Alaska Highway – Blackstone Territorial Park, Northwest Territories

Blackstone Territorial Park, is a small campground located approximately 115km north of Fort Liard, and 166km south of Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, Canada. The park is located on the bank of the Liard River and is the starting/ending point for many paddle trips and river rafters from Nahanni National Park. From the shores of the Liard River one can see the very popular Nahanni Mountain Range.

These photos from a road trip from Yellowknife to Whitehorse road trip, passing through Blackstone Territorial Park on Aug 3rd-4th, 2013. All photos on this page taken with a Nikon D700 and Nikon 14-24mm lens.

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View of the Nahanni Mountain Range from the Visitors Centre
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Enjoying the view over the Liard River and Nahanni Mountain Range from the Visitors Centre
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Walking along fallen trees along the shoreline of the Liard River
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Typical view of the Liard Highway. Yes – it is a gravel road

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The NWT is on Fire !

At last count there are 130 forest fires in the Northwest Territories.

Check out the image below to see where they are.Canada.A2014183.1845.1km Satellite image from July 2, 2014.

Click here to go to the NASA webpage.

 

A couple of photos of Canadair Cl-215 water bombers that are being used to fight some of the forest fires, and a Beechcraft ‘Birddog’ airplanes for fire attach planning and flight safety.  The photos were taken in Yellowknife a couple of years ago while putting out a fire at the City landfill. All photos taken using a Nikon D700 and manual focus Leica Telyt 400mm f/6.8 lens with a Leitax adapter.

 

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Twin Pine Hill – one of best places to enjoy a scenic view of Old town Yellowknife, and Great Slave Lake.

Twin Pine Hill – one of best places to enjoy a scenic view of Old town Yellowknife, and Great Slave Lake. These 360 degree panoramas were created from photos taken on May 18th, 2014.

In this view, Old Town is in the distance, to the north. Franklin Avenue (center of photo) separates Peace River Flats and Willow Flats (right side) and continues to Latham Island and N’Dilo in the distance. If you look carefully, the melted remnants of the Snow Castle can be seen, along with house boaters commuting across the ice, and a even a kite skier behind the houseboats.

Click on the image for a larger view.

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

In this image, along the ridge to the southeast of the previous photo, Old Town (Willow Flats) is on the far left. The road winding up the hill is School Draw, an the remains of a recently burnt house can be seen in the center part of the photo.

Click on the image for a larger view.

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

These panoramas were created by combining 5 photos (4 photos at 90 degrees to each other, and the fifth taken straight down at my feet to fill in a gap), using a Nikon D700, a ‘shaved’ Samyang 8mm lens with a custom built panorama head see Making Panoramas with a DIY Panoramic Head and a Monopole. The hardest part of making these panoramas was photoshopping out all the garbage and smashed bottles…

Making Panoramas with a DIY Panoramic Head and a Monopole

These notes describe the tools and technique that I use to create 360 and spherical panoramas. If you are interested in producing high resolution landscape or architectural panoramas – this is not for you as these types of panoramas require different tools (panorama heads, tripods and lenses). Check out the links below on tools and techniques to create high resolution and architectural (including interior) panoramas.

360 degree panoramas are best described as panoramas that cover up to 360 degrees in a single, super wide image, whereas Spherical panoramas can be described as the viewing of a seamless 360 degree panorama that is displayed on a interactive viewer (e.g. QuickTime VR, Flash or HTML5), and allows the observer (i.e. You) to interactively pan left or right, up and down and zoom in or out to look at the scene in different directions. The end result of spherical panoramas, is to give the observer the feeling of actually “Being there and looking around”.

The first step in making spherical panoramas is to create a seamless 360 photograph, that is wrapped in a sphere or cylinder. There are different methods to capture the separate photos that are stitched to create the seamless 360 degree image; ranging from more accurate (panoramic heads with lens specific clicks) to free hand (dangling a weight from a string over a specific feature on the ground). All methods require that the camera is rotated through an imaginary point ‘entrance pupil’ near the front of the lens to avoid (or minimize) visual off-set (parallax) when stitching the photos. Generally, the fewer images to stitch the less effect of parallax.

