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


Those marauding pirates who infest certain cities and rob hardworking photographers

“Such miserable pirates are too sordid to engage a photographer to make a special series for them; they prefer to rob an already poorly paid class of men-men who have to depend for their living upon the sale of views taken during the short summer months.”


Most photographers today believe that the problems of image piracy began with the Internet in the 1990s and the switch over to digital in the 2000s.
That’s what I thought too — until this weekend when I was doing research for a book project on the archive site   I serendipitously  came across some old copies of the Canadian Photographic Journal from 1894 and 1895.  If you read about the problems photographers were facing with image pirates and with news organizations that took images without credit 122 years ago, it appears that things haven’t changed all that much.



WE have on former occasions tried to impress our readers with the vital importance of registering their copyright in photographs that are likely to prove of more than passing importance, and we published in a former number a concise article upon the method of securing such registration in Canada.

We have since received numerous complaints from subscribers who have been victimized by pirate publishers. One of these firms of pirates began by buying a few photograms of a prominent Canadian city at a cost of about twenty-five cents each and then published
them as photo engravings in “Souvenir” form at about ten cents the book.

We do not mean to say the photograms thus collected at so little expense were by any means excellent views, and the reproductions were even worse, but still put upon the market at so low a price-they were sold and must have injured the sale of the original photograms.

We have no battle with publishers of these books so long as they pursue their business in a straightforward manner and give the photographers, whose works they appropriate, adequate remuneration and proper acknowledgment of authorship.

But we have no sympathy with the meanness of those marauding pirates who infest certain cities and rob hardworking photographers of the results of their labors. It is all very well for these people to say they bought and paid for the views they republish, we admit that they did so-but they did not thereby acquire the right to republish those views and sell them in opposition to their original authors.

Such miserable pirates are too sordid to engage a photographer to make a special series for them; they prefer to rob an already poorly paid class of men-men who have to depend for their living upon the sale of views taken during the short summer months.

These same parasitical publishers seem- to be imbued with a natural inborn baseness that prevents them from giving the men they rob credit for being the authors of the original photographs, whereas if they had the decency to publish the names and addresses of the
photographers we might consider it in the light of a redeeming act of grace.

How often do we see even in the public press such titles as “Minne-haha Cathedral From a Photograph.”

Why are publishers so averse to give credit where credit is due? Is it because they are ashamed to publish the name of their victim, or is it because they fear he might be a gainer of some notoriety if his name was mentioned?

If newspapers are mean enough to take the liberty of appropriating men’s work and publishing it, they should not be too mean to advertise him by mentioning bis name and address.

Since there is such a lamentable lack of honorable feeling among a certain class, the only remedy for photographers is registration of copyright and, again, we urge our readers, if they do not wish to, be at the mercy of copyists, to register each of their choice views.

We know that the Canadian Copyright Act is hardly in accordance with the requirements of photographers-the rates being (in their peculiar circumstances) especially high-but still registration is the only way of protecting individual interests.

In Great Britain there has been recently formed an active “Copyright Union” which is virtually under the wing of the Chamber of Commerce.

The active promoters of this union have our most hearty sympathies; they are doing a good work for our British brethren and deserve the undivided support of every photographer in the land. Canada has long been in want of such an active body to protect the interests of photographers.

We believe the time is now ripe for the formation of such a union here, and we believe the best expression of our sympathies with the organizers of the British union will be the formation of a similar body in Canada. We want an amendment to the Copyright Act an
amendment that will be an equal gain to photographers and the treasury of Canada.

Individuals cannot secure this, a powerful combined effort can do so.

The active co-operation of all photographers is required to fight for that which is, according to the unwritten code of honor, their individual right.

A year later in May 1895, the Canadian Photographic Journal published this letter from New York City.



SIR, -At an informal meeting held by a number of representative photographers of this city, March 14, 1895, it was unanimously decided to issue the following prospectus to the prominent members of our profession, submitting the plan proposed therein to their earliest consideration, and requesting their immediate reply to same address, Committee of the proposed Photographers’ Copyright League, 13-15 West Twenty-fourth Street.

Art in photography is at last a generally acknowledged factor, and the productions of photographers have become the chief source of supply for the illustrations which fi1l newspapers and periodicals. Even the courts now recognize that fact and extend the protection of the copyright law to all such photographers as are artistic.

During the past ten years a vigorous battle has been waging between a few determined photographers on the one hand, and an indiscriminate host of lithographers and other pirates, on the other. The latter had become so used to appropriating without leave whatever they saw was good and original in photographic publications, giving in return neither remuneration nor even credit, and the results to them were so profitable, that the effort to break them of the pernicious habit was no easy matter.

