The Best View

Mountains, mountains, and yet more mountains! This might be the most amazing view I’ve seen in the Lower Mainland: Sky Pilot, Mt Habrich, Mt Garibaldi, the Tantalus Range, and so many more. Absolutely incredible! And a bit of autumn colour to finish off. Definitely one of my favourite hikes of the year, though not for beginners…! Finished the day at Backcountry Brewing for good beer and pizza.

I don’t know where to begin in trying to describe how it felt to be greeted by the stunning view of Sky Pilot and Mount Habrich when we reached the top of the ridge. It was utterly breathtaking. We had worked hard for those views and it was worth every step; we were running short on time and had we been a bit more conservative we might not have seen them at all! But we took a chance and it paid off, big time! We still made it back down to the gondola in plenty of time too, so we could have explored a bit further. That’ll have to wait until next time.

  1. Sky Pilot – the craggy multiple peaks of the Sky Pilot group, so captivating no matter what angle they’re viewed at. But up close they are simply stunning, and even better from here than on the neighbouring Skyline Ridge.
  2. Mount Habrich – a gorgeous imposing cone of a peak, with slabs of sheer granite on all sides, it’s definitely a climber’s summit. Mount Baker can be seen on the horizon to the right of Habrich; Meslilloet to the left (the nearest glacier to Vancouver).
  3. Mount Garibaldi – a regular sight on this hike, with many opportunities to stop and admire our nearest volcano. Each of those viewpoints would have made a good-enough turnaround point, but we’re so glad we pushed on higher. All the snow coating Garibaldi’s lower flanks two weeks previously (seen on our trip to Watersprite Lake) had melted. I’m sure it’ll get some new snow this week.
  4. Tantalus Range – I really like this angle on the Tantalus Range, and that tree in the middle of the granite bluff is just so photogenic.
  5. Autumn colour – there wasn’t much in the way of colourful shrubbery, but these two bushes were glowing beautifully in the late afternoon sunshine.
  6. A maple avenue – walking back to the car between the gondola and Shannon Falls, we passed through a tunnel of vine and big-leaf maples whose leaves had turned a lovely golden colour. Many leaves had fallen, creating a bright, cheery carpet for us to walk on in the deepening pre-sunset shadow.

Deep in Middle Earth

How long do you have to wait for a Thursday to be a throwback? Is two weeks good enough? If so then here’s a reflection of Mt Aragorn in a lake from a couple of weeks ago.

We’ve wanted to get into the Phelix Creek valley for so many years and we were delighted to make it at last, albeit at the expense of the paintwork on the car thanks to the plentiful alder and others bushes growing over the road. Although we didn’t scale any of the peaks (with the exception of the unofficially-named Frodo), we enjoyed exploring the area, especially the basin between Gandalf, Aragorn, and Shadowfax with its corresponding trio of lakes. When the breeze dropped, the surrounding peaks were reflected perfectly in the water, the squared-off profile of Aragorn looking especially majestic. (After all, he is the king!) In some ways it all reminded me of the Sierra Nevada mountains with the granite cliffs and lakes. All it needs is a few ponderosa pines to complete the picture.

And that is my 500th post on Instagram! I’ve been using it for 3 years now, and I must admit I’ve enjoyed it way more than I expected when I first started. It did take a while to build up my network of people I follow and follow me in return, but it’s been great fun.

Picture perfect

Instagram-ready view of Sky Pilot and the suspension bridge from my comfy chair and not so well earned beer.

Perspective has two meanings and, if I can, I like to express both in my photography. The first, artistic or architectural, definition highlights leading lines or vanishing points to add drama and a sense of movement or to draw the viewer into the scene. The other, more colloquial, use is simply that of a point of view. Windows especially offer the latter and I like using such a ready-made frame to isolate and highlight an element in a scene, especially if there’s not much else of interest. One of my first photos on Instagram was of Mt Garibaldi seen through the square window of the Brew hut, a photo which would have otherwise been featureless, low-contrast, and really not very interesting, especially as it was taken with my old phone.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself sitting in a comfortable chair in the lodge at the Sea to Sky Gondola, savouring a good pint, and looking out through a (square!) window at the jaw-dropping Sky Pilot group, complete with its namesake suspension bridge in the foreground. I posted a picture of Sky Pilot only last week so, at first, I wasn’t entirely sold on posting another so soon. However, in some respects I actually prefer this photo because the clouds are much more interesting, even though the strong reflections of the windows behind me and the aluminium railing undoubtedly reduce its “technical” merit. In my opinion, those imperfections add character, and make the photo more fun; a genuine capture of a moment in time rather than a staged postcard or calendar landscape shot.

Photography should be fun.

In terms of processing, I used DxO’s wonderful perspective (there’s that word again) correction tools to render the window square. (Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to put yourself in just the right place to take a perfect window shot; I was happy to get close enough and let DxO do the rest.) With so many pixels to play with, such corrections are easily made with modern software.

