Wild flowers, wild life

A combined wildflower-Wednesday and wildlife-Wednesday post: cheery white fawn lilies, waving in the wind, and a sea lion lolling in the waves.

Mid-April is usually a good time to see the white fawn lilies in Lighthouse Park. Being early spring, the weather can be somewhat unpredictable and so I found myself in the park on a blustery grey day, threatening rain. My first port of call was actually to head out of the park and over to Kloochman Park, a 5 minute walk away, where I had been informed I would also find fawn lilies. Sure enough (see the third photo) I found a few; I particularly liked this one in a patch of licorice ferns, and deliberately left the colours on the cool side to emphasize the feeling of the day. I found more lilies out on the bluffs, most of which were already fading and none of which were easy to photograph.

Of more interest, though, were the sea lions playing in the waters between me and the Grebe Islets a few hundred metres or so off shore. Occasionally one or two would swim close to the cliffs below my feet, rolling in the choppy water and diving under the moment they saw me. I readied the camera and waited for their next pass and caught one of them with its head and upper body clearly visible, as in the fourth photo. And yes, I can say that I included the branches of the arbutus tree for interest and scale, as well as to provide a sense of my having to be a little surreptitious in my photography (as all wildlife photographers surely must be!).

As I walked back into Lighthouse Park and down to Point Atkinson, the rain did indeed catch up with me. I pulled up my hood and sought temporary shelter near the washrooms, before shrugging and heading out onto the rocks anyway. The wind blew in strong off the sea, and I found myself alone out on the rocks braving the weather. The Vancouver skyline was invisible. It looked like a passing shower, though, and I stayed put as the rain stopped and the sun (and the city) began to make an appearance. Now with bright sunshine, I could feel justified in heading over to where I knew I would find the best lily display.

When I reached the point, the sun was out in full force, shining with that post-storm intensity. The wind was still blowing hard, and while I now had good light, the flowers were constantly in motion. Still, I put the camera on the tripod and sized up a few compositions. My patience was rewarded with occasional calm moments during which I quickly set my focus and took the photo. Even when not totally calm, there was enough light to keep my shutter speed high enough to stop the worst of the motion. And so I managed to capture the first two photos: the first shows the underside of the flower as it was blown backwards in the wind, while the second is a beautiful trio of perfect flowers with just the right amount of curl to their petals.

Flowers and sea lions makes a pretty good day to me.

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Unexpectedly sunny

Yesterday’s wander around Lighthouse Park was unexpectedly sunny and cheery. It’s always nice to be reminded of just how big the trees are, and to enjoy the views from the rocks. No marine life sightings but plenty of bird life including the eagle in the third photo. Find of the day was some harvest brodiaea blooming in the dry grass at Point Atkinson. A couple of hours well spent!

  1. It took me many visits to discover this angle on the lighthouse, but now it’s one of my favourite things to do in the park. And it’s not just the lighthouse; the rocks in the foreground have great colour and shape, even looking like miniature fjords, as if we’re viewing a 3-d relief model. I suppose I have Instagram to thank for encouraging me to seek out this view as I kept seeing others’ photos in my scrolling adventures. Now I just have to spend an evening at this spot to catch the warm light of golden hour.
  2. That tree! For years I assumed this beautifully-shaped tree was a pine – after all, the Latin name for the lodgepole (aka shore) pine is Pinus contorta – but a few visits ago I looked a little closer (which is tricky on account of it being on the edge of a cliff) and found that it was a stubborn little western hemlock. I’ve taken many photos of it over our numerous visits to the park but rarely have I been happy with the result. I’m happy to say that has changed with today’s photo, and I really like this one.
  3. Eagle in a tree, perched at the very top. It was a real treat to get a clear view of it, and a good test of the replacement 55-200 mm lens for our SLRs. What a relief to get well-focused photos again! In a way having a non-functioning telephoto lens for a few months was a useful experiment as it taught me that I do in fact enjoy having access to that extra reach. Even with this lens, though, I still had to crop the photo significantly to create this image.
  4. I was recently reminded of the fact that we’d seen this flower on one of our first ever visits to Lighthouse Park back in June 2005. On that day, the camera totally failed to focus on the flowers; I must have held the camera a little too close. Having seen some photos of this flower on Instagram I was inspired to go look for it again. And yet, as we wandered the trails on the western side of the park, I’d actually forgotten what drew me to the park in the first place, and it was only when Maria pointed out these lovely purple flowers that I even remembered! I guess I was feeling relaxed… Anyway, of course I set about taking as many photos as possible, but in the end couldn’t beat the simplest view of the first flower we found.

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.

