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…

Lighthouse Park wins again

Lighthouse Park wins again. Last May I remarked on my flora and fauna sightings on a visit to this park, and I was rewarded again today with a few really nice wildlife sightings. No flowers this time – it’s been far too cold recently, and the odd patch of snow still lingers even here in Lighthouse Park. (I think last year’s February sighting of a fawn lily was the exception rather than the rule – I’m sure it’ll be another month before we see those again.)

I walked down to the rocks at Point Atkinson and found a good place to sit and just take in the calm before me. I could see birds out on the water, probably surf scoters, as well as the usual woody debris. A couple of common mergansers paddled off as I approached. But having seen porpoises here before, I started scanning just in case. And – yes – was that a dorsal fin? It was, but it was far away. A kayaker out in the bay had stopped paddling and seemed to be just watching – maybe the porpoises, perhaps just the birds, or seals that I couldn’t see. A few minutes later the kayaker moved on and provided me with a great photo-op as they paddled on by.

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

As I was sizing up photos through the lens, I heard a sharp exhale and looked down to see a smooth shape slip under the waves. A moment later the shape resurfaced and I caught a clear view of a Steller’s (?) sea lion, barely 10 metres off shore. I grabbed a photo, and though not the best it was a nice clear sighting:

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

I haven’t mentioned the eagles yet. On the drive to the park, I saw and heard a couple, and within moments of stepping out of the car I heard their staccato cries from the treetops. They were very chatty today and I could hear at least four or five calling from different trees. A pair flew out to sea and back a couple of times, and I’ve taken enough eagle photos to know better than to bother with distant shots. However, on one of their returns, they approached on a line almost directly over me, so I sized them up hoping that I’d get a couple of decent shots as they passed.

And then they did this:

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

Cool or what? I remember watching a pair of eagles go talon-to-talon in (ironically enough) Porpoise Bay on the Sunshine Coast many years ago.

And so onto what was (for me) the star attraction. Now, it must be said that harbour porpoises are pretty low key performers and it’s perhaps true that my best photo is a little underwhelming: four dorsal fins in close proximity. What I can’t capture is that they were close enough to hear them exhale as they surfaced. And that was magic. Plus I had the rocks to myself at this point.

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

It was a great excuse to find a comfy rock and watch the porpoises get closer to the park as they followed the outgoing tide. I’d seen them a couple of times before, but hadn’t stopped long enough to really watch them. I estimated there were at least half-a-dozen individuals in the group I was following, and there may have been a second, smaller group nearby (with another 2-3) but it was hard to tell.

The porpoises continued out towards the strait, and I didn’t see them again after the boat from the Vancouver Police marine unit went by. Time to move on and I turned my attention to the lighthouse itself. I hadn’t actually noticed the old WW2 bunker facing across to Tower Beach at UBC before. I wandered on to the lighthouse lookout where one of the eagles was standing guard on the weather vane. Here I also encountered a huge flock of dark-eyed juncos, and stopped to watch (and listen to) a small group of nuthatches.

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

Finally I took a trail that I’d not taken before: the west beach trail. I’d noticed a lot of photos on Instagram that showed the lighthouse from the west and it makes a really nice photo. Which is how I ended up with this shot:

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

Possibly my favourite of the day – those clouds! – though one detail I really like about the photo is the cormorant. Photographically done for the day, and after a brief visit from a river otter, it was time to head back to the car and home.