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!

A Lazy Saturday Morning – What Life Looks Like From My Front Door

Oh yeah, I am feeling extra lazy this morning. I had very little energy to become motivated enough to get out, like I usually do on a Saturday, so I just made some breakfast, did my usual ablutions, and then sat in front of the computer watching YouTube videos, and checking out websites. When that became boring, I got up from my chair, grabbed my camera, and stood at my front door to take some photos. It is still a little chilly out, a mere 3C, but there was wind, which cuts through you.

The above photo is looking East from my front door. That is the Copper Mountain in the back ground. I am about four kilometres from the base of the mountain.

Away, back to post on my Saturday laziness. As the morning roared on outside in the real world, I was peacefully sitting back in my nice warm comfy chair deciding on whether I should write a post or not. It was the photos I just took that inspired this. But then I got an email. It read, “Hey Tom, wondering if you want to go into Vancouver next week to see a presentation on the latest, greatest, home security seminar at UBC? Allen.” I was like…, Allen, did you not get my memo from last July that I was moving out of Langley? I emailed back right away. Allen responded, “Of course I knew that, but I thought you would want to go… This is the latest security tech against hackers and Governments, and home security. Can you make it?”  I politely threw in the towel on his invite.

The need for more food crept into my mind. It was the lure of those ham and cheese scones I bought the day before. Damn, they were tasty. I will pay for that, as my pants get tighter in the near future.

I just heard on the news that we will be able to see the “Blue Moon” this Wednesday, at 4:30am, lasting until the Sun pops above the horizon. The greatest factor around these parts for anything astronomy is the atmosphere itself, those pesky clouds. The question is, will the clouds part enough for us to see the Moon through them on that morning? The odds are against us.

Well, it is almost eleven o’clock. I guess it is time to get motivated. Maybe a shower to pump up the blood and get the day moving?

Happy Saturday!

Entering the Looong Weekend

After celebrating the Solstice, the welcomed time off is now upon us. Not complaining one bit, the joy of a four day long weekend is wonderful, as the calendar lines up perfect this year, but would it not be nice if it was like this all of the time–like every year? Heck, make it a week long holiday, from the 22 to the 29th of December, or right up until January 1st. Maybe make December 21st the New Year’s, and just take a full week, minus actual weekends, so you can maximise the Holiday Season. Make this as part of, getting rid of the Daylight Savings, too, while we hack up the out-dated calendar.

Anyway, it is so nice to have the time off. Whether they leave it, or change it, having the time off is great–period. Looking at last year’s calendar, once New Years is finished, we will not see any more long weekends until next March here in Canada, so you kind of want to get as much as you can this week. So be marry and be sensible, as we enjoy the time off from work, and time with our families and friends.

Four Days Until Winter

Hard to believe, four more days, and already this year has been weird for weather. I look outside, and see snow, albeit almost melted away, but the dump of snow from November is still there. So some might say winter has been with us for a few weeks already. Nope-sadly it has not. Winter starts in four days, whether you like it or not. At just after 8:00am on December 21st, that is when winter starts according to astronomers. The great news out of all this is, the days will grow longer, but if you are a star gazer, like me, then the nights become shorter.

The winter solstice has always been something of a special time of the year for me. It is always nice to know that once we pass this time of the year, the days get better again, with spring and summer soon to be here. Pin-pointing the exact time is important for that knowledge, and is just cool to know, strictly nerd speaking of course.

I find few people really know what is happening with the Earth and our nearest star, the Sun this time of year. Sure, most know that the Earth is tilted, but some think that the Earth is swinging back and forth like a pendulum on a clock–that is farthest from the truth. The Earth is permanently tilted at about 23 degrees, in relation to the Sun, as it rotates around, with the centre axes almost pointing at the star called Polaris, or the North Star, all of the time. This is why a Sun Dial works like clockwork.

The other big question I hear people wondering about, and some just cannot wrap their heads around it, is why say, “start winter now, once the nights start getting longer again,” on the shortest day of the year? I agree this would make people wonder, but put it simply, it is called seasonal lag. It takes a while for the land and skies to warm up or cool down once the nights and days get longer or shorter. Remember, these astronomical events are more or less just symbolic, points of time in the Solar System. Nature does not play fairly all the time, and the seasons maybe pushed around on the calendar each way by a few weeks. (praise Nature) Just go with it.

Hey, if you are going to have a fixed calendar, then you might as well put down the Winter Solstice too, and say, “winter will start then.” Heck, we should change the calendar altogether and make the New Year start on December 21, instead of where it is now–it makes more sense. Or, lets go further and go with “The Star Date” time system, like on Start Trek. Problem solved.

I like to celebrate the winter solstice by getting my camera out and taking photos of nature, hoping to get as many awesome shots during the daylight period as I can.

A Birthday Wish, Warm and Comfy

These last couple of days have been awesome, as usual, I would not have it any other way. A celebration of a birthday of a super close friend, some better weather, and meeting old/new friends, to mention a few reasons why these days are awesome. But most importantly, it is the friends who made the difference. Whether far away, or close by, it is friends that may these days awesome, but the closer they are, the better the effect. But more on this later, I have to talk about my car that is now just over the two month old mark. It just amazes me at how fuel efficient it is, or it has a broken fuel gauge?

My 3D Birthday Card I made for the birthday girl.

The first couple of weeks that I owned my car, a 2014 Ford Focus, I drove it around a lot, and four weeks later, I made my first fill-up. It has been over five week since, on that tank of gas, and I am now only at the quarter tank mark. The fuel economy has blown even my expectations out the door. The car is still going, working great, and even with all the rain and snow, the car is wiping all bad expectations of owning a small car away. I thought owning a small, front wheel drive car would be disastrous living way up here in the frozen North, but this little Ford car has proven me wrong.

I celebrated a birthday this week with a very special friend. Actually, in my close circle of friends, this month, or this week, the calendar is doted with them. Just within my family, there are three for November, so it has been a busy time keeping in touch, wishing Happy Birthdays over the phone. But I only focused on one, I took her out for dinner, made her a custom birthday card, and talked her ear off–It was a great time. Perhaps over the weekend, we will continue the celebrations. But I must say, November is a busy month, and happy times too.

I also met some new/old friends. Let me clarify. I met people who are relatives of very old friends from my younger days when I lived here last. It was freaky connecting the dots, and making the connections. I also saw an old high school friend too, when checking out the weekend markets in town. I can say, the more we grow older, and people change, the more things stay the same once you blow the dust of the cover–using a book metaphor. I am sure I will meet more people like that as I spend more time here in Terrace, BC.

The next three days should be relaxing ones. I have nothing planed. Mostly work stuff to do, and my usual cleaning at home, but for the most part, I want to take it easy. It has been warming up too, as far as the weather goes, even the threat of some sunshine on Saturday, but that I must see it to believe it. I have exceeded my quota of chocolate and food, so my body needs a rest from that. Yeah, time to switch this computer off, and watch a movie.

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?