Bright Nights at Stanley Park is a great
way to get your Christmas lights tour checked off the seasonal
list and feel good about doing it - proceeds go to burn units in
the lower mainland. I took some pictures a few years ago
using a paper mask over the lens to make Shaped Bokeh. Last
time it was stars, this time I tried a snowflake design.
Each year they add a new attraction or two
to the show. This year there is a huge reindeer lit by red
lights. It's so big it's visible from most parts of the walk
so it's hard to not include it in some way.
A week later, we made an after dinner trip to
see the light show. It was way more crowded - parking was
a zoo. I tried to do the snowflake paper mask trick again
but it does make focusing and exposure times really slow.
Being a school night we couldn't stay very long, but since it
rained all weekend we didn't have much choice.
Siwash Rock with Star Trails
On Friday night I saw the "Sunshine" icon in
the weather app on my phone. It's been so long since I've
seen it, at first I thought it was a mistake. Sure enough -
we did get an afternoon of nearly cloudless skies and weak warm
sun. Being Friday night, I decided to go out to Stanley Park
and try my hand at star trails photography.
The theory was set the camera up on the
tripod, set the exposure for 30 seconds and leave the shutter
button down until I was too cold to keep standing around.
There were a few surprises. On a Nikon Camera if you lock
the shutter release, you get 100 exposures - roughly 50 minutes -
and then the camera stops firing. The second surprise was
the clouds - even though the afternoon was mostly cloud free, the
clouds started rolling in later in the evening. The clouds
are lit up by the city and they are brighter than most of the
stars. If you do the image stacking tricking with light
clouds, the clouds dominate the image and you get a bland white
image with very few star trails. I would up masking 50+
frames and dropping another dozen so the final image had some star
trails and some clouds. I spent more time in photoshop than
I did on the sea wall, but at least my computer desk is warm.
Iona Beach Regional Park
Claira has a nap in the afternoon so
sometimes Nara and I go out on short trips to try something
new. I've heard good things about Iona Beach Regional Park
so I thought I would take my long lens and see if there were any
birds to be seen. It turned out to be blowing quite hard so
any birds we did see were either fly past at ridiculous speed or
they were hiding in trees trying to stay out of the wind.
That said, the timing worked out well for sunset and Nara had an
iPad with her so we took some sunset photos. Nara really
like this one.
When we got home we decided to do some watercolor painting.
I found a block of nice watercolour paper and the girls painted
images inspired by the image on the iPad.
After the paintings had dried, I asked them to describe
Porteau Cove for Star Trails
We have had a lot of cloudy nights in the
last month. Surprisingly, we got a night that wasn't cloudy
and it wasn't a school night. I checked the Northern Lights
prediction websites and apparently this night might be a good
night to go! I packed my tripod, long exposure cable and
drove off to Porteau Cove - half way between West Vancouver and
Squamish. This little bit of land sticks out into Howe sound
and there aren't a lot of lights to flood your photos. It's
about a 45 minute drive. I found a nice platform on the old
ferry terminal and started taking photos.
So I was standing around in the cold listening to my camera take
photos (one every 30 seconds) and I was looking for the Northern
lights. Nothing. Your brain does funny things when you
look at the sky for a long time - it normalizes the brightness and
when you move your head you will momentarily see an increase in
brightness in the dark region - kind of like the brightening you
see when the Northern Lights first lights up. Lots of tough
looking - still nothing.
I had to make a decision - continue photographing North or pick
another viewpoint. I decided to turn the camera and shoot
south to pick up some interesting foreground and see what it looks
like when you face away from the visible pole. I'm actually
quite happy with the results. Further plus - cloudless night
so the post processing was really simple - just stack and
add! It was a cold night, but I learned quite a bit (like
the importance of dressing in layers).
Reifel Bird Sanctuary
Claira has an afternoon nap and there were
no other activities planned so I decided to take Nara for a trip
out to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary for a walk. I brought the
big lens (400mm) and a small point and shoot (water resistant and
drop resistant) so Nara would have something to fill her time too
(beyond feeding bird seed to anything that moves). Nara got
quite into taking photos - she wanted to know which ducks which
were which and then tried to get a picture of both boy and girl
birds from a number of species. Her use of the "go" button
is still a little rough (doesn't always fire and often induces
shake), but she is getting the hang of it.
It was late in the day (lovely light) so there were plenty of
opportunities for nice photos. About half the ponds were
frozen over which concentrated the massive number of mallards on
the smaller bodies of open water.
I keep reminding myself - a good short day is better than a long bad
day - we headed home when Nara got cold. I hope to be back for
The Vancouver Aquarium
is one of our go to places for rainy weekends - a few hours of
activity before lunch and the kids have got some exercise and seen
something interesting. We are starting to get traditions -
when we arrive they pick where we go (Chester and Helen are
favorites) and then we cycles between the outdoor shows and the warm
Surprise to me - this time Nara asked to see the bats. My
camera is more of a landscape than low light camera and I didn't
have a tripod but I was kind of impressed what it can do with low
light. The kids have lots of questions but I think seeing the
bats eat the same fruit that they do help make bats a bit more
Lunch time comes and the crowds are thick - we head home for a
homemade lunch and an afternoon nap. Good Day!