The tools that I use include a Nikon D700 camera, Samyang 8mm f/3.5 lens, a very simply DIY (make-it-yourself) panorama head, remote cable, and a monopole. Previously I did not use a panorama head, and simply mounted the camera to the monopole using the tripod screw on the base of the camera. This method works well as long there are no objects close to the lens (i.e. wide open areas), which cause parallax. Now, with a simple DIY panorama head (total cost approx. $10.00) there are fewer problems with parallax. Do note – that these tools and techniques work for me, and may not work for you, nor is this technique necessarily the correct or most accurate.

From top to bottom, I use the following camera gear and tools.

  1. Nikon D700
  2. Cable release
  3. Modified Samyang 8mm f/3.5 lens. I cut off the plastic lens hood to maximize the field of view. Similar lenses are sold as Rokinon and Bower.
  4. DIY panorama head (details on construction below).
  5. Manfrotto Bogen compatible umbrella swivel and Manfrotto 200PL-14 Quick Release Plate.
  6. Kacey adapter to mount the Manfrotto quick release to a standard paint pole type extension pole. The adapter has a 5/8 standard strobe pin on top and standard extension pole threads (3/4 x 5 threads per inch) on the bottom. Kacey website.
  7. Monopole (extendable painters pole), purchased at a hardware store.

Assembling the DIY Panoramic Head

My initial plan for a DIY panorama head was piece of metal plate that attached at one end to the camera tripod screw the the other end extending to the entrance pupil of the lens. However, the thought of the relatively heavy Nikon D700 bouncing up and down on the metal plate deterred that plan. Plans then turned to some way of attaching the front of the lens directly to the monopole. Then I found a muffler clamp. Sliding the muffler clamp over the entrance pupil of the lens – it was a close fit, and the U-shaped clamp only had to be widened by approximately 0.5cm. Scrap UHMW plastic was used to fill in gaps between the lens and the muffler clamp. A sheet of scrap metal (steel) was cut and drilled for the base, and two ¼ thread nuts are used to tighten the muffler clamp (finger tightened only). A coat of black automotive paint and adding the Manfrotto Quick Release Plate – then done !.

Total cost approx $10.00.

Note that the axis of rotation passes through the centre of the lens and the Nodal Point (entrance pupil).

Camera settings

These are the camera settings that I use;

1) File format set to ‘Raw’ 

2) Exposure mode set to ‘Manual’ – Set shutter speed minimum 1/30, aperture f/5.6 to f/10 depending on light conditions. Determine exposure for average light reading, not with lens pointed at the sun.

3) Set focus to manual

4) Set camera to full frame mode

Shooting Technique

To make my life easier, I always use the same lens and camera combination for spherical panoramas. With the shaved Samyang 8mm, I shoot four images each at 90 degrees apart (camera level).

  1. Camera settings as above
  2. Test photos of the scene to set exposure
  3. Walk to desired location, place the monopole on the ground. Remember the starting direction.
  4. Press shutter and rotate 90 degrees to the right (clockwise).
  5. Stabilize monopole, repeat 90 degree rotation and press shutter,
  6. Continue until back to starting point
  7. Done…walk away Click on the photo below to see it bigger.Depending on the scene, I might add two additional photos:
  8. Step back and take a Nadir shot (-90) by holding the monopole at arms length and point camera down to where the monopole was rotated in previous steps, at approximately the same height as the monopole, to create a foot-free image and,
  9. Take a Zenith or straight up (+90 degrees) shot  by tilting the camera up 90º (approximately over the rotation point), duck down, and shoot it. Zenith shots are only taken when in an enclosed space.

One I have the four (or six) photos, they are loaded into PTGui software to create the seamless 360 degree panorama and the spherical panorama. Check the links below for how to use PTGui software.  PTGui saves the spherical panorama as a Flash (.swf) movie that can be displayed on a website.

