Waiting for sunset

Waiting for sunset on Black Mountain, a good little hike for when you’re getting over a cold. Plus we got to hang out with creeks.and.peaks and her pup Abby – we were all a little chilly by the time we headed back down!

We didn’t get out hiking at all in February, and we paid for it towards the end of the month when we were both struck down with colds. That knocked us out of action for a couple of weeks, and today’s hike was our first attempt at some exercise in well over a month. I struggled on the ascent, stopping often to do battle with a fit of coughing, the cold air and exertion threatening to stop me in my tracks.

Thankfully we had chosen a short hike, and we eventually levelled off on the Black Mountain plateau. As we wandered up to the north summit I recognized Ngaio whom we’d met at Keith’s Hut back in September 2016. We stopped to chat and swap stories of our respective colds.

While the sun was shining, the air was cool and we discussed the possibility of hanging around for an hour to catch the sunset. Somehow we all thought it was worth doing and so we wiled away the time taking photos, chatting, and commiserating with a shivering Abby – poor thing! When the time came, the clouds cleared and the snow turned pink-ish. The colours weren’t very strong, especially to the eye, and by now we were all cold – I was also shivering and having a hard time holding the camera still having decided to leave the tripod at home – and I’m not sure anyone thought it was actually worth our time.

However, when I looked at the photos at home I was pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out. The three above are all square crops from photos taken with my phone (my preferred source for Instagram) and I really like them all. The light in the first one is just lovely, the pink light on the trees looks stunning in the second, while the last light is cast across the uppermost slopes of the mountains in the third. I must admit I’ve gone back to look at these photos multiple times even before I posted them on Instagram.

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Keep your anemones closer!

“Keep your friends close; keep your anemones closer” as seen on a t-shirt at the Seattle aquarium. Not to mention urchins, seastars, giant clams, and other fishy friends.

Aquarium photography is hard. Most things are behind glass that varies from clear to water-splashed to grimy, or are under moving water. There are lights everywhere, reflecting off water and glass alike. But sometimes it’s possible to get an angle that allows a half-decent photo.

The first photo is my favourite, perhaps my second favourite of the day after the close-up of the octopus tentacles. I love the reflection of the anemone in the underside of the surface of the water above it, both for its colour and its striking symmetry. With all the tiny barnacles on the black rock, it’s almost as if it were in outer space…

The second photo is probably my next favourite: the plumose anemones were just so delicate and had so much detail just waiting to be captured. My phone did a really nice job of focusing on the tiny tentacles too. I wasn’t sure what colour to make this. I was tempted to take out the colour caste to make it black and white, but I felt that the picture lost something in the process. The original blue tint felt more natural and more effective somehow.

Next up are some sea urchins in a touch-pool. It wasn’t until we were able to watch some live sand dollars in Parksville that we realized urchins have soft tentacles as well as the well-known hard spines. Very cool! In the touch pool you could place a finger between the spines and have the tentacles latch onto your skin briefly.

Sea star on the glass: irresistible! Unfortunately I cannot remember the species, though it may have been a blood star.

I was thrilled to see live giant clams and hadn’t appreciated they were quite so large. I mean, I knew the shells were large but for some reason I hadn’t made the connection that the animal’s body would completely fill that shell. Fantastic to see, and the little orange blenny (not an eel as a nearby young lad’s father insisted on calling it) just adds the perfect contrast.

Walking through the aquarium to the outside exhibits (seals, sea lions, sea otters, etc), the corridor goes directly under a tank full of salmon. They’re a bit chaotic in this shot (they arranged more symmetrically later!) but it’s still really cool to see a large school of fish from underneath. I like how there’s no sense that they’re in water; the impressions is that they’re just floating in the air.

Classic clownfish and anemone pairing. Just lovely to see. The clownfish would occasionally wiggle its way through the arms of the anemone as it having a scratch. (OK get it out of your system… It’s Nemo!!! Happy now?)

Octopuses

A couple of giant Pacific octopuses 🐙 at the Seattle Aquarium. I’ve found octopuses fascinating for years – so much intelligence in such a short-lived animal – so it was very cool to be able to get such close up views of them!

This week (February 16th to 24th) was Octopus Week at the Seattle Aquarium and to be honest that was the main reason we decided to visit. We arrived just in time to catch “Meet the Octopus” where we were introduced to Bailey the female giant Pacific octopus. At first I was a little concerned as she was brought by the divers into a strange tank and attached the glass (well, perspex) for us all to gawp. Gradually she extended a few tentative tentacles out to the divers and seemed to relax and explore the environment a little bit.

The highlight was being able to get right up to the perspex and place my phone flat to cut out reflections and get a beautiful close-up view of the suction cups on her tentacles. Just amazing! The last entry is a short video of Bailey moving across the perspex, which is just hypnotic to watch.

The third and fourth photos are of a different octopus in its own tank. Even then it was content to squeeze itself into a corner and eye up the visitors as they came and went.

The rest of the aquarium was fun too, but I’ll save that discussion for the next post!

Showers over Seattle

Showers over Seattle: monochrome views on a rainy day in Luther Burbank Park.

My initial plan was to explore a nearby forest park but the weather (and my desire for a nostalgic trip to Einstein Bros bagels) had me looking for closer options. I settled on Luther Burbank Park, where I’d be able to go with my bagel still warm. I wandered the trails to the northern tip of the park with its gravelly beach and a clear view across Lake Washington to the high-rises of downtown Seattle.

I sat on a log and ate my bagel (which I really enjoyed!) and watched the rain showers pass over the city, thankfully not coming too close to where I was sitting, with only a few raindrops to dampen my breakfast.

The rain was drifting down in sheets and patterns, brighter skies following behind it – an irresistible combination for photography! I tried to get some foreground interest in the first, mostly because I couldn’t avoid the rocks, but I’m not sure it succeeded. Still, I like the rest of the image with that trailing rainfall column that almost looks like a microburst. My favourite of the bunch is the one of the airliner descending into SeaTac airport (I didn’t see that annoying black speck of a seagull at the time), though I also like the last pic of the shower over the northern end of Lake Washington.

It was tempting to make all of these pure black and white (which, it should be noted, is not the same thing as monochrome) but in the end I left them as is to preserve what little colour there was. While it was tempting to warm up the photos to a more neutral colour, I decided to keep the cool blue-grey cast as I think it makes for more atmospheric storm photos than pure black-and-white. I think it worked.