Frozen

Couldn’t resist stopping off at Alexander Falls after a couple of hours snowshoeing the trails at the Whistler Olympic Park. Unfortunately we ran out of time and had to make do with the view from the parking lot instead of getting down to river level. Hard to believe there’s a creek under there!

With our prolonged spell of fine, cold weather, we knew that the local waterfalls were mostly frozen over. Our original plan was to take in the trail that ventures to the base of Alexander Falls, but our desire to explore new trails got the better of us and we wandered up the slopes and through the forests of the west side of the Whistler Olympic Park instead. That meant we ran out of time before getting to Alexander Falls, so we had to be content with parking up on our way back and doing the short (but treacherous) walk across the snow-buried parking lot.

It was an impressive sight, the falls almost completely frozen over with only the smallest sign of running water. It definitely would have been worth exploring the bottom of the falls, as I’d done with a friend on a previous visit, but we’ll just have to wait until next winter.

I also realized that one problem with photographing the waterfall this late in the day meant that it was partially in shadow; it would be better to catch it either in full sun or full shade rather than have to deal with the large difference in brightness between the shady waterfall and the sunlit snow. Something to remember next time!

Falling water

A pair of waterfalls for waterfall Wednesday – the first is on an unnamed stream right next to Glacier Creek road (📷 by Maria) the second is a lovely cascade on Grouse Creek. Of course, the PNW is one big waterfall today…

The day on which I posted the above photos started out very wet. It seemed that the November rains had finally rolled in, albeit only for a couple of days as it turned out.

On our way up to Heliotrope Ridge we passed a number of pretty roadside waterfalls, small cascades from meltwater streams from high up. On our way back down we stopped long enough at the first one for me to hand my phone to Maria to grab the shot. Although it was getting dark I knew the phone app would be able to handle it with its stacking of images, and I think it turned out quite nicely.

The second photo was taken a few minutes into our hike, from a bridge over Grouse Creek. For this I used the SLR (since I was carrying it) and managed to hand-hold a shot with an exposure long enough to blur the water in a pleasing but not-too-artificial way.

I used to like the really long exposure photos of waterfalls but after watching a couple of Adam Gibbs’ videos on waterfall photography, I’ve changed my mind. His technique is often to blend two exposures – one long, one short – in order to preserve some details in the flow against a smooth backdrop. I can’t be bothered to do that so I’m making do with a single “Goldilocks” exposure that’s just right. At least for my taste.

Norvan Falls

Norvan Falls on waterfall Wednesday. Not the most spectacular waterfall or hike, but every hike has its season and for Norvan Falls, that’s pretty much now with so much fresh spring growth and a good dose of forest flowers for company. The giant logjam is new since I was last there in 2015. I couldn’t resist including the yellow stream violet seeing as it’s also wildflower Wednesday – it was the only one still blooming!

Getting good photos of Norvan Falls is tricky. There’s often not much water flowing and on a weekend it gets busy so getting a hiker-free view is rare. However, on today’s visit (well, last Saturday’s in reality) I did manage to position myself to get clear views of the falls, either with no one in front of me or mostly hidden by other features.

  1. The falls drop about 10 m into a small pool – since they’re long and thin it’s hard to get them into a square crop, but somehow I managed!
  2. Further downstream the steep sides of the gorge can be seen – it looks quite idyllic from here, and this is the best angle on the area with a few nice boulders in the foreground.
  3. Behind me in the previous photo is this enormous logjam. I’m pretty sure this did not come over the falls, but there’s a drainage/debris chute off to the left that I’ve never explored that I suspect is a more likely source of it. The fallen Douglas fir trunks make for a colourful foreground.
  4. A tiny splash of colour, a yellow stream violet, one of only a few that were still blooming. All of the others along the trail had dropped their petals already. I’m pleasantly surprised how the phone camera focused perfectly on the flower.

Waterfall Season

Waterfall season is well and truly here! Hiked up the Sea to Summit trail on Saturday and to Crooked Falls the next day to enjoy the cool refreshing spray of these spectacular waterfalls. We could feel the thundering water with our feet… Crooked Falls has certainly become a very popular place!

