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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Swallow's Landing II

Yesterday's view of Victoria was taken from the terrace visible in the upper right of this photo. This rather ungainly looking stairway leads from the West Bay Walkway to the two Swallow's Landing condominium towers. While it is not the most attractive stairway, it was designed to protect and preserve the fragile ecosystem beneath and around it known as the Matson Conservation Area, the last remaining bit of the Garry Oak Ecosystem on the shoreline surrounding Victoria's Inner Harbour. This has been preserved in perpetuity by the developer of these condominiums. It's looking a bit frowzy now but this landscape always looks its best in the spring and early summer.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Swallow's Landing

I am happy to share with you today my new favorite view of the Victoria Skyline. This is taken from the terrace of a pair of condominiums called "Swallow's Landing," overlooking the Matson Conservation Area along the West Bay Walkway. I'll tell you a little about this project tomorrow.
For those of you who might be interested in yesterday's seal pup, he was there again today and I was a little better prepared with an 80-200mm zoom lens. Some of the people using the walkway are concerned that he is sick or wounded when they see him lying on the cement like this. Wikipedia, however, assures us that when not hunting or feeding, harbour seals like to pull themselves out of the water and rest on convenient rocks. To me he looks very happy and healthy and it is a treat to see him dropping off to sleep, losing his balance and snapping awake again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


As if to provide the perfect example of yesterday's discussion of my discovery of the digital teleconverter function of my Sony Alpha 550 DSLR I encountered this seal pup taking a break while I was out for my morning walk yesterday. I wasn't even carrying my camera bag, just the camera with the kit lens, an 18-55mm zoom, when I spied this little fellow lolling on a boat ramp along the Westsong Walkway. With the zoom maxed out at 55mm I focused in on him and took a few shots. Then I switched to "live view" and pushed the teleconverter button which gave me the equivalent of 110mm - not much of a telephoto but it still effectively halved the distance between me and this Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) pup. I suspect this is a feature of my camera that I will be using regularly.

Monday, September 27, 2010


The new digital cameras have all sorts of capabilities that are not immediately obvious so, to those of you who are as backward as myself, I suggest you start experimenting with all those buttons and controls you normally don't touch. Although I've been using my latest camera almost daily for over six months I just discovered that it has an interesting and useful function I hadn't even imagined. It's a built in digital 2X teleconverter. This is like being able to double the magnifying power of whatever lens you're using. Above is a photo that is a first experiment with this function using the 300mm telephoto lens times 2 to yield a whopping 600mm. Lenses with this power typically sell for thousands so this is a very nice feature. It also means that I can carry fewer lenses around with me since I can, if necessary, extend the focal length of the lenses in my bag through the use of the built-in teleconverter. I write "if necessary" because, although Sony says,"The system reproduces pixels on a 1:1 basis so there's no degradation in picture quality," it seems to me that there is a bit of image degradation. But if one needs that magnification it's nice to have the option without always carrying around a heavy telephoto lens.

What's normally on my camera or in my camera bag?

  1. The Sony kit lens - an 18-55mm zoom, or some other mid-range zoom

  2. 90mm macro lens for closeups

  3. 10-20mm wide angle

  4. 75-300 or 500mm prime telephoto

I usually have some idea what I'll be shooting before I leave the house so the telephoto or the macro may get left behind. I get a little choosy now because this stuff is heavy and if you spend all day lugging around two or three lenses that never come out of the bag you start to try to think ahead a bit. The flip side, of course, is missing a great shot because you don't have the right lens with you. The teleconverter mentioned above probably means I won't carry around a telephoto lens unless I know I'm likely to encounter some wildlife or some other special situation requiring telephoto or I'll carry a shorter-range, lighter telephoto like an 80-200mm.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Selkirk Trestle Sunrise

