Moon, Mars and a meteor over Minette Bay (plus other celestial wonders)

The moon and Mars rise over Minette Bay, Kitimat, BC, as a meteor streaks over head. You can see Saturn on the far right (Robin Rowland)

This week is a stargazer’s delight. Mars is at its closest approach to Earth, and that means the Red Planet is the brightest it will be from July 27 to July 31 (the latter date is when Mars is actually the closest). Although North America missed the solar eclipse earlier this week, the moon is actually at its smallest, sometimes called a Buck Moon. The giant planets Saturn and Jupiter are high in the southern sky this week. Earlier in the month, Venus was visible as the Evening Star and for those with the proper gear it was possible to get a glance of Mercury.

Kitimat is in the midst of the summer heat wave that is gripping most of North America. Nights are mostly clear although there is some high haze from smoke in the atmosphere stemming from the forest fires in both Siberia and North America.

With all that I drove out to the Kitimat Viewpoint late Saturday July 28,  to capture it all.

Apps (for Android)
The Photographer’s Emphemeris
– told me when the moon will rise and the angle of location. Note: TPE gives moonrise at sea level. That means moonrise in Kitimat is usually between 50 and 70 minutes later depending on where it comes up over the mountains.
A compass app. To check the compass direction of the moonrise as predicted by TPE.
Sky Map. Android app originally developed by Google. Hold up you phone and see location of stars, planets, nebulae, satellite etc.

Heavy duty Manfrotto tripod
Sony Alpha 77, Minolta 17 to 35mm wide angle lens
Mounted with Cokin P121L Neutral density filter (to reduce the glare from the moon)

Sony RX10iii

Jupiter and Saturn over Douglas Channel

Jupiter over the Rio Tinto aluminum plant (right) and Saturn (left)  over the mountains above Kitamaat Village, about an hour after sunset (Robin Rowland)

The late summer dusk lingers for more than hour after sunset, so even the distant mountains of Douglas Channel can be seen.  Jupiter is bright over the Rio Tinto plant at 10:50:33

Sony Alpha 77 ISO 4000 F2.8  1/2.5 of a second


Moonrise over Minette Bay. (Robin Rowland)


The moon is about to rise above the mountain (Robin Rowland)


The first arc of the moon peeked over the mountaintop at about 10:57:40.

The first image in the photoblog was taken at 11:00:23 and the second at 11::02:27

Sony RX10iii, handheld, ISO 4000 f4 1/1000 of a second

The RX1oiii is a high-end carry everywhere point and shoot. Moon was shot at 600mm on manual focus.


The moon reaches for the zenith. (Robin Rowland)

Same settings on the RX10iii at 11:06:50.


Mars rises


Mars rose to the west of the moon at 11:17:08 This image showing the moon, Mars and Minette Bay Lodge was taken 11:18:35.

Sony Alpha 77, manual focus,  ISO 2500, f5 at 2.5 seconds

At 11:23:31 same settings



I was bracketing shots, working with different shutter speeds and other settings, still on manual focus.  The meteor streak is in just two frames. This was taken at 11:37:05. (The other at 11:36:58 by 11:37:00 the next frame it was gone. I did not notice the meteor streak until I got home.

Alpha 77 ISO 1600, f3.2 at 2.5 seconds

A last look at Jupiter

Jupiter over the Kitimat mountains and the Rio Tinto plant. (Robin Rowland)

At 11:34:02 Jupiter is setting over the mountains behind the Rio Tinto aluminum plant.

Sony Alpha 77  ISO 1600  f2.8 2.5 seconds


Icy nights, Venus, Mars and the moon

Mars (top center) and Venus set over the mountains of Kitimat #BC with the snow illuminated by the light of 93 per cent gibbous moon. Taken on a cold clear -23C windchill night ISO 8000 1/60 f4.5, January 11, 2017 (Robin Rowland)

The first two weeks of January in Kitimat were cold and clear as an arctic outflow stalled over the Pacific Coast.  A friend back east posted a shot of Venus, and I looked out the window and there the planet was clear in the night sky.

For the next few days (except a couple of times it was too cloudy) I got out in the frigid night air

Venus and the waxing crescent moon (9.1 per cent) over Kitimat on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2017. (Robin Rowland)

Venus and the waxing moon over the light of Kitimat, January 1. 2017.

Venus and the waxing moon now at 15.9 per cent over Douglas Channel, January 2, 2017 (Robin Rowland)’

The view a few minutes later as the sky darkened. (Robin Rowland)


The waxing moon and Venus over Kitimat, January 3, 2017  (Robin Rowland)


Venus by herself sometime later. (Robin Rowland)

The waxing crescent at 31 per cent on January 4, 2017.  (Robin Rowland)


The first quarter waxing moon on January 8. Taken through my bedroom window as the skies cleared with an old Lumix FZ50 standby camera I keep there. Shot at IS0 800 and is a bit noisy (camera vintage is 2005) so converted the image to black and white. (Robin Rowland)

The 93 per cent gibbous moon that illuminated the mountains to the west on January 11, 2017. (Robin Rowland)

Moonrise over Mt. Elizabeth, Kitimat

A winter full moon rises over Kitimat BC’s iconic Mt. Elizabeth, November 25, 2015.


