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 πŸ™‚

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…

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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…

Not this again

Watching the sun set into the haze from forest fires – this is starting to feel like an annual photoshoot :-\ The photos were taken at 7:51, 7:53, 7:55, 7:56, 7:57, and 7:58 pm on August 14th (actual sunset time was 8:30 pm). I edited them to keep the background about the same level to show how much the sun dimmed as it set.

I didn’t set out to create a sequence, but I could see that the sun was sinking quickly into the haze and decided to keep taking photos until it disappeared. Given the low light levels (and the fact that I was shooting hand-held), my expectations for sharp photos were low. But, to my surprise, I had at least one good shot for each “phase” of the sunset, and thought that I might as well see what I could do.

As I processed the photos, I wondered if I could keep the background at the same level from shot to shot, thus emphasizing how much the sun was dimming as it set. It was easy for the first few and a little trickier for the rest, and even though it’s not perfect (the backgrounds aren’t quite the same across all 6 photos), the effect I wanted to show is clear, and striking. I’ve gone back and forth with these photos quite a few times, just to watch it again.

Looking back I still can’t believe that only 7 minutes elapsed between the first and last photo. Clearly I’d started taking the photos at exactly the right time to catch this murky sunset – my timing couldn’t have been better!

Celebrate

Happy BC Day as Mother Nature celebrates Vancouver Pride weekend πŸ™‚ Another awesome weekend in the mountains, another round of itchy bug bites!

Recently I’ve been using photos from my phone for my Instagram posts, but this shot simply could not have been taken with that. Instead I needed a long(ish) telephoto lens to capture this partial rainbow and associated rain in front of the distant mountains. It was hard to believe just how intense the colours were in this rainbow, and I’m not convinced my processing has truly captured how it appeared to our eyes.

This photo was taken from the summit of Gotcha Peak near Blowdown Pass, an area I first visited back in 2007. On that occasion our group ventured in the opposite direction up towards Gott Peak, and I was struck by the incredible views once up on the ridge. In all directions lay nothing but mountains; a sea of mountains, each dip and peak like the outline of a wave, wave upon wave receding to the far horizon. I’ve found capturing that effect to be surprisingly hard as the resulting photo often ends up looking flat, but this one really works for me as the changing light throughout the image provides some much-needed depth. Definitely one of my favourite photos from the weekend!

Cloudscapes

Cloudscapes – last night’s sunset lit up some great cloud formations and it got me sifting through some recent cloud photos which made me realize 1) how much I enjoy looking at clouds, and 2) just how many photos I take of clouds πŸ™‚

  1. Light pillar in the sky – I started with this photo as it’s the most striking, a column of pale pink topped by a wedge of extra pink. I’ve often seen a vertical line (of course that’s just a projection) after sunset but it was a novelty to see the embellishment at the “top”. My first thought was that it looked a bit like a pink peacock feather.
  2. Coloured lines – parallel(-ish) lines always catch my eye. I like how the lines in the clouds seem to run parallel to the top of Black Mountain.
  3. Sweep – a wider view of the above two shots showing the clouds sweeping across the western sky and the transition from pink to grey as the sun sets.
  4. Before sunset – it’s not just sunset that produces great clouds; about an hour before we were treated to this lovely display of more sweeping clouds and interesting patterns, bright white against the deep blue sky. I’d have been happy enough if this was the best cloud display of the day!
  5. Where grey meets greyer – on Sunday blue sky gave way to white then grey clouds, then very grey clouds as a strong frontal system moved in from the west. I love the contrast between the two, and the texture in the paler clouds above.
  6. Night shiners – our first noctilucent cloud sightings in over a decade! It was a treat to see them again, their silvery waves in an indigo sky. I suppose it makes sense: noctilucent clouds tend to show up around solar minimum, which has an 11-year cycle and it was indeed 11 years ago that we first (and last) saw them.
  7. Afloat – taken from Eagle Bluffs a few months ago, I really like the different layers of clouds and the way they appear from this higher vantage point which seems to create more depth than usual in cloud photos.

For more cloud photos, check out our set on Flickr.

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!)