to the Pacific and back again, part 3

Continued from part 2

And so it is a very relaxing vacation, with one glorious view after the other to savour. The weather varies, and creates magic on both cloudy and sunny days.

 another Storm Break! Hurrah!!

another Storm Break! Hurrah!!


various shades of grey

various shades of grey


driftwood gathering at Wickanninish Beach

driftwood gathering at Wickanninish Beach


At the tip of Pettinger Point along the northern edge of Cox Bay there is a rock which has a crack in it, resembling the mouth of a giant creature.

looking like a giant sea creature

looking like a giant sea creature

The first time I saw this fissure was a few years ago, when it was just a minor crack visible at sunset during a low tide, however it has been growing rapidly over the years and is now visible all the time, unless momentarily covered by the pounding surf or during a very high tide.
another wave crashes onto the rock, momentarily hiding the "creature's mouth"

another wave crashes onto the rock, momentarily hiding the “creature’s mouth”

glorious view of Wickanninish Beach from the platform at the Visitor Centre

view of driftwood and Krummholz at Wickanninish Beach from the platform at the Visitor Centre

If it looks like the tree above is on the wrong side of the railing, it is not. A number of giant Sitka Spruce trees had long since taken up residence well before the visitor centre was built, and so the platform was built around the trees, their trunks emerging as if from the deck although they extend down to the ground below from where their roots work hard at keeping them anchored as well as providing nourishment to the branches above.

the tide rolling in

the tide rolling in

Most days it was cool, but frequently sunny, causing the tide-tossed algae to cast a shadow on the sand.

tiny shadows

tiny shadows

Miles and miles of almost-empty beach.

the vastness of Wickanninish Beach

the vastness of miles and miles and miles of Wickanninish Beach

Such is the vast wonder of Wickanninish. Regardless of the weather, this view is still my favourite on the planet so far.

Sunsets are anything but predictable. They can be brilliant or subtle, or they can be a no-show. But not today. The sun is setting on a cloudbank which looms above the western horizon.

the sun on a cloudbank

the sun on a cloudbank

The restless surf continues to pound, as wave after wave rolls toward the shore. Some moments are simply timeless in their beauty…. Abba you sure are an artist!

And so ends another day….

And then the last morning of our stay at the Pacific arrives. There is time for just one more walk on the beach and a Farewell to Cox Bay.

Farewell Cox Bay!

Farewell Cox Bay!

The car is packed, and we head home again. The fresh snow which recently fell on the shores of the Pacific was but a fraction of the new blanket which has covered the mountains. These are some of the views we are enjoying on our journey back along Highway 4, eastwards towards the ferry terminal in Departure Bay, Nanaimo.

a fresh blanket of snow

a fresh blanket of snow

One beautiful vista after another comes into view. Our time at the Pacific west coast may be over, but our vacation surely is not.


We stop at an official rest stop, Taylor Arm, where a cheeky Stellar’s Jay hides in a tree just as my camera gets ready to click. However the lack of foliage makes it easy to capture an image anyhow. There are mixed feelings about this delightful bird which can be a nuisance to farmers since it manages to get into the chicken feed. But it has beautiful colouring and I enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph it, even though it moves very fast.

It is the official bird of the Province of British Columbia, incidentally.

in hiding - but far from hidden

in hiding – but far from hidden

how glorious is this!

how glorious is this!

It has been said that the journey is already part of the destination. How true it is. We are surrounded by sheer eye candy as we continue ever westwards.

driving through Cathedral Grove

driving through Cathedral Grove


Before long it is time to board the ferry which will take us back to Vancouver. It will actually take us only as far as West Vancouver, and from there we will continue driving home. But there is something about disembarking on the other side. Something that feels like home.

view of the mainland from the ferry between Nanaimo and Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver

view of the mainland from the ferry enroute to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver

This has been our road trip to the Pacific, and back again in 2010. The vacation is over, but life awaits. Looking forward to the next adventure!

All images captured April 2010.


a quest for tulips, part 2

We continue on towards La Conner, WA, and come upon field after field – of bare soil.

09 a field of former tulips

09a another field

Almost every tulip has been harvested, and the farmers are preparing for the next crop.

