Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Colours of Feburary

Another evening of beautiful light. The winter months on BC's west coast offer sunsets of blue, pink, and purple. I took this shot from the tombolo on McNeil Bay, in Oak Bay, Victoria BC, on Feb 19, 2009. The view here is west. The mountains in the distance are the Olympics in Washington State. The hump in the middle is Garibaldi Hill (I think) on Rocky Point. And, in the foreground, is Harling Point.

I was trying out a 500 mm lens lent to me by a friend. I was trying to get shots of birds, but that was a failure. I needed a lot more light than the evening provided! So, I turned my hand to the long view. Like any long lens, the 500 mm foreshortens the view. Things in the image look closer together than they really are. For example, when you see a huge mountain looming over a city (e.g. Mt. Baker over Victoria as it sometimes appears in the local paper), you are probably looking at a landscape that has been photographed with one of these big lenses.

The straight line shooting distance covered in this photo is over 80 km: 23 km from where I am shooting to Garibaldi Hill; an additional 50 km from there to the Washington coast; another 10 to 15 to the Olympic Mountains themselves.

This particular 500 mm lens is not very sharp in low light situations. This gives an image that is a bit "soft" (okay, a bit fuzzy), but I love the colours in this shot, especially the blue and pinky-gold on the water. I went home from shooting and could hardly wait to see what the image looked like on my big screen.

I am a bit concerned that the screen is too much of a flickering and fleeting medium for images I love -- the pictures display for a few minutes and then I change the pixels and a new image appears. Sure, we can bring images back, but there is always so much more to see. I think the print is the only constant form. My next big purchase will be a quality photo printer. In the meantime, I better get a few of my best shots committed to paper at Prism Colour, my favourite lab in Victoria.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wilson's Snipe: Rithet's Bog, Victoria, BC

View Large On Black
Originally uploaded by Mary Sanseverino
On my face in the mud -- that's how I took this shot. I crept up on my belly, pushing through bush and leaves until I could get a good look at this lad (or lass, as the case may be). The Snipe thought he was hidden and stayed still for about 20 shots. Happily for me, the Snipe was well lit by a few rays of wan sunlight trickling through the overgrowth. Although a bit of a stubby fellow (about 25 cm / 10 in long), he is beautifully marked -- quite elegant actually.

It was just luck that I even got a chance to shoot this bird at all. On Friday, Feb 13, Jan, Alan, and I were out on a biking and birding expedition to Rithet's Bog. We where hoping to see Virginia Rail, and Wilson's Snipe, along with Merlin and oodles of woodpeckers. If it wasn't for a mother and son we stopped to chat with we would never have seen this fellow. Right after we parted the pair called us back to point out the Snipe. There he was, standing in a muddy seep under willows and blackberry canes. We had walked right by him!

After surveying the scene and trying to get a few shots standing up, it became clear that the Snipe would startle away unless I got in low and quiet. I belly-crawled in and started shooting. The details: f8 at 1/50th of a second. I used my 300 mm zoom lens, and dialed in an ISO of 400. Being down on my belly worked out well in the stabilization department too -- I was able to rest my elbows on the ground and brace myself solidly for shooting. The result was a series of quite sharp images of the Wilson's Snipe.

Even though 300 mm seems like a long lens, when speaking about birds it is very small. And, for best results, one should use a tripod. Hand-held as this (and all) of the Snipe shots were, it was the height of luck that any of them turned out. I'm hoping for more of that luck in my future birding shots!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sedum spathulifolium - a splash of red

View On Black
Originally uploaded by Mary Sanseverino
First hike of the new year! I was out on Jan 23, 2009 with Eva, Gord, and David. Our destination was East Sooke Park, on the southern trip of Vancouver Island. It always gives a fine walk with great views. We went up Babbington Hill from Aylard Farm parking lot, then down to Cabin Point and along the Coast Trail back to the car. I could barely keep up with the crowd, but they put up with the old woman and graciously waited for me to get my photos and toddle along the trail.

January doesn't have much in the way of wildflower colour. But, I can always rely on Sedum spathulifolium to provide some eye-catching colour. The succulent reddish-purple leaves of this plant seem almost to be made of flesh, but this is because the leaves store water. And, as this is our wet season, the plant is gathering in as much moisture as possible. Soon it will be hot, dry, and exposed on this southern-facing cliff and the moisture will be most welcome. Sedum spathulifolium is part of a class of plants called xerophytes which are well adapted to living in hot dry climates like ours can be in the spring and summer.

In winter this sedum is one of the first things a hiker notices on the Coast Trail. It is splashed all over ocean-fronting cliffs, rocks along the trail, and in sunny crevices back from the trail. In this picture the sedum was nicely set off by tufts of Reindeer lichen (part of the Cladina family I think). This hardy lichen is very common in East Sooke Park. It looks soft and fluffy, but is really hard and crunchy on top.

I am hoping this year will feature a banner wildflower season. I'm planning on getting lots of wildflower shots from my favourite haunts up and down Vancouver Island. And this year I'm going to catalog and organize the pictures too!! Well ... a girl can always dream.