Yet another photo…

YASPP: yet another Sky Pilot photo. But who can resist?

What better way to finish off a long weekend than a sunny day trip up to the Sea to Sky gondola? The conditions were perfect, with warm sun welcoming us in the open and cool air keeping us moving in the shade. The views were spectacular as always, Sky Pilot looking like a fairytale mountain against a pure blue sky. After a quick stroll around the Panorama and Spirit Trails we relaxed at the lodge, and I couldn’t resist sitting back with a totally unearned beer to admire this view. Later the clouds rolled in which actually added some more interest to the scene (the blue sky looks nice, but it’s a bit bland), but I waited too long to go outside and take that picture so this will just have to do.

If anyone’s thinking of hiking the Sea to Summit trail, there’s still plenty of snow above about 600 m. Recent weather systems have left a dusting as low as 400 m. The snow was also not very supportive, especially in areas warmed by the sun, which means snowshoes would probably be a good idea, but microspikes would be fine where the snow is packed hard. Now that I’ve renewed my pass, I’ll definitely be using the hike up as a conditioner for the summer again.

Sunset eye candy

A sea of mountains at sunset. Mt Matier, Joffre Peak, and Mt Rohr sure make for a pretty skyline.

One of the things I love about hiking in the mountains north and east of Pemberton is the wonderful “sea of mountains” effect as ridge after ridge of peaks fades into the distance. On our second night at Twin Lakes, a cloudless day turned into a subtly golden sunset with the snow fields on Mt Matier catching the last of the light.

When I took this shot, I exposed for the brighter portions of the image to keep the shutter speed manageable for a hand-held shot in the darkening dusk (the lower half of the photo looked almost completely black). Adjusting the shadows in DxO afterwards revealed a surprising amount of colour detail had still been captured despite being underexposed by at least one stop. Not bad for a camera from 2009! Now obviously, looking closely at the image shows that it’s smeary and lacking detail (plus the blacks still look crushed flat), but for posting on Instagram and Flickr, it has turned out well enough for me to let other people see it.

It’s photos like this that justify carrying the weight and bulk of a digital SLR, and they ensure I will always have a camera of this class, though whether it’s an SLR or mirrorless remains to be seen. I wonder what Nikon has in store for us…

Window seat

Home again after an all-too-short but wonderful family visit. Garibaldi Lake and the Barrier as seen from our seats in the middle of the plane. Anyone with a window seat not staring out of the window at this point should forfeit their seats! 🙂

Despite not having window seats, we were delighted to see this familiar view from the plane as we descended into Vancouver. While I would have preferred an unobstructed view, I’m pleased that I was at least able to make a feature of the aircraft window, and that I had enough of a zoom to focus on the scene outside. Initially, I kept the camera in my usual aperture-priority mode, but when I realized that it was consistently giving me about 1/125 s exposure, I just dialled that in using manual mode, which meant the camera didn’t have to spend time re-metering the scene just because I’d moved the camera away from the window.

And of course, I have to count on a little bit of luck, namely that the person in the window seat was glued to it taking loads of pictures of their own. Thankfully, they were content to just take one or two. If that had been me, I suspect no one else would have been able to get a shot in…

Mountain double act

Gratuitous mountain view for Mountain Monday – Brunswick and Harvey, a superb double act of Howe Sound summits. Which do you prefer?

Brunswick and Harvey, often mentioned together in conversations about the peaks of the Howe Sound Crest Trail (a backpacking trip I’ve yet to tackle), and two of several tough hikes that begin in Lions Bay. From what I’ve read, Brunswick – being the higher, slightly tougher, and more technical – seems to have the majority mindshare among hikers. I don’t disagree that it’s an impressive peak, and the summit is a fantastic area, but personally I prefer Mt Harvey because the approach is more pleasant (or less unpleasant depending on your point of view!), and I really liked the closer view of the Lions.

Both hikes are hard, involving over 1450 m of elevation gain at an average gradient exceeding 20%. Brunswick has the additional excitement of some scrambling and tricky terrain to negotiate (with some exposure too), whereas Harvey has only a few places near the top where hands are helpful. But for me, the hike up to Brunswick is just awful: over 2 hours of logging road followed by a direct line up the mountain through scrappy second-growth forest. Only once the trail hits the Howe Sound Crest Trail does it become interesting and fun. By comparison, the hike up to Harvey passes through more pleasant forest (even though a lot is second-growth), and winds its way up the steep slope in a more manageable fashion.

Maybe it’s only because I only recently saw the view from Mt Harvey for the first time, but, at least for now, I’ll take the less exciting summit with the more interesting approach!

And that was my 400th post on Instagram. It’s only taken me two years 🙂