10 yet another field

The brochures had all spoken of the month of April. May 4th is simply too late for the viewing of those splendid fields of tulips.

However, the weather is lovely, and we spend some time in La Conner instead, nestled along the banks of the Swinomish Channel. One of the first things we see after we get out of the car is a tulip in a local garden.

11 in La Conner - flower in a garden

In fact, now that our official quest for tulips has ended, we begin to see more and more of them.

tulips 2

La Conner is a quaint place, with many unique shops and lots of viewpoints from which to see the water.

13 inside a gift store

We enter some shops, and at others we simply do some window shopping. One gift store has a print for sale of the tulip fields in their prime.

14 window shopping - a print of tulip fields

A tribute to a former tree has its place in the heart of downtown. The story behind the tree is nowhere to be seen, however the rings on this cross-section of the trunk indicate that it must have been 1,000 years old or more when it was felled.

15 in memory of an old tree

More tulips beckon us from behind a window pane of frosted glass. Before I have a chance to notice them, one of my friends points them out, indicating that they would make an interesting photo. I agree, and snap away. Thanks for the suggestion, D!

16 seen through a window of frosted glass

A trip to La Conner is not complete without a view of the famous tulip fields, or an ice cream cone. Since we had missed out on the tulips, we stop for some of the latter. A bench near the water beckons us, and we sit and enjoy the sunshine, the view, one another’s company and our ice cream treats.

17 three tourists seen as a reflection of a restaurant window

Suddenly we notice a gathering of boats of all sizes a short distance up the Swinomish Channel.

18 the official opening of LaConner's boating season

It turns out to be the day of the official opening of the summer boating season. And we are here, and right on time!

(to be continued)

Autumn All Around

Milestone Moment

Several weeks after the images from the last two posts were captured, the first-ever images from my newly acquired Panasonic DMC-LZ6 were officially – and rather excitedly – launched into cyberspace in an online album entitled, as is this post, Autumn All Around. Random moments of autumn, with an occasional story thrown in, there were 21 images all told. The first half appear here, regardless of the quality of the images, and the second half will appear in the next post. They were introduced with the following description:

My first official Webshots album
The days have become shorter. A major transformation has taken place as leaves change colour, and trees in turn, discard their leaves.


maple leaves dancing in the sunshine

autumn sunset at Iona Spit

three autumn moments

In the second week of October 2007, I was enjoying a vacation at a favourite place. It was a rare privilege to observe a winter storm on the west coast of Vancouver Island so early in the season. The waves were 6 – 8 meters (~25 feet) high.

autumn storm

And after venting its fury for several hours, the storm subsided almost as quickly as it came. As the sky was clearing up, it seemed to mirror the waves that had just been crashing on the shore earlier in the day.

towards the end of the storm

The clouds continued to dissipate, and before long the skies were painted with the most surreal sunset I have ever seen. The far left image on the header shows the unusual colour of the sky. What it does not show is the movement of the clouds. The wind appeared to be in hot pursuit, chasing the clouds which flew in reckless abandon, tumbling fast and furiously, headed ever southwards, to the left of the screen.

The next day, the waves, still very impressive, were much calmer than on the day of the storm.

the next day

More autumn moments….

Salal is a typical westcoast plant which, although looking very much like a deciduous shrub, actually is ever green, with only some of its leaves turning colours.

abandoned spider's web

And a series of autumn images would be incomplete without including the beech trees growing outside the front door. A captive audience, and an unwitting camera target, they reflect the seasons and stand up to all kinds of weather. Some of my earliest memories of these trees go back to my childhood, on the same property but in an older house. The piano stool afforded a view of the trees outside, and I often looked longingly at them while practising the piano in a daily half-hour ritual that seemed to take forever.
afternoon beech trees

To be continued in the next post.

◆ originally posted December 2007 ◆

Seagull Story :: Becoming a Big Bird, part 1

A seagull flies effortlessly along the shoreline. The skill of flying is not mastered overnight, however.

And with those opening words originally published early in February 2008, I found myself recalling a unique tale of growing up that I had been privileged to observe several months earlier during a road trip to Vancouver Island’s Pacific West Coast in October 2007 mentioned in the last post.  Easily one of my favourite places to visit, I was especially thrilled to have with me my first ever digital camera. 

