First Day of Fall

If there is one time of year when no one wants to hear when the season changes takes place, it is today. As of 1:02pm this afternoon, the autumnal equinox takes place, and the fall season kicks in. So, in the office, as I greeted everyone, “I said, happy first day of fall,” and some cried, other said “Boo,” while most seem sad. Perhaps no one wants to see winter, or the cold weather, but the fact is, I am looking forward to it. As a photographer, I am itching to get out in the “bush,” as the locals call it, and shoot some photos of the trees as they change. Around here, the change is quite dramatic. So, I want to capture that. Unlike down in the Lower Mainland, in the Vancouver area, the trees are hard to find that are good to shoot with a camera with fall colours.

Anyway, the atmosphere was glum at my work, and I fear there might be some unhappy people for a while as we transition into the cooler weather. Hey, think of  ski season! Did I make it worse? Snow… Oh dear.

So, from here on in, the days are going to get shorter, until mid December, so get your winter great ready to wear. Buckle up, and brace for it. Who knows what is in store for us. I heard a rumour that we might get a carbon copy of what we had last year. So, lots of snow in Southern British Columbia, and hardly any at the Northern end, but colder than normal. It will be interesting to see what climate change will bring us this year.

Awe, I guess it is cold and flu season too. Already a few people at my work are showing the signs of sniffles and runny noses. My poor girl friend said she is feeling it yesterday when I saw her at her work, as I saw the box of tissues by here desk. I am hoping we can get out this weekend, not stuck at home tending the cold.

So, here to fall, the Autumnal Equinox, twelve hours of day, and twelve hours of night, happy first day of autumn!

Seeing the Northern Lights in Vancouver? No-Way!

My goal list night was to capture some night sky shots of the Milky Way Galaxy, now that we see most of the centre structure from the Northern hemisphere. Instead, after talking to my girl friend, she told me that there was a spike in Aurora activity, and that the storm should make the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) visible as far South as Vancouver, BC. I believe she receives alerts from a website that does forecasts and observations every half hour from Edmonton, Alberta. Anyway, she was not kidding that the Aurora Borealis were out; even with all of the light pollution here in the Fraser Valley, I could see them clear a day. The exciting part: I captured them with my camera!

I have a Sony A77v that I love for this type of photography becuase the ISO can be set really low, with good shots without to much noise. Most of the shots I was somewhere around 500 to 800 ISO, though I did try some with just 100 ISO–they did not work that well becuase I had the long exposure I had set to thirty seconds. Most of the shots I used five to ten seconds at ISO 500. That seemed to be a good setting for my camera. And I should stress, I was shooting in full Manual Mode. I did this for a number of reasons, but the main reason was my 14mm lens does not have auto focus, and you really want that turned off when shooting at night.

The second part to these shots was using my 14mm lens. Actually, with the sensor on my camera, the focal length works out to 21mm with this lens. This was wide lens shooting for sure, as I wanted to capture as mush of the sky as I could, and have little to no star trails in my shots. 

I was hoping that the lights would come from right overhead, and change colour, but this was not so. It was still awesome to get these. At least now i can say that I have seen the Aurora Borealis this far South!

One last thing, I was up until 2:00am. Normally, during a weekday this is normal, but with the warm days we been having these last couple of weeks, sleeping until noon has been hard. So, right now, I am very tired. Hopefully my spelling is not bad in this post.

It’s Official: Spring Is Here!

It is official, as of 3:29am PDT this morning here in Vancouver, spring started. And, it appears that it is a bit springy outside, as we climb up to 12C, with a bit of sunshine from the sky. This has been a crazy winter for us. So much snow, and so many days of below freezing, this is not the Southern British Columbia that I am used to.

We will see what kind of summer Mother nature has in store us this year. I am hoping that it does not get to hot, yet at the same time, I do not want six months of rain either. Something in between would be nice.

A few things that I have noticed: most of my flowers in the flower bed are late, and a lot of flowers never bloomed in them for this time of year. Normally the Easter Lilies are sprouting up nicely. Right now, they are just small buds. Heck, I did not see any Snow Drops, probably they were under the snow, and left, when we had our snow storms three weeks in a row. The grass has taken advantage of the latest sunshine and the lawn seems to have rapid growth, but for my transplanted flowers, no luck as of yet. If we get solid sunshine, with high temperatures for a week solid, then everything might recover back to normal growth.

