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Sunday, October 31, 2010


I confess to a fondness for fog so I liked seeing this fogbank moving in from the ocean the other morning. I realize that for mariners it must pose real problems but with both feet safely on the ground and from a distance, it's lovely. A few minutes after taking the above photo (with my "new" 50mm lens) I noticed the MV Coho, the car ferry from Port Angeles, nosing her way out of the fog and took the photo below.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Regular visitors here will know I have a penchant for old or legacy lenses. Yesterday I was lucky enough to find (for $15) a lens that some call the best 50mm lens ever made - the Super Takumar f1.4 50mm. I've only just begun to play with it but I like what I've seen so far. It may require a bit of work - there is a slight tinge of yellowness but I know how to cure that. Today's post is just a few shots of Victoria's Chinatown I took to test this lens.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Telephoto Fun

Lately I've been enjoying my longest telephoto lens. It's a 500mm reflex lens and is most useful for birds. Yesterday's posted photo of the Hooded Mergansers was taken with this lens. These birds were so far out in the water that with the naked eye I could do little more than guess at their identity. Yet thanks to modern technology I was able to capture the relatively sharp image I posted. Today's photos were both taken with the same super telephoto lens and I selected them to show the kind of distortion that comes about with long lenses like this. In the photo above, of course, the sun is about 10 times bigger than it appears in reality. It's a great effect- it makes it look like a blistering hot morning in mid-summer instead of a cold autumn sunrise. The photo below is more of a curiosity for locals to consider. In the foreground is the shoreline from Saxe Point (on the left) to Macaulay Point (on the right) with Fleming Beach and Buxton Green closer to the middle on the right. Where it starts to get weird is what's further back - many of Victoria's trademark buildings in apparently odd locations and looking larger and closer than seems possible. If you look carefully you can see Craigdarroch Castle, the Rocklands water tower, Christchurch Cathedral, the Empress Hotel, the Legislative Assembly Buildings, the Sussex Building and others.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)

I was pleased to see some Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) yesterday when out on my walk. Above are a pair of males. These beautiful little diving ducks re-ignited my enthusiasm for bird-watching nearly two years ago when I first saw them in the midst of a long gray December. I think they must nest further north and fly south to winter around here since I generally see them during the winter months.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Water in Motion

Water can be a challenging thing to photograph because it is rarely still. Today's photos are examples of a technique of photographing water that I find very attractive. This lovely silky effect of falling water is produced by long time exposures. The challenge comes from how to achieve long time exposures (4 seconds for these two photos) when there is lots of light. Under normal daylight conditions leaving the shutter open for 4 seconds would blur the waterfall beautifully but the photo would be badly overexposed. The solution is to cut down on the light using a filter over the lens. The filter designed for this purpose is called a neutral density filter. It blocks all visible wave lengths of light equally. Less light means the photographer can use a slower shutter speed or a time exposure. As is so often the case in life, however, a solution generates a different problem. Neutral density filters are hard to find and expensive. So how about today's photos - did I win the lottery? No, it turns out there is another solution. Many photographers will have a polarizing filter in their camera bag. These are readily available and relatively inexpensive filters generally used to cut glare and harsh reflections. The trick is to use two polarizing filters, one in front of the other. By rotating the front filter one can adjust how much light passes into the camera.(I didn't discover this myself but found it online in some forum or info page I've since lost. My thanks to the photographer who figured this out.) Hope you like these silky waterfalls since we will be seeing more of them from time to time. This particular waterfall was photographed yesterday in Goldstream Park, just outside Victoria.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Northern River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

I am regularly amazed at the variety of wildlife that is visible within the urban areas of Victoria. Though they are much less common than seals, I have several times seen Northern River Otters (Lutra canadensis) such as the one pictured above and to the left, though seldom so close. This one was sighted just below the West Bay Walkway a few days ago. Because Sea Otters are so much more famous - their luxuriant fur having drawn early explorers and fur traders to this area - Northern River Otters are often mistakenly identified as "Sea Otters", especially when they are seen in coastal waters. The Sea Otter population is rebounding from near extinction a hundred years ago, but the nearest large colony is further north on the coast of Vancouver Island and they are unlikely to be seen south of Tofino in this area. True Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) are related to River Otters but are considerably larger. Adults often have lighter colored heads which aids in identification. To see the differences between the species check the photo below of a Sea Otter, taken in the Seattle Aquarium last summer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seagull Portrait

Here's one of Victoria's most common birds whose querulous and mournful call often provides the ambient music to our days. As I have mentioned before, it is difficult to take a photo in Victoria without including a gull somewhere in the background. Here is one who posed prettily out at Esquimalt Lagoon. They are so ubiquitous here it is easy to forget what graceful and resourceful birds they are. Here is a little more information about gulls - no need to read further if you know what kleptoparasitism is....