On the contrary it developed rapidly into a serious and bitterly contested struggle.

Thus far each photographer has done his fighting, sing]e-handed, and generally against large and powerful corporations. In spite of this, however, the result has been almost uniformly a complete victory for the photographer, decision after decision being rendered in his favor by the courts, though often only after years of burdensome and expensive litigation.

In view of these facts and other reasons which follow, we deem it wise and expedient, at this time, to band our best men together, so, that in future a united front will be opposed to infringers of all kinds.

There have been many demands within the past few years for such a union, and we know of no question now rife in the fraternity in which a community of interests would be more desirable, mutual and in every way advantageous to us ail.

Our proposition is that an organization (to be known as the Photographers’ Copyright League of America) be formed at once, and take upon itself, by means of an advisory committee to be elected annually, the prosecution of  all infringers of the copyright works of any of its members, whenever a proper case for such prosecution is presented by him ; that it defray all expenses of same ; and that in return, so as to make it self-supporting, a fair percentage of all recoveries so obtained, be turned into the treasury.



Also cross posted to my Tao of News blog

The nineteenth century definition of photogram is obviously different from today’s “image made without camera”.  From the context it appears to refer to souvenir postcards.

In the nineteenth century, Canadians were encouraged to register copyright materials with the Department of Agriculture. Today, under the Berne Convention, Canadians don’t have to register, but can if they wish with the copyright office. However, unlike the United States, there is no requirement to file a copy of the work.

An online search has found no references to the Photographers’ Copyright League of America. It would be interesting to find out what happened to the organization.

The original copies of the Canadian Photographic Journal for May 1894 and May 1895 are available online. Full access to the archive costs $10 Cdn a month.

One has to note that despite the fact that magazine masthead shows a woman photographer with a camera on a tripod, the copy is somewhat sexist, referring to photographers as “men” and a “fraternity.”


And now a word from our sponsor……the latest gear for May 1895 (ad in the Canadian Photographic Journal.)



In Memorium: Richard Dawson

Richard Dawson, October 2005. (Robin Rowland)

Richard Dawson, October 2005. (Robin Rowland)

The Niagara Falls Review is reporting that retired CBC cameraman and well-known  blues musician, Richard Dawson, died suddenly last week of a heart attack in Thailand. He was 62.

Here are three photos of Rich that I took during the victory party that marked the end of the CBC lockout in October 2005.



Rich Dawson, October 2005. (Robin Rowland)

Rich Dawson, October 2005. (Robin Rowland)

I do remember from that concert that Rich was amazing on the harmonica.

Writing in the Review, reporter John Law says:


A student of the Chicago blues, Dawson and his fiery harmonica were mainstays of the Niagara music scene. Inspired by some blues records his brother brought back from Buffalo when he was 13, he was jamming in bands around southern Ontario for years while chasing his actual dream: Film making.

Dawson was a classmate of James Cameron at Stamford Collegiate. The Oscar-winning director gave him a five-page script one day called Paradise which had similarities to his eventual 2009 epic Avatar. Dawson kept the script securely stored away, and gave a copy back to Cameron when the director returned to Niagara Falls in 1996.

Dawson wrote and directed the Niagara Falls documentary Shoes of the Devil with Niagara Falls’ late historian George Siebel, and spent 32 years at CBC as a cameraman. Recently, he was teaching harmonica part-time at Niagara College.


The report says funeral arrangements are pending. RIP Rich.

Breaking the high afternoon summer sun rule and getting the “white raven” effect

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,

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.

Ravens reflect sunlight

The pair of ravens are flying into the sun, and the bright reflection can be seen appearing on their wingtips.

As the ravens circle and come more under direct sunlight, their backs reflect the light, appearing white.

Ravens reflect sunlight

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.
Raven reflect the light
As the pair continue to circle, only a small white reflection is seen on the wing of the lower bird.


Ravens in flight

Here the pair appear in silhouette, dark against the sky.

Ravens fly over mountain

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.

Sunset on Douglas Channel, Kitimat


Kitimat, BC is far enough north that in this time of year as we approach the solstice, the summer evenings are long, not the midnight sun of the arctic, but dusk continues for a couple of hours after the sun sets and the pre-dawn twilight comes after just a few hours of darkness.

