Floral assortment

An assortment of flowers near Mystery Lake for wildflower-Wednesday: bunchberry, paintbrush, and fireweed. I was surprised to find bunchberry still blooming, and this was the first time I’ve seen paintbrush on the North Shore. The fireweed photo is actually from Callaghan Valley (though there was plenty blooming next to the Mt Seymour parking lot), against a backdrop of thick smoke from the BC wildfires.

Guess who just found out how to post a slideshow on Instagram? Yay 🙂 I’ll try not to overuse it, but sometimes it’s nice to include a few photos in a single post to tell a wider story. The only downside is that it looks like the photos are forced to be square and I hadn’t prepared these photos with a square crop on mind, so I don’t feel they’re displayed to their best advantage.

Judging by the freshness of the bunchberry flowers, I’d say the North Shore (or at least that part of Mt Seymour) is about 3 weeks behind its usual bloom. We also saw quite a few fresh Queen’s cup, which was another lovely surprise. But the biggest surprise was the paintbrush: my eye was caught by the orangey-red colour on one of the ski runs, and then I found more along the edge of the open slopes just before we entered the forest. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never seen paintbrush on any of the North Shore mountains, though I have nagging memory of maybe seeing it once before somewhere else on Mt Seymour. I’ll need to scan our (ridiculously large) photo collection to be sure!

The fireweed photo is a bit of a cheat as it was taken the day before but I really wanted to show the smoky atmosphere in the background that couldn’t be seen in the fireweed photos I took in the parking lot. It was bad enough to put us off our original hiking plans…

Auroral reflection

Beautiful green aurora reflected in the still waters of English Bay. And all because I went out onto the balcony to watch the International Space Station sail by…

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve missed seeing the aurora in Vancouver. The one that still annoys me is the spectacular display on Thanksgiving 2012, the day we went home after a weekend backpacking at Garibaldi Lake (mentioned in my earlier post, Long Exposure). But last night I got lucky.

Earlier in the evening, I’d stepped out onto our balcony to look at the crescent moon slipping towards the horizon, when I noticed something bright in the sky, and moving from west to east. I looked over to Jupiter to compare its brightness and quickly realized that it must be the International Space Station (ISS). I watched it drift overhead (I always want to wave to the astronauts…) and then went back inside. I checked the timing and found I was right, and of course that the next sighting would be in a little over 90 minutes’ time.

Well, by now, it was getting late, and we had closed the balcony door as the apartment had finally cooled to a reasonable temperature after a hot sunny Saturday. But just at the time of the next flyover, I decided to go back out and look for the ISS again. Sure enough, there it was, its arc passing a little further north than earlier taking it a few degrees higher than the pole start. And then I did a double take: was that a green glow over the mountains? Maria confirmed that I wasn’t seeing things. I’d seen the alert from spaceweather.com but dismissed it on account of so many previous false alarms (Vancouver is not a great aurora-viewing spot for a few reasons). Yet there it was before my eyes: a faint green sky.

There was no question in our minds: grab the camera, tripod, and a jacket and walk down to the beach. The water was the flattest calm, it was a balmy evening (well, morning by this time I suppose), and we were treated to a gorgeous auroral display, which I photographed until the camera battery ran out. I think I have a few I’m happy with, though I would have loved to have been able to take a time-lapse as we could clearly see movement. Maybe next time.

Make no mistake: it’s never as in-your-face-green as the photographs, and it was evident to us that the young folks partying on the beach had no clue about the aurora. (At one point, we were approached by one of them, and I expected a question about the aurora or the photography. But all they wanted was a cigarette. And they sounded so disengaged that we decided it wasn’t even worth trying to point out the green sky.) But it was obvious to us, we had a near-perfect spot to capture it, and it was a very peaceful hour on the beach.

A fine view

A fine view indeed – the North Shore mountains looked very photogenic today. You have to make the most of days like these and we ended up walking 10 km around the city 🙂 My feet are pretty sore now…

What a beautiful day to be outside – apart from the chilly wind and the blinding reflection of the sun off the water in English Bay (there’s no pleasing some people 😉 I ended up with about a dozen photos from today that I really liked, but this one is probably my favourite.

Walking the seawall in Coal Harbour I was drawn to the blue sky reflected in the water, and this perfect little cloud drifting over Grouse Mountain. I also took a landscape shot that took in all the mountains between Crown and Seymour, but I liked the way this angle neatly fitted into a square crop.

A Crown for the clouds

A Crown for the clouds – yet another photo of Crown Mountain from my picture-a-day project of 5 years ago.

Crown is a dramatic-looking mountain, and never more so than when the clouds are clearing. I liked this view at the time because Crown appeared to be sandwiched between two layers of cloud. To be honest, I’m not that enamoured of this photo these days – I shrugged when I saw that I’d chosen it for this week’s throwback photo. It feels a little flat and lacking in presence. Back in early 2012, I was still using the JPEGs from the camera – I suspect that if I processed it from raw I would give it a different feel now (mind you, raw processing is no guarantee of a better end result). Plus I feel I’ve taken much better shots since then. Of course, without the pressure of getting something every day, I can afford to be choosy and wait for better light or better conditions so I would indeed hope that I’d taken better photos in the past 5 years!

Sunset double

I love how the light changes so quickly at this time of year – two views of Crown and Grouse taken 9 minutes apart.

I had another photo in mind for posting today, but when I processed it I decided that it just wasn’t speaking to me. Thankfully, the sunset provided a great photo-op. I took a couple of photos as the light changed, but couldn’t decide which one to post. Furthermore, choosing one would have meant posting a photo with a 16×9 ratio, which just doesn’t work with Instagram, so I had the idea of combining the two photos into something with a portrait orientation. I fiddled with the photos to get exactly the same crop and pasted the two into a new image.

I still like both for different reasons, and I’ll probably put both on Flickr in their full glory.

Top of the Mountain

The End. Good movie, a well paced build-up before a heart-pounding climax with some beautiful scenes! Would watch again.

Some people manage to come up with great captions for their photos on Instagram. Some post meaningful statements, or pose questions to ponder. Me? I end up usually just describing what’s in the photo 🙂 But this more playful take on a description of the hike up to the top of Hollyburn came to mind as I typed the first words, The End, which were mostly about the crossed poles indicating the end of the marked trail. Indeed I have enjoyed “watching” this hike many times now. I can’t say that for any film…

Morning (f)light

Catching the early morning (f)light – a floatplane banks in front of the western peak of Crown Mountain.

During my photo-a-day project I’d always venture out onto our balcony on any morning with good light, especially in the winter. I don’t recall how many such photos made it into the project (not many as I tried hard not to repeat shots if possible) but I certainly took plenty. I liked this one because the floatplane just turned to catch the sun, showing up brightly against a wonderfully snowy Crown Mountain. This particular peak is locally called Beauty Peak, or sometimes just West Crown and there is a route to its summit which looks like a fun scramble.

Oh, and excuse the pun in the title and first line – I can’t help it…