Star of the show

The star of the show, a white fawn lily in full bloom.

I’ve been itching to get back to Lighthouse Park to photograph the fawn lilies this year, especially as some of my Instagram friends have been posting lovely fawn lily photos of their own, but I’ve been waiting for a fine day as it’s no fun trying to get flower photos when it’s dull and light levels are low. Not that it was easy taking this photo as the flowers were constantly swaying in the breeze – I had to time my shots for when a flower stopped moving for that brief moment.

This was just a quick visit to the park really for me to be able to get at least one decent photo of this year’s bloom. Of course I can’t resist going back with a little more time to take a few more…

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Still winter

In the winter, it’s the mountains that take centre stage at Joffre Lakes. Slalok looks mighty impressive here, as did the enormous pile of avalanche debris that had travelled part way across the lake.

So peaceful, so still. That was how we felt when we broke through the trees onto the snow-covered Upper Joffre Lake. We found a spot to sit and enjoyed lunch with this view before wandering across the lake towards the campground. I love how the snow smooths out all the terrain features, covering all the boulders and rocks. I’ve viewed many photos of such scenes from backcountry skiers but I have to admit it was something else to see it with my own eyes, and that had me contemplating ways to get out in the winter backcountry some more. It all looked so inviting, especially the route up towards Tszil and Taylor. Deceptively benign-looking on a warm spring day, though the massive chunks of avalanche debris told a different story.

Now I must digress onto a rant. Please, please, please, PLEASE stop feeding the whisky jacks (or any other cute critter that comes looking for food). They have become a real nuisance and will take food from your hand whether you want them to or not. Within seconds of us getting out our lunch yesterday, we were dive-bombed by two birds that snatched a portion of what we were holding from our grasp. Birds carry some really unpleasant diseases (bird flu anyone?), so I really don’t want to eat anything that they’ve touched. Any food they did come into contact with, goes into my garbage so it’s a lose-lose and both of us go hungry.

No ordinary bunny

Not saying it’s cold in Canada but I just saw the Easter bunny…. Well OK I admit it – this photo was actually taken one February a few years ago 🙂

Every winter we see the evidence of their existence – quartets of paw prints in the snow – but only rarely have we seen them. Our best encounter was this one while cross-country skiing at the Whistler Olympic Park back in 2009. I guess it hadn’t really worked out that it had a dark background behind it as it just sat there was as long as we wanted to take photos, presumably thinking it was well-camouflaged against the surrounding snow. I don’t think it moved a muscle until we skied off. Very cute!

A moment of colour

Last night’s sunset when the sun peeked under the clouds for a few short minutes before dropping below the horizon.

I’m sure I’ve commented on this before, but it seems to happen quite often in Vancouver that a grey day ends with a brief spell of intense sunset colour. We were walking back towards the car after a wander from Jericho to Locarno Beach when we noticed the sun had dipped under the cloud layer, lighting up everything around us a dusky pink. We walked down to the water’s edge, the tide just beginning to recede after peaking an hour earlier, and watched the waves lap against the shore, the white foamy tips of each breaking wave casting a fleeting mountain-like shadow on the wet sand which reflected the deep coloured sunlight, the underside of the cloud deck now lit up a fiery pink. So pretty.

I took a couple of dozen shots hoping to capture the right wave, but none really worked. In the end I liked this composition – though this version is cropped for the Instagram format, which weakens the line of the water that I had carefully placed across the image (in the full image the water’s edge extends to the bottom right of the frame)… Oh well. The original will go up on Flickr at some point!

Mount Harvey

A view of Mt Harvey and its sheer north face, the site of a heartbreaking tragedy this past weekend where 5 snowshoers died when a cornice collapsed beneath them. My thoughts go out to their families and friends, especially to the surviving member of that group. I’ve often wondered about tackling Mt Harvey in the winter, but I’ve always had those cornices (and my relative inexperience in winter backcountry travel) at the back of my mind, which has always led me to leave it for another day.

