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!

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.