Saturday, March 28, 2009

The wild ocean -- Cabin Point, East Sooke Park

East Sooke Park showed her beautiful side last Sunday (Mar 22). The sun came out, the sea looked tropical, and some of our native wildflowers put on a show. We were out for a hike with Arthur (Mike's brother) and Rita who were visiting from California. Dave, another of Mike's brothers also came along. Dave was visiting from Edmonton. We started at Aylard Farm and went up Babbington Hill. From Babbington it was down to the Coastal Trail at Cabin Point, then around to Beechey Head. We came back to the car from Beechey via an interiour trail -- all in all we were out for six hours.

I love taking visitors hiking in East Sooke Park. They get to experience a number of southern Vancouver Island's key ecosystems all at once. On this day we started off with a walk through Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Red Cedar forest. Heavy canopy, dappled sunlight, nursery logs -- the walk up to Babbington has it all. Once on Babbington proper we are into the sunny, dry, rocky ground so favoured by Arbutus and Garry Oak. Shore Pine likes this outlook too. Finally, we went down on the coast making our way over 25 million year old gabbro and basalt rocks. Here moist seeps in the cliffs are perfect habitat for many native wildflowers. On this trip we saw Saxifrage, Shooting stars, Sedum, and Monkey-flowers.

This park also gives a glimpse into human use of this area -- the petroglyphs carved into the rocks at Alldrige Point were done by the Coast Salish First Nations people. I don't know how old the carving are, but I have heard anything from 200 to 1000 years.

Cabin Point is another example of mankind and the environment. The Point has an old "trap shack" on it. In 1902 the Canadian government allowed canneries to build huge fish traps in the Juan de Fuca Strait along the coast of southern Vancouver Island. This was to stop American fishers from catching salmon destined for the Fraser River, which is in Canadian waters.

A fellow by the name of Charles Fox Todd had five traps in this area. They were huge -- built of wire netting and lots of fir pilings, they ran nearly a kilometre out to sea and trapped salmon as the fish tried to migrate through them. Todd's traps were very successful and he could net up to 300,000 salmon in a season (the ocean was abundant back in the early 1900s!). But, his huge catches didn't win friends amongst the other fishers in the area and he had to put in guard houses to keep an eye on his traps. The old "trap shack" at Cabin Point on the Coastal Trail in East Sooke Park is one of these.
For more info on this see Ross Crockford's blog Unknown Victoria , or get his book.

East Sooke Park also includes an old farmstead -- Aylard Farm was acquired by the Capital Regional District (CRD) and added to the Park in 1972. The old orchard is still around today.

This Park is one of the most versatile in our area -- the trails range from an easy ramble on the sandy beach at Aylard Farm to the rugged 10 km long Coastal Trail. I think I have been on every trail in the Park (over 50 km of them), but I still find new and interesting things to look at and do every time I return. The CRD was thinking ahead when they reserved this wonderful area from development. If you get out to the Victoria area, and can only make it to one park, I recommend this one.

A few links of interest:
An overview of East Sooke Park
Park map and info
More pictures from East Sooke Park

Some pictures from our East Sooke Park hike: Sun, Mar 22, 2009

Views from Babbington       Mike takes a swing      Views along the Coastal Trail

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The centre of the cascade

With this post I am going to start a few weeks of writing about some of my favourite parks in and around Victoria. I love getting out in them for hiking, photography, picnicking, and just generally goofing off.

I just finished taking a nature and travel photography class with Josh McCulloch . It was an excellent class and I learned a lot from it. The course involved several field trips, and I got this image of Sitting Lady Falls out at Witty's Lagoon on one of them. I like the colour and movement in this image, but my lens (75 - 300 zoom) is not a particularly good one, and with a 1.4 teleconverter attached sharpness and contrast seem to suffer. Although I love the movement here, this shot seems a bit "soft".

Going to Witty's Lagoon reminds me how much I enjoy and appreciate the regional parks on southern Vancouver Island. Witty's is particularly enjoyable because you get ocean views and forest walks, along with lots of bird life. This park is also known (to me and my friends at least) as a veritable horn of plenty when it comes around to blackberry season. I have enjoyed many blackberry pies, margaritas, and crumbles furnished by the bushes in this park. The park also has an old apple orchard and the fruit makes for some very tart and spicy pies. There must be something about growing apples in sea spray that makes them so crisp.

