Big Lonely Doug

A tribute to Big Lonely Doug, Canada’s second-largest Douglas fir at nearly 70 m high. I had mixed feelings about this visit: on the one hand it was amazing to see such an impressive tree so clearly, and a treat to be able to get a closer look, but to see it standing alone in a huge clearcut was very sobering. 🌲

It occurred to me that celebrating these few remaining big trees is like getting a coupon for money off. Sure, it’s great to think about what you’re saving but look at what you have to spend in order to “save” that.
Lastly to get there requires driving over one of the scariest bridges I’ve ever crossed. The bridge must be 30-40 m above the raging Gordon River, and only has an ankle-high guard rail… 😬

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A tribute to Big Lonely Doug, Canada's second-largest Douglas fir at nearly 70 m high. I had mixed feelings about this visit: on the one hand it was amazing to see such an impressive tree so clearly, and a treat to be able to get a closer look, but to see it standing alone in a huge clearcut was very sobering. 🌲 It occurred to me that celebrating these few remaining big trees is like getting a coupon for money off. Sure, it's great to think about what you're saving but look at what you have to spend in order to "save" that. Lastly to get there requires driving over one of the scariest bridges I've ever crossed. The bridge must be 30-40 m above the raging Gordon River, and only has an ankle-high guard rail… 😬 #biglonelydoug #douglasfir #vancouverisland #portrenfrew #ancientforestalliance #clearcut #oldgrowth #temperaterainforest #beautifulbc #logging #bigtreetuesday

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From the road it’s impossible to judge just how large this tree is. We weren’t sure whether we wanted to risk picking our way through an old clearcut on such a wet day, knowing just what a battle it can be. But we saw other people had made it down to its base, and we decided to try as well. It turned out to be easier than we expected (though we still took a wrong turn and had to find a way over some very slick logs), and within a few minutes we were standing beneath Big Lonely Doug.

It’s well named; both Big and Lonely. And yet it was still hard to appreciate just how tall it was as the lowest branches must be nearly 50 m off the ground. We craned our necks upwards, the rain dotting our glasses and camera lenses, and following the length of the trunk up and down to try and absorb its size.

With mixed feelings we walked back to the car and drove back down the road to the Avatar Grove. As I mentioned above, the road crossed the stunning chasm of the Gordon River, a rugged, wild river if ever there was one! And, okay, maybe I exaggerated about the diminutive height of the guard rails: they actually came up to the middle of my calves….

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Revolutum

A plethora of pink fawn lilies for fawn-lily Friday! So happy to find some as they’re very rare on the mainland. A big thank you to bustapbj for pointing me in the right direction 👍👍

Pink fawn lilies (Erythronium revolutum) are very rare on the mainland: I’ve seen only a single one in Lighthouse Park, a few on the UBC campus, and a handful more at the UBC Botanical Garden. So I was really looking forward to our visit to Vancouver Island, and to the Port Renfrew area in particular, where I’d seen a couple of photos showing pink fawn lilies at the base of a large tree. One of my Instagram friends let me know of another site where I might find them, which we drove past multiple times and every time I couldn’t see where they might be hiding.

But Sombrio Beach had a surprise waiting for me with a small area of pink lilies, some of which – alas – had been trampled carelessly. I picked my way through the tangle of salmonberry to find a nice spot with a few flowers in a photogenic arrangement. If those were all I’d seen I’d have to admit that they would do, I guess, though I was still thinking about trying to find this other spot.

On our last day, as we were driving back to take the ferry home, we drove past the “secret” spot one last time and I decided that it was now or never. Leaving Maria in the car with her book, I ran off in one direction. Nothing. I ran back past the car, saw a short trail disappear into the forest and took it. The environment looked ideal, but the only flowers were trillium (which, of course, I did stop to photograph as well…) and false lily-of-the-valley (which I did not, on account of not seeing a good composition).

Returning to the road, I crossed over and followed a different trail down a small embankment into what I thought would be a scruffy area (if not outright dumping ground as it was next to the road). I could not have been more wrong. Here, in all their glory, was the biggest patch of pink fawn lilies I had ever seen. It was stunning! Knowing we were short of time, I hurriedly snapped a few photos, not really taking the time to find good compositions. I ran back to the car and breathlessly told Maria all about them, and decided we had enough time for me to drive the 100 m back to that spot and show her. It was worth it 🙂

So, many thanks Shane – you were absolutely 100% right!

On a final, completely unrelated note, the “revolutum” part of their name instantly brings to mind the Queensryche album “Operation: Mindcrime” and, in particular, the song “Revolution Calling” which I will forever more think of as “Revolutum Calling”. Which they will do every spring.

