It’s that time of year again. As Fall turns into Winter, the skies are grey more often than not, the temperature drops, and it rains a lot. This year we’ve even seen a pretty good amount of snow. I often struggle a bit in Winter, both with mood and motivation, but one thing that I do love about this season is the fantastic lighting displays that are created in and around Vancouver.
One event I enjoy every year is the Burnaby Village Museum’s Heritage Christmas. This free event has something for the whole family. There’s a variety of entertainment, a scavenger hunt for the kids, and fantastic vintage themed lighting displays.
This light display in the Bandstand is sound activated and changes colours which is fun when the Village gets busy.
This year there are musicians scheduled throughout the day and evening – here’s the Irish “choir master” leading the crowd in a sing-along at the bandstand.
There are also heritage carol singers roving through the Village.
The scavenger hunt requires some looking in windows and careful observation of the displays.
Father Christmas is onsite as well.
There is a lot to see and do, no matter what the time of day or the weather. I really enjoy the warming heritage atmosphere, even in the snow!
This year Heritage Christmas runs from November 19, 2016 – January 2, 2017 (closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Check it out. Just remember, it’s cold when the sun goes down so dress warmly and, as always, have fun.
Enchant, the world’s largest Christmas light maze, has opened in Vancouver. We attended the Premier Media event to see the lighting of the 60+ foot Christmas tree and to experience all that Enchant had to offer.
So how was it?
I’ll start by saying the light displays are awesome. The Media Premiere came after a huge storm the night before that saw the venue suffer some opening setbacks, and it poured with rain while we were there, but even so, we loved the light displays.
As perfect as we wanted the evening to be (especially for photos and video), remember that this year, November in Vancouver is proving to be extremely wet so you should definitely dress for the weather. Umbrellas are ok but the organisers are expecting thousands of people so the venue is likely to be crowded. I’d recommend dressing for the weather; rain boots, raincoats, hoods, toques, and gloves. The terrain of the maze is wood-chip which is generally great for soaking up water, but having experienced it after a storm and during a deluge, I would say that while the site is accessible, it’s not easily so. If you are bringing a stroller, go for an all-terrain one or leave the stroller at home and use a carrier. For those with wheelchairs or scooters, the terrain would be quite challenging if wet. Not impossible, but very challenging.
Kids will love it. The printed card that you get when you enter is like a scavenger hunt. Find all 9 of Santa’s reindeer within the maze, get your card stamped at each one and, once completed, exit knowing you have helped save Christmas. There’s a whole story to the saving of Christmas and a storybook you can buy as well.
Santa is onsite too which is fun.
There is food available for purchase with 12 food trucks on site. We love Disco Cheetah so that’s where we beelined, but there were other good eats as well – tacos, hot dogs, pub fare, mini donuts, glow-in-the-dark cotton candy etc. There’s also a covered area with some seating and a bar that serves a variety of winter warming beverages – the mulled wine was great on a cold, wet evening. There are not a lot of sheltered areas though so if it’s wet and crowded this could be a problem. There’s live entertainment in the tent area – on our night Topline Vocal Collective performed and they were outstanding.
The Marketplace is a large covered tent area worth checking out. Over 40 local vendors are featured so it could be a great place to do a little Christmas shopping. Support local!
Enchant Vancouver is located in the Olympic Village at W1st Ave & Crowe St, just East of Cambie. There is a parking area right next to the entrance of Enchant, but that’s for staff. Go about a block further East and there’s a larger lot with free parking. There are parking people at the entrance to direct you, but the lot has no lights and no signage at the entrance so I think many people simply didn’t know it was there.
Enchant Vancouver is on now until December 31st. Ticket prices are as follows:
Adult tickets 16+ $19.95
Child 6-15 years $14.95
Seniors 65+ $14.95
Family Pass $59.95 (2 adults & up to 3 children)
The big question – is it worth it? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. I think that the lights are really good, the concept is great and perhaps next year with a few kinks ironed out, this could become one of Vancouver’s regular go-to events. As I’m all about photography it was definitely on my must-see list and with that in mind, my only real complaint was the weather, but hey, we live in RainCity, right?
If you are going, or if you have been, let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
The Perseid Meteor Shower happens every year from mid-July as the Earth passes through the debris trail of the Swift-Tuttle comet. This year the meteor shower was visible between August 7-12 with peak viewing on the night of August 11. We decided to head up Burnaby Mountain to check it out. So did half of Vancouver and it was really crowded when we arrived at about 12:30am. Luckily many people were already packing up to leave and within 45 mins it had emptied out considerably.
It was bit cloudy for perfect meteor viewing so instead of trying to capture meteors I decided to try out the live composite function on my Olympus O-MD E-M5II and capture star trails. Live Composite is very very cool. Essentially in this mode the camera takes a series of photos and stacks them in camera to create one image. With each successive shot, only new light is added to the original image which prevents overexposure in the brightest part of the picture. You can see the image developing on the LCD screen as it happens which means you can stop the process when the image reaches a point that you are happy with it.
The image below took about 15 minutes to make and is a stack of about 80 or so images.
The orange glow on the left and right are clouds. The totems were lit by the headlights of cars as they circled around to leave the mountain. Ordinarily, any kind of random uncontrolled light is not desirable in this kind of image but in this case, I was happy with the side light painting the totems as it gave them colour and texture and gave the image depth. This was my second attempt at this shot. My first effort is below and is an example of what can go wrong.
Remember I said each shot added new light to the image? When the man in red stood in my shot and waved his flashlight around his light was added to the photo. It was dark and he was just trying to find his way back to his car, but it was a little frustrating as the shot was already over 10 minutes into creation. A really cool feature of the Olympus Live Composite mode is that I could see this as soon as it happened, abandon the shot and start over. For my second try, I recomposed a little higher to avoid people wandering through and kept my fingers on the cable release just in case. The result was a shot I am pretty happy with.
The following night we went to Porteau Cove to try again. While we did see a few meteors I decided to have another go with Live Composite. This time, I did not compose with a foreground element in the image, opting instead for the horizon line. Porteau Cove is extremely dark and has really good star visibility which resulted in a much denser set of trails. This shot is about 150 images stacked together and took about 25 minutes to create. Look closely and you can see a couple of meteors as they streak in a different direction to the star trails.
Due to the extreme darkness, it was impossible to use autofocus so I manually set the focus to infinity. I shot all of these images on the Olympus O-MD E-M5II with the Olympus 17mm 1.8 lens. This lens has focus markers which make it easier to set to a certain focus distance. If you have a lens without distance markers or without a hard stop at infinity you could find infinity focus during the daytime and add a piece of tape or use a permanent marker to mark the exact spot on the barrel of your lens.
Stacking photos for star trails can be done manually in Photoshop or by using software such as StarStax, but what I absolutely love about the Olympus Live Composite mode is, well, it’s live. It saves time, does a great job and also creates an ORF, an Olympus raw file, which means you can edit for colour, contrast etc afterwards. This feature is nothing short of awesome and is just one of many reasons I love my micro four thirds camera.
To use Live Composite mode for star trails you will need a stable tripod. I’d also recommend a cable release so you don’t nudge the camera when starting or stopping the shot. You’ll need a wide angle lens with a wide aperture of at least 2.8. The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm 1.8 is awesome but I would also like to try out the 12mm f2 or a fisheye. I set my exposure for each shot to 10 seconds which kept the stars sharp, but this will vary depending on how dark it is and what you are trying to achieve. Try a few single exposures first to get your settings. Then, get creative and watch your image as it appears!