Moonlight on the Hoodoos


Dinosaur Park Nightscape (May 26, 2013) (16mm 5DII)

The stars shine in a bright moonlit sky over the Alberta Badlands.

My feature image above is one of several still frames I took at the end of 4-hour photo shoot last Sunday at Dinosaur Provincial Park. The nearly Full Moon provides the illumination on an eroded landscape originally cut by water from retreating ice age glaciers.

But the volcanic ash layers hold treasures much older, from 70 million years ago. This area contains the world’s richest collection of late Cretaceous fossils of dinosaurs and other flora and fauna from near the end of the dinosaurs’ reign.

The movie below is a 300-frame time lapse of the stars turning behind the hoodoos. It’s a dolly shot, using the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero rail and controller.

The system works very well, but such shots demand a site with a suitable immediate foreground, as well as a good view to the distant sky. It is the parallax motion between foreground and background that makes a dolly move interesting.

I planned this shot to begin at twilight and continue as the sky was darkening, then into the rest of the night with the Moon rising and lighting up the landscape. The moving clouds were perfectly timed and placed!

– Alan, May 29, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

Moonrise on the Badlands


Dinosaur Park at Moonrise (May 26, 2013)

It was a marvellous night for a moonrise. A beautiful night in the badlands

Last Sunday I headed east to Dinosaur Provincial Park, to catch the planet conjunction early in the evening, and then shoot time-lapse sequences of eroded hoodoos lighting up as the nearly Full Moon rose in the east.

The night could not have been better for moonlight photography. The clouds fanned out perfectly from the cameras’ focal points to the north, and in the time-lapse movies (to come!) they add dramatic motion in front of the rotating northern stars.

The feature image above is one of 300 from a motion-controlled dolly shot. The frame below is one of 380 from a static camera time-lapse.

Dinosaur Park at Moonrise (May 26, 2013)

I shot both from a favourite spot at the eastern end of the Badlands Loop drive. As I arrived at sunset, the last of the day-use folks were leaving and I had the place to myself. There was no wind, no humidity, few bugs, mild temperatures and the solace of absolute quiet broken only by some passing geese and the occasional chorus of coyotes.

Even if the images had not turned out it would have been worth the trip.

– Alan, May 28, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

 

 

Planet Triangle in the Twilight


Three-Planet Conjunction (May 26, 2013)

Three planets, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter form a triangle briefly in the evening twilight.

This was the triple-planet conjunction last night, Sunday, May 26, as seen from the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta. I headed  there, a 90-minute drive east from home, to conduct a night of time-lapse shooting, and to catch the planets low in the western twilight far away from thick clouds that tend to hug the horizon over the mountains.

Skies were nearly perfect and the night ideal for photography. Even with just unaided eyes the planets were obvious, Venus especially so at bottom right. Mercury (at top) and Jupiter (left) were also easy to spot in the twilight glow.

However, binoculars gave a view similar to this telephoto lens shot. I used a short 1/2 second exposure for the sky and a longer 3-second exposure for the ground, to bring out some detail in the badland landscape below the beautiful twilight sky.

– Alan, May 27, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

 

Aurora at the Observatory


Aurora over Calgary from RAO (May 25, 2013)

A low aurora appears in the city skyglow and bright moonlight at the local observatory. 

After several days of rain, skies cleared beautifully for a Saturday night star party for the public at the local university observatory, the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, southwest of Calgary.

The evening was capped off by the appearance, as expected, of an auroral arc to the north. Despite the light from the nearly Full Moon and urban sky glow to the north, the aurora managed to compete and put on a show for a few minutes before fading.

RAO Open House (May 25, 2013) #10

RAO Open House (May 25, 2013) #13

About 100 people attended the evening, and were treated to views of Saturn, shining in the south near Spica. Unfortunately, clouds to the west over the mountains never cleared away enough to allow us views, and me photos, of the triple-planet conjunction of Mercury, Venus and Jupiter. Still, a good time was had by all.

