This is a journal of our retirement move and life in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island's ruggedly beautiful west coast. The town's motto is "Enjoy life on the edge".

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Thursday, 31 October 2013

An Evening Interlude

There being no rain this afternoon, I trundled down to Big Beach about 5 PM to check out the low tide. Quite calm and lots of detritus, so detail shots were called for.




Finally, just as I was leaving to come back and make dinner, there was a brief showing of light on the far horizon.

Ciao for now.


Never Ending Fun

By this morning, the rain had ceased leaving just a leaden grey sky and a light fog. After imbibing our first latte of the day, we ambled down to Big beach. High tide was just approaching and presents quite a different view than low tide. Not much of a swell this morning, but, as you quickly learn of the ocean, it is unpredictable, and sudden series of larger swells are really just out there, waiting to race in and take you unaware!

In the closer in, calmer lagoon, a flotilla of small ducks receives a fly-by from a seagull (screaming "Mine!").

This morning, the beach presents a veritable smorgasbord of detritus,

This one reminded me of the radicchio we had on the weekend when my brother-in-law, David, used it in a monumental pizza he made.

We got back about 10 AM, breakfasted, and then, using an internet recipe, set to making up a batch of Cliff's bars. Of all the 'power bars' out there that we've tried, the Cliff's Bars are the most paletteable, and they are reasonably priced (compared to their brethren), but surely you can do better yourself, right? More on that later as we start to actually use the product.

All you photographers out there will relate to this next topic... The angst of deciding what gear to take out on the trails. During the prep for our move, I did a huge amount of downsizing of my photo-related belongings, including donating my sizable library of photographic books to Langara College, thus freeing up almost two full size bookcases. Additionally, several camera bags were culled.

Camera bags are a worthy topic all unto themselves. Who would have thought that inanimate objects could breed in the depths of closets? And having this remarkable ability, is it not astonishing that they never get the result quite right? This, of course, requires you to buy yet another bag, thus adding to the breeding stock.

Well, the result of this brutal culling exercise left me a single, non-breeding pair: my trusty Domke F3 and my Lowepro Slingshot 300 AW. The Domke is like putting on an old, familiar sweater: soft, supple, waterproofed canvas that is light and durable. The Lowepro is more high-tech, with a pull-out waterproof cover, and the sling design works well with the waist belt to haul weight evenly. The trick, however, is to limit how much you really need and therefore need to carry.

So the deliberations shall carry on as I try to pare down the kit to offer a view from ultra-wide (18mm) to long telephoto (300m), using quality optics. The other good news is that over the last few years, my choice of equipment has been downsized (quite literally) to smaller, yet more powerful bodies and lenses. So, the smaller bags work too. As long as they will hold some additionals such as a water bottle and a snack etc.

Want to know what the best part is to all this? (All the other photographers already know this.) You get to do it all over again sometime in the future. Never ending fun!


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Hard to Port

Today was our first trip into Port Alberni (or just 'Port' as the natives call it), in search of a cheaper source of shopping. Ucluelet, while a delightful place to reside, has little in the way of shopping outlets, and those few establishments charge a hefty premium for goods. Just as an example, a jug of 2% milk cost $5.79 in Ukee, while in Port, we bought that same jug for a buck less, and that's just one item. Mind you, you have to make it worthwhile by assembling a big enough list to justify the 200 km round-trip, but doing this trek about once a month or so will be doable.

It does, however, take up a good part of the day. It may be only 100 km, but the road between Ukee and Port is anything but straight. Within about 15 minutes drive from our door, we pass Lake Kennedy, the largest lake on Vancouver Island. Only a small portion is viewable from the road, but we pulled off for a quick look and I snapped a couple of pictures.

Marcelle has a trip planned off-island in November, so she will do a major shop at Costco in Nanaimo upon her return. This should hopefully hold us through most of the winter months so we can avoid having to drive eastward. Although Sutton Pass, the highest point of Highway 4 between Ukee and Port, is ony 240 metres in elevation, there can easily be snow and ice during the winter months. There are signs posted that between October 1st and April 1st, snow tires or chains are required. I think it's unlikely you'd get stopped and checked, but then that's where Darwinism generally wins the day. I think I'm going to price out some reasonable chains for the trunk just in case. Considering that any major medical care is at minimum in Port Alberni, it seems a prudent thing to do.

This morning, as we were leaving, Marcelle called me out to the porch and we could hear dozens of crows calling all around us. It was really quite astounding aurally, very, very, three-dimensional. The murder was flying down the street and over the house toward the beach. We have seen quite large groups (which, of course, are called murders) on the beaches here. Both crows and ravens live in this area, and apparently, it is very hard to tell them apart. Regardless, they are fascinating and intelligent birds, and Marcelle is very taken with them.

While we just had grey skies this morning, and the odd sprinkle, on our return, once past the summit, we entered rain that even now is continuing. Outside, on our porch, the wind is picking up and the Hoot-bots, as I call them, our fog horns, can be heard, calling out their two tones, one low, to every two higher. Gusts whip the treetops and the resulting arrhythmic spattering of heavy drops falling on the Salal ground cover mingles with the gentler, more regular patter of the smaller raindrops, while overhead, a susurration of the wind comes and goes, causing a delayed flurry of staccato beats.

Winter is settling into Ucluelet.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Off the Radar

Off the radar as far as blog posts and photos! Well, there are some extenuating circumstances... For one thing, I'm starting to shoot video (again, but it's not my main strength) because the constantly changing sea demands the ability see things in motion as well as still images. When I shot video before, I used Micro 4/3 cameras and now I use the Sony NEX, so much experimenting has been taking up my shooting time. And then there's the damned relatives... :)

This past weekend, my sister and brother-in-law visited from the Nanaimo area. We welcomed them with open arms, not the least because they delivered 8 Kgs of Costco Starbucks Espresso Blend, which is a staple for us. Hosting people here is going to be so much fun because there's literally so much to see and share as we learn more and more.