Residents of Victoria West, like myself, are lucky in that we have access to waterfront both to the north (The Gorge) and to the south (the Inner Harbour). Where I live is about equidistant from the two bodies of water. Usually I have been walking down to the Inner Harbor and along the Westsong Walkway since this offers more expansive views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the mountains of Olympic Peninsula. There is often a cruise ship or the Coho car ferry visible as well, while the Gorge is a little more domestic with lots of kayaks and canoes and our local rather diminutive mountains. However, the other morning before sunrise I went down to the Gorge and was pleasantly surprised to find that dawn is like the philosopher's stone that turns everything to gold. There's lots of beauty and interest in the Gorge's smaller scale. The above photo of Selkirk Trestle is nearly a reprise of one I took almost two years ago. This is where the Galloping Goose Regional Trail crosses the Gorge over what used to be a railroad trestle. The Galloping Goose Regional Trail is for pedestrians and cyclists only and is used extensively by a growing number of commuters who prefer to walk, run or ride on two wheels.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another Hooper

A week ago I published a photo of one of my favorite heritage houses on Robert Street in Victoria West, and lamented about its sorry looking condition. Just across the street from that house is another heritage home that is actually older by several years (built in 1900) but looks as though it could have been erected yesterday. It was designed by the same architect who designed the house across the street, Thomas Hooper. It is described in "This Old House" as a "finely detailed Queen Ann cottage."

Friday, September 24, 2010

West Bay Marina

A few steps further down the walk pictured yesterday brings the above view into sight. It's the West Bay Marina, the western end of the walkway that begins at the Johnson Street Bridge in downtown Victoria. It's a nice mix of pleasure boats and colorful houseboats. The latter are now called floathomes, and I think it's a good idea to introduce a new term. Modern houseboats are a far cry from early models that were little more than boxes on barges. Some of Victoria's most interesting home designs are floating, both here and at Fisherman's Wharf.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

West Bay Walkway

Back in April I photographed this spot and dubbed it "Westsong Walkway." However, just around the corner there is a plaque identifying this as the "West Bay Walkway." The Township of Esquimalt says that the West Bay Walkway, "...connects Esquimalt (from Head Street at West Bay Marina) to downtown Victoria (Johnston Street Bridge)." Part of this beautiful shoreline walkway is in Victoria West and part of it is in Esquimalt. It seems the part that lies in Esquimalt is called the West Bay Walkway and the Vic West part of it is called the Westsong Walkway. Either that or it depends on the direction you are walking: if you are walking east from West Bay Marina then you are on the West Bay Walkway; if heading west from downtown, then you are on the Westsong Walkway. Oh well, what's in a name? A rose...etc.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Old Town - New Lens

I've been neglecting Victoria's downtown lately because my daily rambles have been taking me down the Westsong Walkway more often. However yesterday was such a beautiful clear, sunny day that I decided to try out a new (used) lens on Johnson Street. Above is lower Johnson Street, part of what is called "Old Town" because it is the area near Fort Victoria that was earliest settled. Most of this area was built in the 1860s.

One of the advantages of a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera that will accept legacy lenses is that one can try out many different types of lenses without spending a great deal of money. Today's three photos were taken with a lens that cost $23 and I am quite pleased with it. What I look for is how sharp the lens is - I love nice crisp images; how well it reproduces color and contrast, and how well it operates mechanically. This lens performs well in all these categories and is a nice mid-range zoom (28-70 mm f3.5) that will probably become a favorite in my camera bag.
Legacy Lenses: When I refer to "Legacy lenses" I mean lenses that were produced for older style cameras - film cameras or early digital cameras. My current camera is a Sony Alpha 550digital single lens reflex. It uses any of the Sony lenses and, since Sony bought Minolta, it will also accept any of the Minolta AF lenses or third party manufacturer lenses made for Minoltas. I also have an adapter that enables my camera to accept any lenses with M42 mounts - widely used, especially for Pentax film cameras. There are several advantages to using legacy lenses. They are often very well made lenses using high quality glass. They are now much reduced in price because the cameras for which they were originally made are no longer in use. An added advantage of Sony DSLR cameras is that the image stabilization mechanism is in the camera body rather than in the lenses as with Nikon and Canon cameras. This means one can use older lenses and still have the benefits of modern image stabilization (anti-shake) technology.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two Ships

