Posts Tagged “Weather”
(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.
There is a tradition in Kitimat, British Columbia, that children lay wreathes at the cenotaph, representing those individuals and groups that are unable to attend.
Here are some images of Remembrance Day 2012, in Kitimat.
The Royal Canadian Legion and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police lead the Canada Day parade in Kitimat, BC, July 1, 2012. (Robin Rowland)
The Kitimat Marine Rescue Society’s Snowflake Responder in the Canada Day Parade. (Robin Rowland)
Bechtel, which is building the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Project had a small fleet of golf carts in the parade. (Robin Rowland)
A young drummer in the Rio Tinto Alcan dragon boat. (Robin Rowland)
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, NDP for Skeena Bulkley Valley, and NDP House Leader waves to spectators while marching in the Kitimat Canada Day parade. (Robin Rowland)
The International Peace Day contingent in the Canada Day parade. (Robin Rowland)
A guad from the Kitimat Rod and Gun Association (Robin Rowland)
Stop, Drop and Read (Robin Rowland)
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 march with the Kitimat Humane Society (Robin Rowland)
Children on horses conclude the Canada Day parade (Robin Rowland)
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.
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.
One 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.
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.
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.
After three weeks of constant rain, triggered by one Pineapple Express weather system after another, the sun finally began come out late last week and I was able to shoot some of the spectacular fall colours around my new (and old) hometown of K|itimat.
While northwestern British Columbia is mainly forested by conifers, poplars and other deciduous trees hug the river banks and often appear in small groves on the mountain slopes.
So after three weeks of this (which a lot of long term residents say is unusual even for Kitimat)