Cinnamon

Cinnamon black bear munching on grass at the roadside, the third of four bears we saw on a mini road trip back in June

I love seeing bears in the wild, and despite the years of hiking and backpacking in North America (totalling close to 500 hikes), we’ve seen way more bears from the car than on foot. I can think of maybe 10 occasions that we saw a bear on the trail, and maybe only about half of those could be classified as encounters, the others being merely sightings at a distance.

The challenges of taking a good bear photo from the car include being able to shoot through an open window (without getting someone’s head or part of the door mirror in the frame), holding the camera steady enough in a car whose engine is still running (tip: don’t lean on the car!), and other passengers shifting around in the car! If you can deal with that, then you can be sure the camera will decide to focus on the grass instead of the bear… Thankfully in this case, the depth of field was just enough to keep the bear in focus too.

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Window seat

Home again after an all-too-short but wonderful family visit. Garibaldi Lake and the Barrier as seen from our seats in the middle of the plane. Anyone with a window seat not staring out of the window at this point should forfeit their seats! πŸ™‚

Despite not having window seats, we were delighted to see this familiar view from the plane as we descended into Vancouver. While I would have preferred an unobstructed view, I’m pleased that I was at least able to make a feature of the aircraft window, and that I had enough of a zoom to focus on the scene outside. Initially, I kept the camera in my usual aperture-priority mode, but when I realized that it was consistently giving me about 1/125 s exposure, I just dialled that in using manual mode, which meant the camera didn’t have to spend time re-metering the scene just because I’d moved the camera away from the window.

And of course, I have to count on a little bit of luck, namely that the person in the window seat was glued to it taking loads of pictures of their own. Thankfully, they were content to just take one or two. If that had been me, I suspect no one else would have been able to get a shot in…

Cape Scott

A few days ago I finally completed my write-up of our 6-day trip to Cape Scott, already a year ago now! Although I’d published the summary post soon after returning home, it took months for us to sift through all the photos and for me to rediscover our notes to help me write up each day on the trip.

Looking back on a trip it’s sometimes hard to remember just how it made you feel, and when you do remember, was it just euphoria talking or was it really as good a trip as your words say? I quote my opening line: “Wow! I don’t remember the last time a hike so clearly won me over.” And instantly I’m transported back to those big open beaches, the dense forest, and the sense of wilderness.

I think what contributed to how we felt about this trip was the fact that we weren’t expecting to be wowed in the way that spectacular mountain scenes do. The beauty of the place crept up on us and was just there for us to experience. The rest was up to us to be open to that.

If you haven’t done any coastal hiking, then I highly recommend Cape Scott. I would also suggest that you wait for a good weather window, though that is tricky given the logistics of getting there. But it’s worth it. Who can resist such idyllic beach camping?

Nissen Bight, 4 Aug 2016

Triangle

Life will find a foothold wherever it can – a lovely triangular patch of cheery pink moss campion high on Finch Ridge.

Moss campion always catches my eye. It’s one of the few flowers in the high alpine, finding places to grow among rocks and dirt and not much else. Most often, it creates a little pillow of green from which the cerise flowers emerge, though it’s extremely rare for the flowers to cover more than half of the foliage at any one time. Earlier on the day this photo was taken, I found one completely pink patch right in the middle of a field of shattered rock; a real treat. But then I found this little near-equilateral triangle of pink and green, which was just perfect. All I had to do was make sure I stood to one side so my shadow wouldn’t fall across it.

Floral assortment

An assortment of flowers near Mystery Lake for wildflower-Wednesday: bunchberry, paintbrush, and fireweed. I was surprised to find bunchberry still blooming, and this was the first time I’ve seen paintbrush on the North Shore. The fireweed photo is actually from Callaghan Valley (though there was plenty blooming next to the Mt Seymour parking lot), against a backdrop of thick smoke from the BC wildfires.

Guess who just found out how to post a slideshow on Instagram? Yay πŸ™‚ I’ll try not to overuse it, but sometimes it’s nice to include a few photos in a single post to tell a wider story. The only downside is that it looks like the photos are forced to be square and I hadn’t prepared these photos with a square crop on mind, so I don’t feel they’re displayed to their best advantage.

Judging by the freshness of the bunchberry flowers, I’d say the North Shore (or at least that part of Mt Seymour) is about 3 weeks behind its usual bloom. We also saw quite a few fresh Queen’s cup, which was another lovely surprise. But the biggest surprise was the paintbrush: my eye was caught by the orangey-red colour on one of the ski runs, and then I found more along the edge of the open slopes just before we entered the forest. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never seen paintbrush on any of the North Shore mountains, though I have nagging memory of maybe seeing it once before somewhere else on Mt Seymour. I’ll need to scan our (ridiculously large) photo collection to be sure!

The fireweed photo is a bit of a cheat as it was taken the day before but I really wanted to show the smoky atmosphere in the background that couldn’t be seen in the fireweed photos I took in the parking lot. It was bad enough to put us off our original hiking plans…

Red moon

This morning’s smoky full moon about an hour before sunrise. Normally a moon this red would be due to an eclipse, but today it was haze from BC’s wildfires.

So there I was a little before 5 am, standing on our balcony with the camera perched on the wall, angled upwards just enough to get the moon in the centre of the field of view using the neck strap bunched up to form a makeshift wedge.

And the moon was faint! Depending on the ISO setting and how much I underexposed the image, exposure times were anywhere between 1 and 5 seconds. I knew I had to keep it on the lower end so that the moon wouldn’t blur out as the Earth rotated, but I also needed to keep the ISO as low as possible to keep noise under control. (Sharpness and contrast also decrease with increasing the ISO value, especially in a camera of this vintage – 2009) In the end, this photo provided the best compromise on sharpness (the moon was low in the sky which makes getting a sharp image subject to the laws of probability), brightness, and noise.

It maybe wasn’t quite this red to the eye, but it was definitely very red and remarkably dark. While clearly visible, it probably didn’t attract much attention on account of its low brightness. Coincidentally, shortly after sunrise, the moon did actually pass through the Earth’s shadow for a lunar eclipse, although it was not visible in North America (obviously…!).

Disappearing act

Going, going, going…. The sun fades into the smoky murk last night, disappearing from view over half an hour before sunset. We abandoned our hiking plans this weekend because the smoke was really bad near Whistler. Kicking back at home, maybe venturing out for a less strenuous day hike instead. The photos were taken about 7-8 minutes apart – there’s one lone sunspot on the sun right now, maybe just about visible in the first two photos.

I couldn’t resist taking this series of photos as the sun set. I’ve already taken some during the current round of wildfires, but since the smoky conditions rolled in last week I’ve been wanting to capture how quickly the sun fades as drops into the layers of smoke.

After setting up one photo to my liking, I copied those settings (especially the crop – which can’t be defined in pixels in DxO, a major oversight in my opinion) to the other three, re-centred the sun, and adjusted the colour and contrast. My original idea was to match the brightness of the sky, but that led to so weird-looking photos, so in the and I let the sky do what seemed to work best while I concentrated on the sun itself. Apart from the edge-response in the first image where the sun is bright, I’m really quite happy with the way they turned out.

I did take a couple more photos while the sun was barely visible, but these didn’t work – I couldn’t process them in a way that produced an image that showed anything. Thankfully, I don’t think they were needed to demonstrate my point.

On a side note, this didn’t post to Twitter, so I’m guessing that the IFTTT applet I’m using doesn’t support Instagram slideshows. Phooey.