If you like things that float on the water Victoria is a good place to live since pretty well every type of watercraft can be seen most days if you're near the shore. Here's two extremes I saw recently. Above is one of the many cruise ships that stop here regularly, the Silver Shadow. And below is one of those instantly recognizable little Harbour Ferries.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Though we are well into September and the leaves are starting to turn, there are still some delights in the garden. This is Borage (Borago officinalis), more descriptively and poetically known as Starflower. The flowers and leaves are edible and are also used in herbal medicine. But I like it mostly because since I started to take close-up photos of plants and flowers, I've developed a special fondness for hairy plants. Borage certainly qualifies.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vic West Corn Roast

One of my favorite annual events took place yesterday, the Victoria West Corn Roast. But it's not just about corn. There was free ice cream as well and, despite the gray skies, the event had all the laid-back, relaxed charm that it usually does. As well as the edibles, there were the ever-popular Zucchini NASCAR races. You can see the white ramp in the photo to the left and some of the participants on the left below. And there were popular local entertainers, including Weak Patrol (right below) providing lots of good music. This event also celebrated the 8th Anniversary of the Spiral Cafe, who are one of the sponsors of the event and organize it in conjunction with the Victoria West Community Association. My compliments to the organizers for an event that was as nice this year as it has been in years past. Thanks for a pleasant afternoon.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


That's what it cost to build this house in 1903. It was designed by architects Thomas Hooper and C. Elwood Watkins. It's my favorite house of those I see on my morning walk and, despite its rather dilapidated appearance, it's a remarkable house in that it is one of the few privately owned houses in Canada to have been declared a National Historic Site. I think the main reason I always end up stopping to look at it is that I like to dream about fixing it up, though it did undergo an award-winning restoration in 1976. It also looks like a comfortable and interesting house to live in though it doesn't appear currently to be occupied. I hope it will soon be in the care of someone who can give it the attention it deserves.

Historical information about this house was drawn from "This Old House," Volume 1, a publication of the Victoria Heritage Foundation.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Here is a selection of the raindrops I saw this morning. It's also been very misty for the last three days, unusual for Victoria. Because Victoria and Vancouver are so close people assume the weather is the same. Victoria is generally much drier (about 600 mm of rainfall per year compared to downtown Vancouver's 1,500 mm p.a.). Sunshine hours reflect this as well with Victoria getting about 2,200 hours of sunshine p.a. versus Vancouver's 1,800 hours. Though many of us feel that this is mostly a result of how good and deserving Victorians are, it seems the meteorologists prefer to credit our relatively low-lying landscape, which allows rainbearing clouds to float overhead towards Vancouver where they are brought up abruptly by the mountains and loose their loads on the city below. I just hope our rain passes by tomorrow since I am looking forward to the annual Vic West Corn Roast, another of my favorite annual events.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Morning Fog

Victoria, like its namesake, is a very civilized, genteel city but it is situated on the edge of the vast forests of the Pacific Northwest and thus shares some of the wildness that lies all around. I have been reminded of this on my morning walks lately, with last week's raccoon and this morning's Great Blue Heron, fishing for his breakfast with the Inner Harbour and the Fairmont Empress Hotel dimly visible in the background.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Garden City

Victoria prides itself on being a "garden city" and has some famous gardens such as the Abkhazi Garden and Butchart's but one of the aspects of the city that makes it a pleasure to live here and to move around in the neighbourhoods is the wealth of small private gardens in the yards of individual residences. Victoria is well known for its high percentage of retired people and this may account for the many splendid gardens in the city. Whatever the reason, today's photo is my salute to the many gardeners of the city whose work we can all enjoy. The house and garden in the above photo is just opposite Willows Beach in Oak Bay and is one that I often stop to admire when I am passing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Here's a tree I've been photographing from time to time over the last couple of years because every time I am near it I am amazed at how enormous it is. So I have a question for my fellow Victorians: Is this the tallest tree in the city? Any information about this tree would be appreciated. Today's photos were taken during the Moss Street Paint-in in July. The tree is at the corner of Moss Street and Richardson. The two little girls in the photo on the left were providing some excellent violin entertainment that day.
Confession: Some time after I posted the two photos featured here I realized that they are NOT photos of the same tree. The one on the left is the tree I was writing about, on the corner of Moss and Richardson. The tree in the photo above is further up the hill and may be the tree referred to in several comments as being on the corner of Moss and Rockland. In any case, both of them are very tall trees.

ps: I just found this:
If you feel like venturing farther in search of giant Giant sequoias in Victoria, check out what some claim is the primo sequoia in town. This monument to massive can be found at a residential address at the corner of Moss Street and Richardson in Fairfield, just east of downtown. From the Vancouver Island Big Trees blog.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vic West Sunrise II

Here's another shot from my recent foray out at sunrise. It's taken from almost exactly the same spot as this one, but looking a little bit more towards the east.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ring-tailed Lemur?