Gulls—the larger species in particular—are resourceful, inquisitive and intelligent birds, demonstrating complex methods of communication and a highly developed social structure. For example, many gull colonies display mobbing behaviour, attacking and harassing would-be predators and other intruders. Certain species (e.g. the Herring Gull) have exhibited tool use behaviour, using pieces of bread as bait with which to catch goldfish, for example. Many species of gull have learned to coexist successfully with humans and have thrived in human habitats. Others rely on kleptoparasitism to get their food. Gulls have been observed preying on live whales, landing on the whale as it surfaces to peck out pieces of flesh. A seagull in Aberdeen has been seen repeatedly shoplifting bagged crisps from a shop, apparently displaying a preference for cheese flavour Doritos.

From Wikipedia
Thanks to commenter and fellow blogger Mike Laplante, here is a video of the infamous Dorito thief.

I have a soft spot for Doritos myself.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sailor's Cove Sunset

Here are two shots of the same scene, Sailor's Cove - above, just before sunset yesterday and, to the right, just after sunrise three days ago. We tend to see sunrise and sunset as similar events in that they both bring more colour to the sky. However, I am discovering that because they happen on opposite sides of the horizon, they have quite different effects on local landscapes. Though the above photo was a rather gray evening, if you compare the early morning version of this photo on the right it will provide a good example of the differences between sunrise and sunset at this location.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

American Wigeon (Male)

Ten days ago I posted a photo of a female American Wigeon (Anas americana) taken at Cattle Point. Here is the male of the species, photographed at Esquimalt Lagoon last week.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sunrise Over the City

A short walk east from where I took yesterday's photo, Sailor's Cove widens out into the broader reaches of the Inner Harbour and provides this view of Victoria's downtown. One commenter yesterday mentioned the fog that came down later in the day. At dawn this fog was little more than a low-lying cloud but it provided enough interference for the sun's rays to allow this photo of the sun as it crept above the city skyline.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sailor's Cove Sunrise

I usually refer to the western end of the West Bay Walkway as West Bay Marina. The Marina is there but the actual bay in which it is situated is called Sailor's Cove and there is also a Sailor's Cove Marina, pictured above, as well as the West Bay Marina, which is visible in the background. I took this photo about two hours ago just after the sun rose on what looks to be another glorious day. You can see part of the walkway on the left of this photo.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Atrium

We'll take a break today from wild Victoria and have a look at a new addition to the downtown office building population. Yes, not all Victorians spend their days strolling along scenic walkways and communing with nature. Some wear suits and work in offices. Pictured today is a new office building called The Atrium, right downtown on the corner of Yates and Blanshard Streets. I'm not an informed critic when it comes to office buildings but, while I don't find this a strikingly attractive building, my penchant for curves is satisfied here and there seems to be some nice indoor/outdoor social spaces on the ground floor.You can read an informed discussion about this building on the Vibrant Victoria Forum by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brewer's Blackbird (Male)

The day before yesterday I posted a photo of a female of this species, a rather demure lady with tasteful brownish gray plumage. Here is the male Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) with his dramatic yellow-eyed glare. From a human perspective this bird looks angry - always. I wonder if his enemies also interpret his intensely staring eye as ferocity and shy away from attacking him?

Monday, October 18, 2010

West Bay Marina Sunrise

I still have a few bird photos from my excursion to Esquimalt Lagoon on the weekend but I thought I would break the sequence today with another sunrise photo, this one of West Bay Marina with its houseboats and sailboats. This marina marks the western end of the West Bay/Westsong Walkway, the eastern end of which is the Johnson Street Bridge in downtown Victoria. It's a beautiful walk at any time of day.

Some of you may be wondering what the white stuff is on the rocks in the foreground. It's not snow or frost - it's broken shells. Seagulls drop clams and other shellfish onto the rocks here to crack them open for their dining pleasure.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Brewer's Blackbird (Female)

Mixing sociably with the starlings pictured yesterday were a couple of kinds of blackbird, Red Winged and Brewer's. As is often the case, the males bear the most distinguishing marks of the species so I am not certain of my identification here. However, I think this is a female Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus). This species is named after the American Ornithologist, Thomas Mayo Brewer.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)

Disappointed by the lame wild bird photos I've been taking lately, I decided it was time to head into the countryside once more. I went out to Esquimalt Lagoon yesterday and gorged myself on the birds. I am sure these birds are aware that the lagoon is a migratory bird sanctuary since they seem to be less fearful every time I visit. The photo to the left will give you some idea of the richness and tameness of the bird population there. You can see two kinds of swan (Mute Swans and one black-billed Trumpeter), a Canada Goose (just behind the Trumpeter Swan), pigeons, a male Brewer's Blackbird (extreme lower right), mallards, and gulls. In other parts of the lagoon I also saw American Wigeons, Pintails, Killdeer, Great Blue Herons and a Belted Kingfisher. Above is my favorite shot of the hundreds I took. These are European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in their winter outfits, not perhaps quite as striking as their spring and summer coats but still beautifully patterned and displaying a shifting iridescence that always makes me slightly envious - we humans are such a dowdy bunch in comparison.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

