Superb Owl

An intense glare from a northern pygmy owl, for Superb-Owl-Sunday 😀 I saw this pun earlier in the day and couldn’t resist contributing an owl picture of my own.

I was on my way back down from the top of Hollyburn when I heard a nuthatch in a nearby tree. I stopped and readied the camera only to be distracted by movement. I caught a fleeting glimpse of a thrush-sized ball of feathers as it landed a few metres up the trail. I raised the camera, fired off two shots, and then it flew off again.

Witch hazel

Winter blossom from witch hazel, the first cheery reminder that spring will be along soon, at least here in Vancouver 🙂 Normally these bloom mid-January – maybe they’re late this year, or perhaps they bloomed on time and it just took me a fortnight to notice… Either way it always cheers me up when I see them.

I’ve been walking in to work as often as I can since the start of the new year, and I noticed these blooms for the first time just this week. How did I miss them before? I must have walked past this tree half-a-dozen times, and somehow had completely missed them.

I always like to see the unusual yellow filaments of the witch hazel flowers as they’re one of the first (if not the first) plants to bloom as the days begin to lengthen. Helps me make it through the dismal grey days of January.

Squirrel!

Neither chipmunk nor marmot (I’ve heard them called both) but a golden-mantled ground squirrel. On a rock at Moraine Lake. Eating, and looking cute. Naturally.

Another photo from our 2011 trip to the Rockies, we saw lots of these little critters including one that ran right across our picnic table in search of a snack.

It shouldn’t annoy me but it does when people call them chipmunks… I just want to yell, “THEY’RE NOT CHIPMUNKS!” Chipmunks have a stripe across their eyes; these critters do not. And marmots are waaay bigger 🙂

A (not-so) great campsite?

A great-looking camping spot isn’t necessarily a good camping spot. This site was a good lesson in what happens when you violate principle 2… We pitched our tent far too close to the creek, the ground was damp, and cold moist air made for a chilly night plus a wet tent the next morning. This site was adequate for two for one night, but would have been trashed by a longer stay or a larger group. We should have picked a more durable surface at least 60 m away from the creek. Next time we’ll camp higher up in the meadows.

Brandywine is one of those areas that’s being loved to death – the meadows are wet for much of the summer and too many people seek a drier route which just creates a maze of muddy paths. Hopefully the new trail will bed in nicely and the mud pits can begin to heal. And don’t camp here 🙂

A great-looking camping spot isn't necessarily a good camping spot. Following @happiestoutdoors in this week's #LeaveNoTraceTuesday, this site was a good lesson in what happens when you violate principle 2… We put our tent far too close to the creek, the ground was damp, and cold moist air made for a chilly night plus a wet tent the next morning. This site was adequate for two for one night, but would have been trashed by a longer stay or a larger group. We should have picked a more durable surface at least 60 m away from the creek. Next time we'll camp higher up in the meadows. Brandywine is one of those areas that's being loved to death – the meadows are wet for much of the summer and too many people seek a drier route which just creates a maze of muddy paths. Hopefully the new trail will bed in nicely and the mud pits can begin to heal. And don't camp here 🙂 #BrandywineMeadows #hiking #backpacking #explorebc #explorecanada #mecnation #mec #bigagnes #blacktusk #alpine #meadows #wilderness #camping #leavenotrace #lnt

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One of the people I follow on Instagram is a certified Leave No Trace (LNT) instructor, and a few weeks back she started a new hashtag to raise awareness of the principles. Each “LeaveNoTraceTuesday” is aimed at highlighting one or more of the ideas behind LNT. This week was about principle number two, travelling and camping on durable surfaces.

Having spent a few years exploring the BC backcountry, I feel very strongly about LNT and wish more people were aware of it and followed its principles. Personally I derive a great deal of satisfaction from being able to look back at a place I’ve visited or camped, and see no evidence that I was there. I’ve also read some crazily intense disagreements about how prescriptive LNT is (or appears to be), but in my view these were caused exclusively by the objectors over-interpreting (even being insulted by) the principles.

To my thinking, the main point behind LNT is that the alpine backcountry is fragile and simply cannot deal with hundreds (or thousands) of humans tramping all over it – the growing season is simply too short for plants to recover. (Actually the same is true even at sea-level – look at any field after a festival.) If you’re in an area where almost no one visits, then you can get away with disregarding one or more of the principles. The problem is that if everyone did that, the alpine would be destroyed. And then the broken-window theory kicks in – if people come to an area that doesn’t look cared-for then they too will not be inspired to care for it.

So in the end my advice is to learn about LNT, seek to understand the thinking behind the concepts. At the end of the day it boils down to a simple message: just do your best to affect an area as little as possible.

Moon over Cathedral

Moon over Cathedral Mountain as seen from Takakkaw Falls, for mountain moonday 🙂

I rediscovered this image over the weekend and now have it as the wallpaper on my tablet.

I took this photo in September 2011 when my parents were visiting. We spent a week in the Canadian Rockies under crispy, sunny blue skies, taking in as much as we could fit in between Banff and Jasper. A fantastic trip, I measured my Dad’s enjoyment by the number of photos he took – which was almost as many as us 🙂 Mum loved the colour of the lakes, especially Lower Waterfowl Lake. It was one of those trips that just had to be made into a souvenir photo book.

Tea, coffee, and shortbread

Tasty treats for Shortbread Sunday. Yes, I know – what a cliche, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Snowdrops!

Happy Snowdrop Saturday 🙂 They’re just starting to bloom in the gardens of Vancouver.

Happy #SnowdropSaturday 🙂 My 100th post on Instagram 🙂

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Remarkably, this is my 100th post on Instagram. I started on Instagram as an experiment back in July 2015 for two reasons. The first was simply to get to know Instagram as a platform from the perspective of a long-time Flickr user. The second was as a place to put my (crappy) phone photos (hence my [former] Instagram name, fonetoes, as in photos from my phone – it seemed clever at the time…).

I had a number of preconceived notions about Instagram, some of which have been proved right, but mostly I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality of photographs I’ve seen. I still prefer Flickr as the primary location for our photos, but Instagram does have a fun element to it that Flickr doesn’t satisfy.

I quickly realized that just uploading my crappy phone photos wouldn’t be a very satisfying use of Instagram, so I began to include the occasional photo taken with one of our SLRs. But the convenience of uploading direct from a cell phone is hard to beat. The next best thing is to have a camera that can link up with a phone and so maintain that ability to see something, take a photo, and upload it. And so I bought a Sony RX100II which can do exactly that, and I’ve been very happy with it as it gives me the best of both worlds.

Of course that means I’m now having a bit of an existential crisis as my username isn’t really appropriate any more, but my first choice is not available. Looks like I’m stuck with it.

Update: except it turns out that I’m not stuck with it. I found a new name I could live with. My own. 🙂