Posts Tagged “mountain”
(First in a series of notes for photographers working in the Pacific northwest)
The standard advice for photographing stars is to find a clear sky, far away from urban light pollution, with no moon and someplace solid where you can put a tripod. That’s great, perhaps for New Mexico, Arizona, or even parts of California.
Up here in the northwest, where there is rain forest because it rains, you make the best of your opportunities.
So here’s how to photograph stars on a moonlit night from a floating lodge. There are some conditions, of course. Calm seas are the only way to go. Mountains are great. Where you’re anchored (boat wise) is also a factor.
Last weekend I was shooting some news stock, both video and stills, at Clio Bay, southeast of Kitimat, BC., site of a growing environmental controversy. (See more on Clio Bay at the end of this article)
It was a beautiful weekend on Douglas Channel, rather unusual for mid-September, with a clear sky and near tropical temperatures.
The last time I was out on Douglas Channel on the same mid-September weekend in 2011, there was, to say the least, a raging gale. The Kildala arm is somewhat sheltered, so it was just choppy. Out in Douglas Channel one to two metre waves and worse storm conditions on the actual coast.
Setting up for the star shoot
After the news shoot, I stayed overnight at the floating Tookus Inn, which is moored, for now, in Clio Bay. I had checked various weather forecasts, especially the Environment Canada marine forecast, as well as the regular Environment Canada regular forecast and the Accuweather forecast app on my iPad. All said clear skies.
So given this very rare opportunity, I spent the evening shooting the stars over the mountains of Clio Bay and the west side of Douglas Channel.
Here is a shot taken just as we arrived back from the news shoot, a great blue heron nicknamed Henry on the log boom seen in the night shots.
By checking the Photographers Ephmersis app, with my local knowledge, I knew we would have an early sunset (behind the mountains) long before the official time, a long twilight and that the moon would rise behind and to the left (east) of the lodge before the sky was really dark.
Camera is a Sony A77, with a Konica-Minolta 17-35mm wide angle, manual setting and manual focus on (except where noted) a Giotto MT8260 carbon fibre tripod, using a MH 5001 pan head. (I have a solid Manfrotto tripod, but the lighter Giotto is much better suited for working in remote areas, or where travel storage is limited, as this weekend when I was travelling on a fishing boat. With the pan head it can do double duty both for my video camera and still gear). I used the usually recommended setting of ISO 800 for star photography and varied both exposure and focal length. Shot RAW+JPG.
All images were processed from RAW to Tiff and then to web friendly JPG in Photoshop CC, using minimal black level, white level, curves and contrast sharpening.
This shot was taken at 8:41, just as I was setting up the tripod, camera sitting on the balcony rail. ISO 320, F4, 1/8sec, looking northwest. FL 17mm.
From the ephemeris you can see that the sun has officially set, we’re already 20 minutes past civil twilight, but the last rays of the sunset can still be seen over the mountains of Douglas Channel to the northwest.
About fifteen minutes later, the moon has risen over the mountains, (waxing 64.9 %) behind and to the left of where I am aiming the camera to get stars over the mountains and Douglas Channel. This was a test shot, at 9:03, using my backup A55, on the balcony rail, ISO 1600, F3.5 at one second. Even with the bright moon, you can see stars in the night sky.
It’s now an hour after the first shot at 9:40.08 The A77 with the KM wide angle is on the tripod and I am using a remote trigger.
The moon is higher in the sky, shining directly on the log boom to the left and illuminating the far off mountains on the west side of Douglas Channel. The forest in the right foreground is mostly illuminated by the moon, with some light from the lodge as well. The constellations to the west are clear. ISO 800, FL 24 mm, F4, 15 sec.
A similar shot minutes later at 9:52:01, FL 24 mm F 4 15 sec.
Moon is at a slightly different and higher angle, most of the lights in the lodge are out, so the forest is no longer fully illuminated, moolight reflects off the log boom, stars appear brighter.
