Happy day

Happy International Mountain Day! Mountains make me happy, and I suppose these mountains are international if you don’t live in Canada, so yeah – enjoy the day! I know that I certainly enjoyed this view of the Tantalus Range from Al’s Habrich Ridge trail 🏔🗻🌋

It always takes seeing other people’s photos on Instagram to remind me of International Mountain Day. It’s kinda hard to remember as there are so many international or nationals “days” dedicated to one thing or another. But I’ll happily celebrate this one as I’ve come to love the mountains for their aesthetics and wildness, and their ability to bring me perspective and peace.

This view of the Tantalus Range (from the south-east rather than the more common and visually stunning north-east angle) caught me by surprise as we walked back out of the trees onto the large granite bluffs along Al’s Habrich Ridge trail, the tree branch and the water-carved granite framing the peaks nicely against the perfect blue autumn sky. It was nice to have that as I find many photos of mountains tend to lose some of the grandeur without any surrounding context. To the eye, the mountains look stunning; yet once captured through a lens, that larger picture and sense of place is often lost.

I’ve learned this the hard way over many years of hiking and photographing the local mountains. I still take many a context-free mountain photo, but some peaks are too photogenic not to keep trying!

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At last, a sunset!

It takes a good sunset to entice me to take its picture these days – or maybe it was just the novelty of actually seeing a sunset? Either way, I love the patterns on the underside of the clouds highlighted in pink.

I almost didn’t bother. I’ve been a bit out of sorts with photography lately, and just haven’t felt like picking up the camera or even looking through past photos (the gloomy weather may have had something to do with that). Yesterday we had a foggy walk along the seawall in English Bay and Stanley Park and I took the camera for the first time in a while; I even got a few photos I like (the highlight was the otter sighting). Earlier today I was doing some camera shopping in the hope of finding an upgrade to the DSLR I’ve been carrying since 2009. Perhaps between the two it gave me a bit more inspiration to look for photographs again. In any case I figured I had nothing to lose by taking this photo, so why not?

As I sized it up I immediately envisaged it working as a square crop which meant only one thing: after nearly a month, I finally felt like posting something on Instagram! I like the way the view is divided into four sections – the black horizon, the sunset glow, the lit clouds, and the blue sky above – even though they’re not equal, as well as the pattern of pink on the clouds. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have another sunset photo like this one, so I’m quite happy with it.

Stormy

Stormy seas for wave-Wednesday, taken on Monday’s choppy crossing to Mayne Island.

The colour of the sea convinced me to leave the warm and dry passenger cabin for the open car deck on our crossing from Vancouver Island to Mayne Island, especially when the sky brightened and warmed from the dull stormy grey clouds that we set sail under.

I sized up and took a few photos. However, this one caught me by surprise. I actually pointed the camera along the side of the ferry to take it, and the shot was about 5-degrees off level since I was holding it at arm’s length and had no clue where the horizon was. But I instantly saw the wave leaving the ship defining a path, with another wave crossing it at the left of the image to add an even greater sense of movement. The bright sky above Prevost Island reflected beautifully in the water, but not so much as to reduce the depth of its colour.

A square crop suited it perfectly, getting rid of the ferry superstructure and – remarkably – placing the horizon on the upper third line. It’s not perfect – the light level was quite low, so the motion of the wave is blurred – but in this case I feel it only adds more dynamism. A partly accidental shot for sure, but one I’m really happy with.

The crossing itself was really not that bad as the ferry route is quite sheltered: the strongest winds blew up the open waters of the Strait of Georgia. Certainly nothing like as bad as some of the cross-channel sailings I’ve experienced between the UK and Europe…

Black in white

Black Tusk decked out in white, as seen from Brandywine Meadows on this day in 2013. Probably looks very similar today after yesterday’s snow. 🌨

Black Tusk is an obvious landmark up and down the Sea to Sky corridor, and we’ve taken many a photo of it. I always like seeing a familiar peak from different angles, and this is one of my favourite aspects on Black Tusk, especially late on a sunny afternoon in early winter where the low angle of the Sun highlights the texture in the landscape. This view is almost exactly opposite the view I posted a few weeks ago, though is much further away so I had to resort to the 55-200 mm lens to get in close. Ah those were the days when that lens would still focus on things at infinity…

And so, right on cue, winter begins again – yesterday we even had some snow in Vancouver, though it didn’t settle.

