Bow Lake by Moonlight (The Movie)


Here is the time-lapse movie I took last Saturday night, August 20, on a perfect night at Bow Lake in Banff, Alberta.

The sequence starts in bright twilight then darkens to full night with the Milky Way over the  mountain silhouettes. The peaks then light up as they catch the light of the rising last quarter Moon coming up about 11:30 pm in the east. The moonlight creeps down the mountains to light up the entire valley and the lake. The sky brightens to deep blue again. The sequence ends about 3:30 am.

There was hardly a cloud in the sky all night, unusual for locations near the large icefields that straddle the continental divide.

I assembled the movie from 454 frames, each 40 seconds in exposure time, and taken 1 second apart.

— Alan, August 24, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer

Bow Lake By Moonlight


This was a truly magical scene — the Milky Way over Bow Glacier, and mountains lit by moonlight and reflected in the waters of Bow Lake.

Last Saturday night, August 20, 2011, brought some of the clearest skies I’ve seen in the Rockies. To take advantage of them, I headed to Bow Lake, in Banff, a favourite and very photogenic location for day and nighttime shooting. I hadn’t been there at night since the film days, pre-2004.

This shot is one of 450 frames taken as part of a time-lapse sequence, showing the Milky Way moving over Bow Lake. Here, at about 2 a.m. the light from the rising last quarter Moon is illuminating the peaks, and the Milky Way is perfectly placed over the end of Bow Lake and Bow Glacier, source of the waters of the Bow River and what Calgarians drink!

The sky is blue from moonlight. Last quarter moons are wonderful for nightscapes — providing enough light to illuminate the landscape but not so much as to wash out the sky and Milky Way. But making use of that phase of the Moon means very late nights of shooting. I packed it in this night at 4 a.m.

— Alan, August 22, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer

 

Space Station Over the Rockies


This was the view Friday night, August 19, 2011, as the International Space Station flew over Banff, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.

I took this shot (actually this is a composite of three successive exposures) from the viewpoint on Mt. Norquay overlooking the Banff townsite and the Trans-Canada Highway interchange, unfortunately all too well lit. This might well be a case study in light pollution as well.

But the lights in the valley don’t diminish the Milky Way above, and the sky-wide streak created by the passage from west to east of the Space Station. What looks like a brilliant star to the eye turns into a streak here due to the three 45-second time exposures I used to capture this scene. The lens is the 8mm fish-eye, and these frames are from a 400-frame time-lapse movie for the planetarium dome.

— Alan, August 20, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer

 

Lake Louise by Moonlight — The Movie


Here is the time-lapse movie I took last Saturday night at Lake Louise, Alberta, under the light of the Full Moon. My previous blog featured a still frame from the beginning of this sequence.

The night starts clear, but as often happens, clouds move in, blowing off the cold icefields of the continental divide. It does make for a nice effect in time-lapse, one of few instances in astronomy where some clouds can be useful!

Also notice how the reflection disappears as the lake breaks up into waves briefly, as wind blows in now and then through the night. The Full Moon is rising behind the camera, causing the lake to light up as moonlight illuminates more of the lake’s surface. Shadows move across the mountainsides. Arcturus is the bright star setting at right. The red object at left is a moored canoe, moving about on the lake.

I took this movie over 4 hours from 10:30 pm to 2:30 am, taking 477 frames with the Canon 7D and 10mm lens. For time-lapse movies like this, I process the full-size RAW files in Adobe Camera Raw and Bridge, then use Photoshop’s Image Processor to export them all to smaller size JPGs. From that set, I use Photoshop CS5 Extended’s “Motion” feature to assemble the folder of JPGs into a movie, in this case at 24 frames per second, a little fast perhaps for this sequence, but it’s easy to change if needed. Photoshop then renders that image file out as a Quicktime movie. What you see here is a tiny version of the final HD-sized video.

— Alan, August 16, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer

Lake Louise by Moonlight


This has to be one of the most photogenic and photographed places in the world. Here it is in a different light, moonlight.

This is Lake Louise, in Banff National Park, Alberta. A few hours before I took this photo on Saturday, August 13, where I stood would have been swarming with thousands of people. But at midnight there was no one about. I had the view to myself.

