Clear nights and a waxing Moon made for great opportunities to shoot the Badlands under moonlight.
This has not been a great spring. Only now is the last of the snow melting here in Alberta.
But some mild and clear nights this week with the waxing gibbous Moon allowed me to head to the Red Deer River valley near where I live in Alberta for some moonlit nightscapes.
Here’s the Big Dipper high overhead as it is in spring pointing down to Polaris.
I shot this and some other images in this gallery with the new Sony a7III mirrorless camera. A full test of its astrophoto abilities is in the works.
This is Jupiter rising, with the Moon lighting the sky, and illuminating the landscape. Moonlight is the same colour as sunlight, just much fainter. So while this might look like a daytime scene, it isn’t.
This is Venus setting in the evening twilight at the Hoodoos on Highway 10 near Drumheller. The winter stars are setting into the west, to disappear for a few months.
Here’s Venus in closeup, passing between the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters in Taurus, low in the twilight over the scenic Horsethief Canyon area of the Red Deer River.
While Venus is climbing higher into our evening sky this spring, the Pleiades, Hyades and all the winter stars are fast disappearing from view.
We say goodbye to winter, and not a moment too soon!
— Alan, April 28, 2018 / © 2018 Alan Dyer / AmazingSky.com
The Sun sets over the Red Deer River Badlands at Horsethief Canyon
This was sunset last night, Saturday, August 1, at the Horsethief Canyon Viewpoint overlooking the Red Deer River, north of Drumheller, Alberta.
The viewpoint is one stop on the Dinosaur Trail scenic drive that winds up and down the river valley, with a crossing just north of here by one of the few remaining river ferries in Alberta, the historic Bleriot Ferry.
The Canyon’s name comes from the pioneer days when horses would get lost in the Badlands here, then re-emerge found, but with a new brand on them.
The region is home to rich deposits of late-Cretaceous dinosaur fossils. Just south of here is the world-class Royal Tyrrell Museum, a centre of research into dinosaurs and prehistoric life.
This is a single-exposure frame (not HDR) from a 300-frame time-lapse sequence, with the Canon 6D and 16-35mm lens.
– Alan. August 2, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer / www.amazingsky.com
The Big Dipper swings behind the Hoodoos in the Red Deer River badlands on a moonlit night.
Last night I headed north to the Red Deer River valley to shoot a time-lapse over the river with the badland hills lit by the rising waning Moon. After finishing that I stopped at the popular Hoodoos tourist attraction on Highway 10 east of Drumheller. I had the place to myself at midnight, and the photo ops around the moonlit hoodoos were many.
These formations form when harder capstone rock prevents the soft lower layers from eroding in the rain.
The Big Dipper was nicely positioned above the hills as it swings low across the northern horizon in autumn.
Here I aimed back toward the Moon, with its glare muted by high cloud, and backlighting the hoodoos. The stars of Perseus are rising at left. Unlike normal astrophotography, with nightscape work, and certainly time-lapse shooting, clouds can be a benefit.
This was a great spot to end an evening of nightscape shooting.
– Alan, September 22, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The summer Milky Way sets over the Milk River on the last weekend of the summer.
This was the view last night, Sunday, September 1, from the Visitor Centre hill overlooking the spectacular Milk River valley and the sandstone formations of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta.
The Milk River winds around the park’s campsite, filled on a beautiful long weekend with campers enjoying the clear skies and temperatures in the 30s by day. At night, conditions were perfect. Warm, dry, no bugs, no wind. The best.
I set up two cameras: one for a day-to-night time lapse and one for a time-lapse panning the scene as the Milky Way moved to the west. These two images are frames from the latter.
Above is a shot from later in the evening when the sky was dark …
… while this image is from earlier in the shoot, when the last of the blue twilight still lit the sky and the camera was aimed a little more to the east.
On the horizon at left in the image above lie the Sweetgrass Hills of Montana, a prominent landmark in southern Alberta. The yellow sky glows are from towns in northern Montana.
Lights from the campground and car headlights illuminate the landscape and the eroded hoodoo formations.
Writing-on-Stone Park preserves ancient rock petroglyphs that record scenes from before and after contact with Europeans. It is a sacred site to First Nations people and is a marvellous place for stargazing.
– Alan, September 2, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The stars of Cassiopeia rise behind hoodoo formations in the Alberta Badlands.
I took this Sunday night, August 18, as part of my shoot at Dinosaur Provincial Park. This is a particularly striking pair of hoodoos at the start of the Badlands Trail where I’ve been meaning to take some moonlit nightscapes for a couple of years.
This night’s conditions were perfect, with the “W” of Cassiopeia nicely placed, and the Moon providing excellent cross-lighting, under a clear blue sky, for the contrasting colours of earth and sky.