While there, what started out being some random captures of two seagulls, soon grew into the story of the little seagull that could, a story which began to unfold itself quite unexpectedly. Images were captured firstly by guess and intuition, because I was without the user manual, and secondly by default, simply because my camera usually happened to be at the right place at the right time. Usually. And where it was missing in action, the storyline will hopefully fill in the gaps.

These are some of the first images my camera captured. And while the quality of some of them may be less than ideal, they are included nonetheless, since they, too, document the story of my photojourney. The original appeared as one publication, however because of its length, will appear in two episodes here.

So here is part one – Seagull Story :: Becoming A Big Bird. Enjoy!


How it all began….

A seagull flies effortlessly along the shoreline. The skill of flying is not  mastered overnight, however. This image was captured while on a vacation in October 2007, a few days after having been privileged to witness the process of a young bird in a very key stage of growing up. Starring in the story were a juvenile seagull, and an incredibly patient mother who rather effortlessly and calmly was part of the maturing process of her youngster. This all happened during the course of a few days against the magnificent backdrop of Vancouver Island’s Pacific West  Coast, beginning with an incredible storm and ending in days of brilliant sunshine.

I did not even know what was happening as I was watching the two birds, but they fascinated me, and my camera was with me, so I captured images from time to time. Not until the story had unfolded did I realize what I had  been observing, and then I was thrilled to have the images to document the story of a young bird that was about to learn how to fly.

And it is now my great pleasure and privilege to share the story here as I saw it happen. Where my camera was not always at the ready, the storyline will hopefully fill in the gaps. Growing up does not happen overnight, nor does it take place easily in isolation. As it turns out, a patient caregiver and mentor is able to contribute much to facilitate the process.  

October Storm 

It was the second day of our October vacation. The morning began with quite a wind, yet we still went for a walk along the beach. The surf was incredibly rough, and not too many surfers were venturing out. In fact, in the words of a surfer who came by, the waves were “scary big”. The storm continued to brew, and soon after we returned from our walk, it had become quite the sight. How it churned out on the open ocean, and the wind charged almost visibly at the surf, whipping mercilessly at the waves and hurtling salty mist towards the shore in haphazard, non-stop gusts. Have never witnessed such an amazing storm.

A sign was posted by the beach access trail. “EXTREME HIGH TIDES    Beach & Trail Access Closed”, it said. In all the years that I have spent a fall vacation here, I have never known the beach to be closed before.

Soon after the sign was posted, the storm was no longer just brewing. It was definitely going full throttle. The waves were being whipped up to heights of 6 – 8 meters (up to about 25 feet). It was a full-blown winter storm come early, and it howled and raged.

More than a Storm

Since the beach was closed, we spent some time watching the storm from the shelter of our cabin which faced the ocean, enjoying the comforts of a fireplace and some fresh, hot tea.

Yet we ended up watching more than a storm. A full-sized juvenile seagull, still grey in colour, was growing up right before our eyes. It turned out that the mother seagull was encouraging Junior to try out the perfectly-developed wings, to grow up and become independent. The proverbial ‘apron strings’ were being loosened, even as we watched.

Here is Junior, full-sized, but not yet grown up, still not able to fly. And crying non-stop.

Mom was right there, aware of Junior’s presence, and seemed nonplussed by all the crying. She stayed close by, and alternated between sitting on one of the picnic tables outside and joining Junior on the ground below. And the whole time, Junior’s cries were incessant.

The ocean was but a few meters away, with incredibly huge waves hammering the beach as the blustery winds continued.

However the storm did not seem to be the cause of Junior’s stress, whose focus instead was on Mom. Crying piteously, Junior waited for Mom below when she had hopped onto a picnic table, or plodded after her whenever she rejoined her little one on the ground below.
mom & junior
And that crying always took place with a neck that was pulled in, making the young bird seem much smaller than it really was.

End of the Storm

Finally, the storm subsided. Mom and Junior ended up taking shelter somewhere, and we did not see them for the remainder of the evening. Clouds raced across the sky as blown by the wind. The sun was about to set, and day was done.

to be continued in Part 2

◆ originally posted February 2, 2008 ◆