What is Left of the Harvest Moon

The first full moon after the Autumnal Equinox is called the Harvest Moon. No doubt dating back to a time when we depended on growing our food, this moon cycle was the sign to get the harvest underway, or at least started. Not surprising, here in Canada we start our Thanks Giving holidays on the second Monday in October, just days after the time the days become shorter than the nights. Though this holiday does seem a little weird in its timing, in my opinion, this year I noticed timing is everything. For the most part, I only care about the celestial events, rather than holidays.

The above shot was the Moon just before it hit third quarter, on Sept 30, 2018. October 2nd will be the official time it reaches third quarter. Last Full Moon was on September 24, around 8:00pm local time. What I find neat this year, is that on the Thanksgiving holiday, in Canada, the Moon will be in its New phase, completely dark. So on October 8, around 8:45pm, the New Moon will occur, right when we get our time off, or long weekend: roughly 14 days after Full Moon, or roughly half a Moon Cycle, in Canada. So this means, if we have clear skies, then star gazing should be awesome during that long weekend, in less than ten days from now! Choosing the telescope over turkey my friends!

 

As We Enter Into the Fall Season

As a famous playwright once wrote, “Parting is bitter Sweet,” and I quote these words as we leave the summer season as a memory behind, as the sky darkens so early now. The campers out on Kalum Lake were living it right to the bitter end, as the weekend came hurling to a sudden close. Not only are the schools open for the children, but the “Regular” season starts to ramp up to a deafening pitch for those campers. Back to the grind. The smell of illegal recreational drugs fills the air, along with the smoke from a dozen campfires, and as the night creeps in with the coldness of the changing season, we decide to take leave from the chaos and confusion, and head back to this thing called civilization. Bye summer time, bye.

Paying homage to the day of equal light and darkness, I aim my camera into the horizon above the lake and press the shutter for a 30 second exposure. “Why not,” I ask myself. The camera can see far better than I can in this light, almost twilight to my eyes, and the viewfinder lights up with the captured image, so bright, I need to squint to see it. I pack up my photography equipment, as I did a shoot with me and Suz, using a speed-light, and we trudge through the sand along the beach, back to the car. It was tough going, all that weight, sinking in the sand, walking in the dark, but we made it back to the car, only to face the thirty minute drive back to town in the pitch back of the early night.

Now in my bed, resting from the day’s activities, I am thinking of tomorrow–it is now the fall season. The hope is that Mother Nature will throw us a couple more weeks of awesome Sun filled days, to cheat the impending winter wrath yet to come. Thinking positive here. Thinking positive!

 

What Did You Do On the Last Day of Summer?

Happy Autumnal Equinox! The last of the summer is here! Yes, I know: “booooo.” But , hey, it will be back again, next year–deal with it. Anyway, the last day of summer gave up no ghost as far as the weather goes. It was a cloudless sky, with temperatures reaching up to 25C in the valley. I have the photographs to prove it. I even got burnt slightly from the Sun. My Vitim “D” levels are at the maximum. Yes, it was a summer’s day. So, naturally, I did my photographic rounds, celebrating the celestial event, and took photos of my area in its natural spender. It involved a personal hike up Terrace Mountain, and a walk with Suz., along the low laying sandbars of the Skeena River, just North of the Old Bridge in Thornhill, then an evening (officially fall now) at Kitsumkallum Lake. An action packed day, with over 12gigs of photos.

This is on Terrace Mountain, looking South East at the Skeena River. You can see both bridges, crossing into Thornhill from Terrace, and Ferry Island on the right (Terrace, BC). I used the Back Eddy Trail this time to climb up the mountain, and it took me about fifteen minutes to get to the Rocky outcrop locals call “Baldy.” I used my 14mm lens for the shot to get everything in. Already the Sun was climbing to high in the sky, so I have to deal with lots of lens flare. I stayed on the mountain for about an hour, taking lots of shot of the landscape. The only wildlife I met was a very unhappy squirrel who did not like me being there. I also ran into two families of hikers too, along the trails. After that, I climbed down, headed for home, showered and Suzettet met me at my place.

