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Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) And My First Astrophotography

Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) photographed in the skies above Burnaby, Abbotsford, and Langley, BC.

comet neowise in the evening sky above Burnaby Mountain

Comet NEOWISE in the evening sky above Burnaby Mountain (Purchase)

Comet NEOWISE was first discovered on March 27, 2020 and was visible in the night sky throughout much of July 2020. Since NEOWISE was going to be visible with the naked eye, and not long after sunset, I made a number of attempts to photograph it. I have never really done any photography of the sky at night, so I had do to some research as to how these sorts of photographs were accomplished. The first photograph above was made from the top of Burnaby Mountain at Simon Fraser University. I had thought that the nearby Burnaby Mountain Park would be a good location, but it was crowded. Not wanting to try to figure this all out while trying to socially distance from people, I moved up to SFU on the top of Burnaby Mountain. Seems this was a good call as the police showed up after sunset at the park to deal with some car rally people who were misbehaving in the parking lot. SFU was certainly a bit more serene – though it was weird being up there with every building closed (they are typically open 24/7). The photo above is a combination of 9 images made over a period of about 45 seconds. I thought the clouds that were rolling through would have been a big problem processing this one, but I rather like the outcome – it has a bit more going for it than just a comet in the sky. I had been trying to think of a good location where I could work something into the foreground for NEOWISE but never really came up with many promising ideas that weren’t likely around a lot of people. These clouds do make a foreground of sorts I guess!

Learning what sort of settings to make these photographs with, find a location, and get some decent weather was not my only obstacle in creating these images. I later had to learn how to “stack” the photographs using different software than I was used to. I tried several but by far had the best results from a program called Sequator. Stacking photographs like this together brightens up the dim stars (without creating the star trails of a long exposure) and also cancels out some of the noise that is created by the camera sensor.

comet neowise in the night sky above abbotsford

Comet NEOWISE in the night sky above Burnaby Mountain (Purchase)

For the next opportunity to photograph Comet NEOWISE I went to a viewpoint in Abbotsford that looks over Glen Valley and the Fraser River. While on Burnaby Mountain the comet wasn’t all that easy to see with the naked eye which was probably a combination of light pollution and where NEOWISE was positioned in relation to the sun. On this second attempt the tail was very easy to see. There is less light pollution out there and it is also likely that the comet and tail was simply brighter at that point in its journey. I could easily spot it just glancing out the car window! I picked up quite a few mosquito bites making the above photo, but this night turned out to be the best conditions I had photographing NEOWISE.

comet neowise in the night sky above langley

Comet NEOWISE above Langley

The last photograph of Comet NEOWISE here is not very good, but it is interesting in that the comet’s core appeared quite green. The tail was quite faint, and I was actually never able to see the comet with my eyes – even through the camera lens. The green color was nice though. I photographed this at Glen Valley in Langley, amid the blueberry and cranberry fields. What was probably the more interesting even that evening was when I saw a few Coyotes on the side of the road. One was clearly this years crop and was considerably smaller than the others. A few kilometers from where I saw the pup is where I photographed, and there was a pack of Coyotes rather close by howling and singing away while I made my photographs. I clapped my hands a few times just to make my presence known, but they weren’t overly concerned with this and never seemed to cease the celebration over a rabbit hunt or whatever they had going on. Perhaps they were enjoying the comet.

Lights on the 5 Sails of Canada Place

Canada Place in Vancouver is now a trade and convention center, as well as a cruise ship port, but during Expo ’86 it was the Canadian Pavilion.

lights on the sails of canada place in vancouver, british columbia

Lights of Canada Place in Vancouver (Purchase)

-click to enlarge-

   I’ve always enjoyed the shape of the Canada Place building in downtown Vancouver. I remember it being one of the few distinctly shaped buildings in the 80’s (in addition to Harbour Center, Science World and BC Place). While Vancouver’s skyline has many new additions – Canada Place is still one of my favourites. Recently they replaced the covering on the 5 sails and projected images on them during the Olympics. Photographing them from Stanley Park I recently made this image of one of the various projected images currently on the sails. These change every few minutes or so – and sometimes this can cause some unwanted effects in a 30 second exposure! I was careful to make this image within just one variation in the lights. I like the various colour versions but this one is probably my favourite – the lights are relatively subtle.

   This is just one image from many I’ve recently added to my Vancouver Coast & Mountains Gallery.

North Vancouver Sulphur Works Panorama

Night panorama of the North Vancouver Sulphur Works from Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia

panorama of the north vancouver sulphur works from stanley park

North Vancouver Sulphur Works

-click to enlarge-

Panorama of the North Vancouver Sulphur Works from Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC.

I have always liked the view of the North Vancouver Sulphur Works from Stanley Park – especially at night. Always reminds me of a roller coaster that just dumps passengers into Burrard Inlet. I have an earlier panorama from this location in Stanley Park but it is not nearly as clear – owing to my old shaky tripod and lack of techniques such as a shutter release and mirror lockup.

Lions Gate Bridge Panorama

panorama of lions gate bridge from stanley park

5 exposures stitched, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM @ 116mm

Panorama of the Lions Gate Bridge from Stanley Park. Lights in the background are in West Vancouver.

Drove to Stanley Park on Wednesday to get some night shots of downtown Vancouver. Now that I have a really nice tripod that can actually hold my camera steady for 30 seconds this was a lot easier than before. It became evident last year when I tried this that portrait shots on my old tripod were causing things to slip just slightly each time – which is quite evident on a 30 second+ exposure! On Wednesday there was a lot of construction on Stanley Park Drive including Brockton Point. This kept me away from the lighthouse but perhaps that was a good thing – it forced me to take this pano from further down the drive. I have never noticed this sort of reflection of the bridge lights on the water before – perhaps that is not as evident from the usual Brockton Point angle. Sometimes it is good to be forced to use new angles on a subject – and a reminder to seek those on my own.

Vancouver Pt. 2!

A few more from downtown Vancouver at night.

deadman island in coal harbour vancouver vancouver new convention center

Not entirely happy with the traffic shot on the Lions Gate Bridge. Version I did many years ago (on film no less) had a much nicer outcome (especially when printed). There was just very little traffic after midnight. I guess in order to get a lot of traffic you’d have to be there earlier in the evening, and in order for it to be dark then, it would have to be winter. So in short, good Lions Gate Bridge shots = freezing your face off.

lions gate bridge lions gate bridge