails.

With any new camera comes a honeymoon period of frenzied photo-taking. Since I bought my new phone I’ve been taking many photographs to see how good it really is and to seek out its limitations. So far (as I mentioned the other day) I’m impressed – as long as I don’t “zoom” in too far – and I’ve already amassed quite a collection of photos that I really like.

The question is, what to do with all these photos I’ve been taking that I think are so good? I don’t want to post multiple photos a day (especially with my self-imposed desire to mirror my Instagram photos on this blog), so I thought I’d save up my favourite “random” photos taken over the course of a week and upload them all at once in a single multi-photograph post. That reduces my blogging requirements considerably, and gives me a place to show off a few photos that fall under the category of “things I’ve seen” rather than a specific subject or topic.

Which brings me to my distinctly unoriginal tag for this collection of posts: phone Friday. They have to be photos taken with my phone within the past 7 days. Instagram has a limit of 10 per post; I’ll try and keep it to 7 or so, the equivalent of one per day. The inaugural collection is mostly photos taken around the UBC campus. Well, actually that’s not strictly true but it’s close enough: most of these were taken very close to my office, a couple in the Nitobe Garden, and one near Vancouver City Hall.

  1. Trillium – I recently discovered a native-plant garden at UBC and was delighted to find trillium growing there.
  2. Trillium – not just one flower either, several really nice bunches, with some flowers just turning post-pollination pink.
  3. Dogwood – right outside the building in which I work is a dogwood tree, and the sight of the new growth stopped me in my tracks one afternoon as we headed out for coffee.
  4. Nitobe Garden – a view across the pond towards cherry and maple trees; the Japanese garden is always a serene place to visit.
  5. False lily-of-the-valley & Douglas fir – I really liked the leaves poking up through the moss and the way they covered the ground at the base of this Douglas fir tree.
  6. Magnolia – deep pink magnolia against a blue sky near City Hall.
  7. Common camas – the flower I’m most looking forward to seeing in bloom, I was really surprised to find these at the end of their flowering last year so I’ve been keeping an eye on them for the first signs of buds, and here they are!
  8. Horsetails – in the same patch of grass (“meadow”) as the camas are dozens of horsetails, a mixture of male and female plants that I’m keep to watch develop over the coming weeks as I’ve not paid much attention to them in the past.

So that’s phone Friday the first. Of course I’m a couple of days late with the blog post – oops – but I’ll try to be on time next week! See you then!