My heart sank when I heard that SAR teams had been called out to an incident on Mt Harvey. My immediate thoughts were that someone triggered a cornice collapse and had fallen several hundred metres. Sadly I was right, except it was worse because five people were involved. Perhaps the only reason that the sixth member of the group survived was that they had slowed down on the ascent and reached the summit later than the others. What an awful realization that must be.

A tragic reminder that the local mountains can be as deadly as they are beautiful.

Trillium

Western trillium is flowering now in Campbell Valley regional park. A nice quiet walk in the rain this morning: now to dry out the camera… And shoes!

I had vague recollections of trillium growing in Campbell Valley regional park (which were confirmed by me looking back at our Flickr photos from 2008), and seeing as I was out that way I decided to head over and go look for them. For once I remembered to put in the tripod and I was determined to actually use it too!

I took this shot with our Nikon D3200 – and yes, on said tripod – and I have to admit I’m really pleased with it, so much so that it’s actually restored my faith in our SLRs. I’ve been getting a bit fed up with our SLRs lately as I’m convinced the newer 18-55 doesn’t work too well on our (aging) D5000, our 55-200 has probably been dropped one too many times, and the D3200 doesn’t focus as reliably as the D5000. On top of that, our little Sony RX100II has been superb – when it’s in focus, it’s really in focus, and the image quality is great even at 100%. Plus it fits in a pocket. (I’ve probably taken more photos with that camera over the past year than with the SLR.)

Ever since we bought the D3200 I’ve felt that it’s been a simultaneously under- and over-specced camera. Under-specced in the sense that the number of focus points is small (leaving huge gaps between focus points), and over-specced when it comes to the 24 megapixel sensor. The problem with having 24 megapixels is that the camera has to be held really steady for it to be sharp at 100%, and for the most part, we shoot handheld and often in relatively poor light. Couple that with the uneven performance of the ultrawide Sigma 10-20 mm and we often came home with mis-focused, blurred, or otherwise less-than-sharp images. The best thing going for the D3200 is that it is light, and that we can occasionally get good enough shots to print quite large (36×12 and 20×16 are our largest so far).

And so it was with a little trepidation that I mounted the 18-55 on the D3200 and took it out flower-photographing. Even with the tripod, my hopes were not especially high. But I have to say that in addition to all the usual crappy shots I took today, when the camera got it right, it absolutely nailed it perfectly. My aim was to come home with one photo I was happy with: I have at least 3 to choose from now. Any issues I had were really more down to the fact that it was raining, so I couldn’t take too much time, and that the tripod was too short and too fiddly to get some of the compositions I was after (I only had my GorillaPod).

My only complaint with getting today’s shot is that a tilting screen would have really helped get the composition right. That and a new pair of eyes that can focus on something less than 2 feet from my nose…! I should probably also get an umbrella to shield the camera from the rain too.

Coltsfoot close up

I hadn’t appreciated just how cute the tiny florets of palmate coltsfoot could be, especially since it’s quite a straggly-looking plant that favours wet, swampy conditions

I was pleased to find this flower a few years back (and posted a photo last spring as well) on account of it being a favourite of a late friend of ours, but I had to admit I didn’t really see the attraction. It doesn’t grow in pretty areas – I’ve mostly found it in boggy ditches – the flower head looks kinda messy, like it’s unravelling, and the overall impression is of an unforgettable flower. So when I saw them growing this year along the Capilano Pacific trail, I stooped to take a few snapshots (more out of a sense of duty than anything else) but didn’t really pay close attention to what I was photographing.

It was only when I got home and looked through the handful of photos that I realized what I’d got: for once, I’d captured the coltsfoot flower at the moment it actually blooms. All I’d seen before was just the pre-bloom flower when the florets look like budding dandelions (or similar). The tiny pink-and-white florets are really quite pretty little star-like flowers. So maybe that’s why our friend liked them so much? Either way, it’s given me a whole new appreciation of this flower, and I’ll be on the lookout for its alpine relative when it blooms later in the year.