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


Kitimat celebrates Canada Day 2015



The winning float in the 2015 Kitimat Canada parade from the Community Supper Club. (Robin Rowland)
canadaday1Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison who is retiring from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police leads the Canada Day parade.  (Robin Rowland)

Kitimat Fire and Rescue. (Robin Rowland)

Kitimat Fire and Rescue. (Robin Rowland)


Kitimat Marine Rescue Society (Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue SAR 63) still affectionately known as “Snowflake Responder”  (Robin Rowland)


Mayor Phil Germuth. (Robin Rowland)


Rio Tinto Alcan’s Gaby Poirier leads the RTA entry in the parade.  (Robin Rowland)


Kids enjoy the parade. (Robin Rowland)


The Haisla Nation Spirit of Kitlope Dancers. (Robin Rowland)

(Robin Rowland)
(Robin Rowland)
The gymnastics club. (Robin Rowland)


Handing out goodies to spectators along the parade route. (Robin Rowland)


The Canada Day cake at Riverlodge ready for cutting. (Robin Rowland)


Later on the afternoon of Canada Day, a wildfire broke out on the hydro transmission corridor near the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter. It was contained a couple of days later. (Robin Rowland)


Fireworks. (Robin Rowland)


Fireworks. (Robin Rowland)

Great Blue Heron at Minette Bay, Kitimat

Great Blue Heron

A Great Blue Heron flies over Minette Bay, Kitimat, on the morning of June 5, 2014. (Robin Rowland)

I was assigned by CBC News to shoot stock images of Kitimat in anticipation of the federal government approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline and terminal project later this month.

So as well as my video camera, I took along my DSLR. I shot video of the Great Blue Heron as it waded along the shore for a few minutes. Then as I switched to the DSLR, it took flight.


Minette Bay

Wide shot of Minette Bay, looking toward the Silja Festival aka The Delta Spirit Lodge and the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter.

Minette Bay

Minette Bay from the same spot, the old dock, looking toward the log sort and the Minette Bay marina.


Great Blue Heron wades in Minette Bay


Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron wades in Minette Bay casting a glance at the cruise ship.


Great Blue heron flies over Minette Bay.

It takes flight.

Great Blue Heron flies

It flies past the old dock toward the logs.

Kitimat Modernization Project aluminum smelter upgrade in black and white

Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Project

The sun sets over the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Project construction site March 4, 2014. (Robin Rowland)

Updated (below) with the arrival of the Delta Spirit Lodge.

On March 4, 2014,  Rio Tinto Alcan organized the first media tour of the $3.3 billion  construction project since the announcement in December 2011 that the project had received the go ahead from the RTA board.   The project upgrades the aging aluminum smelter, built in the early 1950s, using modern proprietary technology the company says will  increase production by 48 per cent, while reducing most emissions by about 50 per cent.

I converted images taken during the tour to black and white for this blog.

RTA KMP  Carbon South complex
Cranes operate in the area that RTA calls “Carbon South” where there will be the new modularized Paste Plant. Eventually, the Paste Plant will produce green anode blocks part of the electrical process that produces aluminum. (Robin Rowland)

Tower at  RTA KMP Carbon South

A tower under construction at RTA KMP Carbon South (Robin Rowland)

Construction cranes at RTA KMP Carbon South  Robin Rowland photo

Construction cranes at work at RTA KMP Carbon South (Robin Rowland)

 Recycling truck passes Potline One at RTA KMP  Robin Rowland photo

A recycling truck passes the 1950s vintage Potline One at the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter. (Robin Rowland photo)

Power grid at the RTA KMP high  voltage substation area  Robin Rowland photo

Part of the power grid at the RTA KMP high voltage substation area. (Robin Rowland)

Part of the power grid at the RTA KMP high voltage  substation   Robin Rowland photo

Part of the power grid at the RTA KMP high voltage substation area. (Robin Rowland)

High voltage circuit breakers at the RTA KMP  construction site  Robin Rowland photo

High voltage circuit breakers at the RTA KMP construction site. They are electrical switches capable of turning on power and turning off power to the smelter’s rectifier units which convert alternating current into direct current, part of the aluminum smelting process. (Robin Rowland)

Electrical equipment  with the new potlines in the background  Robin Rowland photo

The high voltage circuit breakers are seen at the RTA KMP construction site. The new potlines are under construction behind the circuit breakers and cable drums. (Robin Rowland)

Conveyer and transmission tower at RTA KMP  Robin Rowland photo


An old conveyer system and an electrical transmission tower at the RTA KMP construction site. (Robin Rowland)

Mt. Elizabeth and the RTA KMP construction site  Robin Rowland photo
Kitimat’s iconic Mt. Elizabeth is seen in the background of the construction site. (Robin Rowland)

Construction at the Anode Baking furnace site Robin Rowland photo

A platform lift outside the Anode Baking Furnace site. (Robin Rowland)

Construction equipment at the RTA KMP site Robin Rowland

A heavy duty front end loader at the construction site. (Robin Rowland)

Poline under construction Robin Rowland Photo

Construction at the KMP site. (Robin Rowland)

Construction at KMP  Robin Rowland Photo

Construction goes on at the Casthouse C area, with the future cafeteria and change house in the background. (Robin Rowland)

Update March 11, 2014

 Silja Festival aka Delta Spirit Lodge

On Monday, March 10, the Estonian ferry Silja Festival, renamed the Delta Spirit Lodge by Rio Tinto Alcan arrived in Kitimat to act as a bunkhouse/workcamp for about 600 workers who will be completing the Kitimat Modernization Project (Robin Rowland)

Canada Day Parade in Kitimat, July 1, 2012

Legion, RCMP lead the parade

The Royal Canadian Legion and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police lead the Canada Day parade in Kitimat, BC, July 1, 2012. (Robin Rowland)

Snowflake Responder

The Kitimat Marine Rescue Society’s Snowflake Responder in the Canada Day Parade. (Robin Rowland)

Bechtel golf cart

Bechtel, which is building the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Project had a small fleet of golf carts in the parade. (Robin Rowland)

Drummer in dragon boat

A young drummer in the Rio Tinto Alcan dragon boat. (Robin Rowland)

Douglas Channel Watch and Mayor Joanne Monaghan

Members of the environmental group Douglas Channel Watch march with blow-up Orcas, as Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan follows in a convertible. (Robin Rowland)

Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan (Robin Rowland)

Nathan Cullen waves to the crowd

Nathan Cullen, NDP for Skeena Bulkley Valley, and NDP House Leader waves to spectators while marching in the Kitimat Canada Day parade. (Robin Rowland)

International Peace Day contingent

The International Peace Day contingent in the Canada Day parade. (Robin Rowland)

Terrace Riverboat Day floatTwo girls, part of the Terrace Riverboat Days float, run to distribute candy to Kitimat’s children. (Robin Rowland)


Quad from the Kitimat Rod and Gun


A guad from the Kitimat Rod and Gun Association (Robin Rowland)


Stop, Drop & Read

Stop, Drop and Read (Robin Rowland)

Canadian Auto Workers float

The Canadian Auto Workers float in the Canada Day parade. The CAW is currently in tough negotiations for a new contract with Rio Tinto Alcan. (Robin Rowland)


Girls and dogs

Girls and dogs march with the Kitimat Humane Society (Robin Rowland)

Kids on horses

Children on horses conclude the Canada Day parade (Robin Rowland)

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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