Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wandering around under a full moon (again).

It was a full moon tonight and, what's more, it was relatively warm (even the wind chill didn't get below minus 10). That meant heading out with a camera and a tripod to take pictures by the light of the moon.
The worst thing about taking pictures at night is the ugly yellow and green light from street lights. So, I try to get away from street lights. That means walking.
I went to a couple of areas tonight, over by the railway bridge and out on the river at the start of the winter road to Moose Factory.
The time for the winter road is coming to an end so it was nice to go out on the ice one more time. I am careful, I know about the dangerous area near the shoreline where the ice is broken up by the tides in the Moose River. So far I have not sunk in far.
For my pictures tonight I decided to stick to a single focal length and took along the Canon 24mm f1.4 II lens with a Canon 5DII.
A 24mm lens on a full frame camera is pretty wide, not quite fisheye but a step in that direction. So it only works well in certain situations. The ideal ones for me tend to wide vistas or foreground objects that relate well to a large scale background.
When I shoot pictures at night I use time exposures. It is easy to do these up to 30 seconds each. I use mirror lock up and put the camera on a tripod to keep it steady and reduce vibration. I tend to use hyperfocal focusing--this means that I set the distance scale at the hyperfocal point. Set this way, the lens is in focus from half way to the hyperfocal point to infinity. To get the hyperfocal point for a given camera, focal length and aperture setting I use an online depth of field calculator. In practice this is pretty simple, I just need to remember the hyperfocal distances for a few different apertures for a given lens and camera. I tend to stick to a wide lens at night and f5.6 or f8. This means that the hyperfocal distances are pretty short so easy to keep most things in reasonable focus.
Because these shots are time exposures I use a tripod. I also use mirror lock up to reduce vibration and use a shutter delay to let the camera settle down after I touch it. My camera can be set for shots up to 30 seconds which covers most full moon situations. For longer exposures I have a Canon TC-80N3 timer remote which can be programmed to do most anything including taking a series of five minute exposures.
I play with exposure and the shots are usually ok until I give in the temptation to put something bright into the picture. Internal reflections sometimes cause problems. Images end up with additional bright spots, sometimes in ugly green. Since I am doing these pictures for my own pleasure I often edit them out.
When I want to have the moon itself show up in a shot I hope for a cloudy night when it may be a little less bright but it is still a lot brighter than anything else in the picture. I have played around with combining shots -- this can be a problem since the moon and the clouds are moving.
I put a bunch of shots on my website and uploaded low res versions of those and some "I did this because I was bored shots" to facebook.
There was not a lot of traffic on the winter road tonight. I saw only about half a dozen vehicles and tried to get shots of most of them. One of them stopped and the driver and passengers wanted to know if I was Ok and once they saw what I was doing asked what I was taking pictures of. I can understand the concern, it is cold outside and cold people get disoriented and do stupid things sometimes. People stopping....another one of the benefits of living in a small town.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A reminder that this is still winter March 25th

Moosonee has had some nice weather lately. It was above zero (freezing) at times and I took a lot of pictures of vehicles heading through water on top of the river ice. At work, we had a couple of consultants here who saw fantastic weather.

I took a look at the front door around 3 this morning and it was a different world out there. Snow was blowing in under the screen door and I could hardly see across the street. I toyed with the idea of going for a work to grab some pictures but decided to go back to bed.
It was still blowing snow when I grabbed a few pictures just before work.

Later on, the sun cut through the clouds and snow and the light was incredible for a while. Naturally, this happened while I was at work. Finally, lunch time and a chance to get outside and take some shots of the clean up. The snow was still blowing although not enough to the kind of dramatic shots of which I was dreaming while I sat at work. The nasty thing was that it was cold, minus 28 with the wind chill.

There was a loader at work next door at the government building, piling up snow from the parking lot. Looks like a great way to have snow moved I thought to myself as I made a pathetically narrow path from the front door to the road, just before the plough came along.