This weekend, with our guests, we visited South Beach and Wick beach again, and then the north section of the WPT. Here are some photos:

After our guests departed, we took a day to build up energy again and then I walked down to Big Beach by myself with just my iPhone. One of the exercises I pose for myself is to use a different camera or a specific lens, or just choose a specific subject to shoot. Using the iPhone with Hipstamatic is a liberating yet somewhat frustrating experience. There is some degree of control over what you want to have in focus, but the "lens" has the last word.

This afternoon, Marcelle and I wandered down to Big Beach again, and this time, I took my Panasonic LX5, a point-and-shoot that writes RAW files. It's a super little camera for doing macro work.

The incredible weather we've been having is about to change, and we are expecting rain for the next few days (and beyond). The lovely wispy clouds this afternoon provided a wonderful foreground layer under a dark black-and-white processed sky.

Tomorrow, we're off to "Port" as Port Alberni is familiarly known here, to do some shopping at Walmart. Ghastly thought, isn't it, but it's the closest big-box store we have and shopping at the local Co-Op is a liberating experience (where they cheerfully liberate double funds from your account). I'll try to stop at Kennedy Lake which we have yet to do, let alone explore there. Even with fog, I've seen a couple of extraordinarily surreal scenes driving past.

For now, here's a picture for us to remember this incredible weather by.

Keep Calm and Chive On!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Slow Day

So far, today has been one of those really slow days that any who suffers from arthritis (as Marcelle and I both do) will relate to. A day to relax and recharge the batteries (ours and the cameras'). In fact, other than hanging the last few prints and doing some vacuuming, little else has been accomplished. Mind you, I have done some research on the latest thinking on settings for the best video from the Sony NEX 7 cameras I use.

We might amble down to Big Beach later to catch the sunset, but here's a shot I took this morning of our local Ent, who resides in our driveway.

This is an iPhone 4 Histamatic image, using my most favored combo of Tintoretto 1884 "lens" and D-Type Plate "film". It mimics the look of daguerreotype-inspired images with regions of sharpness that are based upon the iPhone's face-detection algorithms. While it works very well for portraits, rendering wonderfully sharp eyes and mouth, shooting nature is sometimes a gamble as to just what the app decides should be sharp. The surrounding areas are beautifully out-of-focus and the borders mimic an old photographic plate, actings as an attractive frame.

Well, more relaxing is in order, I think.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Just What is a Tombolo?

This morning, we ventured further north, to Chesterman Beach, and in specific, North Chesterman Beach. We accessed the beach adjacent to Frank Island, which is connected to the mainland (Vancouver Island, in this case) by a sandbar which is called a 'tombolo'. Who knew?

Frank Island is private property with a few upscale cabins that are available for rent and which, at high tide, would be isolated as the tombolo would be immersed. From the leeward side of the island, you can see a lighthouse in the distance, further up the coast.

We walked north and while Marcelle waded, I found some intriguing driftwood (sadly lacking on this beach compared to most) and got comfortable, watching the beach traffic.


One thing I notice, especially in Tofino, is that there is no lack of interesting and colorful fashion that one sees.




Looking back down the beach, I noticed a young woman silhouetted against the sun on the waves, doing a yoga routine. The poses seemed perfect in a setting like this.


On our way back home, we jaunted off to go up Radar Hill (actually only to find that not only had I done this on a previous visit some years ago, but that it was now too foggy to see anything much at all!). Trudging down the inclined path back to the car, I spied a magical scene:


Man, ya gotta love the Island!


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Crunching the Kilometers on the WPT

Today, I went out alone as Marcelle had done some extensive wading yesterday and her legs were quite sore. The day is a sunny one and I headed up to the start of the northern leg of the Wild Pacific Trail.

There's a bit more surf action this morning, but nothing really, compared to what we hope to see here during the winter.

I walk up to the branch off to the highway (above the Artists' Loops), which is about 5 km from our door. Along the trail, details spring out at me to be photographed and then vistas open up (with convenient benches) to be scrutinized in languorous detail.





Here, you can see my setup with one NEX 7 body (usually with my 55-210mm lens) while I have the other NEX 7 with my Voigtländer 28mm f2 Ultron lens around my neck. They alternate onto the tripod as needed.

Today, I was also shooting video (full HD) of waves breaking against the shore, or the chaos of the swells as they rise and fall over rocks. Although I have a special panning video head, I shoot virtually every shot locked down, so the camera on a good sturdy ballhead (Kirk BH-3) works splendidly. I'll be putting together a short on waves and will feature it on the blog sometime in the future.

For now, here's a teaser shot of the lovely aquatic chaos of the coastal waters.


So, in total, I clocked about 10km round trip... not bad for an old bugger!

Enjoy, and see you tomorrow.


Monday, 21 October 2013

Long Beach in the Fog

Today, we drove up the Pac Rim highway to the Incinerator Rock parking lot, which is at the north end of Long Beach. It is a steel-grey sky with fog which varies in density over the duration of our visit, tiptoeing in and out to obscure then tempt.

The softness of the lighting is ideal for photography, bringing out both form and colour. The back of the beach here is well back and the sand expanse between it and the high-tide water is considerable, and well littered with detritus.





Today, we see the little shorebirds that dart around on long, stiff legs, following the wave out, probing the sand with their long bills, then excitedly rushing up the beach as the next wave hurls itself up the beach at them.


Just before we headed home, we rounded the headland to the north which leads to the beach in front of the Community of Esowista.


Another beach to explore another day...