Last of the main shots. At 10:14:51, FL 24 F4 but shorter exposure at 10 seconds.
All the lights were turned out at the lodge at 10, so there is no longer any artificial illumination, which brings out the moonlight on the log boom but still captures the moonlight on the distant peaks. Angle is slightly different, so one constellation is behind the forest. (After that because it had been a long day and I had to get up early for the boat trip back to Kitimat, I went to bed).
Clio Bay is a considered a safe anchorage in case of storms. Saturday night was beautifully calm. But not one hundred per cent. Compare the stars in these images.
The first at 10:10:22 shows a small amount of blur in the stars and trees as the lodge moved in the water during the exposure.
but at 10:18:21 it was relatively still and the stars and treeline are sharper. Both using tripod and remote trigger.
Both 13 seconds at F4
This shot was taken at 9:26 p.m, ISO 800, FL 17, 6 seconds at F4. As I tried various angles, the camera captured a lampshade hanging from the balcony ceiling, painted with light from inside the lodge. I found I preferred the original JPG and could not duplicate the tones of the image by processing the RAW.
Clio Bay is an inlet on the east side of Douglas Channel, just south of Kitimat, BC. For years, Clio Bay has been used to sort logs so they can be sent by boom or ship to the Lower Mainland of BC or to Asia. Over the years, thousands of logs have sunk to the bottom of Clio Bay. Now there is a proposal by Chevron and Apache, partners in the KM LNG project across the Channel at Bish Cove to dump thousands of tons of clay on top of the trees. The question is what will the clay do? Will the clay kill a thriving ecosystem among the old trees or will it create an new ecosystem by making a new seabed. The debate continues and that’s why it’s an ongoing news story.
Raven Coast Workshops
Watch for Raven Coast Workshops, photo workshops and tours for all levels of experience and skill in the unique environment of BC’s pristine and historic Pacific Northwest. We aim to start full workshops in 2016, when two new luxury hotels in Kitmat are slated for completion. In the meantime for 2014 and 2015, we can organize smaller workshops or individual charters along Douglas Channel, the Kitimat River and in the historic Skeena River region. High quality accomodations are currently available for a limited number of guests. Please contact us, let us know your interests and budget so we can set up your charter or you can join a small group workshop for a photo-trip to remember.
A bald eagle flies over the water at the east end of Kaien Island just before the Prince Rupert Port Edward turnoff, June 3, 2013. (Robin Rowland)
A bald eagle circles over the mountain on the mainland at the turnoff. (Robin Rowland)
An eagle skims the ocean, hunting for prey. (Robin Rowland)
There were actually a pair of bald eagles that day, so here’s one high up on the thermals (Robin Rowland)
And another shot of the same eagle (Robin Rowland)
And on June 21, a cloudy, rainy day in Kitimat, a bald eagle appears a silhouette against the clouds.
The oolichan, the tiny oil rich fish that sustained the First Nations of British Columbia for millenia come up the rivers in the early spring. At least they come up those rivers where oolichan (Thaleichthys pacificus) still survive. Like the salmon, the oolichan live their adult lives in the ocean and then return to their native streams to spawn and die.
One of the rivers that still sees an oolichan run is the Skeena. Gulls, eagles, ravens, seals all come to feast as the oolichan migrate upstream. The gulls, sensing a feast after a long, harsh winter, are almost in a frenzy, circling and diving over the spot in the river that the oolichan migration has reached.
On Friday, March 8, I was driving to Prince Rupert for an assignment and stopped at the Telegraph Creek rest area. I was lucky, for it was at Telegraph Creek, a great spot for photographs, that the oolichan had reached. There were a few naturalists at Telegraph Creek watching the show. It was an elderly couple who first clued me in to what was going on. Thank you.
Mostly gulls. An eagle flying overhead. Seals or sea lions just upstream.