But we are not out of woods yet. I hears rumours that we could one more round of freezing nights and possibly one more blast of snow. I hope they are wrong.

Well, I am happy. At least the days are getting longer and night shorter. This means that it cannot help but get warmer. Right?

Yes, Another Rant About the Time Change

Pure and simple, I hate it. This putting the clocks ahead, then back again, as we shift from season to season, is, in my mind–stupid. I believe we should just do with out it. We should either just leave time on “normal” or “Daylight Savings, and be good with it. I hear that the NDP Government in Alberta is proposing in doing away with all this clock changing; to them, I tip my hat. “Leave time alone,” I say, “and let me sleep!”

So, according to the Calgary Sun, the NDP Government there wants to leave time alone, and on top of that, switch it to Saskatchewan’s time instead of what Alberta’s normal time is, Mountain Time. And Alberta has some good evidence that switching the clocks around costs more money, and energy. According to the CBC, March 12, 2017, there is evidence that when Alberta switched to Daylight Savings Time, electricity usage increased, just over one precent. So much for the savings, eh?

When you think about it, the farther North you go, the more extreme the length of day and night becomes. The questions is, when it is British Columbia’s turn to have a Government that is willing to opt out of Daylight Savings Time, what side should we choose, Pacific or the Mountain time zone? So, in other words, would you like your day longer at night, or would you rather have your mornings flooded with sunlight if we keep to one time zone all year round.

New Worlds – The Trappist 1 System

How cool is that, the discovery of, not one, but seven new worlds around a dwarf star that is just 30 light-years away, and one or more of those planets could have Earth like conditions. When NASA made the announcement back on February 22, 2017 I did a search on-line once I got home to browse their website for all the information I could get. This was great news, a star with possible Earth like worlds, only 30 light-years away–wow. But I was so busy with work, and home projects that just now, that only this weekend I have been able to sit down and do some serious reading about the Trappist-1 system. I am blown away with all the data I see about this star system. 

A few cool things about the Trappist-1 system is that the star is an “ultra cool dwarf star,” which sounds weird and unappealing, but even with such a small star, the planets are close enough to it that they may sit in “inhabitable zone” for life as we know it to exist on. The dwarf star will out last our Sun, in terms of life expectancy becuase Dwarfs Stars burn their fuel more slowly. And something that I found really interesting, becuase the planets are really close to each other, all seven planets’ orbits would fit inside Mercury’s if compared to our Solar system, so you would be able to see the other planets really well if you stood on any one them. They would appear very large in the sky from your vantage point because of the small distance from one another.

On the down-side, becuase of the planets’ size and close proximity to the star and one another, all seven planets maybe “tidal locked” which means they would all have one side permanently facing the star. Read the Wikipedia page for more information.

The astronomers who made the discoveries, never actually seen the planets themselves becuase they are just to far away. They used the dimming effect of the objects passing in front of the star to spot them. So the images of the seven planets are artist’s who just guest at what these worlds would look like. Though, it helps to sparks the imagination.

Please visit the NASA webpage about the Trappist-1 System.

Yay-It’s March!

Finally, and about time too I must add, it is March. It is here, at last! And this means that it is about Twenty days until spring, or the Vernal Equinox! Officially the Vernal Equinox, or first day of spring, will start on March 20th, at about 3:29am PDT on the West Coast. Yes, do not forget about that stupid time change too. But any way, we are slowly creeping up to spring, whether it means we will really have a spring, judging by how screwed up our weather is, or not. Last weekend we had snow, and Environment Canada is forecasting snow for next weekend, when will this madness stop.

Regardless if we have snow up until the first day of spring, I am just happy that the days are getting longer, and soon it will be spring. Either way it will warm up.

The other side of this screwed up weather is, could this also effect our summer too? I mean, will we have a super scorcher summer, or will the cool weather follow us into the summer months?

In my flower bed, at the end of my driveway, the sprouts are popping up. With so much snow, and frosty nights, the normal February flowers have not made an appearance around my place yet, but the regular summer ones are trying to grow–trying. I see the lasting winter weather is making its mark in my area–it is still really cold at night. Though I did see some Snow Drops, but they were flatten to the ground by all the snow we had three days ago, but still exciting to finally see them. So a disappointing season for the early flowers.