We walked along the sand flats, right across from where I hiked up Terrace Mountain, along the Skeena River. With the river being so low, we could walk (North of the Old Bridge) where river water would normally be. It was like being on another land–sand–lots of sand. In this shot, above, the rocky out crop, is where I took the first photo in this post from. You can see the trees here are starting to turn into their fall colours.

River art is everywhere, where you least expect it to be. This spiral of rocks could not be seen from the road because it is placed in a depression about a kilometer from the bridge. There many such sculpture/monuments around, that locals built. Some are awesome to see, others are personalized, and some are weird.

Like this inukshuk, built on the mud, still in the water. Not to sure if this was built when the water was lower, or it was created in the water? It looks really good, standing at less than 30cm high. I guess if you have a big enough sand box, even the gown-ups like to play too.

I will end this post with some Macro Photography with. I shot this below the Old Skeena River Bridge. Moments before I took this shot, a butter fly landed on it. I missed the shot–but Suzette got it with her Smart Phone. I hope she publishes it.

It was an awesome day. The last day of summer, went out with a bang. Even our Forest Fire Level with placed back into the “Moderate” level again, after having a couple of weeks of cooler weather with rain. But it was not enough to quench the forest’s needs. Everyone is wonder what kind of winter season is in store for us. Will it be a snowy one, or a green winter?

Give a Girl a Laser

We planned another night of astrophotography (night time shooting of the stars) trying to build on my previous experiments of capturing the Milky Way Galaxy by getting better quality images. I wanting to try a technique called Photo Staking, to increase the sharpness of the image, and reduce the noise from shooting with very high ISO settings. We also had some fun too, bringing a laser point and flash light to the shoot, with the hopes a capturing some awesome light painting scenes. Once the Moon set behind the mountains if the Kitsumkalum Valley, we were set.

So right off, the above image is not photo-stacked. This is right out of camera, after converting it from RAW to PNG format. Using a 14mm wide lens, at f1.4 with a 15 sec. exposure, and ISO 4000. I let the exposure go as normal, then for a a couple of seconds, I used a flash-light to light up the foreground. I will photo-stack this scene later on this week, and if it looks awesome, I post it. I did a few shots like this, looking at different positions of the sky with the landscape in it. Hopefully some of them will look great.

You know the old saying, “give a girl a laser and…” Well, laser girl had some fun too. After a couple tries, adjusting the shutter and ISO, laser girl went on to light paint her name on the cliffs of Kalum Lake, across from the Look Out. She had a blast. You can see her name, in amongst the red swiggles painted on the rocks with laser light. I believe this was our fourth attempt tonight. Not bad for just trying this out for the first time with a laser pointer. And by the way, the pointer meets the new Federal Laws on owning and possession of a laser.

And that is me, the ghost of Thomasso, playing the highway, in the middle of the night, doing ridiculous poses for the camera. I had fun too. In this shot, the shutter was set to 30 seconds, ISO 400, on my Sony A77. So I let the camera go, and Suzette held the flash-light, turning it on for just a second, while I moved into the position. Then she turned on the light for a second, then off again, as I moved to another position. We did this until the shutter time was up. It was the last shot of the night.

I should point out again that none of these photos were touched up in post editing. These are as they are, right out of the camera. I only converted them from RAW to PNG format. This session was, more or less, an experiment trying new techniques with my camera’s long exposure for photo stacking, which I was start sometime later next week when I do the post editing. Until then, have a wonderful night!

Night Out at Redsands Lake!

With the meteor showers peaking this weekend, I thought this would be a good time to try one last time to try and photograph the night sky–again. Suzette was cool about going back to Redsands Lake for the evening, hanging out at the beach and spending the first part of the night while I shoot the night sky with my camera. She was for this–one hundred per cent! We packed some food, and our beach towels, and the BBQ of course. We were going to have an evening out at the beach. It was awesome.

You could not ask for the perfect day. It was a hot summer’s day, with the temperature hovering around 28C at the lake, and the forest fire smoke started to clear, leaving crisp blue clear skies all around. The water was a little cool, as Suzette got her toe wet, but I never went in, I guess I was a chicken. But the sand was great. The BBQ was yummy, as we ate hamburger and salads. I was full. We then sat the chairs along the water’s edge, and I set up the tripod, and mounted the camera on top. No one seemed to mind the camera set up on the beach so late at night.

