The red eclipsed Moon shines over the Milk River, with Orion over the Sweetgrass Hills.
This was the scene at 4:45 this morning, October 8, from my observing site for the lunar eclipse, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta.
The eclipsed red Moon shines at far right over the Milk River and sandstone formations of Writing-on-Stone Park, home to ancient petroglyphs, and a sacred site to First Nations people.
At left are the Sweetgrass Hills across the border in Montana. Above shine the stars of Orion, with his Dog Star Sirius below. Above is Taurus, with Aldebaran and the Pleiades cluster.
The night was fairly clear for the hour of totality, though with high haze fuzzing the stars and Moon. But considering the cloud I had driven 3 hours to escape I was happy.
Here I am in a 5:30 a.m. selfie by starlight and moonlight, with the clouds I had escaped now rolling in to cover the Moon as it began to emerge from Earth’s shadow.
No matter. I had captured what I had come for: the nightscape above (with a 14mm lens), and close-ups shot through this telescope gear, one of which I featured in my previous post.
– Alan, October 8, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer
The Hunter’s Moon of 2014 turned deep red during a total lunar eclipse.
It wouldn’t be an eclipse without a chase!
To see and shoot this total eclipse of the Hunter’s Moon I had to chase clear skies, seeking out the only clear area for hundreds of miles around, requiring a 3-hour drive to the south of me in Alberta, to near the Canada-US border, at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.
It was worth the midnight trek, though I arrived on site and got set up with just 10 minutes to go before the start of totality.
But I was very pleased to see the sky remain mostly clear for all of totality, with only some light haze adding the glow around the eclipsed Moon. Remarkably, the clouds closed in and hid the Moon just after totality ended.
This is a single 15-second exposure at ISO 400 with a Canon 60Da, shooting through an 80mm apo refractor at f/6 and on an equatorial mount tracking the sky at the lunar rate. I shot this shortly after mid-totality. It shows how the Moon’s northern limb, closest to the edge of the umbral shadow, remained bright throughout totality.
It shows lots of stars, with the brightest being greenish Uranus at the 8 o’clock position left of the Moon, itself shining in opposition and at a remarkably close conjunction with the Moon at eclipse time.
More images are to come! But this is the result of fast processing after a dawn drive back home and an all-nighter chasing and shooting an eclipse.
– Alan, October 8, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer
It was a good year for time-lapse photography at home. Here’s my compilation of Alberta time-lapses in a 3-minute music video.
For a year-end look back at 2013 I assembled these highlights of my year of shooting time-lapse movies of the Alberta sky, by day and night.
I’ve included clips shot around home in rural southern Alberta, and further afield at popular photo spots around the province such as Waterton Lakes National Park, Banff, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, and Cypress Hills Provincial Park.
I hope you enjoy it! Be sure to maximize the video screen and select HD. Or for a better grade version check out my Vimeo channel.
Some technical background:
I shot all the frames for the movies (150 to 300 frames for each clip) with either a Canon 5D MkII or a Canon 60Da camera, equipped with various lenses from 8mm to 200mm. For many of the clips the cameras were on motion control devices: the Radian azimuth panning unit, an Orion TeleTrack mount, or a Dynamic Perception Stage Zero dolly unit. You see the latter in action behind the credits.
For image processing and movie assembly I used Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop, LRTimeLapse, Sequence, Panolapse/RawBlend utility, and for some of the star trails either StarStax or Star Circle Academy’s Advanced Stacker Actions.
I demonstrate all these in my Nightscapes workshops. The next one is in Edmonton, January 25!
To edit the movie I used the new OS10 Mavericks iMovie.
– Alan, December 29, 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
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