Friday, October 31, 2008

The Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, in rainy October

Children and adults love to mingle with the brave ducks.

A number of floating logs provide safe resting places for the ducks.

The Reifel sanctuary has numerous tidal inlets that are well protected.

Rain water from the roof, running down a chain 'spout':

Field near the Reifel sanctuary, covered with snow geese:

Nobody knows how many birds migrate along ancient coastal routes skirting Vancouver, B.C., but I always look forward to seeing various types of geese flying in formation. Although I know they are migrating, I have no idea where or how long the journey must be.

The Reifel family gave Canada a treasure of great value, their extensive coastal area which is to provide a sanctuary for migrating birds, where they can rest, eat and become rejuvenated for the next leg of the long. People can mingle freely with birds on paths or observe various types of birds on land or water from a series of excellent blinds and a tower.

I was happy to join Ken on his shooting outing (even though he is a Nikon man). The light west-coast October rain, which never let up, made the sky uniformly overcast in a dark sort of way which seemed to bring out colours. After several hours, a very helpful woman learned that we had hoped to see the snow geese which are known to migrate through the Delta area. Although there were none at the sanctuary today, she had just seen an enormous flock in a nearby private field that was freshly ploughed and seeded. She then scouted out the best places for us to go by car and was enormously helpful. I had never seen so many geese in my life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chestermans Beach, Tofino, B.C.

A late October sunrise (looking west from the living room windows)

Approaching the beach from the house through bushes which help hold the sand during the storm season.

The sand seems to stretch for miles as tides gently come and go.

The park has signs daily suggesting the relative danger from the waves to swimmers and surfers.

The setting October sun (rain came that evening)

The sun is nearly set (time exposure)

The sun draws attention to the wet sand as the tide recedes.

Kelp washed ashore. One artist weaves these plants into interesting baskets.

For more than a decade, we have tried to include an annual visit to Chestermans Beach just south of Tofino, B.C. Situated on the west coast of Vancouver Island, this is my favourite beach with dramatic tides, waves for surfers, and sand stretching out until it eventually gently drifts into the Pacific Ocean. The Wickanninish Inn is on the far northern part of this two-part beach, but is too expensive and reminds me of being in a big city hotel (but with far better views and access to nature). We prefer Judi's Seaside Cottage on the southern part of the beach. This rental is a quiet little secluded one-bedroom dwelling that gives absolute privacy, great views of the ocean through the trees (both from the deck and the living room), and immediate access by foot to the ocean (following a path through the bushes). We were there in late October 2008, during off season, so the beach was virtually abandoned, and on one beautiful sunny day the nearby 9-hole golf course had one other golfer, a bear and me (I wisely let the bear play through on the sixth hole).

The sunsets can be spectacular, colours depending on the constantly changing weather, but even sunrises can have interesting glows to the west as the sunlight plays off the mists rising from the ocean. The sand is constantly changing, sometimes being almost glassy-smooth, sometimes showing ripples from the ebb and flow of the tides. Washed up kelp reminds me that I know very little about the teaming life in our ocean.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Highway 4 from Parksville to Tofino, British Columbia

The only way to get to Tofino, British Columbia by car is to take the provincial Hwy 4 across the mountains, from Parksville, through Port Alberni and to the Rim Highway. I notice that this road has been enormously improved over the past quarter century, and a friend reminds me that he drove it when parts were still unpaved. Even today, with all its modern features, the road has hairpin turns, steep climbs, breath-taking drop-offs, and a sign reminding drivers that there is no petrol for the next 85 kms (and even that one was closed). By the time one hits the road, the two-hour ferry ride (plus lineups) has already postponed things and folks are usually eager to get to Tofino. Facing a three-hour drive can be a bit discouraging, particularly at night.

Last week I drove Hwy 4 twice, in very different weather conditions: bright overcast sky on Tuesday, and dark clouds and rain showers on Friday. Now that I am retired, we were able to leave Vancouver in the early morning (rather than after work) and drive leisurely, stopping at Cameron Lake and Kennedy Lake to take pictures. Given the terrain, stopping is often not possible or safe every time your eye catches a great vista, but attentive drivers can spot safe pulloffs (often unannounced), and it is worth the time to see these inland lakes, even though your heart is set on seeing the Pacific Ocean.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

B.C. Ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo (Duke Point) on Vancouver Island

Sunrise at the Tsawwassen harbour

Water churning as the ferry departs

Leaving Tsawwassen at 7:45 a.m. sharp

Another B.C. Ferry returning to Tsawwassen

Lighthouse backlit by sun penetrating storm clouds near Nanaimo

Mainland coastal mountains to the north, layered in the mist

Last week we made our annual pilgrimage from Vancouver to Tofino, one of our favourite destinations in British Columbia. Although the point of the holiday is to visit Vancouver Island's west coast, even the two-hour ride on the B.C. Ferry can be restful and beautiful. These pictures were taken during the 7:45 a.m. ferry from Tsawwassen (on the mainland) to Nanimo (Duke Point terminal on the island). Since days are getting shorter, the weather was cloudy and the time change has not yet happened, passengers were able to watch a spectacular sunrise slowly unfold. We were on The Coastal Inspiration, one of the corporation's new acquisitions. This is a very comfortable ship, and the early Tuesday morning off-season sailing ensured that there was lots of room, peace and quiet for all. There are ample decks for walking, a lovely sun deck (covered with many sky lights and well protected from the ocean wind on three sides), HD TVs to watch if you must, a book store, Starbucks coffee shop, cafeteria, and multiple lounges (all smoke-free) with comfortable seating and large windows.

Along the way we saw the mainland's harbour slowly disappear into the sunrise, the layers of mountains rising above the morning's mist, a lovely small low island with an old-fashioned light house beautifully back-lit by sunlight streaming dramatically through dark clouds, another ferry heading back to Tswwassen, and occasionally sea creatures coming up for air.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Laon Cathedral, France (part 2)

There are several things I enjoy when visiting cathedrals. First, I enjoy observing how the cathedral comes into view as I approach, both as a modern pilgrim and as a tourist. What catches my attention, how does the monumental edifice fit into its surroundings (which have changed considerably over the centuries). Then I slowly amble along one side of the building, taking in its incredible size and the care with which it has been constructed. As I enter the cathedral, I like to be aware of changes in light, the new smells, new sounds as quiet visitors or worshipers walk in the resonant nave. And I like to stop to think, admire, pray and give thanks that such a wonderful place exists and that people still work to keep the cathedral life vibrant and the building sound.

Sometimes it is nice to include an unknown person in a photograph, but generally I find a shot I want to take, determine the lighting, and then wait (and wait and wait) until nobody is in view. Sometimes this can take ten minutes, during which the light invariably changes, shifting as the sun moves. I also like to look through arches, doorways, through the frames the cathedral offers us century after century, but we usually rush by, unheeding. There are also the nooks and crannies, the less-noticed details which, as in any building, tell you something about the care with which things have been made. [You can also visit my earlier posting, Laon Cathedral, France (part 1).]