Looking at the above image, you can see where the lake got its name from. The sand here is red. Though not so great for walking through barefoot with all the small twigs, but the sand is great for just laying on.

In the above image, I was using a 14mm (prime) wide lens, at f1.4, set to infinity. In this shot I had the ISO up to a ridiculous 12000, and it took me a lot to post-edit the noise out. This is over the lake, looking South at the milky-way Galaxy, almost at Sagittarius, or close to the galactic centre. The bright orange star is Mars, to the left. I had my doubts that the reflections in the water would work with the stars. This was a 20sec exposure.

Another shot of the Milky-way just 40 degrees up from the horizon. Same lens, 14mm, but a 30 sec exposure, set to ISO 8000, on my Sony A77. Lots of noise, but awesome detail.

So we called it around 12:30am, and headed for home. The road was not too bad for driving on–actually better becuase we knew there was no traffic at this time of night. Oh, yes, we did a few really good shooting stars! Another awesome night!

I Solved My Sci-Fi 3D Art Issue – Happy Friday The Thirteenth!

First, Happy Friday…, the Thirteenth. I know, for those of you who are supper superstitious, I feel for you. I really do. But it is all psychological. Trust me. Now that we got that out of the way, I finally solved my 3D art issue with masking 3D objects onto a photograph, or movie clip. Actually, I am kind of embarrassed about it because I learned this a long time ago, but completely forgot. So I had to relearn how to use the compositor all over again. My argument, 3D Blender has a very steep learning curve, and you just do not pick it up in one day–it is that huge!

So, here is my image. Obviously it is a composite, or as they say in the U.S., a fake image. But I think if we had a large planet, with rings, very close to us, this is what it would look like. So I was going for as “real” as I thought it would be like, as possible.

My issue with 3D Blender was getting the 3D image, the planet, behind the mountain, which I shot in Rosswood, BC. I had the Mask working, but I could not figure out how to get it work properly. My solution was to use the Alpha on the background, or Alpha out the World View, making the background fully transparent. It worked, and it worked even better then I would have expected it would. I am happy with this.

Now I just need to work on better textures and colours for the planet, and get some better stock photos that I have on my hard drive. Hope you like the photo.

A Day of Awesome Cloud Formations Over the Skeena Valley

As the day chugged along, I noticed the clouds above us over the valley–they had a really interesting pattern to them as they slowly moved in from the North. There seemed, at first, to be about four layers, and all of them were high clouds, so there was no threat of rain. We drove up to the area hill, along Kalum Street, to get a better look, and of course I had my camera with me. Here is one of the shots I got from that moment, around 7:30pm.

I took several shots from different directions from the hill, but we also drove into Thornhill, BC where we had an even better vantage point looking over Terrace Mountain. I asked Suz., if she would be willing to come back with me during the Sunset, as I had a good feeling it was going to look awesome.

We parked up at Crescent Drive, on the Old Lakelse Lake Road, where there is a lookout. We waited for almost a half an hour there. It was looking bad, as it got darker, but no amazing Sunset. The clouds started to change to an orange colour, but in general, it was starting to “suck” as we waited, fighting off the flies that were biting us. Time went on.

Then within about Ten minutes, we were greeted from this:

The sky lit up like a giant field of burning ambers. It was brilliant to see, as the light from the Sun slowly moved across the sky, casting its shadows and lighting up clouds red, yellow and orange. It was worth the wait. In the above shot, the tree line is from the top of Terrace Mountain, looking from Upper Thornhill. Two other people stopped by to take shots as well of the light show. An awesome end to a great day!

Yay, It’s May!

Well, the first day of May is here, and with it, not too shabby of a day. It is sunny, warm and hardly any clouds to worry about. In all, the makings of a great day. Though rumour has it, we are going to get overcast, and some possible sprinkles are expected. Right now, I am just happy that it is May. I am so looking froward to the warmer days ahead.