We hadn’t planned on doing two waterfall hikes back-to-back, but as we headed up the beginning of the trail to both the Chief and Sea to Summit trail, we soon realized that the vast majority of people had the Chief as their destination. The decision to opt for the quieter Sea to Summit trail was a no-brainer, and it turned out to be an inspired choice. Not only was the trail peaceful and quiet, but the water in Shannon Creek was roaring over the many sets of falls, cascades, and rapids. Even before we reached the falls, we could sense the deep rumbling of the water, and felt invigorated by the cool oxygenated air. Coupled with the first signs of a multitude of forest flowers, it was the perfect hike for an overcast day, and made our summit beer all the more enjoyable despite the briefest of views of the Sky Pilot peaks.

Sunday’s plan was always Crooked Falls though we almost changed our minds. In the end we were very glad we stuck with our original idea and enjoyed another lovely forest walk, again dotted with a variety of flowers and dominated by a thundering, soaking waterfall in full flow. The biggest surprise was the number of people: it seems that the Instagram effect has reached Sigurd Creek, and I was even moved to ask a few groups how they’d found out about the hike. Remarkably, only one mentioned Instagram.

Anyway, onto the photos.

  1. The first is a general view of what we believe to be Upper Shannon Falls. It’s hard to say exactly which one is the upper falls as there are several along a short stretch of the creek. At first I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a clear shot, but the green of the forest is so beautiful and the zig-zag of the creek still clearly visible that I actually ended up really liking this photo. As usual, the full effect is lacking on account of the square crop but the essence is there.
  2. These falls might be the true upper falls, and are the ones most easily visible from the trail, being blessed with two good vantage points. I took so long taking photos and video that a queue of photographers had formed behind me (of course I couldn’t hear anything as the water was too loud). Apparently one even made a joke about pushing me in to get me out of the way…
  3. Shannon Falls looking as magnificent as ever. While I’ve seen greater flow, I must admit this was still impressive today and I had to take advantage of the lack of crowds to get a clear photo of the falls.
  4. A face-on view of Crooked Falls, I endured a complete drenching to get this photo. Thank goodness for quick-dry clothing! It was definitely a good test of the water-resistance of my Pixel 2, as well as a good test of the non-water-resistance of our RX100II. Both survived, and I could barely see through my glasses by the time I was done. Needless to say, there weren’t many people lining up behind me to get such a clear view of the falls today…
  5. I believe Crooked Falls is named for the way it zigs and zags. Despite the intimidating view, it feels quite safe to get this view looking downstream over the cliff. On my previous visit, I had an ultrawide lens on our SLR and was able to capture this view and most of the falls in a single photo. On that particular day (back in 2014), I don’t think we saw more than half-a-dozen hikers in total.
  6. There’s a third vantage point of Crooked Falls, and I can’t decide whether it feels safe or not. Getting down into the “crook” (if you will) of the falls here requires descending a steep, slippery path, and I’m always aware that a mis-step could propel me over the edge into the waterfall. But many people make it here quite safely, and it is worth it for this unique angle. This photo shows off the capability of the Pixel 2 camera to simultaneously capture deep shadows and bright highlights: the sky is blue and the clouds have structure! I have to admit, I’m still enjoying using the camera on this phone.

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.

Frigid falls

This seems like an appropriate waterfall photo for today’s waterfall Wednesday – standing at the base of Alexander Falls a few winters ago. I remember being disappointed that the sun was not on the falls but in retrospect it clearly makes for a better picture. It didn’t matter that the snowshoeing wasn’t particularly exciting as it was still a fun and peaceful afternoon. Maybe it’s time we used those expired half-price day tickets to revisit the falls…

Why is this appropriate? Well, yesterday we got our first city snow of the year in Vancouver and today it’s all frozen solid. Tomorrow has rain in the forecast though that could easily be snow again. For a few short hours, the UBC campus was a winter wonderland, until the reality of getting the bus up the hill sunk in. Thankfully the roads were clear enough by the evening for me to have no issues getting home.