Well, certainly from the back it looks like a Ring-tailed Lemur but I suspect that was my first thought because a little part of my mind is always in Africa. This is, of course, a Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor), a wild animal indigenous to this area. They have adapted well to living in the city and there are quite a few in Victoria. Most Victorians, however, rarely see them since they are nocturnal and hide during the daylight hours. This is only the second one I've seen though I've lived in this city for many years, another of the benefits of yesterday's early-morning walk.Raccoon attacks on humans, as documented in the video below, are rare.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Vic West Sunrise

Once again, while the rest of you were still drooling into your duvets I was early-birding it before sunrise to bring you this morning's fresh photos. Actually, the doctor has ordered more exercise so I went for a walk early to get it over with and discovered all sorts of lovely things I have not shown you before. This sculpture is part of a beach installation by Rich Rico. That's the Shoal Point condominium in the background there, with Fisherman's Wharf just to the left of it. Below is a video of Rich Rico that shows a bit more of his beach creation.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Real Victoria?

Regular visitor JoJo yesterday asked an interesting question about whether those of us who live here consider the Inner Harbour to be the "real Victoria" because of its summer tourist focus. I think it's as real as any other aspect of the city. To be really literal, the Empress and the Legislative Assembly Buildings are not imitations of some other famous buildings. They are the original buildings that were erected here (i.e. not fakes). Likewise the Causeway - it's not an imitation of something else. And while the rest of Victoria may not be as striking or attractive as the Inner Harbour, Victoria doesn't have any huge simmering slums or ethnic ghettos hidden away in remote parts of the city. Like any city, Victoria has its share of social problems such as homeless people and drug addiction. That such problems are not very extreme here seems to me to be mostly a matter of luck rather than an enlightened citizenry or government. But for whatever reasons, for most of its residents this city is a pretty good place to live.

In any case, as my tip of the hat to reality-mongers I offer this photo from my archives (July 2010). Unlike most of the photos I publish here, it is completely unedited. Aside from re-sizing it for the web there has been no re-touching or photoshopping. This is the way it came out of the camera. It's a pretty nice place, real or not.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Inner Harbour Causeway

Here is what is probably Victoria's most photographed view, not surprisingly since it is an attractive vista. The three most prominent buildings, despite their different styles and purposes, were all designed by Francis Rattenbury. The three are the Fairmont Empress Hotel (on the left), the Legislative Assembly Buildings (slightly right of center) and the quite Grecian-looking Royal London Wax Museum (right). The first two are still used for their original purposes. The wax museum was originally designed for use as a steamship terminal. In the midst of these striking buildings, the Inner Harbour Causeway offers a colorful pedestrian walkway with musicians and artists, craftspeople and jugglers providing entertainment to the tens of thousands of visitors and locals who enjoy it every summer. This reads like a Tourism Victoria blurb but there's no denying it's a friendly, beautiful and interesting place.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Country Dave

A combination of inclement weather and transportation problems have contrived to keep me housebound for the last few days so that I have been forced to look into the archives. But it's an ill wind, as they say - I have recovered some photos that got passed over in the wealth of summer and recollected some people who should be mentioned. Today's photos are of Country Dave Ryerson, who brings good country music tunes to the causeway. Dave's been busking a long time and he also contributes one way or another to a lot of the other entertainment you see on the causeway. If you've ever wondered how those causeway performers all manage to spread themselves out and not be in constant competition for the best spots or times, you should talk to Dave, who facilitates the weekly schedule and posts it on the Causeway Artists Website, where he is also the webmaster. And, for those of you who wonder what it's like to be a busker, there is no better source of insider information than Dave's blog, Country Dave's Acoustic Routes, where you'll find fascinating in-depth interviews with many local buskers. While Dave usually performs solo, here's a very short clip of him in a duet with another great causeway performer, Dave Harris. They're singing Country Dave's version of Merle Haggard's Okie From Muskogee, entitled, Proud to be a Busker.