Happy Solstice!

Happy Solstice! Another astrological event is upon us, the shortest day of the year, or longest night of the year, marking the start of winter, yay (or not). But look at it this way, all we have to do is survive through the next three months of this, and then it will be spring. You just have to hang in there; it will fly by fast, I guarantee it. But anyway, we get about 8:11 hours of daylight here in Vancouver today, which is quite a bit compared to, say, Terrace, British Columbia, which will get 7:16 hours. The good news, each day will get a little bit better each time from here on in. I can see you smiling already.

As for the weather, well, here it is quite cool. In fact, we still have snow on the grown from the storm last week before the week and a half long freeze up, but it is raining as the temperature is hovering above the freezing mark.

A side note: I did get my water back on line. The water line finally thawed out enough. I am not taking any chances now–heat tape on the water line–and I am leaving the water run just a little bit to make sure the line does not freeze up again. Life without running water–sucks.

OK, now I am going to do a little cat nap. So tired. I love the holidays! 🙂

Good Bye Rosetta, RIP on Comet 97P

The Rosetta Spacecraft ended its mission around comet 97P today by (trying to control land) crashing into it. Back in 2004, Rosetta (and Philae, the lander) was built and lunched by the European Space Agency, with the goal of studying in great detail the weird “duck shaped” comet. Like the little lander Philea, Rosetta landed on the comet’s surface, with the intent of learning more about the comet as Rosetta had more instruments that would capture more data than the lander could. The engineering accomplishments alone puts this mission at the top with so many firsts that this may set new standards for future space mission to come.

The ESA Website: ROSETTA

Shooting Stars: A Disappointed Night

After a week and a half of being too busy, I am posting again! I finally made some time to go out and do some night sky shooting with my camera. I took along my Sony A77, with tripod and 14mm lens to capture the Perseid Meteor Showers with. But the shower was more like a trickle, maybe even less, as I saw only five really good streaks fly through the sky per hour. My high hopes were fraught with moon light and  high clouds, alone with the usual Lower Mainland light (and air) pollution. But I stuck it out, leaving around 3:00am with just a few really bad images of shooting stars.

Moon Set August 14 2016 Weblog Image

I was not empty handed, however, as I did manage to capture the setting moon (2:45am), using a timed 30 second exposure with my 14mm lens. I thought that this image looked really nice for all of my efforts. The image above is the Moon just as it was setting below the horizon. You can see the high clouds and ground level fog creeping in as the night grew.

My method was simple for trying to photograph shooting stars. I used a really wide lens, 14mm, almost what I would call a “fish eye” lens. The wider the lens, the longer the exposure time you can use before you start to see star trails from the Earth’s rotation. With my camera mounted on a good tripod, I set the camera to full manual, with my shutter speed to 30 seconds, with my ISO at 100. The Lens, I set the fstop to 2.5, or wide open, and set the focus to infinity. These settings were used in all of my shots.

The ambush. I find an area in the sky where I think the meteors are coming from. I point the camera to that area, and lock it in. Then using the time delay on my shutter button, I press it, and step away from the tripod, avoiding camera shake. Then I wait, hoping that a meteor will fall in the sky right where my lens is pointed. Then after 30 seconds, and another 30 seconds for my camera to format the image, I shoot again. So, in effect, I am ambushing sky, hoping that in one shot I capture a streak of light across the star canopy.

In all, I shot 60 images list night. Only in two images did I find any hint of a light streak. These images were to faint for me to really want posted. Until the next meteor shower.

It’s Official: Summer! Happy Summer Solstice!

Happy Summer Solstice! At 3:34pm Pacific (do not for get we are in Daylight Savings Time) the Sun will cross the equator, marking the transition between spring to summer. This makes today the longest day of the year. However, it does not make this time the best for weather, as we can see outside here in Vancouver, British Columbia. There is this effect called seasonal drift, where as the Sun shines longer, and its rays more pronounced, it will take a few weeks for the good weather to catch up in the year. This is why summer starts after the Sun crosses the equator on the longest day of the year. So, in the next few weeks the weather should ramp up into hot and lazy days I so desperately look forward to.

Bonus: Apparently, we were lucky enough to have two full moons in one day! How cool it that!