Digging through old files I found this shot I took last August of the Milky Way shining over Lake Wanaka. It was a cold night. I remember it being about -6°C. It was a full moon and I misread the moon’s setting time, so I set off too early. It was a cold wait. In my opinion, it was worth the way. I can’t wait to visit Wanaka again later this year and hopefully I will get a chance to snap a few more night sky shots with this incredible backdrop.
Rain, rain and more Squamish rain. Unfortunately, that is what we have had in Squamish for the past few weeks. The good news is that it has mostly been snow in the high alpine. It is too early to say but hopefully it is a good sign for the winter season to come. After awhile the rain can start to give one a cabin fever type complex. However, it is a great opportunity to read a book, watch a show on Netflix or teach yourself something new. After awhile, that’s exactly what I did. I attempted a new style of star trail editing.
After a year of living in Squamish there is no doubt about it, Squamish photography rocks! The list of reasons as to why Squamish is so stunning for photography could be endless so I have decided to keep it to a small number, for now. Here we go.
Squamish Photography Rocks #1 -The Night Sky
After spending a winter of commuting up and down the gorgeous Sea to Sky highway for work in Whistler it was a welcome relief when spring and summer broke. With the change in the seasons came my first experience of the Aurora Borealis in Squamish. I have seen it a few times over the years in Whistler and camping in the mountains near Pemberton. Sitting at home on my couch, I saw a tweet saying that activity was strong. I hadn’t explored the area much to find a good view north.
Obviously the best spot was going to be on top of the Stawamus Chief (the big rock on the right of the photo), however, I sure wasn’t hiking up there at 1100pm at night. So, it was a quick drive around to try and locate a spot. I ended up at this lookout on the side of the road just south of Squamish looking back at the town. The lights made it a little hard get the exposure that I wanted but in the end, I was fairly happy with the result. I’ll include a link at the end of the post to the time-lapse I created that night.
Squamish Photography Rocks #2 – The Weather!
One of the pleasures of living in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains is the speed at which the weather changes. It is ridiculous. Storms blow in and out at a rapid rate. Right now it is cloudy with sunny patches. This morning when I woke about it was a torrential downpour, biblical almost, and apparently we are headed back that way tonight with winds of up to 80 km/h. Clouds and storms moving this quickly offer some pretty amazing opportunities to snap a photo or two.
This shot of one the most famous landmarks in Squamish, The Stawamus Chief was a by-chance kind of shot. I was preparing to head out for dinner and looked out the window and saw the epic colorful arch stretching over the Chief. I jumped in the car, raced down to a spot where I thought might produce this kind of perspective. Rapidly, I snapped some shots, jumped back in the car and made it just in time for dinner. Fortunately, a couple of the photographs turned out nicely.
Squamish Photography Rocks #3 – The Water!
One of the great things about living in a province like British Columbia is the amount of water. It’s everywhere. There is an ocean, the pacific. Too many rivers and streams to keep count over. My favourite thing about several rivers and streams is that in mountainous terrain that means waterfalls. The drive from Squamish to Vancouver has some awesome waterfalls along the way. Shannon Falls (just south of Squamish), which is visible on the right side of the double rainbow photo above, makes it hard to keep your eyes on the road as you pass it.
About 30 minutes north of Squamish and 20 minutes south of Whistler sits Brandywine falls. The river crashes over a crumbling hole in the earth into the bowl below. It’s worth a stop no matter what time of year or what the weather (they do close the gates to the park for the winter months).
As I mentioned, these are just a few of the reasons that make this area incredible. The list of reasons could go on. Next time I bring up the reasons Squamish photography rocks I’ll probably mention things like eagles, mountains, mountain biking, kite-surfing, rock-climbing, lakes, forests…well you get the point.
For a long time now, after seeing a lot of photos pop up on the web, I have wanted to attempt shooting a Wanaka Milky Way. I was lucky enough to have a trip planned to New Zealand’s South Island back in August. I couldn’t wait. Due to catching a cold upon arrival, I spent the first couple of days laying low. After a while, towards the end of the week I was good to go. I spent the night roaming the sights of Wanaka looking for places to shoot the sky. It was clear and vibrant. I couldn’t have asked for a better night. Therefore, I was racing around doing my best to capture as many shots as possible.
The moon was above the horizon until about 1 AM. I actually thought it was going to set an hour earlier. As a result, I ended up sitting at ‘The Neck’ on Lake Wanaka, about 50 minutes from Wanaka itself, waiting for the moon to set.
Once the moon set, however, it was game on. For awhile I completely forgot about the sub-zero temperatures. Lost in my own world, snapping away, practicing, experimenting and trying not to breathe on the lens, the time flew by. It was only after I took this panorama near Glendhu Bay that I realized how cold I was. It was 4 or 5 AM and I figured it was time to head to bed.
The quote at the end of this post reminds me of that night.
Thinking of the stars night after night I begin to realize ‘The stars are words’ and all the innumerable worlds in the Milky Way are words, and so is this world too. And I realize that no matter where I am, whether in a little room full of thought, or in this endless universe of stars and mountains, it’s all in my mind – Jack Kerouac
What an experience. I can’t wait to get back to Wanaka to try it once again. Maybe next year.
There are so many reasons why country NSW is worth a visit. The vibrant night sky sits at the top of that list. Once you get away from the city lights and pollution of the open cut mines the sky truly dazzles. Once out there, step outside and let your eyes adjust. After a while, it is easy to get lost in the infinite little specks that dot the velvet sky. It’s almost incomprehensible.
Take a moment to try and fathom the size of it all. The closest star (besides our sun) is 4.2 light years from Earth. Light takes an average of 8 minutes 20 seconds to travel from the Sun to Earth travelling at almost 3 million metres per second. Light covers a distance of 149.6 million kilometres (average distance of the Sun to the Earth) in just 8 minutes 20 seconds. By the time 4.2 light years has passed and the light from Proxima Centauri (the closest star to us) reaches Earth it has travelled a measly 40.14 trillion kilometres. Can you comprehend that? I certainly struggle to. I’ll repeat that is 46 140 000 000 000 kilometres.
If that wasn’t enough, beyond Proxima Centauri is a lot more. Infinitely more. It boggles the mind. It makes one feel amazingly insignificant on Earth. We are but a tiny, inconsequential blip on the universal radar. From another planet or stars point of view, we are just one of those little dots that litter the sky. This is just a fraction of what runs through my mind when I get lost looking at the night sky. Then it all gets too much so I try to find the four constellations that I recognised, locate them and begin the whole baffling thought process again.
Try it some time and one of the best places to do so is in the darkness of country NSW. Be sure to check out the video below.