On Saturday night it was relatively late and as I glimpsed out my front window, I saw that the setting sun was illuminating just one last peak in Douglas Channel down from Kitimat harbour. Grabbed a camera and quickly walked down to a park about half a block away, where there is a great view of the channel.The first  image of the peak was shot at 9:41:21 pm.

The image above was taken about four minutes later, at 9:45 as the sun was going down behind the mountains, leaving just the peak and one pinkish wisp of cloud above the peak,  perhaps looking a little like smoke from a volcano.

This panorama was taken about 9:44 pm about  minute before the image abov.

400-June-18-Sunset-3.jpgOne of my projects is to  shoot panoramas of  Douglas Channel from that park as often as I can.  With the weather systems coming up the channel from the ocean, creating a micro-environment of  sun, sea, wind and clouds, the scene and the light often changes  every five minutes, so, if the day was good, you could shoot panoramas all day and each one would be different (a part of the project which is on my to do list).

The series of shots in this panorama were taken with my Sony Alpha 700, ISO 1600, 200mm lens, 1/250, f8. Stitched with Kolor Autopano Pro and if printed at full size would be: 300 dpi, 39 inches by 15 inches.

And oh yes, on many of these pano pictures, I break the rules.   The camera is hand held.  It started last summer, soon after I arrived in Kitmat, when I was walking down by the park, camera in hand and got the idea to try panoramas.   Not that I don’t use a tripod with a pan head for some of the images, but most often like Saturday, the ever changing light calls for a quick reaction, grab the camera and get  down to the park.  The stitching can be jagged along the edges, but the water is always centered and so the jaggies are cropped.

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A spring walk in the woods with an Android camera II Retrocam B&W

Another selection of images from my Android Galaxy camera phone.

These were taken at the same time as the Vignette photos in the last blog but using the black and white setting for the Retrocam.

My favourites for black and white are the Fudgecan (circa 1961 when I was growing up in Kitimat.) which have a sort of silvery sheen to the images.



A couple with the “Xolaroid 2000” settings, a Polaroid emulator circa 1972.



And the Bärbl setting,  from a camera produced in Leipzig in 1951.


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The best laid plans lead to the forest moon of Endor

Photography is often affected by the weather.  A change in the weather can mean as Robbie Burns wrote in 1785, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men gang aft agley,” or to quote a more contemporary author, some guy called Murphy, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

So it was on Saturday night.  The main employer in Kitimat, Rio Tinto Alcan, was celebrating a company safety record for the year 2010 and, to include the community, sponsored a fireworks display at the local Riverlodge Community Centre.

It was unlikely that any of my regular clients would want the photos of a corporate event, late on the Pacific coast, with the NHL playoffs and the election taking up most of the feeds and play in the Canadian media. (I did check, they said no.).

So that gave me a chance to try an experiment.  Rather than going down to Riverlodge and try to find a good location, I decided to shoot from a park just down from my  house,  a park with a great view of the mountains.  Saturday  was clear all day  and with a near-full  moon coming up in the east  at about the time of the fireworks  and some fresh spring snow on the peaks, I figured there would be just enough moonlight to illuminate the  white snow on the mountain peaks that would be behind the fireworks.

The fireworks were scheduled for 10 PM PT.  Wouldn’t you know, about eight o’clock, the clouds began to move in.   By the time of the last twilight at ninish, you could see that the peaks were socked in.

 I went to the park and got set up.  As it got closer to 10,  the moon was a barely visible white blob behind heavy clouds, the peaks to the west were invisible in the black night. Overall ground level visibility was good, you could see the lights of the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter kilometres away, but occasional whisps of mist drifted over the tops of the trees of the park.

300-fireworks3.jpg Had  one camera on a tripod, with a 170-500, aimed at the hidden snow-covered peaks (just in case the weather cleared. It didn’t.). Second was hand held, with a  70-300. Not the best situation.

You have to make the best of it.

Got home, checked the computer, threw out most of the images but then I noticed that on some  photos, there were some tree tops in front of the fireworks. For some reason,  I remembered the closing scene of Return of the Jedi, where the CGI fireworks over the tree tops on the forest moon of Endor celebrate the end of the evil empire. (By the way Canadians, vote on May 2 and vote for democracy).

What I love about photography is that you can always have fun while you are working, especially when things aren’t working out.  Make the best shots you can under the conditions of the moment.  So for this fun blog I chose images that let me imagine that it was that forest moon and that the evil empire was gone.

The end of the Death Star.

The end of the Death Star.

301-fireworks1.jpgThe celebration

303-fireworks5.jpgThe celebration.


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