– Alan, August 20, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
The waxing Moon rises into a colourful twilight sky over the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park.
What a great night it was last night! Warm summer temperatures (at last!) allowed for shirtsleeve shooting even well after dark. To shoot on the warm August night I went out to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a magical place to be at sunset and in the summer twilight. The colours on the badlands are wonderful. It’s earth-tones galore, with the banded formations from the late Cretaceous blending with the sagebrush and prairie flowers.
This was the scene after sunset, as the waxing Moon rose into the eastern sky coloured by the blue band of Earth’s shadow, the pink Belt of Venus and dark blue streaks of cloud shadows converging to the point opposite the Sun. That’s where the Moon will be Tuesday night when it’s full. But last night it was a little west of the anti-solar point.
I managed to grab this image as soon as I got to my photo spot on the Badlands Trail, just in time to catch the last rays of the setting Sun illuminating the bentonite hills of the Badlands. Both shots are frames from a 450-frame time-lapse, taken with a device that also slowly panned the camera across the scene over the 90-minute shoot.
It, and three other time-lapses I shot after dark, filled up 40 gigabytes of memory cards. It’s been a terabyte summer for sure!
– Alan, August 19, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
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
As all the other sunset photographers were packing up for the night, I was just getting started. This is the scene last night, with the waxing Moon hanging over the moonscape of Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta.
I took this in deep twilight, when the sky is tinted with subtle colours complementing the earth tones of the landscape below.
Dinosaur Park is the world’s best repository of late Cretaceous fossils, being unearthed as the terrain made of ancient volcanic ash erodes away with every rainstorm. Though the formations date from the Cretaceous some 70 million years ago when this area of Alberta was a bayou-like swamp, the badlands landscape we see today was created at the end of the last ice age when glacial floods poured over the landscape, carving the channels occupied by rivers today, like the Red Deer River that flows through Dinosaur Park.
It’s a favourite spot of mine, just an hour east of where I live, to shoot sunsets and moonrises, and twilight landscapes like this one.
— Alan, August 7, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer
Here’s my time-lapse sequence of the hoodoos at Writing-on-Stone Park lighting up as the Moon rises and the Milky Way sets.
The sky starts off dark but lights up as the waning Moon, off frame behind the camera, rises and lights up the foreground and sky. The sequence ends as the sky brightens with the onset of dawn.
Waning moons are great nights for this type of shooting as the changing lighting produces dramatic effects as the landscape lights up at moonrise. The problem is, the Moon doesn’t rise till very late, making for a long night of shooting.
I assembled this sequence from 290 frames, each a 60-second exposure, taken at 1-second intervals over about 4 hours. The camera was the Canon 7D and the lens the 10-22mm Canon EF-S zoom at 10mm. I also shot a matching sequence simultaneously with the 8mm fish-eye and Canon 5D MkII camera, for an all-sky sequence for planetarium use.
— Alan, July 30, 2011 / Movie © 2011 Alan Dyer
Standing among these “hoodoo” rock formations at night with moonlight and starlight for illumination was a magical moment. This is a scene at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta, that I took last Saturday night, July 23, 2001 at 3 a.m.
It shows the summer Milky Way arching over the sandstone formations, with the rocks lit by the light of the rising waning Moon in the east.
Writing-on-Stone is a sacred site for First Nations people, a place to connect to the spirit world through dreamquests. No one lived here — it was a place haunted by the spirits — people only visited at special times. The rocks were also used to record visions and historic events, in the form of carved petroglyphs that are among the best preserved and most extensive of any archaeological sites in North America. By day or by night, Writing-on-Stone is an inspiring location, carved in the rocks on the banks of the Milk River (see the previous blogs for some panoramic sunset views of the area).
This is one frame of about 300 taken as part of a time-lapse movie, and is a 60-second exposure with the Canon 7D and 10-22mm lens.
— Alan, July 30, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer
This is one of the great places for evoking the wide open spaces of the high plains. Here we are looking south over the Milk River and the rock formations of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in Alberta to the peaks of the Sweetgrass Hills in Montana. The buildings at right are the modern reconstructions of the late 1800’s North West Mounted Police outpost that guarded Canada from the illegals from the U.S. (!) coming up Police Coulee smuggling whiskey from Montana into Canada.
The time is just after sunset, as the last light of the Sun still illuminates the clouds. This is the magic hour for photography, and for taking in the solitude of the “Great Lone Land” as author William Francis Butler described it in his book of that title in 1872.
As Butler wrote, “No ocean of water in the world can vie with its gorgeous sunsets; no solitude can equal the loneliness of a night-shadowed prairie…”
— Alan, July 27, 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer