Deep in Middle Earth

How long do you have to wait for a Thursday to be a throwback? Is two weeks good enough? If so then here’s a reflection of Mt Aragorn in a lake from a couple of weeks ago.

We’ve wanted to get into the Phelix Creek valley for so many years and we were delighted to make it at last, albeit at the expense of the paintwork on the car thanks to the plentiful alder and others bushes growing over the road. Although we didn’t scale any of the peaks (with the exception of the unofficially-named Frodo), we enjoyed exploring the area, especially the basin between Gandalf, Aragorn, and Shadowfax with its corresponding trio of lakes. When the breeze dropped, the surrounding peaks were reflected perfectly in the water, the squared-off profile of Aragorn looking especially majestic. (After all, he is the king!) In some ways it all reminded me of the Sierra Nevada mountains with the granite cliffs and lakes. All it needs is a few ponderosa pines to complete the picture.

And that is my 500th post on Instagram! I’ve been using it for 3 years now, and I must admit I’ve enjoyed it way more than I expected when I first started. It did take a while to build up my network of people I follow and follow me in return, but it’s been great fun.

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Celebrate

Happy BC Day as Mother Nature celebrates Vancouver Pride weekend πŸ™‚ Another awesome weekend in the mountains, another round of itchy bug bites!

Recently I’ve been using photos from my phone for my Instagram posts, but this shot simply could not have been taken with that. Instead I needed a long(ish) telephoto lens to capture this partial rainbow and associated rain in front of the distant mountains. It was hard to believe just how intense the colours were in this rainbow, and I’m not convinced my processing has truly captured how it appeared to our eyes.

This photo was taken from the summit of Gotcha Peak near Blowdown Pass, an area I first visited back in 2007. On that occasion our group ventured in the opposite direction up towards Gott Peak, and I was struck by the incredible views once up on the ridge. In all directions lay nothing but mountains; a sea of mountains, each dip and peak like the outline of a wave, wave upon wave receding to the far horizon. I’ve found capturing that effect to be surprisingly hard as the resulting photo often ends up looking flat, but this one really works for me as the changing light throughout the image provides some much-needed depth. Definitely one of my favourite photos from the weekend!

Streaming

Streaming sunlight, streaming crows at tonight’s sunset.

I had ventured outside to photograph the rays of light shining up in front of the cloud when I noticed the crows flying east to roost for the night. Hoping I’d capture a large group of them flying over I snapped a handful of photos. Despite missing the largest groups, I was happy to see one photo in which the perspective of the crows’ flight seemed to mirror the crepuscular rays from the setting sun. Obviously, I would have preferred more crows (and it is a little hard to see them in the Instagram-sized version of the picture) but the effect is still there, at least to my eyes. Maybe that’s because I took it, and I knew what I was looking at?

Either way, even if you ignore the crows, it was still a spectacular sunset.

All Soul’s Prospect

If you could be anywhere on a Monday morning where would it be? It’s a hard question to answer given there are so many places where I enjoy spending time, but I wouldn’t complain if I were transported to Lake O’Hara πŸ™‚

For the most part I like to keep my Instagram feed current, posting photos of things I’ve seen in the last week or so. Occasionally, though, I just have to break that self-imposed rule (especially when I haven’t been spending any time in the mountains) and post some eye candy to go with the Mountain Monday hashtag.

Today’s view is from the approach to All Soul’s Prospect above Lake O’Hara, a stunningly-beautiful area that deserves all the accolades and superlatives heaped upon it. It’s an area that lives up to the hype, and as such is extremely popular. However, Parks Canada has a system in place to keep visitor numbers manageable. Day hikers face an 11 km walk along a dirt road unless they reserve a seat on the bus. The bus can be reserved online. Campers must reserve over the telephone – and there is only a single line into the booking office. Back in 2013 I spent two-and-a-half hours pressing redial on our phone to try and get through. Even then I spent another 20+ minutes on hold waiting. But it worked and we got the dates we wanted. Yay!