This looks like a daytime shot, except the stars give it away. Instead, it is the Full Moon, behind the camera, providing the illumination. Contrary to Hollywood lighting clichés, moonlight is not blue. It is the same colour as sunlight, because it is sunlight, just much fainter, reflected off the Moon’s neutral grey surface.

In this view we are looking southwest, toward the stars of the summer sky setting behind the peaks of the continental divide. Arcturus is the bright star at right.

A calm night provided the glassy lake to reflect Mount Victoria and Victoria Glacier.

This is one frame of 477 30-second exposures I took over 4 hours, of the stars turning and eventually clouds blowing in across the sky from the icefields over the divide. It’s rare to get such a perfectly clear night in the Rockies. It was a wonderful to be there, and apparently to be the only one there, to experience it.

— Alan, August 14, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer

 

Sunset in the City — This is Only a Test!


This is one for the time-lapse geeks!

One of the trickiest subjects for a time-lapse sequence is a smooth and seamless day-to-night transition. Exposure times vary from fractions of a second before sunset to several seconds at night fall.

How to do it? Manually shifting exposures is too much work and prone to error. Putting the camera on Automatic can work but inevitably results in an effect known in the time-lapse world as “flickering.” The camera’s automatically-judged exposures aren’t consistent from frame to frame so the final movie shows minor bright/dark flickering, making it look jerky.

For this test sequence of sunset over the Calgary skyline, I tried a new toy for the first time, as a solution.

The device is called the Little Bramper (for Bulb Ramping). It is a custom-made intervalometer that fires the camera shutter every few seconds (at whatever interval you desire). Nothing new there. But what’s unique is that it can be set to slowly increment the exposure time by as little as 1/1000th of a second from frame to frame, gradually increasing the exposure (“ramping” it) to accommodate the darkening scene. The result is a smooth transition from day to night with no flickering.

This was my first use of the Bramper and it wasn’t without its glitches. The shortest exposure the Bramper can provide (it always controls the camera thru its Bulb setting) is about 1/10th of a second (I had no idea camera shutters can fire as quickly as that even on Bulb).

But at the beginning of a sequence like this, with a bright sky, achieving that exposure (still quite long) means using a small f-stop, a slow ISO speed, or a neutral density filter, or all of the above. But as the sky darkens and exposures lengthen, exposures would become too long to fit within the desired interval between frames (typically no more than 5 to 10 seconds for a smooth sequence). So, to shorten the exposures you then have to open up the lens, switch to a faster ISO, or remove the ND filter, while also commanding the Bramper to quickly reduce its exposure time, all in one exposure cycle (i.e. 5 to 10 seconds) so as not to lose or ruin frames. Takes some coordination and practice (hit the Bramper’s button, adjust the camera, all within 5 seconds), and I didn’t get it right the first couple of times.

But overall, for a first test, the sequence turned out very well. The $80 Little Bramper does the job, though it does take careful monitoring through the sequence, not just to perform the exposure swaps, but to also watch that the ramping rate (adjustable on the fly) matches what the scene is doing and you aren’t under- or over-exposing. It’ll take a little more practice, but the results certainly are worth it.

It’s another neat tool in the time-lapse arsenal.

— Alan, August 10, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer

Milky Way in the Mountains


It’s rare to get such a clear night in the mountains but I used the opportunity last Thursday night to shoot the Milky Way in a twilight scene in Banff National Park.

I took this a little later on the same night as the previous blog’s image of the setting Moon. The location is the Vermilion Lakes, a familiar scenic spot for classic views of Banff and Mount Rundle reflected in the water, at far left. It is one of the few places in the mountains where you can look south over a low mountain skyline (to see the southern Milky Way) and over still water (to get reflections).

For this shot I used a fish-eye lens to record most of the sky and the summer Milky Way arching over the water. The sky was dark enough to show the Milky Way but still had a lingering blue tint from the last glow of deep twilight. The yellow glow at left to the east is from the urban lights of Banff.

The still image is one frame of 220 shot over 4 hours for a time-lapse video, for projection in a full-dome video-equipped planetarium. Just so happens we’re building one in Calgary to open in early 2012.

— Alan, August 9, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer