Yesterday I hiked the sea lion caves trail, which leads to a community of large, fleshy, and boisterous beasts on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.
The hike takes about two hours each way and briefly shares space with the Juan de Fuca Trail. The sea lions trail head is south of Port Renfrew, near the bridge over Jack Elliot creek. The first third of the hike is an easy walk on a fire road but the rest is a challenging scramble over and around and under a gnarly and slippery mass of roots and limbs. Following a narrow spine that falls away sharply on both sides, the path is not for the faint of heart. But as one approaches the coast, the call of the sea lions beckon. While listening to this odd soundtrack, the barely-a-path becomes a slip and slide down a long slope to the rock shore, assisted only by a worn rope with an occasional knot. Gloves are recommended for the belay down, and then the back up on return.
I traveled light, taking only a 20/2.8d and the almost-as-small 28-200g for the D800E. The 28-200 hasn't been out since being on a Nikon D70 in Peru in 2005. I've kept the 28-200 as a candidate travel lens, though its quality and ergonomics - the plastic mount and the short-throw between extreme focal lengths - pale in comparison to my other lenses. The 70-300, with its longer reach and VR, would have served better for capturing the sunning sea lions and the swimming silver-backed seals, but the 28-200 served me well.
Winter has arrived on the island: wind, snow, and temperatures below zero. Of course, if you're from, say, Winnipeg, you may find this shorts-and-flip-flops weather, like the fellow on line in front of me yesterday. But having sent much of my life in Texas and California, for me the weather is too cold for man or beast.
Two from yesterday. The day started with a colorful sunrise over the Juan de Fuca Strait (taken with the 17-55 at 55mm f/5.6), but it ended with a snowy drive to Victoria and back (35/2.0d at f/6.3), both on the D300.
Yesterday I hiked the coastal trail in East Sooke Regional Park, from Aylard Farm to Beachey Head. The coast-hugging hike is rocky and the trail footing treacherous in places. To be fair, the experienced rock climber, and there was at least one among us, will find the path but a stroll in the park. But I am not so brave.
I kept the D300 snugged into my pack much of the day to keep it from distracting my scrambles over the exposed damp rocks that hang over the rough waves of the strait. This reminds me to pull out the camera harness I wore when hiking in the Alps.
I'm not pleased by any of the day's shots. This means more work to find a single photograph to show for the day's hike. This is in contrast to the rare instances when I like a shot, in which case it is easy to process as I recognize when I'm done. The second-tier shots are hard to massage because I don't know what to do with them. I find myself taking these shots along several different paths, a time consuming process.
The accompanying pictures of the hiking group are one picture (or a set) processed several ways. The multiplicity isn't because this is a fine shot; just the opposite. Perhaps the best of a poor lot. The first two result from a 5-shot HDR set: the brightest by Nik, the second Photomatix. The third is the middle shot processed with Capture. And the fourth is from NIk's Silver Efex. Nik's HDR colors are bright for my taste but I'm entertaining the idea that their intensity will grow on me. The exif shows the 17-55 was at 17mm and f/9.
The take home: bring a circular polarizer, especially if shooting by the water and/or on a sunny day.
A couple of fungi: one resembling a carved carrot, the other an earmuff filled with chocolate. I've no clue as to their identity. Taken in East Sooke with the 24-120/4 at 120 mm.
Monday I hiked Bluff Mountain. I started from the scout camp Camp Barnard, just outside of Sooke. The trail is a slog with the island's typical mossy rocks that don't promise secure footing. The worst was the sea of six-foot-tall Salal where all that one could see of the hikers was a rustling of the plants. Brought to mind Children of the Corn. But the weather and views of the Olympic mountains made the trek worthwhile.
While beautiful to look at, the view to the mountains looks into the sun, which produces glare and shades the details of the Olympic range. Taken with a D800E and a 24-120 f/4 then converted with Silver Efex. The hikers are 24 mm and f/8 and the harbor is 105 mm and f/8. More photos at Bluff Mountain.
This evening, about 7, twelve of us gathered where the Jordan River empties into the sea. We came to celebrate the vernal equinox with wine, hot dogs, and a bonfire. The weather was windy cold but clear. A ritual to honor a point in the calendar. Humans have been doing this for as long as we know. An acknowledgement of a pattern of nature, something we cannot change but must adapt to and work with.
The Juan de Fuca Land Trust hosted a poetry walk last Sunday. Held at the Admiral's Forest, it attracted about 150 visitors and helped raise awareness for their goal of preserving the forest.
Last Sunday I helped represent the JdF Land Trust at Tugwell Meadery's Honeybee Awareness Day event, which featured demonstrations, mead-tastings, and tours of their bucolic flower-filled grounds.
Song of the day: Salala by Angelique Kidjo featuring Peter Gabriel.
The barely-there community of Jordan River made the news recently when the regional district decided to close the community's campgrounds. Turns out, visitors to this campground are at risk of drowning should a powerful earthquake strike. (In fact, much of the community is at risk). But it isn’t a tsunami that the government is concerned about, though there is certainly a risk of that. The government is concerned about an old hydroelectric dam upstream on the Jordan River. This dam, one of two on the river, needs a retrofit if it is to survive a big temblor but no retrofit is planned. Therefore, the government decided that no one should camp downstream of the dam.
I was curious about the dam, so I traveled to check it out. It's about 10km to the top which takes about 2.5 hours. The first shot is, of course, the road to the dams. The second and third shots are of Elliott Reservoir, which is held back by the hydroelectric dam. The fourth shot is of the Diversion Reservoir which is held back by the higher-altitude earthen dam. As shown in the last shot, there is a lot of clear cutting in this area of the island.