I was looking at the weeds outside at my work, and noticed that the dandelions were out in fool bloom, while the flowers in the planters were just sprouting. Funny how the weeds do great, while the flowers you plant suffer. Maybe we got it all wrong, and we should be growing those weeds instead. Anyway, the trees have leaves on them, and the grass is green, what more could you ask for!

The Sun is beaming over the mountains now as I drive into work in the mornings. I keep forgetting that the days are a lot longer here than they are in the Lower Mainland. Here, on the North Coast, it is one extreme to the next; either lots of day light, or just dark. Here, during summer, you can see outside all day, as the sky never turns dark. Now that is a summer.

Yay, it is May!

Spring is Here!

Made it! It was a long winter, though there are lots of signs that winter still lives–it is to early to hang up the winter boots yet–but there is hope–spring has sprung. The last week had been awesome, leading me to believe that spring was really on its way. We seem to be out of the days with below freezing temperatures, though the nights are still chilly, but I can live with it. But officially–it is the Vernal Equinox today, or “spring,” as the fine folks say in these parts. And as per usual, I took a walk, and brought my camera with me, hoping to find that perfect spring shot. So here it is.

So why a photo of a pine tree? Simple, that is the most common tree here in Thornhill, BC. I am surrounded by them. So, this made the perfect first day of spring image for me. This is the one that caught my eye out of all the others. I think it is the rich greens and blue sky background that makes it a great shot. And I should point out, I did nothing to this photograph. This is straight out of the camera. Also, the afternoon shaped up to be warm and sunny, my house thermometer says 12C outside.

So, Happy First Day of Spring everyone!

Getting Out On a Saturday Night – a Drive Down the Highway

It was the spur of the moment, a nice dinner at the Golden Star after we headed out for a drive going towards the ski hill called Shames Mountain. Our timing was almost perfect as the Sun was just setting, and the light was changing to the golden hour of the day (which is photography speak for one of the best times of the day to take photos in). The day had just peaked out at 1C, and 3C if you were parking out in the direct view of the Sun, so driving down the Prince Rupert Highway (HWY16 West) was a bit crisp on the roads, but I no issues driving on it. The scenery was just awesome as we drove through the narrow Skeena Valley.

The above shot was taken just before the town limits looking East into Terrace, BC. The first rolling mountain is Terrace Mountain, and to the right is the Copper Mountain. Of course, in the fore ground lays the mighty Skeena River. 

The evening was getting on with the Sunset around 5:00pm there about, but it is hard to tell when you are down in the narrow valley. It was time back to town. We went driving only because we had some time to pass until the restaurant was wanted to go was open. As we were driving West down the highway, we were seeing a whole bunch of cars heading East. Suzette figures that these were people who were skiing at Shames Mountain.

With the clear sky, came the view of the Moon. Sadly, a Pacific Storm has been forecast for tomorrow, so this would it as far a super clear weather, so I took a couple shots of the Moon with my 300mm telephoto lens, saying “goodbye” until the nice weather returned. We are fortunate, there is very little light pollution, and the pollution in the sky is fairly low too around here. Seeing the stars here is very different than seeing them in Vancouver, BC.

Of course, the night was young, and dinner at the Golden Star was awesome. It was time to wrap up the public portion of our outing, and head back home. This seems to be our new routine now, having movie night at home instead of the theatre. I think it is the winter time that has change our pattern for doing stuff on weekends. The nights are long, and the days very short, so you compensate with those fun to do activities that you put on hold during the summer. It has been a few weeks since we took off to a craft fair or public event.

Oh, and as I slowly discover more about my car, I see that I now have an alarm that I did not know about. For the longest time I was trying to figure out why the horn did not work. I thought it was a fuse, or disconnected wire, but it appears that it just started working. We were just wrapping the evening when Suzette said she heard the sound of a car alarm going off. So she looked outside to see. She said, “It’s your car.” I went over to have a look, and sure enough, it was. Apparently, while I was getting my jacket on, I must of pressed one of the buttons on the car key, because once I pressed it again, the alarm stopped. So when I got home, I pressed down on the bumper, and sure enough, the car alarm went off. The sales person that sold me the car never said I a car alarm installed on it!