If I didn’t have that assignment I had to get to in Rupert, I would have stayed at Telegraph Creek most of the day. But as it was, I did manage to get a few shots of the hundreds of gulls circling, wheeling and swimming. I got a couple of not very good shots of an eagle overhead (not very good which is why they’re not here) and the seals or sea lions weren’t anywhere close. So I stayed as long as I could, then it was back in the car for work.
So one of the “rules of photography,” especially nature photography, is you don’t shoot on a clear, bright, blue sky, summer afternoon with the sun high overhead.
So today I broke all those rules and got a shot I’ve been trying to get for some time–the “white raven.”
So what is a “white raven?” One of my long-term projects is to photograph ravens in a “mythological setting.” In Europe (and perhaps elsewhere) there are legends of a white raven. (I am not sure about here on the northwest coast, where the raven is sacred to the First Nations, so far I have not come across any First Nations stories of white ravens. If anyone reading this knows of a First Nation legend of a white raven please comment). For example, in Greek mythology Apollo is said to have turned the raven, which was originally white, to black,
UPDATE: March 2019. Among the art work displayed at the annual Freda Diesing School of Northwest Art exhibit at the Kitimat Museum & Archives this month, was a magnificent painting by a young artist of a raven transforming from white to black. The artist told me she was inspired by a story told to her by Elders.
Although there are rare albino ravens–this site has a photograph of a stuffed albino raven in Port Clements on Haida Gwaii–many scholars who study ravens and crows in nature and mythology believe that the legends of white ravens as messengers of the gods come not from the rare albino raven (which may not survive to adulthood) but when the black feathers of the raven reflect the sun and appear to be white.
I admit that looking for the “white raven” shot wouldn’t be a priority unless you are doing a project on the mythology of ravens. It is also likely that photographers seeing the image would hit the delete button. I hope that this post would discourage deleting “white raven” shots that anyone reading this may capture in the future.
It was that “white raven” effect I was able to capture this afternoon, on a hot, clear, sunny Kitimat afternoon, actually in my front yard in the space of just over one minute, from 3:30:34 pm to 3:31:39 pm, using my carry with me always Sony Alpha 55, Sony 18-200, set at 200, ISO 1600, shutter priority 1/2000.
As the ravens circle and come more under direct sunlight, their backs reflect the light, appearing white.
Messengers of the Gods. In Norse mythology, Odin had two messenger ravens Huginn and Muninn. Again the Eddas I have read don’t mention the colour of Huginn and Muninn, but clearly you can see how the reflected sun makes the raven look white.
As the pair continue to circle, only a small white reflection is seen on the wing of the lower bird.
Here the pair appear in silhouette, dark against the sky.
The compression of distance with the 200mm lens gives the impression the ravens are flying over a mountain peak.
Then the pair are lower, appearing to fly in front of the mountainside.
On Friday, February 3, 2012, I was driving to Prince Rupert, BC, to cover the No to Tankers rally the next day for GlobalBC News and Canadian Press The drive (or train trip) along the lower Skeena is always magnificent, the mighty water has come through the mountains and now when the river widens.
The Skeena is known is as the “Misty River.” In the language of the Tshimshian First Nation, the river is the “K-shian,” the river of mists.
On that Friday,a high pressure system was driving off the gloomy winter overcast that had lingered since December, while along banks, the mists still clung to the river banks and hills, As the sun set, the light was magnificent, The problem especially with all the snow piled up along the edge of the highway there were few safe places to stop and shoot except the designated rest areas.
The reverse angle, away from the sun set, shows the mist hugging the mountains along the Skeena at Basalt Creek.
Thursday January 19, 2012 was a frigid day in Kitimat, BC. It was -23 C with a windchill of -38. The warm fresh water from the Kitimat River, flowing into the harbour, was caught between the cold ocean water in the harbour and the frigid air, creating the sea smoke.
Sea smoke usually hugs the surface of the water. On the morning of January 19, the wind caught the sea smoke, sending columns high into the air.
The sea smoke drifts across Kitimat harbour.