And, while I'm picking up loose ends, here's this year's picture of a kid leapfrogging over one of those distinctive causeway mushroom lamps.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

View from the Top

Last week I posted a series of photos of one of Victoria's more famous landmarks, Craigdarroch Castle. However, I didn't post at that time any photos taken from the castle, especially the lovely little circular room that occupies the topmost tower (see photo on the right). In her later years Mrs. Dunsmuir liked to spend time in this room and the view over Victoria and Saanich is still very attractive though the close surroundings, formerly gardens, are now solidly residential. Above we are looking north towards Victoria's two little mountains, Mount Douglas (left of center) and Mount Tolmie (right of center). Below left is the view looking towards the modern city of Victoria

Monday, September 6, 2010

MV Deerleap

I mentioned yesterday that Labour Day weekend sees the Inner Harbour hosting the Victoria Classic Boat Festival. There are dozens of beautiful wooden boats of all sizes but for me the most interesting are always the big luxurious ones with lots of history. All today's photos are of one such boat, the MV Deerleap, built in 1929 in Vancouver, especially for excursions to Alaska. There's lots of history, film stars and other famous names associated with this boat, but you can read all about her on her website. Below you can get an idea of just how elegant life aboard can be. This is the combined sitting and dining room. To the right you can see the spiral staircase that leads down to the master stateroom and guest rooms, all with en suite plumbing. My thanks to the current owners for letting us get a glimpse of this lovely vessel and also to the sponsors of the Classic Boat Festival, Canoe Cove Marina and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Victoria Classic Boat Festival

For the last few days there's been more teak in the Inner Harbour than you'd find in a log jam on a Borneo river. And lots of maple, oak, mahogany and other expensive exotic hardwoods too. Labour Day Weekend here is marked with one of my favorite shows, the Victoria Classic Boat Festival. It's a treat to walk around the docks and look at these beautiful heritage boats and yachts but it's even nicer that so many of them welcome the public aboard to look around and see what it's like to live on one of these floating palaces.

From the photo below it's easy to see that I'm not the only one who came out yesterday to walk around and enjoy the boats. The Inner Harbour Causeway was a bustling scene of activity. If you look carefully you can see one of my favorite local bloggers, in her usual spot under the red umbrella on the left. Tomorrow we'll take a closer look at some of the wonderful old boats that came for the festival.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Brad Prevedoros

I was lucky yesterday to stumble upon a performance in Market Square by Brad Prevedoros. I am often amazed at the immense talent displayed by local performers and this guitarist was no exception. It was really a joy to listen to his crisp, polished renditions - note-perfect but also performed with subtlety and sensitivity. Check out his website where you can listen to some clips from his recordings. Below is a YouTube video featuring this artist.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Oak Bay Twilight

I happened to be in Oak Bay last night and was amazed to see Mount Baker in Washington State catching the last rays of the setting sun. Mt. Baker is often visible but seldom so clearly. It is about 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) distant.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Inner Harbour from Vic West

One of the things I enjoy during summer here is that there is the occasional night when it's warm enough to be out after dark without a fur coat. We've had a few this summer and on one of them I took this photo looking from Vic West towards the Inner Harbour. On the left you can just pick out the Empress Hotel and to the right of center you can see the fishing boats and houseboats of Fisherman's Wharf. This was taken only a few blocks from where I live so (in the daytime) it's a very familiar view.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


A cold rainy gray day yesterday reminded me that summer's nearly over. Labor Day weekend is fast approaching and everyone is shopping for back-to-school supplies. Summer's flowers like those above seem to burn with an extra brilliance now that the season is turning. Our summer's not been as hot as I like although we've had some nice hot days. But I'm thankful that we've also been spared the extremes of weather experienced by so many this year resulting in floods and hurricanes and droughts. I hope your summer has been a good one.