“I Left My Sock in Montreal”

What do you do when you have a conference in Montreal the week following the May long weekend? Why, you travel early so you can spend the long weekend in belle Montreal, that’s what you do!

I feel like us west coasters have been a bit spoiled this spring with the fabulously warm weather, sunny skies, and beautiful blossoms. Imagine my delight when I discovered that we arrived in Montreal to fabulously warm weather, sunny skies, and beautiful blossoms!

It seems spring has sprung in Montreal, and it’s fantastique! We got to enjoy all the great aspects of spring twice this year, that’s going to be hard to top in years to come!

Spring in Montreal
There are churches and cathedrals everywhere. On our first walk from the hotel I figured I should get the “stone buildings and blossoms” shot out of my system.

We should take a minute to back up a week prior to the trip, when my camera developed an annoying dark spot on the sensor, and had to be shipped back to Nikon for service. Not cool. Fortunately a friend came to the rescue and loaned me a basic Fuji camera so that I would not be completely unarmed in Montreal (Thanks Ian!). The shot above was my first test of the Fuji, and it seemed to do a reasonable job with the bright day.

The bonus of the Fuji was it was light. This is important since over 4 days we walked about 60km around the city! In fact, we did so much walking, Thorsten thought he had blown out a sock, hence the theme “I left my sock in Montreal”.

For the first day we followed a suggested walking route around Old Montreal from the City Walks app. The first stop it recommended was the Montreal World Trade Centre.  The Trade Centre brings restored heritage buildings together under a rather striking glass atrium, and is the home to many artifacts, shops, and businesses.

Montreal World Trade Centre
The Amphitrite fountain & black granite reflecting pool are a main attraction when you enter the glass atrium. I loved the clarity of the reflection and the symmetry of the lamps.

As we wandered around the city, one of the things we were always on the lookout for were the fantastic murals that are everywhere, in residential areas, commercial areas, and everywhere in between. Many depict historical scenes, some are whimsical, others are downright weird, this one was sort of funny.

Rooster mural
“I crush your nissan, crush crush!”

On one of the days our walk took us up through the trails on Mont Royale. Despite it being a spectacular sunny day on a long weekend, the trails were remarkably clear of people. The main trail is more like a road, and is a serpentine up the Mont. The serpentines are dissected by a network of smaller trails through the trees, and that was the route we opted for.

Mont Royale1
This deserted stretch of trail was begging for a photo, so I asked Thorsten to do the honours. I think he has some untapped talent with a camera!

All in all, it was a great trip, and a very memorable May long weekend. We saw so many neighbourhoods, ate too much great food, took in the new Cirque show Luzia, and it was all over too fast! We definitely must go again, Montreal is a fantastic city!

 

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What’s Not to Love about Spring?

Today I awoke to a sunny Sunday. After a busy week, and just as busy weekend full of errands, socializing, and even some fantastic theatre last night, I was ready for a more peaceful approach to the day today.

I gathered my camera gear and some snacks and headed down to the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary. I have mentioned before, it’s best to get there early, when it’s just me, the birds, and a bunch of guys dressed in camouflage with extraordinarily large and expensive lenses. If you dawdle, the quiet paths fill with strollers, screaming kids, and hissing geese demanding free lunch, and some of the magic is lost. Not all, but some. You can still make your way out to the lagoons that are less “stroller friendly” and reclaim the quiet.

This morning was my first time there in about a month, and the difference was remarkable. Aside from the leaves and all the new growth, the geese were nesting, the birds were moulting, and everything was bustling around building nests.

Canada goose
The goose kept a close eye on me as I passed by it’s carefully chosen spot. I liked the lines with the thick reeds in the shot.

There are nesting geese everywhere, they don’t seem to be too choosy about where they set up shop. I can’t wait for all the fuzzy little goslings to emerge!

The swallows were working hard at building nests, some in the provided little nesting boxes that are all around the sanctuary, but also in all the typical places you would expect swallows to nest, under ledges and overhangs.

I really love the tree swallows, with their iridescent blue feathers. On a sunny day they are sort of striking, for such a little common bird.

Swallow
This tree swallow took a break from fussing around a nesting box, to pose in the sun for me!

Not being a birder, I often have no idea what type of bird I’m looking at. That was the case with this fluffy little fellow, who on closer inspection looks like he is moulting. He was certainly all puffed up about something!

fluffy-bird-moulting-spring
Moulting must be serious business, this guy looks a little stern, fluffy, but stern!

All in all, it was nice to get out and be reminded of the renewal that is going on all around us right now. I hope you can get out and have an appreciation moment of your own!

Rain or Shine,Outdoors is Fine

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
― Sylvia Plath

One of the realities of being a “9-5er” is that there are many times when I have a small window of opportunity to get out with my camera, but the weather decides it should flex its muscle a little. Fortunately some creative travel companions, umbrellas (actually used to keep the rain off the camera, not just for the “artful umbrella” shot, and some beautiful westcoast locations often come together to allow me to still get out and play with the camera in lousy weather. That almost makes it MORE fun, as I have to think about what I want to take quite differently.

A few weekends ago one of my coworkers organized a spa weekend on Vancouver Island. My partner and I went over a day early to spend time with his son who lives there. That meant we had a free day to explore the mid island, unfortunately that was the very day there was intermittent heavy rain showers. We decided to stick with the plan and get outside anyway.

I’m so glad we did, we wandered around through the huge cedar trees in Cathedral Grove, we were amazed by the volume and force of the “Little” Qualicum Falls, and we checked out a Buddhist Temple. We also had a delicious dinner, that tasted all the better after a day of activity in the elements.

From a photography perspective, there were times when it was just raining too hard to take the camera out of the bag, but there were many other opportunities where the rain eased or stopped altogether for a spell, and everything was vibrant and glistening. I didn’t come away from the weekend with any particularly awesome shots, but had a lot of fun getting out and trying. There are a few photos from the weekend where I think the ideas were sound, but the photos didn’t quite get to what I had in mind.

Waterfall tree watermark
I had the idea of getting a shot of this delicate seedling with the rushing water of the Qualicum Falls in the background. In the moment I couldn’t decide how to achieve what I had in mind with depth of field. I also didn’t quite know what to do with the shutter speed. Speeding it up would add more detail to the water in the background, making the whole photo “busy”. Slowing it down would lose the sense of power from the turbulent water. In the end I didn’t quite capture any of it, but I sure had an enjoyable time trying!

I had a similar experience when I came across four seagulls nicely lined up in the shallow water as the tide rolled in. The water was rough, so it was busy and distracting in the background.

four seaguls watermark
This scene was more pleasing to the eye in a wider shot, but then the seagulls were a bit lost against the rough water. In hindsight, it may have been a more interesting shot to slow the shutter speed down to smooth out the water a bit. Maybe the seagulls will oblige me for a do-over at some point in the future!

 I have been working on taking photos that tell a story, in particular taking photos of people that portray a mood or a story without being overt. Fortunately I have a willing test subject in Thor, I’m grateful for that!

The clouds parted for a while on the Saturday morning on the Island, and we took a stroll through Rathtrevor Park in Parksville. I love Rathtrevor beach, particularly when the tide is out as the beach goes on for miles and there is so much shoreline activity. There is also a great trail that goes the length of the beach, and that was the route we took.About halfway down the trail, we came across an interesting hollow chunk of driftwood.

Thor contemplation watermark
I loved the detail and shadow of this hollow driftwood, but with the harshness of the light it didn’t make a good shot on its own. I took dozens of shots, I preferred a wider landscape frame, but for that I had to back away from the log and lost the impact of the hollow bit. My favourite shot ended up being this one shot from the level of the log, looking up at Thor. I liked the sense of “big sky” from this perspective.

Fast forward to this weekend, and the principle of keeping the camera handy for pleasant breaks in the weather, and accommodating companions came into play again. On our way home from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal where we picked up Thor’s son for a visit, we took a short detour to one of my favourite sunset spots, Roberts Bank in Ladner. I had an idea in mind for a “father and son” shot, and was happy when the guys not only agreed to the detour, but also happily participated in my plan for the shot.

father son watermark
Although there was a beautiful sunset developing, I prefer this shot in black and white. The story wasn’t intended to be the sunset, it was the intent discussion the guys were having. In editing I softened the background so it wouldn’t distract from the main subjects.

I’m interested to note that every photo I have wanted to share with you here is black and white. I do love black and white, I think it is more poetic and emotional than colour. That said, I’ll end on a colour shot, the awesome sunset from Friday evening at Roberts Bank!

sunset march 18 RB watermark
I can’t get enough of the unevenness of the posts, and their awesome reflections on a calm evening at Roberts Bank. The pinks and yellow made the sky interesting, and the reflections so colourful. What a nice way to end a week!

I wonder what adventures this week will hold? The weather forecast says rain to the end of the week, sounds like the gloves have been thrown down!

Challenge accepted! 🙂

Local Escapes

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

I don’t know if you have ever attended a travel expo, travel show, or similar event that simultaneously lights an intense desire to get out there and see the world, and also overwhelms you with choice, rendering it impossible to decide “where next?”.  After experiencing that creative tension for a few years in a row, the last time I attended a travel show, I went with two themes in mind; epic travels to far off places, and 4 day weekends close to home.

As time passes, I seem to do well attending to the “epic travels to far off places” list, but not as well on the “close to home” list.

Last weekend my partner Thorsten and I set about fixing that. We booked a B&B in Pemberton as a base, and set about exploring a few sites in the area. Our original plan was to visit the ghost town of Bradian, about an hour and a half north of Pemberton. That plan was thwarted, however, as we learned the road to the town is inaccessible in the winter months, and the alternate route is several hours longer through Lillooet. We decided we would instead just go and see what options revealed themselves to us.

We decided to stretch our legs on the drive up to Pemberton with a quick stop in Squamish to hike up to the first peek of the Stawamus Chief. It was a great day for it, sunshine and very few people.

For those of you have haven’t hiked the Chief, it’s about 40 minutes of up, and up, and up. The lower part of the trail follows a creek, complete with awesome little water falls.

Chief waterfall watermark
This photo exists only because I needed an excuse to stop and let my lungs catch back up with my legs.

Once at the top, the impressive slab of granite is a nice spot to sit and take in the views.

Chief texter
Nice views at the top, and I’m sure the Facebook update was nice, too. Maybe if this was your daily fitness route, the view would be secondary to your updates and texts, but for those of us that don’t see this every day, the phones stayed in the packs.

With a brief stop in Whistler for a walk around and a bite to eat, we went directly to our B&B in Pemberton. It was a beautiful home with nice hosts just a minute or so out of town.  We confirmed that the road to Bradian was closed, another guest had attempted it with a truck recently and advised there was no chance for my little SUV. With that knowledge, we mapped out a few other options for places to check out nearby.

The next morning we started by taking a drive as far up Pemberton Meadows road as we could manage in my little SUV. We got about 40 minutes out of town, enjoying views of the  Lillooet River as we went. Once we could go no further, we turned back and returned to town. That was when we discovered the best GF banana bread EVER at the Blackbird Bread Bakery. After enjoying the banana bread and a latte, we headed a few km down the road to Nairn Falls Provincial Park. It’s a short 1.5km walk to the falls, and they are worth the visit. The falls are one of those things that are difficult to capture on film, as the powerful rumble of the water and the mist in the air are as integral to the experience as the views.

From there we committed to a bit of a drive, with the T’sek Hot Springs as our destination. The drive takes you past Lillooet Lake, and along the Lillooet River. There are amazing views along the way.

Lillooet Lake
I liked the reflection of the driftwood on this view down Lillooet Lake. The lake was so calm.

I should clarify. The views are for the passenger, the driver needs jedi-like concentration to  drive the often narrow and windy gravel road, dodging other vehicles, graders, and the like. After 48km of excitement, we arrived at the hot springs. I left the camera in the car and made a beeline for the somewhat eclectic collection of tubs that held lovely hot spring water. It was a fantastic way to relax for the afternoon. After a nice long soak, we took a walk around the campground, sussed out a site where we would like to camp in the future, and then got back on the road so we wouldn’t be doing too much of the drive in the dark.

Having worked up a bit of an appetite through the day, we decided to check out the Mile One Eating House once back in Pemberton.  It didn’t disappoint. Possible the best steak we have ever eaten, and the elk meatloaf was pretty awesome too!

The next morning we started making our way back down the Sea to Sky toward Vancouver, with a stop in the Callaghan Valley  to do some snowshoeing. The Callaghan Valley trails are a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics. We strapped our snowshoes on and headed out on the trail to Finger Lakes. It was a great day for it, with the sun even peeking out every now and then.

Callahagn Valley
Apparently there is a lake under there somewhere!

It was interesting how many huge fungi were growing on the trees, they really stood out with as they were glistening with the melting snow dripping off them.

Callahagn Valley fungus
One of the many large colourful fungus we saw on the trees.

As with most trips, no matter how much you enjoy yourself, once you start the trek home you get increasingly keen to get there.

The funny thing is, once you get home, thoughts turn to where to go next!  There are a still a number of “close to home” places to explore, I wonder which one we will chose next!