I've been preoccupied with fisheyes of late and here is one more, an example of a fisheye shot that doesn't look like a fisheye shot. The key is to place the horizon in the middle of the frame and pick a subject that has no clear verticals or horizontals. A rocky beach such as this works perfectly.
Yesterday was still and warm, perfect for a quick trip to Vancouver. I was glad to have a telephoto and a fisheye as I got a glimpse of a pod of killer whales plus several shots of sunstars.
The news from President Carter while of course very sad is also an opportunity to contrast his character with those who have either followed him or who aspire for his old position. And quite a contrast indeed! Just try to fit both Jimmy Carter and, lets say, George W in ones head at the same time and youd wonder how could that happen, how could we elect these two very different men to the highest office in the land. One man is known for trying to do the right thing regardless of cost to himself and the other man only thinks of himself, rightness be damned. It was as if the country plunged down the rabbit hole into wonderland. Of course Carter is the rarity. The filtering that takes place as people rise to power selects for a certain un-Carter-like character. And we are poorer for it.
I hiked to Peden Lake a few days ago and took it as opportunity to use only a 50mm for the day. A 50 doesn't come to mind when you think landscape lens, but I thought I'd see what I could do with it. Aside from my forgetting to switch metering from matrix to center weight, the lens performed fine given the limitations of it's width. It's better as a people lens but it will certainly do landscapes in a pinch.
Yesterday I woke to the sad news of Oliver Sacks. It wasnt a surprise; he had written earlier in the year of his diagnosis. And of course he wrote as he had written on many other topics - like the mysteries of the brain, recreational drugs, and being gay clearly and rationally. He lived an interesting life, made many contributions to the human condition, and was always a pleasure to read.
Sacks was in my mind yesterday as I hiked part of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, a damp, grey trek accompanied by the crashing of the cold Pacific. The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is one of two long trails on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The two trails - the other being the West Coast Trail - would be one if it werent for the bay of Port San Juan.
The section I hiked was from Botanical Beach to Parkinson Creek. The hike is a bit of a slog, which is because the west coast of Vancouver Island is a lush rain forest overlaid on a jagged outcropping of rock. There is no flat land and there are no stretches of dirt path. The ground is largely rock and root.
Following the shore, which is what both trails do, means hiking a sequence of ups and downs, down to a creek then up to a ridge then down to another creek. And the footing sucks. The spiderweb of roots that blanket the ground are slippery smooth, just tempting you to stand on them where the slightest movement translates to a slip and a fall. There are the occasional breaks, wooden boardwalks and clever wooden stairs, which help make the hike a bit easier, but there arent enough and the dampness rots the wood faster than they can be repaired.
The day started with sunshine but it soon reverted to the norm of mist and rain. I spent most of the hike staring at my feet, calculating what placement offered the best hold. The hypnotic crash of wave on stone was background music to the hike.
Lucy the dog came along for the hike, her first adventure with the hiking group. She quickly assumed the typical dog behaviour of running ahead then back then ahead again, easily tripling the distance her fellow humans covered. She was full of energy all of the way but was so tired by the time she landed in the truck that, for once, she forgot to get carsick.
These Muir beach seals appear to be enjoying today's mild weather. That's the Olympic peninsula in the background.
Despite my enthusiasm for film simulations (see yesterday's post) this photo is not a sim, it's a raw file edited in Lightroom which for some reason I prefer to the Velvia and Acros sims that I also created.
I'm listening to an interview with Colson Whitehead (NYT books podcast, 8/11/16). He writes with Garcia Marquez' effortless transitions between realism and fantasy. The interview helped me see and understand some of the fantasies in his novel The Underground Railroad, which I just finished reading.
Just for fun here are some Wikipedia facts for comparing Vancouver Island with Bali.
Vancouver Island: 32,134 km2 (12,407 mi2)
Bali: 5,780 km2 (2,230 mi2)
Vancouver Island: 2,195 m (7,201 ft)
Bali: 3,148 m (10,328 ft), Mount Agung
Vancouver Island: 759,366 (2011), 23.94 /km2 (62 /mi2)
Bali: 4,225,384 (2014), 730/km2 (1,900/mi2)
Vancouver Island: According to the 2001 census the religious breakout for British Columbia is: none (atheist, agnostic, and so on.) 35.9%, Protestant 31.4%, Roman Catholic 17%, United Church of Canada 9%, and Anglican 8%.
Bali: The island is home to most of Indonesia's Hindu minority. According to the 2010 Census, 83.5% of Bali's population adhered to Balinese Hinduism, followed by 13.4% Muslim, Christianity at 2.5%, and Buddhism 0.5%.
Vancouver Island: The mildest in Canada, with temperatures on the coast in January usually above 0 C (32 F). In summer, the warmest days can rise to 28C (82F).
Bali: As it is just 8° south of the equator, Bali has a fairly even climate year round. Average year-round temperature stands at around 30 C with a humidity level of about 85%.
We gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate the equinox. We do this twice a year, always at the same location, where the Jordan River empties into the Pacific.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. Unlike the American version it's in October, it's not followed by a big shopping day, and it doesn't morph into an almost week-long holiday. Otherwise, it's pretty similar.
This photo was taken on Botanical Beach, which is about a 45 minute drive northwest of Otter Point. Of all the times I've been to Botanical the first, when this was taken, was photographically the most fruitful. It's also a demonstration of the utility of a circular polarizer as without it you'd not be able to see deep into that puddle.