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…!).

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Disappearing act

Going, going, going…. The sun fades into the smoky murk last night, disappearing from view over half an hour before sunset. We abandoned our hiking plans this weekend because the smoke was really bad near Whistler. Kicking back at home, maybe venturing out for a less strenuous day hike instead. The photos were taken about 7-8 minutes apart – there’s one lone sunspot on the sun right now, maybe just about visible in the first two photos.

I couldn’t resist taking this series of photos as the sun set. I’ve already taken some during the current round of wildfires, but since the smoky conditions rolled in last week I’ve been wanting to capture how quickly the sun fades as drops into the layers of smoke.

After setting up one photo to my liking, I copied those settings (especially the crop – which can’t be defined in pixels in DxO, a major oversight in my opinion) to the other three, re-centred the sun, and adjusted the colour and contrast. My original idea was to match the brightness of the sky, but that led to so weird-looking photos, so in the and I let the sky do what seemed to work best while I concentrated on the sun itself. Apart from the edge-response in the first image where the sun is bright, I’m really quite happy with the way they turned out.

I did take a couple more photos while the sun was barely visible, but these didn’t work – I couldn’t process them in a way that produced an image that showed anything. Thankfully, I don’t think they were needed to demonstrate my point.

On a side note, this didn’t post to Twitter, so I’m guessing that the IFTTT applet I’m using doesn’t support Instagram slideshows. Phooey.

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?

Red sky at night…

Don’t normally post twice in a day, but tonight’s hazy sunset tonight was quite beautiful, albeit for a sad reason thanks to the forest fires in the Cariboo.

I couldn’t resist grabbing the camera and watching the sun dip lower into the haze, watching the exposure time increase from 1/2000 s to 1/250 s. I liked how the vapour trails were lit by the sun, and how the sun is framed between the trees, both of which add some interest and shape to the photo. In processing photos like this, I’m always faced with the challenge of deciding how much to reduce the highlights before it starts to look unnatural and posterization starts to be noticeable. I also added a slight hue shift to make the yellows a little more orange to fit in with the look I wanted for the sun. I think it’s worked OK. I’ve posted another photo on Flickr.

At this time of year, I’m not normally thinking about rain, but I’d be happy if some could fall on the BC Interior to damp down some of the fires.

Afloat

Afloat. Mount Baker seems to float in the sky behind Vancouver as seen from the summit of Mount Gardner.

The hike up Mt Gardner is a pretty good one overall – it’s not the most interesting approach (especially if you have to start at the ferry terminal), and it can be confusing without a map, but there are a couple of great viewpoints and this stunning view from the summit. I always love the way that Mt Baker (Kulshan) seems to float on the clouds above and behind the city. Today was perfect: clear enough to get a good view of the city, and hazy enough to obscure the distant mountains.

I wrote up a quick trip report on Live Trails with a few more details of the hike.

Well played

Well, that’s one way to end the weekend. Well played Vancouver.

I threw the camera over my shoulder on a whim as we headed out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Walking back from the restaurant, we saw the sky glowing orange and took ourselves over to False Creek to admire the glassy calm water reflecting the gorgeous colourful sky. Definitely one of the most colourful sunsets in a while.

Some dislike it, but I am a fan of the distinctive roof of BC Place, if nothing else because it breaks up the monotony of high-rises on the city skyline. Add in the coloured lights used in the stadium and the scene is made.

I’m so glad I took the camera.

Auroral reflection

Beautiful green aurora reflected in the still waters of English Bay. And all because I went out onto the balcony to watch the International Space Station sail by…

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve missed seeing the aurora in Vancouver. The one that still annoys me is the spectacular display on Thanksgiving 2012, the day we went home after a weekend backpacking at Garibaldi Lake (mentioned in my earlier post, Long Exposure). But last night I got lucky.

Earlier in the evening, I’d stepped out onto our balcony to look at the crescent moon slipping towards the horizon, when I noticed something bright in the sky, and moving from west to east. I looked over to Jupiter to compare its brightness and quickly realized that it must be the International Space Station (ISS). I watched it drift overhead (I always want to wave to the astronauts…) and then went back inside. I checked the timing and found I was right, and of course that the next sighting would be in a little over 90 minutes’ time.

Well, by now, it was getting late, and we had closed the balcony door as the apartment had finally cooled to a reasonable temperature after a hot sunny Saturday. But just at the time of the next flyover, I decided to go back out and look for the ISS again. Sure enough, there it was, its arc passing a little further north than earlier taking it a few degrees higher than the pole start. And then I did a double take: was that a green glow over the mountains? Maria confirmed that I wasn’t seeing things. I’d seen the alert from spaceweather.com but dismissed it on account of so many previous false alarms (Vancouver is not a great aurora-viewing spot for a few reasons). Yet there it was before my eyes: a faint green sky.

There was no question in our minds: grab the camera, tripod, and a jacket and walk down to the beach. The water was the flattest calm, it was a balmy evening (well, morning by this time I suppose), and we were treated to a gorgeous auroral display, which I photographed until the camera battery ran out. I think I have a few I’m happy with, though I would have loved to have been able to take a time-lapse as we could clearly see movement. Maybe next time.

Make no mistake: it’s never as in-your-face-green as the photographs, and it was evident to us that the young folks partying on the beach had no clue about the aurora. (At one point, we were approached by one of them, and I expected a question about the aurora or the photography. But all they wanted was a cigarette. And they sounded so disengaged that we decided it wasn’t even worth trying to point out the green sky.) But it was obvious to us, we had a near-perfect spot to capture it, and it was a very peaceful hour on the beach.