Wild flowers, wild life

A combined wildflower-Wednesday and wildlife-Wednesday post: cheery white fawn lilies, waving in the wind, and a sea lion lolling in the waves.

Mid-April is usually a good time to see the white fawn lilies in Lighthouse Park. Being early spring, the weather can be somewhat unpredictable and so I found myself in the park on a blustery grey day, threatening rain. My first port of call was actually to head out of the park and over to Kloochman Park, a 5 minute walk away, where I had been informed I would also find fawn lilies. Sure enough (see the third photo) I found a few; I particularly liked this one in a patch of licorice ferns, and deliberately left the colours on the cool side to emphasize the feeling of the day. I found more lilies out on the bluffs, most of which were already fading and none of which were easy to photograph.

Of more interest, though, were the sea lions playing in the waters between me and the Grebe Islets a few hundred metres or so off shore. Occasionally one or two would swim close to the cliffs below my feet, rolling in the choppy water and diving under the moment they saw me. I readied the camera and waited for their next pass and caught one of them with its head and upper body clearly visible, as in the fourth photo. And yes, I can say that I included the branches of the arbutus tree for interest and scale, as well as to provide a sense of my having to be a little surreptitious in my photography (as all wildlife photographers surely must be!).

As I walked back into Lighthouse Park and down to Point Atkinson, the rain did indeed catch up with me. I pulled up my hood and sought temporary shelter near the washrooms, before shrugging and heading out onto the rocks anyway. The wind blew in strong off the sea, and I found myself alone out on the rocks braving the weather. The Vancouver skyline was invisible. It looked like a passing shower, though, and I stayed put as the rain stopped and the sun (and the city) began to make an appearance. Now with bright sunshine, I could feel justified in heading over to where I knew I would find the best lily display.

When I reached the point, the sun was out in full force, shining with that post-storm intensity. The wind was still blowing hard, and while I now had good light, the flowers were constantly in motion. Still, I put the camera on the tripod and sized up a few compositions. My patience was rewarded with occasional calm moments during which I quickly set my focus and took the photo. Even when not totally calm, there was enough light to keep my shutter speed high enough to stop the worst of the motion. And so I managed to capture the first two photos: the first shows the underside of the flower as it was blown backwards in the wind, while the second is a beautiful trio of perfect flowers with just the right amount of curl to their petals.

Flowers and sea lions makes a pretty good day to me.

Misty Mountain Monday

Misty mountain Monday – views of the Stawamus Chief, showers in the Squamish Valley, and a suggestion of snowy peaks hidden in the clouds across Howe Sound.

Sometimes you have to get out hiking whatever the weather, and on this day we had plenty of weather! Winter wasn’t done with us yet, and we ended the day walking in wet snow. Still, swirly clouds make for interesting views along the way.

The first photo is overlooking the gap between the first and second peaks of the Chief, where we can see the Squamish Valley beyond and the way up towards Whistler. I snapped it from the gondola on our descent, and I like how the view is sandwiched between the clouds.

The second photo shows a similar view, though just looking down into the valley: I like how the light was catching the two parallel roads pointing northwards up the valley, and how the view becomes obscured by the rain showers.

The third photo was taken from the patio at the upper gondola station and at first glance might not appear to be very striking. But I really like the subtlety of the snowy mountain barely visible through the clouds. I tried to make it noticeable but not too obvious in the processing and I’m not sure it entirely worked. However, I still like it because it reminds me of the day and how there wasn’t even this much of a view when we first reached the top!

Island flowers

Wildflower season is upon us! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to seek out spring flowers on Vancouver Island last weekend. Of course I knew there’d be white fawn lilies, trillium, and skunk cabbage and I was hoping to find shooting stars and common camas. But the highlight was all the gorgeous little satin flowers, which I’d never even heard of until I saw bustapbj’s posts. And – oh wow – are they ever beautiful!

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Wildflower season is upon us! I couldn't pass up the opportunity to seek out spring flowers on Vancouver Island last weekend. Of course I knew there'd be white fawn lilies, trillium, and skunk cabbage and I was hoping to find shooting stars and common camas. But the highlight was all the gorgeous little satin flowers, which I'd never even heard of until I saw @bustapbj's posts. And – oh wow – are they ever beautiful! #wildflowerwednesday #wildflowers #whitefawnlily #erythroniumoregonum #trillium #shootingstars #satinflower #skunkcabbage #commoncamas #olsyniumdouglasii #purpleeyedgrass #goldstreamprovincialpark #mountfinlayson #explorevi #explorebc #yourbcparks #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia

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Of course, “last weekend” was back at the beginning of April, when the first wave of wildflowers began to bloom. Despite the threat of rain, I was still able to head to Goldstream Provincial Park and hike up Mount Finlayson in search of a few of my favourite spring flowers. The fawn lilies were well in bloom on the southern side of the park, and only just in bud on the northern slopes of the mountain, so I got to see all stages of their growth (which I always enjoy). The bonus was seeing the trillium and fawn lilies together in a sea of white and green.

