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!

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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.

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…

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!