Back to the photo. A similar cloudless day back in January 2011, and I set off on snowshoes with a friend to wander the trails at the Whistler Olympic Park, finishing up at the base of Alexander Falls. We needed a little deft snowshoe-clad footwork to get down the slope, but it was well worth it. Since it’s now been nearly 7 years since I visited I think it’s about time I returned, and now we have winter tyres to get up the Sea to Sky highway, it might even be something we do over the Christmas holiday.

However, on my next visit I’m going to try a couple more angles and go for a longer exposure too. We were running out of time back in 2011 (and my friend’s kid was getting very cold) so I just had time to snap a few photos before we retraced our steps back to the lodge where we tackled some well-deserved hot chocolate.

Nineteen miles

Pretty waterfall on Nineteen Mile Creek as we head up to Iceberg Lake.

Nineteen miles from where? Pemberton seems like a reasonable guess as it’s about 30 km away, which is – tada – nearly 19 miles. The eponymous creek drains a small lake which used to be part of the Rainbow glacier when it spilled over the massive eastern headwall into the valley below. All that remains is a couple of small permanent snowfields along with a pretty little lake.

At a couple of spots the creek has some lovely waterfalls, most of which are accessible and really photogenic with the photo above showing the largest single drop. As ever, a tripod would have been ideal, but this isn’t bad for a hand-held shot of 1/6 second.

Disappearing act

First visit to Englishman River Falls – having seen many photos on Instagram, it was nice to see them in person. Lots of starflower and salal in bloom, some wild strawberry and vanilla leaf too. Also found some pink wintergreen and my first ever Vancouver groundcone, aka poque.

I knew that capturing this waterfall was going to be difficult. Like many waterfalls, the scale is hard to represent effectively in photographs so I decided to just go with the flow (ha ha – geddit?) and be content with the same shot as everyone else. Now I know the scale, I’m quite happy with it. It would be tricky to get a nice long exposure of these falls because the bridge wobbles when walked on. I’d have to get here early in the morning to have the place to myself to avoid that. That’s for some other time. We were lucky enough with our timing as the sun emerged from behind the clouds a few minutes later.

The short loop trail connecting the falls was well worth doing, passing through some pleasant forest (with signs of fawn lilies in a few places to pique my interest). The water level had dropped since the first rush of spring snowmelt so the lower falls weren’t really evident. I was surprised and impressed with the deep, ruler-straight canyon connecting the falls – it’s quite a spectacular feature. The warning signs have it right!

Spahats Falls

Spahats Falls, a panoramic view from 2011, because it’s waterfall Wednesday.

At the time we visited Wells Gray back in 2011, we only had the standard 18-55 mm lens for our SLR (28-82 mm 35-mm equivalent). The gorge into which this waterfalls drops is immense and can’t be captured in a single shot, so I took about a dozen photos to capture the scene and stitched them together later in Hugin. And I have to say I’m pleased with the end result. There’s still little idea of the actual scale of the waterfall – it’s a 60-m/200-foot drop – but overall, I feel it captures the gorge quite effectively. It definitely helps that the spring runoff was at its peak as later in the season the waterfall was barely a trickle by comparison.

One of things I remember most about Wells Gray is not the waterfalls, but the volcanic features: the canyon walls contained enormous thick layers of columnar basalts. It must have been quite the scene to see such a huge lava flow.

Waterfall season

Shannon Falls from the side, this view is from the parking lot at the Sea to Sky gondola – waterfall season is fast approaching!

It’s been a pretty miserable winter here in Vancouver. Lots of rainy days, and sunshine has been hard to come by. But rain and snow make for good waterfalls, so there’s something to be said for enduring all the grey and damp. Shannon Falls near Squamish is usually a good bet for a good flowing waterfall, and this day was pretty good for early spring conditions. I’ve seen the falls flowing much more strongly than this, but today there was enough to get some good misty spray drifting from the upper cascades. We’d called in to the Sea to Sky gondola to buy annual passes (aka Christmas presents!) and caught this nice view of the falls as we walked from the car, a slightly different perspective than usual.