– Alan, May 26, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

Time-Lapse Techniques — A Dolly Shot


Shooting Rusty Farm Wheels & Stars (May 20, 2013)

Time-lapse shooting has become immensely popular of late, but there’s nothing like a dolly shot to add interest to a scene .

Among the more advanced techniques for shooting time-lapse movies is to place the camera on a motorized track for a cinematic “dolly” shot.

These are easy to do in the daytime as the camera simply needs to slide down a rail at a constant rate. But at night, time-lapse dolly shots become more complex. Exposures are often 15 to 60 seconds even in bright moonlight, as here. During each exposure the camera shouldn’t move. The slide down the track should happen only in the brief time between exposures, typically 2 to 5 seconds.

Accomplishing this “shoot-move-shoot” routine requires a specialized bit of kit. In my case, I use the Stage Zero dolly and MX2 controller from Dynamic Perception.

It works great, and sends the camera down the 6-foot rail at a speed you determine. The controller also operates the camera shutter, ensuring sync between the exposures and dolly motion. You can see the setup in operation below, in a 2-part movie. The first scene shows the dolly and camera in operation over the 2-hour shoot, while the second clip shows the time-lapse sequence the dolly-mounted camera took.


This was one of the easiest time-lapse sequences I’ve shot, as I had to travel no more than 100 feet from my house to do it.

I was after a couple of sequences just to use for demo purposes, and didn’t want to tackle a long shoot far from home on a weeknight.

The bright moonlight on May 20 also meant exposures could be short, so that collecting the 300 frames I typically shoot for a time-lapse could be accomplished in well under 2 hours. Getting to bed before 1 am is a rare treat on a time-lapse night!

— Alan, May 22, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

 

Aurora All-Night


Aurora with Blue Curtains #3 (May 17-18, 2013)

The Northern Lights dance through the night, ending with a finale burst of blue.

Here’s the time-lapse movie, below, that I shot Friday, May 17, beginning at 11:30 pm and ending 4 hours later at 3:30 am. The sky was bright with moonlight when I started the sequence, with the aurora especially active over half the sky. The display settled down to form a slowly pulsing green band behind the old barn, which went into silhouette after the Moon set.

Then, just as the sky was brightening with the first glow of dawn, the aurora kicked up its heels again and danced across the north, shooting beams of blue across the sky.

I ended the sequence as dawn was fading in … and I was fading out! Still, it was a wonderful night to be out under the stars.

The movie compresses 4 hours of aurora shooting into 40 seconds of aurora playback!

I assembled the time-lapse movie  from 1200 frames, each 11-second exposures at 1 second intervals, with the Canon 60Da at ISO 1600 and 10-22mm lens at f/4.

– Alan, May 20, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer

 

Old Barn By Aurora Light


Aurora Behind Old Barn (May 17, 2013)

As the Northern Lights dance they light up an old barn on a moonlit night.

The still frame above is from the movie down below, a 3-hour-long time-lapse taken on May 17, the night of the big aurora display. I shot this with a camera riding along on a motorized dolly track, to provide the panning motion to the scene.

You can see the rig in this image just below, which I took with another camera framing the entire scene.

Aurora over Old Barn #1 (May 17-18, 2013)

Using the second camera, I was intending to take shots showing a motion-control time-lapse sequence being taken, for illustration in talks and publications.

The aurora quickly forced me to change plans with camera #2. But I let the main motion-control camera continue down its track for the rest of the night, resulting in the movie below. At one point in the movie I briefly appear at right, as I moved the second camera to the south side of the barn to look north to the main area of the display.

 

In the movie, the stars of Virgo and the planet Saturn rise into a sky lit blue by moonlight early in the evening. As the Moon sets, the shadows rise and engulf the barn.

While catching stars rising behind the rustic old building was the original intention of the shot, the Northern Lights added a bonus. Not only do they dance in the sky behind the barn, but the north face of the old grey barn, in shadow from the moonlight, lights up green from the glow of aurora shining in the north.

Very nice. It certainly made for a colourful scene under the skies of southern Alberta.

– Alan, May 19, 2013 / © 2103 Alan Dyer