Examples of Flash (.swf) movies

A view of the inside of the Snowking’s Castle, during the 19th annual Snowking Winter Festival. Click on the image for a larger view.  To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.
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The view from the top of the Castle, and the “Deadman’s slide”. Click on the image for a larger view.

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

Bullocks Bistro, in Old Town Yellowknife serves up the best fish in town, and is often featured on CBC Arctic Air.  Can’t think of too many restaurants that actually let you, and encourage you to leave your mark on the ceilings and walls !.

SCH_3491 Panorama-2_TM-TB Click on the image to see it bigger.
To view a 360 degree animation of this scene, Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

Everyone’s favorite place to be on a hot sunny day….The Beer Garden (2012 Folk on the Rocks)

To view the 360 degree animation of “Snake People” in the Beer Gargen . Click Here This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view.

‘Aurora in B&W’

‘Aurora in B&W’. Ok- I know what you are thinking…’Surely there is a law against posting Aurora photos in black and white’, and do spare me the threats of a lawsuit.Use your imagination. A crisp clear winter evening, the aurora are dancing all across the sky. As you stare at the aurora, they speed up and slow down, they fade and grow into bright vibrant colors of green, magenta and thin streaks of white on the lower edges of the aurora. You see shapes of fire, faces and figures that at times seem to be waving. Your world is above you. There are no thoughts of yesterday or plans for tomorrow, your mind is in the present.Even a photo in color cannot give you a feeling of being there. You need to experience the aurora with your own eyes, and see the colors in your own mind.

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Pilot’s Monument, Yellowknife

Pilot’s Monument is the best place to go for a scenic view of Yellowknife Bay, Old Town, with its unique character and Downtown Yellowknife (actually up the hill from Old Town). After climbing the stairs to the top of the hill, the view is spectacular. At the top there is a brass plaque as a tribute to northern pilots.

In this image, downtown Yellowknife is directly under the sun on the right side of the image. Pilot’s Monument is in the middle of the photo, and Back Bay is on the far left.

Click on the image for a larger view.

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

Camera gear: Nikon D700 and a Peleng 8mm lens on a custom monopole. Six pictures were combined to create the panorama images on this page.

Bullocks Bistro – Yellowknife’s Best Known Fish Restaurant

Bullocks Bistro, in Old Town Yellowknife serves up the best fish in town, and is often featured on CBC Arctic Air.  Can’t think of too many restaurants that actually let you, and encourage you to leave your mark on the ceilings and walls !.

SCH_3491 Panorama-2_TM-TB Click on the image to see it bigger.
To view a 360 degree animation of this scene, Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

 

Camera gear: Nikon D700 and a Peleng 8mm lens on a custom monopole. Four pictures were combined to create the panorama images on this page.

Folk on the Rocks (FOTR)

 

Folk on the Rock (FOTR) started as a small gig in 1980, and has now considered to be one of Canada’s BEST music and cultural festivals.

Highlights include artists and musicians from across the north, across Canada and international all coming together for a weekend of musical and cultural magic on six separate stages. FOTR is held on the third weekend of July, in Yellowknife.

 

A split view of the Main Stage.

 

A view of the Cultural Stage. Click on the image for a larger view.

 

To view a 360 degree animation of this scene, Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.

“Little Planet” view of the Kids Stage. Click on the image for a larger view. Click ‘back’ on your browser to return to this page.
View a 360 degree animation of the Main Stage, Click Here.  Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view.

 

“Little Planet” view of the Main Stage. Click on the image for a larger view. Click ‘back’ on your browser to return to this page.

 

 

 

To view a 360 degree animation of “And the woman said” on Stage Left. Click Here This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view.

Everyone’s favorite place to be on a hot sunny day….The Beer Garden

To view the 360 degree animation of “Snake People” in the Beer Gargen . Click Here This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view.

To view the 360 degree animation of “Hot Vibrator” in the Beer Garden. Click Here This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view.

 

 

 

“Little Planet” view of the Beer Garden. Click on the image for a larger view. Click ‘back’ on your browser to return to this page.