 

 

Weekend Explorations

 

“The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend.”
― Chuck Palahniuk

I think I’m slowly figuring out this “work/home balance” thing. I used to believe good work/home balance was spending equal amounts of time worrying and stressing about work at both work and home. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, over the last few years I have made a conscious effort to have a clear line between the concerns and toils of work and the activities of living every other aspect of life. This means weekends have taken on new magical significance in the whole scheme of things.  They are full of possibility, some highly anticipated plans, some spontaneous adventures, and some downtime and relaxation.

I was reflecting on the last few weekends in November, and noticing how much time was spent on really enjoyable activities with great people. That led me to realize that as of late, that weekend wasn’t really all that unusual, and that’s pretty awesome!

So, what happens to make  a weekend so enjoyable? First, committing to being present in the weekend.  That means leaving office stuff at the office. Leaving the email alone helps with that, and I find that making myself a “to do” list on Friday before I leave the office for priorities I need to address on Monday helps get those issues off my mind over the weekend. I can’t notice and appreciate a fleeting break in the fog, or a beautiful reflection if I’m dwelling on reports and budgets.

I also need to give myself permission to sleep or just rest if that is what my body and mind needs. An activity that should be energizing and enjoyable can be a bit of a chore if I tackle it when I’m exhausted. I’d rather put off an activity and rest, than have a disappointing experience.

My last thought on this is to create a network of likeminded people, who draw energy and enjoyment from similar things. It’s relaxing and peaceful to head out alone with my camera, and it’s a lot of fun to get out with someone who is equally interested in photography.

So what specifically made those weekends in November memorable? Let me share some of the moments that made them special.

We started with a visit to the George C Reifel Bird Sanctuary to see the snow geese. In reality, that is more of an audible experience than a visual one. The geese are out on the water’s edge, and are best seen as they rise in a noisy flock whenever an eagle passes by. Nonetheless, I always do love a trip to the bird sanctuary, as there is always something crying out for a photo.

Thor Chicadee
I don’t think this chickadee was impressed that we were all show and no go when it came to seeds. I just love chickadees, they are so quick and busy.

On this particular day, we also wanted to catch the sunset at Iona Beach in Richmond. That requires a bit of hustle, since it seems to occur shortly after lunch this time of year (come on winter solstice and longer days!). There is a tree at Iona Beach that I have mentioned before, and I had an image in my mind of a silhouette of a man beside the tree at sunset. It took little, ok, no convincing to get Thor to play along, and I quite like the resulting photos!

Thor profile2
I’m a sucker for a silhouette, especially against a rich sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next weekend presented just as many opportunities for memorable moments. A friend and I connected for a photowalk around Roberts Bank in Ladner. If you have ever been there, you will be familiar with the numerous broken pilings standing in the river. There are usually herons, cormorants, or other water or shoreline birds roosting on the pilings. On this day when we arrived there were dozens of cormorants on the pilings, and the most remarkable thing was the river was flat calm.  There is usually a ripple of some manner on the water breaking up the reflections.

cormorant 2
Cormorants taking a breaks from some rigorous grooming. I love the reflections in this, as they are unusual on that stretch of water, in my experience.

Moments later a small breeze blew up, and the calm was gone.

It doesn’t take long though, to move from one spellbinding scene to another in beautiful British Columbia! I have been on the hunt for a “Christmassy” shot to make some Christmas greeting cards. I think this little guy obliged!

bird berries
Although I love to take photos of birds, I’m no scholar of them. I believe this one is a… brown one. I do love how he/she is framed by the red berries though!

Later on the same walk, a horse and rider passed us, providing some great photo opportunities. One of my favourites was a shot from afar of the silhouetted horse and rider against all the great layers of the foreground and the land in the distance.

Horse landscape
I thought the horse and rider made a lovely silhouette against the layers in the foreground and background.

The weekend was rounded out by a hike with friends, old and new, in Deep Cove. Before starting up the trail, we took some time to enjoy the fog that had settled into the cove.

foggy pier Deep Cove
The morning fog was still nestled into Deep Cove. By the time we hiked the short trail to the lookout, it was a beautiful sunny day. It was another experience of feeling like I was just where I was supposed to be at that time.

By the time Sunday evening rolled around, I had connected with good friends, gotten outdoors, had a bit of exercise, and taken a few photos I liked. I vaguely recall doing a bit of housework as well, but when I chisel that down to a few chores between more exciting endeavours, it seems pretty manageable.

It is my goal to keep my weekends modelled after the ones described above. I know they won’t all be full of wandering around the lower mainland with friends and my camera, but I’m committed to being present in them, whatever the activities. Who’s with me?