The moon rises over Mt. Elizabeth, shot for the sky.  Sony A7II, using old Vivitar manual Minolta mount 85 to 205 zoom, 1/100 sec, f3,5, ISO 5000, Shutter priority (Robin Rowland)



The moon over Mt. Elizabeth, shot for the moon, a bit noisy, better in black and white. Sony A7II, Vivitar 85 to 205mm, ISO 5000, 1/250 f3.5, Shuter priority (Robin Rowland)



The moonrise begins.  Sony A77, Sigma 170-500 at 180mm, 1/30 f5.0, ISO 4000, Shutter priority (Robin Rowland)



Mt. Elizabeth at dusk as I was setting up. Taken at 1649. Alpha 55, Tamron 70 to 300mm at 135, ISO 6400 1/125 at f4.5, Shutter priority (Robin Rowland)

The Photographers’ Ephemeris called for Moon rise at 1654 hrs (at sea level, of course). The first hint of moonrise (on a very cold night) came at 1728.

Another view of the hint of moonrise to come.  The sky is dark enough at this point that you can see stars in the sky, before the bright moon floods them out. Sony A77 with Sigma 170-500mm (on tripod) at 180mm, 0.4 sec at f5, ISO 4000 program mode.



The cold November moon, over Kitimat, shot for moon exposure at 1749.  Alpha 77, 170 to 500 at 200mm, shutter priority 1/2000, f5.6, ISO 4000. (Robin Rowland)

Calm between storms, slack tide in Kitimat harbour

Kitimat harbour is shrouded in fog, October 9, 2015, at slack tide after what was left of Tropical Storm Oho had passed and before a new storm blew in, October 9, 2015. (Robin Rowland)

Kitimat harbour is shrouded in fog at slack tide after what was left of Tropical Storm Oho had passed and before a new storm blew in, October 9, 2015. (Robin Rowland)


The Hawaiian hurricanes that follow the path of the “Pineapple Express” across the northern Pacific normally dwindle to rain storms by the time they reach the Kitimat Valley. On October 9, 2015, however, what was left of Hurricane Oho was still at tropical storm strength.


I was assigned by Global BC to get storm and rain pictures.  There was still heavy rain when I shot my first video at the Kitimat viewpoint.


The Kitimat estuary and Minette Bay are hidden in heavy fog as rain from Tropical Storm Oho continues to fall at the Kitimat Viewpoint, Oct. 9. 2015. (Robin Rowland)


I then drove down to Hospital Beach, expecting to get some good shots of waves pounding against the shore.  To my surprise, I saw Kitimat harbour as I have never seen it.  It was slack tide, the water was dead calm and the fog shrouded the entire harbour.  Looking over to Rio Tinto BC Operations Terminal B (the old Eurocan dock) (Robin Rowland)


Rio Tinto’s Terminal A and part of the older smelter emerge from the fog. (Robin Rowland)



The Smit tug dock. (Robin Rowland)


Another view of the harbour looking toward Terminal B. (Robin Rowland)


The fog makes part of the harbour look like an alien world from a science fiction movie.(Robin Rowland)



Another view from the Hospital Beach boat launch ramp looking toward the Smit tug dock. (Robin Rowland)


Looking along Hospital Beach back toward Terminal A and the aluminum smelter. (Robin Rowland)

When I was back at my computer, filing the video to Vancouver, the rain from the second storm moving in began to pound down outside my window.

Super tide on the Skeena

"Super" low tide on the Skeena River at Telegraph Point, Sept. 28, 2015 (Robin Rowland)

“Super” low tide on the Skeena River at Telegraph Point, Sept. 28, 2015 (Robin Rowland)

I had great plans for shooting the super moon and the eclipse blood moon on Sunday night, September 27. Unfortunately the ideal shot of the moon rising over our iconic Mt. Elizabeth (which I have captured in the past) was impossible, there was a storm blowing in, and the overcast was so heavy that dark moon wasn’t even visible.

But today, I captured the related super tide –at low tide–which is the shot, I am sure, no one was looking for. To be honest, I was trying to shoot fall colours on a gloomy day where the Skeena lives up its original in name in the language of the Tsimshian First Nation, K-shian, “water that falls from the clouds,” also translated as “river of mists” and now is colloquially called “the Misty River.”

I was amazed at the Skeena was so flat, and so low at a time when it had been raining for the past couple of days and should have been much higher.

A few hours later when I was driving  back from Prince Rupert, in a pounding rain and wind storm, the river was actually higher than I had ever seen it before.

I didn’t realize what I had until I was watching  the weather segment on the CBC National, and the Weather Network presenter mentioned there was a super tide.  Google checks confirmed that a super tide accompanies a super moon.



Telegraph Point, on the Skeena, taken at 1135 hrs on September 28.

Telegraph Point is about 44 kilometres (27 miles) inland from where the Skeena reaches the Pacific Ocean, and the tides do reach even further inland than that.   Low tide at Prince Rupert  was at 0811 on Monday. There aren’t tide tables this far inland (not needed for sailors)

As I arrived for an  appointment in Prince Rupert, it started to rain. By the time I had completed my appointment and had had lunch, I drove back in a wind driver rain storm. I stopped briefly at Telegraph Point and grabbed some quick shots.

This shot, roughly the same angle as the first low tide shot,  was taken at 1457, just after high tide at Prince Rupert at 1426.  You can’t see it in a still image, but  in the river the water was moving rapidly upstream.


This was taken at 1512 from the same spot as the first low tide shot.


Another angle from Telegraph Point taken during the storm at 1512.

(All images above taken with Sony Alpha 55)


This was one of my first shots of the day, taken about 25 kilometres further upstream at 1101. (taken with Sony Alpha 6000)


Shots of fall colors along the Skeena, October 16, 2014.


DFO tide table for Prince Rupert, Sept. 28

Supermoon means supertides

Supermoon 2015 to cause highest ‘super tides’ for 19 years (Independent UK)