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

 

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

 

Moon in the Mountains


I’ve been chasing the Moon this week. I caught up with it last Thursday night, August 4, in Banff, with the waxing crescent Moon low in the southwest at dusk.

The location is the upper Vermilion Lake just outside the Banff townsite. The golden reflection of the low Moon on the water, the slope of the mountainside and its reflection, the dock and steps, and the tail lights from a vehicle on Highway 1 just up the hill (I decided to leave them in!) make for what I think is an interesting composition of converging lines.

I got set up and in position just in time to catch the scene at the magic hour of twilight, when the sky is dark enough the show deep colours and the Moon’s entire disk shows up, but before the sky gets too dark and the Moon too bright to make an interesting scene.

Even so, the contrast in such a scene is still very high. So to capture it more as your eye would have seen it I used a stack of five exposures, taken in rapid succession, each 2/3rds of an f-stop apart. I then merged the frames with Photoshop’s High Dynamic Range routine to create a scene that brings out detail in the foreground without overexposing the Moon and sky.

A technical method to capture a simple scene of serenity in the mountains.

— Alan, August 7, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer