Howe Sound Peaks

Panoramic view of some of my favourite peaks as seen from the ferry last night.

As we approached Horseshoe Bay on Sunday evening, the light on the Howe Sound peaks was a beautiful soft warm glow. Of course, my phone camera can’t zoom so I’m left with cropping the full frame to manually “zoom” into the part I’m most interested in showing. However, I couldn’t decide which part of the scene I liked best so I thought I’d try a panoramic crop and then split it into two separate, square(ish) photos which, together, captured what most caught my eye.

Just don’t look too closely: I haven’t found a reliable method of splitting a photo into a panorama on my phone yet, so I did the best edit I could. But there’s still a clear overlap problem, and it looks like I processed each frame differently too! Oops. Not my best work for sure… If in doubt, just look at the first one as it’s the most interesting!

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Patterns in the water

Loving the abstract patterns in the water at low tide!

It’s that time of year again when we spend a couple of days by the beach in Parksville on Vancouver Island. Did I say by the beach? I meant on the beach! As soon as the tide begins to recede we’re out there following it out and looking for any signs of life that hasn’t yet burrowed into the sand such as sand dollars.

After a day exposed to the warm late spring sunshine, the sand was warm and it heated up the incoming water as the tide rose which made paddling in the shallows like splashing through bath water. Even better were the patterns made by the ripples as the sun shone through them to the sand below, an endless series of ever-changing abstracts that were irresistible to photograph.

I loved the way it made for an interesting foreground in the first photo, even making a natural dividing line as the viewing angle into the water became too shallow. Then there’s simply the patterns themselves, of which I couldn’t resist recording a short video clip as the waves rolled by (although the heavy compression for Instagram means it doesn’t look as good as the original).

Hopefully we can return again next year – it’s really a lovely way to spend a few days. We really got lucky with the weather this time round, especially as we were almost a month earlier in the year than previously, but it’s BC so you never know what you’re going to get…!

Island Time

For this week’s Throwback Thursday we’re heading out of town, across the water to nearby islands. One of the things I really like about living in Vancouver is being next to the sea, and having islands to visit by ferry. Not only is it just plain fun to take a ferry ride somewhere (especially through Active Pass) but each island is beautiful in its own right, and each has a different feel from the other. First stop, Galiano Island.

1. Crossing over to this little island before high tide meant sitting around enjoying the view for a couple of hours. Not exactly difficult 🙂

In September 2015 we spent a long weekend renting a small cottage at the far north end of Galiano Island, within walking distance of Dionisio Point provincial park on the tip of the island. We walked down to the park and crossed a sandbar that led out to a small island. After watching sea lions and seals swim around the point and generally enjoying lazing around in the afternoon sun, we found ourselves cut off as the tide was getting higher, and we had to time our steps very carefully between waves to get back across to dry land! We made it though 🙂

2. Nosing into Horseshoe Bay

The twenty-minute ride to and from Bowen Island is definitely one of the best treats around, especially now we’ve made friends with some local Bowegians. It’s fun taking the ferry anyway, with great views of the Howe Sound peaks and islands, and Snug Cove is a nice place to wander round, grab some good food or chocolate, maybe sit out on the patio at Doc’s with a beer. Plus there’s the hike up to Mt Gardner or a gentler wander around Killarney Lake. It’s the perfect little getaway for the day to catch a little slice of island life.

3. A view from 3 months ago – a quick jaunt to the summit of Mt Galiano before catching the ferry home

The “three months ago” was back in September 2015, the same trip as the first photo. We had a short window of opportunity before we had to catch the ferry and hoofed it up to the summit of Mt Galiano to enjoy the glorious view from up there. It’s a pretty easy walk all the way, passing the wreckage of an old plane crash along the way, before emerging onto the grassy bluffs overlooking the entrance to Active Pass. I could easily spend more time up there, watching the ferries go back and forth, plus it’s a riot of wildflowers in the spring.

West is best

Having recently visited Vancouver Island I thought it would be fun to feature a couple more shots in my Throwback Thursday series.

1. Sunset over Vancouver Island.

A typical summer view when taking a Friday evening ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Who can resist a glorious colourful sunset? The journey is not as scenic as the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route, so it lends itself well to “big sky” and abstract photos.

You can’t get much simpler a composition that this: sun in the centre, horizon dividing the scene in two, contrasting textures (if not colour) in each half. Looking back at this photo, the vapour trail from the airliner annoys me, but I’m not (yet) into removing features I don’t like from images so it’ll have to stay put for now.

2. Carmanah lighthouse on the West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island.

Now this was a treat. Through a friend we managed to wrangle a stay at the lighthouse for a night which meant we had about 24 hours to enjoy the beaches of the west coast of the Island. And I distinctly remember stopping in my tracks when we emerged from the forest onto the driftwood logs and were confronted by a beautiful idyllic scene of a blue ocean lapping at a sandy beach. I had forgotten just about gorgeous the west-coast beaches were, and it definitely inspired us to spend more time way-out west. The icing on the proverbial cake was seeing a number of grey whales and finding some whale fossils.

That particular view of the beach is on Flickr:
West Coast Trail, 22 Aug 2015

But it’s not just that section of the West Coast Trail (WCT); many parts of the coast of Vancouver Island have sandy beaches. While we have still yet to tackle the WCT, we did manage to spend a few days at the northern tip of the Island in 2016. Much of our time on the Cape Scott Trail was spent lounging around or otherwise admiring the beautiful sandy beaches. Don’t believe me?

Nels Bight, 6 Aug 2016

And then there’s the Nootka Trail, where your first night is spent on this beach:
Nootka Trail, 25 Aug 2006
I even swam in the sea here!

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that we jumped at the opportunity to ring in the New Year on the sandy beaches of Tofino, and I’m already looking forward to our next visit.

Seascape

Salish Seascape, inspired by the photos of Warren Keelan. I’ve tried a few of these panning shots before but they really work best when there’s a nice colour contrast. Having said that, I didn’t really know how this was going to turn out until I processed it given that it was such a grey day.

When you’re on a ferry on open water on a grey day, there really isn’t much to photograph. And so I remembered that I’d tried out a panning shot from a ferry a couple of years ago and thought it would be fun to try another. For that particular photo, the panning was essentially performed by the motion of the ferry over a half-second or so.

While the exposure time for today’s shot was not especially long at 1/30 sec, I could obviously mimic a longer exposure by moving the camera instead. I tried a couple of photos, and found it more difficult than I expected to pan the camera horizontally without drifting up or down (or worse, up and down). In the end, the technique I adopted was to start panning, and then press the shutter release while continuing to pan which helped me to avoid any significant vertical drifting. That way I managed to get a few keepers.

All that remained was to read the file into DxO PhotoLab and tweak the exposure, contrast, and colour to get something I liked, then post to Flickr and Instagram (with a couple of additional tweaks). I like the effect, so I’m tempted to try some more in different weather and/or lighting conditions.

The full photograph is on Flickr:

Salish Sea, 28 Dec 2017

To be an eagle

Oh the mayhem you can cause if you’re an eagle – a lone bald eagle stirs the entire flock of snow geese into flight, only a small portion of which can be seen here.

You never know what’s going to get a reaction on Instagram. I was sifting through some photos looking for inspiration for an Instagram post to fit in with one of the Friday hashtag themes, such as forest Friday, feathered Friday, or flashback Friday (among others). This one caught my eye because I’d recently watched a video on YouTube from a photographer I follow that talked about taking photos that told a story. As I looked at this photo, I immediately saw the story: the lone eagle and the flock of snow geese in flight, the predator-prey relationship, and the sense of movement from left to right.

But even better, to my eye, were the layers: the reeds at the bottom of the frame, the line of the ocean, the birds in flight, the clouds, and finally the eagle in clear sky; all separate, all contributing to the simplicity of the photo. (If I’m picky, there are too many layers, so the photo ends up quite busy, but I think it still works.) I found a square crop I liked, tweaked the exposure and contrast and posted it on Instagram.

I expected maybe two dozen likes at most – it’s a bit of a departure from my usual photos and it lacks a strong subject – but it’s had over twice that many. However, what surprised me more were the comments – it seemed that it really resonated with some folks, far more than I thought it would, which is both humbling and gratifying. It also makes me want to change up my photography style to find more scenes that tell a compelling story, rather than my usual approach of taking many photos to document as much of the story as possible.

However, it was only in the post-processing that I noticed there was even a story to be had. At the time I was just taking lots of photographs of distant birds, hoping they’d be in focus! Recognizing the story at the time will take more application, and I think I might be ready for it.

Here’s the original photo on Flickr:

Reifel Bird Sanctuary, 9 Nov 2014

Dusky pink

It’s ferry Friday – here’s the Queen of Capilano on her way back to Horseshoe Bay from Bowen Island at dusk last weekend.

A clear evening, a view of the ferry, and a pink sky. All I had to do was keep the camera steady. I was hoping to be able to push the colour a bit more to make it a bit more dramatic but it didn’t really look right, so I kept my adjustments modest. More realistic, albeit at the expense of being a little less eye-catching.

On the whole I’ll take realism any day – I see too many photos on Instagram (and Flickr and Facebook) where the colours have been pushed to ridiculous levels in the hope of attracting more likes. (And that’s before we get into discussions of HDR.) At least I assume that’s the case – perhaps the posters genuinely like their photos to look that way? Maybe that is “realistic” to them? Who knows? I don’t see exactly the same as them and my screens are setup differently.

It occurred to me as I was writing this that eye-catching is probably the name of the game for many people on Instagram. Given the continuous scrolling through dozens of photos, it takes something to literally catch your eye as you go, something to make you stop scrolling and take a closer look, tap the heart, or even leave a comment. Sure, I enjoy seeing those “like” notifications as much as anyone, but at the end of the day, if only a few others like my photos, I’m fine with that.

I will admit, though, that I do get a little irked when I see mediocre photos being lauded as “excellent work”, but I also recognize that the number of likes and comments is pretty much directly related to the number of followers, and I’d have to work harder to gain more followers in order to increase my likability. I’m not so heavily into my own self-promotion to do that. And do I want followers who can’t tell a good photo from a bad one? What’s the value of their likes to me in that case, other than for massaging my ego?

So I will go on just posting photos I like, those that can jog a memory or two for me, and, yes, I hope that others may find them interesting.