Sitting Lady Falls is on Bilston Creek. For most of the year there is just a small stream going over the rocks, but in late winter and early spring Sitting Lady is full to the brim. This shot was taken with a time exposure of .6 of a second. Recently I printed it on some fine matte paper and it looks like a painting. The "soft" feel given by the poor lens and the teleconverter worked out after all!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Portrait -- contrast and colour

Originally uploaded by Mary Sanseverino
I don't usually do portrait-style photo shoots -- usually I wait for people to get out of my shots. So, when Annye emailed and asked me to do some promo shots for her up and coming short movie I was a bit unsure of my abilities. I said yes because Annye has a good sense of humour and I had taken a number of head and shoulder shots of her in the past.

We discussed what Annye wanted out of the shoot, what she would wear, and a few shot ideas before the shoot. Then, using the late afternoon light, we met at the Governor General's gardens in Victoria BC on Thur, 5th Mar. When I saw what Annye was wearing -- spaghetti strap bustier and a skirt -- I thought this would be the shortest shoot in history. 10 minutes outside and she would be freezing. But, on the south side of gardens the sun was warm and there was no wind -- we shot for 2 1/2 hours and no one got cold!

The reason I don't like to shoot portraits is because I have a great deal of difficulty visualizing the finished image when I look at a model. I find it much easier to visualize landscapes and macro nature shots. Probably because these things tend to stay still and I can contemplate them. But, the real reason for my reluctance is this: only I will be disappointed if a landscape shot doesn't turn out the way I planned.

Annye was easy to work with and we had some lovely light to play with. I used my flash for most shots and soon realized that for even better light control I'm going to have to get the flash off the camera and control it remotely.

Shooting good portraits is both and art and a science, and requires a lot of practice. Working with outdoor light on the face and body can be so ephemeral -- one moment the light is perfect, and the shot is magic if you and the camera can respond. The next it is gone for ever.

I like this image best out of the ones I did on Thursday. The hat and face seemed to call for a black and white treatment. I did this in post processing (Adobe Light Room) by reducing the saturation on all colour channels. Then I brought back the colour on the feathers using the Light Room's brush tool. I over-saturated these colours so they would pop, but not so much that you missed the searching look in the eyes. This was one of the few shots that I visualized while out on the shoot -- even to the crop of the hat.

I was not too pleased with the over exposure on the upper chest when I saw it, but I liked the light on the eyes, and, when I saw the image on the computer I realized at once that a b&w would work well with the 1940's feel of this shot. I felt the overexposed skin would be a kind of counter-point to the colour in the feathers. However, it might be better if I cropped off the bottom inch -- I'll have to try it.

I'll be doing a bit more work with Annye in the future, but under studio lighting conditions. I'll also be shooting promo shots on the set of her upcoming movie. I'm excited to be doing that type of work, but nervous as well. I certainly have lots to think about. And, lots of practicing to do!

More shots from the shoot with Annye at my Flickr site .

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The first Fawn Lily of spring!

My first native wildflower of 2009 -- the Fawn Lily Erythronium oregonum . So named because the leaves are mottled like the back of a new-born fawn. I caught this image up at the Lieutenant Governor's gardens on Rockland Ave. in Victoria, BC. The gardens are very extensive, especially now that the southern exposure is open to the public. I'm sure it won't be long until all of my old favourites are popping out of the ground!

For this shot I used my 100 mm macro lens. I had the flash on the camera, but had it dialed down two stops. I also underexposed this shot by 1 stop. I wanted to bring out some of the texture in the leaves and a bit of detail on the petals themselves.

With flowers any puff of wind is enough to make the shot blurry -- especially when working with small apertures (F13 here) and correspondingly low shutter speeds (1/10 second). You have to be patient and wait for the wind to stop or die down. Also, for best results I think you should shoot with the mirror up and use a remote control to trigger the shutter.

With macro shooting I almost always use manual focus. I usually shoot on aperture priority. I don't use the flash too often, but I want to start using it more for flower shots. I have to get it off the camera though -- my next purchase will be some Pocket Wizards (remote controls) for the flash.

I'm looking forward to spring FINALLY breaking through and hopefully this year will bring an abundance of wildflowers for me to photograph.