With our location and dark skies here in British Columbia, we are blessed to see many astronomical wonders such as meteor showers, the milky way and the aurora borealis. The latest of these was the Neowise Comet that passed through our skies in July. The Neowise Comet is considered the brightest comet that can be seen from the Northern Hemisphere since the Hale-Bopp Comet in 1997. It travels at 144,000 miles per hour and only comes around every 6,800 years.
Adding a comet to their portfolio is every astrophotographers’ dream, including mine. I had done my research beforehand and I learned where to locate the comet. It was going to be brightest on the week of July 19-25. It was to be found just south of the big dipper and a little to the right. I prepared my flashlights, tripod, camera and lenses and configured my settings before going to the spots where I wanted to capture the comet.
On my first night, I went to Britannia Beach in Squamish, BC which is about an hour from Vancouver. I arrived just after sunset at 9:30 pm and there were plenty of people already. Some were fellow photographers, campers and people who were just curious to see the comet. It’s important to go to the location early to give yourself time to look for interesting subjects, foregrounds and backgrounds and to visualize your compositions. Once I had a good idea of what I wanted to capture, I positioned myself by the shore and started taking photos at around 11:30 pm.
My first photo was a straight shot of the comet in the sky to show more details of its tail.
For the second photo, I included the silhouette of the mountains beneath the comet for a more balanced composition.
For the third photo, I included the reflection of the mountains in the waters of Howe Sound. The lights coming from campers on the other side of the beach also added scale to the composition.
For my second night, I went to Spanish Banks in Vancouver, BC. I’ve done astrophotography there before and I knew it gets dark on the west side of the beach. This time, I wanted to take photos about an hour after sunset so I can also capture the orange afterglow from the sun over the horizon. At around 10:30 pm, the comet still wasn’t visible to the naked eye. However, using a long exposure, the camera was able to capture the comet.
In this first shot, I included a lone tree by the shore that I thought would make a good foreground element to balance the comet in the background.
This second photo is the comet over Vancouver Island.
For the third shot, I framed the comet and the beach with trees on both sides of the photo.
The Neowise Comet was a once-in-a-lifetime event and it was a thrill to see and photograph it. It certainly did not disappoint.
Art Calapatia is a landscape photographer based in Vancouver, BC. To see more of his work, go to www.ambientlens.com