Lunar pilots

The first-quarter moon hangs between Sky Pilot and Copilot at the end of a balmy autumn day.

Well who can resist such a sight? The moon floating in the sky between two of the most photogenic mountain peaks in the area. The biggest challenge was holding the camera steady, since I was down at 1/30 sec thanks to the polarizer (which helped enhance the colours). But the railing on the patio up at the Sea to Sky gondola makes a pretty good makeshift tripod.

Alas we were too late to have a post-hike celebratory beer, so we had to be content with taking the gondola back down and finding beer elsewhere.

Petrified

A different kind of forest for forest Friday – the fallen logs of the Petrified Forest National Park. These stone logs messed with my perception: looks like wood, feels like rock. I’d love to go back and spend more time exploring the park when it wasn’t so chilly (taken in Dec 2013)!

The petrified forest was a place I’d wanted to visit ever since I was about 6 or 7 years old and I first learned about fossils and petrified trees. That dream came true just under four years ago and I have to say the experience was even better than I expected. The location is unreal: high, open desert which, at an altitude of 1700 m (5600 ft), is far from warm in December (there was snow in shaded areas). The logs – mostly fragments as the rock is extremely brittle – lie all around having emerged from sediments now washed away. In places, the end of a stone log pokes out of the landscape.

The biggest surprise for me was the disconnect between my senses of sight and touch. To look at some of the pieces, my brain said “wood”, yet the moment my fingers touched the cold stone, I only saw rock. I went back and forth several times, and it was like one of those perspective puzzles where you see a view that changes in time depending on how you concentrate on it.

I loved it. And being such a clear sunny day I was able to use the polarizer to maximum effect to enhance the colour and contrast. The bigger challenge was finding a composition that captured both the wonderful old trees and the sense of openness, almost desolation. I’ve just looked back through the full album on Flickr and I think we did OK.

Iceberg Lake

Gorgeous Iceberg Lake at last, surprisingly difficult to photograph with a standard wide-angle lens. But the view in the opposite direction makes up for that. A big thank-you to ACC-Whistler for a wonderful trail.

As mentioned in my previous post, we hiked up to Iceberg Lake near Whistler last weekend. In its own way the lake is like a miniature version of Wedgemount Lake (or at least the meltwater tarn at the toe of the Wedge glacier), the peaks surrounding which can be seen in the opposite direction. There’s a small permanent snowfield or even remnant glacier that calves into a lake coloured teal-green by rock flour.

The trail is superb, passing through old-growth forest for much of the ascent, and hugging Nineteen Mile Creek (see link above) with its picturesque waterfalls for the upper section before exiting the trees into beautiful subalpine meadows for an awe-inspiring view of the headwall of Rainbow Mountain. The view of the Rainbow glacier is fore-shortened as you get closer to Iceberg Lake (as at upper Joffre Lake), so the best view is from the meadows.

Photographic notes. This place needs an ultra-wide angle lens, at least for views looking towards Rainbow Mountain; the standard 28-mm equivalent simply does not go wide enough to capture the scale. Here, I was glad to be able to make use of a couple of hikers for scale, otherwise there’s simply no way to make it look impressive. Also, since the headwall faces more-or-less due east, morning light is essential. This is less of an issue in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky, though the shadows might be even darker than today (I had to play with the processing to bring up the deep shadows in the original version of this image).

Still, despite photographic challenges, it is definitely a beautiful spot to visit, and deservedly popular. Plus there are two more hikes in this area for next year’s list…