Once up into the Garry oak meadows, the shooting stars took over, and I was surprised to find the camas was only just coming into bud. Again, on the north side of Mount Finlayson, I found a couple of small clearings which were covered in the leaves and early buds of shooting stars: they must have looked great a couple of weeks after my visit! There were more fawn lilies, though none were in photographically-favourable places.

As mentioned above, the real treat was seeing satin flowers for the first time, and what gorgeous little flowers they are! And so well-named: the petals really do look like magenta satin. They were more or less at the end of their bloom so I hope I can catch them earlier next year. I don’t feel that my photos really captured them very well, so I would definitely appreciate another chance to check them out.

Lastly, the section of the road just before getting back to the car had some wonderful patches of bright skunk cabbage flowers.

As for the hike itself, it’s well worth doing though the views from the top are quite distant and the nearby development on Bear Mountain is a bit of an eyesore. I’m not sure I’d repeat the loop I walked: the route down the north side isn’t very interesting, and it ends with a few km of road walking. Still, it wasn’t all bad: at least there were more flowers along a few stretches of the road.

South of the Border

Canada has some pretty nice mountains but you can’t help but admire those visible south of the border… Mount Baker looked beautiful in the blue hour, while the Olympics gleamed across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

I am so very far behind in my Instagram blogging… The first photo was taken way back in April as we returned from Vancouver Island on the ferry. The sunset to the west was very nice, but when I went to the opposite side of the ship I was blown away by this lovely view of Mount Baker with a pink sky above it. It took a few tries to get a sharp photo given the strong wind and the rolling ferry, but I did get a couple good enough to post. I like how the scene naturally divides into quarters: the ocean, the land, the sky, and the clouds. OK, so it’s not exactly quarters but it’s close enough for me!

The second photo was taken in Victoria earlier in the day looking across a blustery Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains, the snowy peaks floating about a layer of clouds. I waited until the ship came into my frame to improve the foreground (well, mid-ground) interest, thinking that a ship sailing towards the centre of the image would make it more appealing. Unfortunately, the ship changed direction until it was pointing out of my photo! Argh! One of my pet peeves is photographs that show something or someone looking like they’re leaving the frame! (There are exceptions, of course.) I was hesitant whether to bother with it after that but took it anyway. I still like it, as similar to the previous photo, the scene naturally divides evenly into horizontal layers, but I do wish the ship hadn’t changed course.

Trillia

The trillium is blooming at UBC so I went over to take a few photos. Taught me a few things about our new camera too.

It’s been over a month since I posted these photos on Instagram, and the trillium are now reaching the end of their bloom. But ever since I discovered this patch of native wildflowers on the UBC campus, I’ve been revisiting it often to check on what’s flowering when. I particularly enjoy seeing the trillium as they are plentiful and close to the path which makes them easy to photograph. Usually I just use my phone camera these days for Instagram posts, but on this day I had brought in our newest camera as I was eager to try it out on the first wave of spring flowers.

The downside to delaying the writing a blog post is that sometimes I forget the context of what I’ve written in the photo caption. A prime example is the comment above, as I can now no longer remember precisely what I learned from taking these trillium photos. I think I have an inkling, but, a month later, I can’t be 100% sure.

My suspicion is that I was referring to its focusing behaviour. Despite being a recent mirrorless camera with state-of-the-art(-ish) focusing capabilities (for the price bracket, anyway), I’ve found that I can’t always trust the autofocus. In the situation above where I was photographing flowers, I think the issue I ran into was that the camera would often focus on the edges of the petals rather than the part of the flower where I had placed the focus point. The solution was to use autofocus to get an initial lock and then switch to manual focus to ensure that the intended subject was actually in focus using the focus-peaking display (which is extremely handy, though not infallible).

Getting to know a new camera involves a lot of experimentation, trial and error, and patience. After some initial disappointments, I can now say that I recognize the fact that camera is definitely capable of producing good images, but that I cannot assume that it will always do the right thing. I suspect my expectations may have been a little too high; with it being the first serious camera we’ve bought in 6 years and having read some very positive reviews, I think I expected the focussing system to be, well, perfect. Of course, our previous cameras were not short of their own foibles and issues; they just seemed to be different ones…