 

 

 

 

Camera gear: Nikon D700 and Samyang/Bower 8mm on a monopole. Four pictures were combined to create the panorama images on this page.

Old Town Yellowknife – from MacEvoy Rock

To celebrate May Day (May 1st) and the coming of spring, I headed up MacEvoy Rock in Yellowknife’s Old Town. Of the two hills in Old Town, Pilot’s Monument is higher and far more popular that MacEvoy Rock. For creating panoramas and a quite place to hang out, MacEvoy Rock suits me perfectly.

In this image, downtown Yellowknife is directly under the sun on the right side of the image. Pilot’s Monument is in the middle of the photo, and Back Bay is on the far left.

Click on the image for a larger view.

 

Click ‘back’ on your browser to return to this page.

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view.

Compare to Panorama from July 12, 2011.

Camera gear: Nikon D700 and Nikon 20mm/2.8 lens on a monopole. 12 pictures were combined to create the panorama images.

Kite Skiing: Tips for Beginners

A few weeks ago and kite skiing friend (Chris – not his real name) mentioned that he was going to sell his kite –
“Why” I asked, “kiting is an awesome sport, what’s up”

Chris, is an emergency room doctor and over the past few months had seen several patients with serious kite skiing related head injuries. For Chris, the thrill of kite skiing was gone, replaced with the fear of a head injury.

As an avid kite skier, I had to know what had caused these injuries, and why were so many people getting seriously injured. Without providing specific details, Chris mentioned that the four casualties were all relatively new to the sport of kite skiing. Thinking back to when I started kite skiing 10 years ago, yes, I did have more accidents. Some of those accidents were due to the sport being new to Yellowknife and the lack of experienced kite skiers, some accidents due to my lack of experience, and other accidents related to doing stunts (e.g. intentionally getting lifted). Also, the kite that I purchased on-line was a whopping 4.9m (square meters). At the time, this was considered ‘far too big, and I would get hurt’. Fortunately, none of my crashes were serious and I quickly gained sills and experience.

Ten years later, I am still using that same kite. The kiting scene in Yellowknife has changed dramatically; more kiters, there is a licensed kite school and the kites are now 12 to 20 meters in area. You can’t even buy a kite as small as mine anymore. Nowadays, the kites are very different in design than my now vintage kite. A suitable analogy would be, my kite as a 1950’s sports car and modern kites akin to a Ford 350; big, powerful and with extra features like cruise control and airbags. Really, those new kites are big and powerful and can actually be flown with one hand !

So, going back to why have there been four serious kite skiing head injuries during the past few months ?. I don’t think we will ever know exactly what happened, and it would not be fair of me to speculate on what happened.

Instead, I’ve created a list of 10 tips to pass on to beginner kite skiers. These are based on personal experience of 10 yeas of kite skiing, and conversations with other, experienced kite skiers.

  1. Always wear a Helmet: Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury when your head comes down hard on the snow.
  2. Watch the Clouds: Fast moving clouds are a warning that a wind pattern is imminent.
  3. Know your Wind Limit: Know your wind comfort zone and if the wind gets too strong, then pack up and go home.
  4. Watch for Obstructions: Keep your eyes on the path in front of you and do no watch only kite. Hitting a snowbank at high speed can be very painful.
  5. Stay Away from Bare Ice: The metal edges of skis (or snowboards) are not designed for ice. In a strong wind, they will slide out from under you.
  6. Use a Safety Harness: If you suddenly are overpowered by the wind and are out of control, a safety harness, connected to your break lines gives you the ability to completely let go of your kite and it will not blow away.
  7. Learn the Rules of Kite Skiing: Although the link refers to kite surfing, the rules and concepts are the same for kite skiing.
  8. Do Not Attempt Stunts until you have mastered the basic techniques.
  9. Icy Snow, epically after a thaw and freeze cycle is unforgiving. Sharp snow can shred your kite and you, and is really fast. I usually wait until the snow has softened. Your knees will than you.
  10. Get a lesson or two from a licensed instructor.

Have fun.