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 🙂

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…

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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.

A little water, falling

Cascades on Kill Creek for waterfall Wednesday – I think this was the first time I remember seeing this creek flowing.

Last Saturday we took a leisurely hike up Mt Gardner on Bowen Island, a lovely little getaway destination for a day especially when topped off with a serving of local gelato. As we neared the trailhead on our descent, I looked upstream to see a gorgeous little double cascade of a waterfall. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit both in to the Instagram format so I ended up cropping around the upper drop. For such a small waterfall – barely a metre high – it has quite a bit of character thanks to the way the water is running over the broken log.

Thankfully the sun was well hidden and I was able to use a low ISO (100) coupled with a moderate aperture (f/5.0) to get a roughly half-second exposure, long enough to blur out the water nicely. I even had a well-placed tree to balance the camera against (while trying not to fall down the short but very steep slope), though it still took several tries to get a photo that was not blurry. I would have liked to have been able to avoid the spindly branches sweeping across the frame but that wasn’t possible without getting into the creek itself. The main downside to this image is that I had to crop quite heavily to just focus on this little waterfall. While it doesn’t really stand up to close viewing on a large screen, I’m happier than I expected at how it looks on a phone or small tablet. If nothing else, it’s introduced me to a previously-unknown (to me) little waterfall I can capture another day.

Yet another photo…

YASPP: yet another Sky Pilot photo. But who can resist?

What better way to finish off a long weekend than a sunny day trip up to the Sea to Sky gondola? The conditions were perfect, with warm sun welcoming us in the open and cool air keeping us moving in the shade. The views were spectacular as always, Sky Pilot looking like a fairytale mountain against a pure blue sky. After a quick stroll around the Panorama and Spirit Trails we relaxed at the lodge, and I couldn’t resist sitting back with a totally unearned beer to admire this view. Later the clouds rolled in which actually added some more interest to the scene (the blue sky looks nice, but it’s a bit bland), but I waited too long to go outside and take that picture so this will just have to do.

If anyone’s thinking of hiking the Sea to Summit trail, there’s still plenty of snow above about 600 m. Recent weather systems have left a dusting as low as 400 m. The snow was also not very supportive, especially in areas warmed by the sun, which means snowshoes would probably be a good idea, but microspikes would be fine where the snow is packed hard. Now that I’ve renewed my pass, I’ll definitely be using the hike up as a conditioner for the summer again.

A sunny seawall stroll

Seymour seen on a sunny stroll along the city seawall

Something in my head told me today was Saturday and therefore it was time to post another Instagram photo. So I posted the photo above taken this afternoon along the False Creek seawall. I only just realized that it was still Friday and had to edit my original caption! Oops.

Initially I thought I would have preferred a longer lens for this shot but I still like the fact that I was able to get both the curve of the seawall on the right and the curved tower on the left of the frame. I could have cropped a bit more I suppose, to really emphasize Mt Seymour as the main point of focus, but overall I’m quite happy with it as it is even if it is a little busy. If nothing else, it’s a record of what we saw on our travels today, and it was a good day to be outside.