The time of flowers

Couldn’t resist going back for another photo session with the fawn lilies 🙂 I even found a pink one! And yes, just one, hiding out among the false lily-of-the-valley.

I just knew it would happen – the draw of documenting this year’s fawn lily display was too strong and I headed over to Lighthouse Park once again with a bit of time in hand so I could crawl around on wet moss and grass in my attempts to capture the perfect flower photo. Quite a few of the flowers were past their peak, and one patch in particular that I was hoping to capture had already flowered and were now well into their seed-pod phase. But I still found plenty to admire, plus I found a couple of new patches off the beaten path to carefully investigate next year.

After my recent escapades with getting flower photos I’ve decided that our next camera absolutely must have a tilting or articulating/fold-out screen. It’s simply impossible to look through a viewfinder that’s anywhere from 4 to 12 inches off the ground without getting wet, muddy, or trampling other plants. I used Live View on the SLR for framing where possible, but even then it’s hard to see a 3-inch (vertical) screen so close to the ground. Worse, the reflections off the screen make it almost impossible to see what you’re framing, what the camera’s focusing on, or what you’ve taken. So once again I ended up using the compact camera for more shots than I expected, despite it being trickier to focus correctly (by which I mean it’s harder to get it to focus on the correct subject).

But as I mentioned above, this visit had one little surprise in store for me. As I walked back to the parking lot, I noticed something pink at the far edge of a patch of false lily-of-the-valley behind a big cedar. I leaned against the split-rail fence, zoomed in, held the camera at arm’s length and took a snap just for the record. It really did seem to be the only one as I couldn’t see any other leaves. I’ll be sure to look out for that again on future visits, and, if no one’s looking, I just might hop the fence for a closer look…

Star of the show

The star of the show, a white fawn lily in full bloom.

I’ve been itching to get back to Lighthouse Park to photograph the fawn lilies this year, especially as some of my Instagram friends have been posting lovely fawn lily photos of their own, but I’ve been waiting for a fine day as it’s no fun trying to get flower photos when it’s dull and light levels are low. Not that it was easy taking this photo as the flowers were constantly swaying in the breeze – I had to time my shots for when a flower stopped moving for that brief moment.

This was just a quick visit to the park really for me to be able to get at least one decent photo of this year’s bloom. Of course I can’t resist going back with a little more time to take a few more…

And that was Once Around the Sun

Throwback to the final photo in my photo-a-day project from 5 years ago. I began the project looking for (and failing to find) these fawn lilies, and was lucky enough to find them on my final day, which made it all seem worthwhile. At least, it did at the time: I have no intention of doing another! And it just so happens that this photo could have been taken this week as these flowers are at exactly the same stage 🙂

So this is the last you’ll hear about my Once Around the Sun project (aka “OATS”). I’m done with it. Again. 🙂 It was certainly a handy source of inspiration for Instagram posts, though I put my own artificial constraints on the choice of photos by insisting on using photos taken the same week five years previously. That meant I wasn’t always posting my best shots from OATS, but I guess I was overly enamoured of the whole “five years ago today” kind of feel. Nostalgia can be powerful, and isn’t always rational. Maybe I’ll sift through some of the other photos in the project and post some of my favourites that didn’t make the initial Instagram cut. We’ll see.

And so I need to come up with a new source of inspiration for Throwback Thursdays, although that shouldn’t be hard: I have a ginormous backlog of photos, many on Flickr but even more that have never seen the light of day. The difficulty is going to be deciding which one to use… But that’s a challenge for next week!

Signs of spring II

It may not look like much at the moment but in a week or so this will be a beautiful white fawn lily, one of my favourite spring flowers. There was no sign of any shoots when I was in Lighthouse Park a few weeks ago, but I was inspired to go looking for them again after I saw a similar photo from @plantexplorer. I also found a few salmonberry flowers down by the lighthouse, so despite our recent weather, spring is definitely on its way!

I was wondering how soon the fawn lilies would begin to poke up through the pine and fir needles given the very wintry winter we’ve had. Turns out they’re pretty much right on schedule (unlike last year when they were ridiculously early). I imagine I’ll be making a couple more trips to Lighthouse Park to catch their peak bloom, but I also want to check out another area to see if they’re growing there too as I have an indirect suggestion that fawn lilies may grow there too.

As soon as I started taking photos I immediately lamented not bringing my tripod. Bending over in the wet dirt (on a steep slope) trying to get a compact camera to focus on the right part of the green-on-green plant was an exercise in patience and frustration. I took a couple of dozen photos in order to get just 3 or 4 that I consider to have worked! After all, I can even set up the camera and just use my phone to control when to take the picture with no need to kneel in the dirt. Next time…