Long blues

Long exposure at the blue hour.

I’ve always loved long exposure photographs. The first time I really remember being aware of the concept was when I saw a documentary about a photographer who used pinhole cameras to take hours-long exposures of popular city locations to reveal scenes devoid of people. I thought it was amazing. Since then I’ve seen other similar examples (plus I’ve seen how to mimic this in post-processing), but the most common subject for long-exposure photography is water; the ocean, a lake, a river, or waterfall. I don’t habitually carry a tripod around with me, which means I’m usually limited in my exposures to what I can take hand-held, and I’ve got quite good at holding a camera steady for up to 1/4 second.

But to get those glassy ocean shots needs much longer exposures and, therefore, a tripod (plus a neutral density filter – which I lack). My GorillaPod is proving to be too wobbly for the kinds of photos I’m after, so I made use of a number of logs on the beach to experiment with exposures of up to about 8 seconds. It took a few shots (owing to the fact that none of the logs were level), but I finally got one I liked. And somehow I felt it looked better when I kept the blue tint rather than using a more realistic colour balance. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.

Disappearing act

First visit to Englishman River Falls – having seen many photos on Instagram, it was nice to see them in person. Lots of starflower and salal in bloom, some wild strawberry and vanilla leaf too. Also found some pink wintergreen and my first ever Vancouver groundcone, aka poque.

I knew that capturing this waterfall was going to be difficult. Like many waterfalls, the scale is hard to represent effectively in photographs so I decided to just go with the flow (ha ha – geddit?) and be content with the same shot as everyone else. Now I know the scale, I’m quite happy with it. It would be tricky to get a nice long exposure of these falls because the bridge wobbles when walked on. I’d have to get here early in the morning to have the place to myself to avoid that. That’s for some other time. We were lucky enough with our timing as the sun emerged from behind the clouds a few minutes later.

The short loop trail connecting the falls was well worth doing, passing through some pleasant forest (with signs of fawn lilies in a few places to pique my interest). The water level had dropped since the first rush of spring snowmelt so the lower falls weren’t really evident. I was surprised and impressed with the deep, ruler-straight canyon connecting the falls – it’s quite a spectacular feature. The warning signs have it right!

Tetrahedron light

Last light on the peaks of Tetrahedron provincial park: Mt Steele, Tetrahedron, and Panther Peak (L to R).

After my miserable failure at attempting to catch the glorious full moonrise on Friday night, thanks to our 55-200 mm lens deciding that it wasn’t going to focus properly, I borrowed our friends’ 70-300 mm lens for sunset the following night. (I also used a log for a rest rather than the GorillaPod which was too wobbly with the heavier lens on the camera.) I was pleasantly surprised (maybe even a little disappointed) to find that there was nothing wrong with the camera, and the lens focused near perfectly.

I had a good idea about which mountains we were seeing across the water, but it was only zooming in that I could make out the familiar pyramidal shape of Tetrahedron’s namesake peak. Knowing that, it was easy to identify the neighbouring peaks, and marvel at the fact we’ve stood atop one of them (Mt Steele). The light was a lovely warm glow, even lighting up the texture in the forested slopes below, making for an irresistible shot.

Sand dollars galore

Chasing sand dollars on a morning run along the beach – nice to find a few live ones. I found the tiniest of sand dollar shells, barely the size of my little finger nail, but it crumbled the moment I picked it up. Running barefoot on a sandy beach feels good too! 🙂 🏃👣

Quite by chance, our return to Parksville for a long weekend on the beach coincided with a full moon, revealing literally miles of beach to explore at low tide. While the others were at the pool, I decided to head out for a run on the exposed – and ripply – sand (which, by the way, is nowhere near as soft on your bare feet as might be expected). The tide was still receding, and I chased it out almost to the water’s edge, discovering tidal pools with stranded, living sand dollars. I snapped a few photos (such as the one above) and continued on my way.

Returning later with Maria, we discovered dozens and dozens more living sand dollars. Many were stranded upside-down on the sand, which we carefully righted them so they could burrow away to safety. It was such a fun experience finding so many, and I even had the chance to take a video clip of one pushing its way under the sand. Very cool! I don’t know how we can beat that for a sand dollar experience! 🙂

A bear walks into a bar…

Waiting for service… Flashback Friday to May 2007 and a road trip to Port Renfrew, where we rounded a bend and spotted this bear wandering along the shoulder. He (?) stopped to check us out, placed his paws on the barrier as if waiting for a drink, before getting up onto the barrier and walking along it for a moment until startled back into the forest by the next car.

We’d just bought our shiny new compact superzoom Canon S3IS and I was more than happy to make use of the long zoom to get this photo. Sadly, once I got home and looked at the photos on our computer monitor, this photo also alerted me to how bad the colour fringing was on high-contrast edges (look at the edge of the road for an example – and that’s after a bit of processing). A lot of it can be taken out with “purple fringing” corrections, but it’s hard to get rid of all of it. Sure, I’d read the reviews that mentioned this aberration, and figured I could live with it. Looking back, that was really the time we should have gone straight to buying an SLR, instead of making-do with the inferior compact camera image quality.

But, having said all that, I still really like this and the other photos I took at the time. It’s quite the memory, and possibly our most fun bear encounter.

Not bluebells

Fields of camas – I was amazed to see so many around the park! Such a beautiful sight! I think I’ll be spending more time here next spring…

Recently I’ve been seeing lots of camas (and other wildflower) pictures from various Instagrammers and it’s been making me want to drop everything and head over to Vancouver Island (or one or more of the Southern Gulf Islands) to check out the spring wildflowers. Vancouver seems a little lacklustre in the spring wildflower department by comparison, and the only ones I make an effort to photograph are white fawn lilies and trillium.

I hadn’t even thought about looking for flowers at the time we arranged a trip over to Vancouver Island to visit some friends, but the sight of all those Instagram pictures had me suggesting we head into town for the afternoon. And I was really quite blown away by how extensive they were in Beacon Hill Park. I didn’t expect that at all, thinking that with it being a city park that it would be dominated by cultivated flowers and manicured grass. So it was a wonderful surprise to find the park has patches of unmanicured meadows and trees. And the camas was growing everywhere! I’ve never seen such a bloom. My first reaction was that I was seeing a field of bluebells, but I was delighted to find that it was a lovely spread of camas instead. They even look similar when first budding and I really had to look twice in a few places.

So my mind is made up: I think I need to make a spring pilgrimage to southern Vancouver Island every year now… 🙂

Whale’s tails

This is about as close as I want to get to a humpback while sitting in a kayak! I was amazed at how easily the sound of their exhale carried over the calm sea – we heard them long before we actually saw any. A real treat! A great day out with North Island Kayak.

Our rest period between backpacking trips involved a few days near Port Hardy, one of which we spent sitting with our bums inches from the water in a double kayak. Early in the day there was a suggestion that we might see killer whales – that would have been incredible, as kayaking in Johnstone Strait with killer whales was one of those must-do things I had at the back of my mind. Alas, that turned out to be not the case but we did find humpbacks.

We were paddling on flat calm seas, a heavy mist hanging low over the water when we heard it: a loud exhale of breath. We stopped to work out where the sound was coming from, and there in the distance we saw it – the characteristic bump of the back of a humpback. And I have to say, I was a little nervous. A friend of ours had had a very close call with a humpback while in a kayak when it surfaced directly underneath his boat. But in this case the whale stayed well away, sticking to what seemed to be a good feeding ground while we hung around near the edge of one of the Pumper Islands. We watched for a while before the whale dove one last time, when it was time to move on and join the playful sea lions instead.