Back to the location of this photo. All Soul’s Prospect is a viewpoint along the All Soul’s Route, part of the spectacular Alpine Circuit which takes hikers on a dizzying traverse of the sheer slopes around Lake O’Hara. It’s probably the best day hike I’ve ever done. This day was the last of our visit, and the sunniest which brought out the beautiful colours of the lakes. I really enjoyed hiking up here as it gave us a view of the approach to Wiwaxy Gap and the Huber Ledges route that we’d hiked a couple of days earlier. From this angle I can’t believe we were able to hike across those slopes at all! But we did, and it was nowhere near as scary as I expected.

Now I just want to go back…

A spring favourite

The fawn lilies are blooming again – very happy to have seen them!

Venturing into Lighthouse Park in search of fawn lilies in bloom has become one of my annual traditions. I started unsuccessfully in 2011 (though I did see them on Vancouver Island that year), found my first ones a year later, and have been taking far too many photos of them ever since. Normally by this time, I’ve explored the park two or three times to check on progress but today was our first visit in 2018.

Today was also my first chance to try out the camera on my new phone, a Google Pixel 2, which is rated as one of the top (if not the top) smartphone cameras on the market. And I have to say, so far I’m mostly impressed. At the pixel level, it’s better than any small-sensor compact camera we’ve ever had with no signs of grittiness or significant noise. My biggest issue at the moment is simply the default camera app – it’s really not set up for photographers who want control of the process, it’s more like going back to an auto-everything camera and I haven’t shot on automatic since 2004. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it though.

Back to the subject. I really like the way this flower is opened out, perfectly at right angles to the stem (which falls right on the right-hand third line), and the little granite outcrop makes for a nice background (if maybe a little busy). For comparison I photographed the same flower with the Sony RX100II and the photos look remarkably similar. The main difference is that the Pixel 2 processing adds a bit more contrast and saturation (and uses auto white balance), but on the whole I think that this camera is going to be a very worthy addition to our collection and I can see myself using it often, especially for Instagram.

Picture perfect

Instagram-ready view of Sky Pilot and the suspension bridge from my comfy chair and not so well earned beer.

Perspective has two meanings and, if I can, I like to express both in my photography. The first, artistic or architectural, definition highlights leading lines or vanishing points to add drama and a sense of movement or to draw the viewer into the scene. The other, more colloquial, use is simply that of a point of view. Windows especially offer the latter and I like using such a ready-made frame to isolate and highlight an element in a scene, especially if there’s not much else of interest. One of my first photos on Instagram was of Mt Garibaldi seen through the square window of the Brew hut, a photo which would have otherwise been featureless, low-contrast, and really not very interesting, especially as it was taken with my old phone.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself sitting in a comfortable chair in the lodge at the Sea to Sky Gondola, savouring a good pint, and looking out through a (square!) window at the jaw-dropping Sky Pilot group, complete with its namesake suspension bridge in the foreground. I posted a picture of Sky Pilot only last week so, at first, I wasn’t entirely sold on posting another so soon. However, in some respects I actually prefer this photo because the clouds are much more interesting, even though the strong reflections of the windows behind me and the aluminium railing undoubtedly reduce its “technical” merit. In my opinion, those imperfections add character, and make the photo more fun; a genuine capture of a moment in time rather than a staged postcard or calendar landscape shot.

Photography should be fun.

In terms of processing, I used DxO’s wonderful perspective (there’s that word again) correction tools to render the window square. (Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to put yourself in just the right place to take a perfect window shot; I was happy to get close enough and let DxO do the rest.) With so many pixels to play with, such corrections are easily made with modern software.

Forest light

Forest light: morning sunshine streaming through the trees picks out some young hemlocks on our way up Mt Gardner

Recently I’ve been enjoying Adam Gibbs’s YouTube channel and his exploration of the coastal rain forest of south-western BC. One of his main talking points is light. I’ve known good light is critical for good photographs but his discussion of some of the more subtle aspects of light has had me looking anew at various scenes.

Now let’s face it, the sunshine lighting up the young hemlocks is pretty obvious but having watched Adam’s videos and seen how he uses light in his photographs I immediately saw this as an opportunity to put into practice some of what I’ve been watching. I really like the contrast in light, but also the contrast in texture: the small, bright green hemlocks against the darker background of mature tree trunks. The diagonal trunk also adds an extra element, and the new ability to make local adjustments in DxO meant I could tone down the brightest highlights and preserve a more realistic look.

Overall I’m really happy with this photo and it’s inspired me to look for more scenes like this as we get our hiking season under way.