I mentioned the other day when I posted the photo of the Downy Woodpecker that I had been a stalking him for a long time. Here is another difficult-to-photograph bird that shares the same part of the West Bay Walkway, the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). I see this bird almost every time I am down there but it is usually so busy fishing that I generally end up with a series of shots like this. He (or she, I'm not sure) takes off from his perch (left above), then hovers about 20 feet above the water for a few seconds, then dives (right below), usually emerging with a little fish wiggling in that powerful beak, and skims away just above the surface to another perch.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Willows Beach Sunrise II

Cattle Point, where I took yesterday's bird and animal photos, marks the northeastern end of Willows Beach. It is the point of land jutting out on the left hand side of the above photo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cattle Point

I was going to post another sunrise photo today but I realized that they are a little like cupcakes - one is fine but a steady diet is a bit overwhelming. After I had glutted myself on sunrise yesterday at Willows Beach I went down to the end of the beach marked by Cattle Point. I was amazed by the variety and busy-ness of the wild life off that point. All these photos were taken within a few minutes.

Above is a female American Wigeon. There were lots of Mallards as well and a few other kinds of duck but the latter were so shy I was unable to get close enough to identify them. On the left, poking about among the rocks was a Black Oystercatcher. These birds always amuse me because they seem to be trying to be inconspicuous but those eyes and that beak are a dead giveaway. To the right, seemingly traveling in tandem, are one of our local seagulls and a Harbour Seal.
There seem to be more than the usual number of seals around lately. I see one or more pretty well every time I am down near the shoreline. Last night while on the West Bay Walkway I spent about a half an hour watching one dine off a dense school of thousands of small silvery fish that were swimming directly below the walkway.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Willows Beach Sunrise

I've been thinking that I might get some better sunrise shots if I rode over to the eastern side of the city so I did that this morning. Though the mornings are getting chilly, it was well worth the trip. Here is the first of a series of photos of sunrise at Willows Beach in Oak Bay. Here we are looking towards Oak Bay, facing southwest.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Work Point

Here's a view of Victoria's Inner Harbour that is probably not too familiar even to the city's residents. It was taken from the western point that marks the entrance to the harbour, called Work Point. It is on the opposite side of the harbour from where I often photograph the city. On the left side of the photo, the large green patch that can be seen marks one side of Lyme Bay, my usual haunt, where Spinnakers is located. Off camera to the extreme right is Ogden Point, which marks the eastern side of the entrance to the harbour and is where the cruise ships dock.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Street Furniture Revisited

Some time ago I did a short series of photos on street furniture - objects such as bike racks and benches. Another kind of furniture is also found in our streets, actual house furniture that has been discarded and left on the roadside. Sometimes, when the furniture is clean and in good condition, this is motivated by a real wish to be charitable and the furniture is left outside for anyone who wishes to take it away and use it. Much of the time, however, I suspect it is simply easier to leave it outside on the curb than it is to recycle or dispose of it properly. In any case, if you walk or drive around this city you will often see furniture and other items left on the street. I don't remember this happening when I was young forty or fifty years ago and I wonder what it says about changing attitudes towards furniture/possessions/charity/recycling....

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Here is something I've seen on some of my walks lately; it's not really graffiti but more like gratuitous art in that the public environment is not used as a canvas but as a gallery, a place to display art that is prepared elsewhere. Graffiti stencil art is a bit like this as well and perhaps there is a little Banksy inspiration in this. I'm not 100% sure about the subject here but I'm guessing it's Ricky of Trailer Park Boys fame.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bankview - 1894

Here's another of Victoria West's fine heritage houses, built in 1894 for Francis and Margaret Hinds, for $2,000. In 1986 the immaculate restoration of this house won its owners a Hallmark Society Award. "This Old House" describes it as being in the "late Victorian Queen Anne" style.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Blue Bridge

It has been some time since I posted a photo of the Johnson Street Bridge, Victoria's unique heritage bridge and, since the spans opened yesterday when I was about to cross, it seems an opportune time. City Hall is determined to tear this bridge down despite its historical significance and considerable opposition from residents. The bridge was designed by Joseph Strauss, who also designed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. One aspect of its uniqueness is that it is actually two bridges, one for road traffic and a narrower span for rail traffic. Wikipedia has an entry that describes some of its history and significance as well as the current status of the controversy surrounding this bridge. Or, check out the City of Victoria spin HERE or some citizen views HERE.
On the right, I was surprised to see how small was the tug that was pulling this barge under the bridge. It's almost like a toy tug. It looks like a telephone booth on top of a row boat.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Queen Anne Cottage

In Vic West just above the Selkirk Trestle are many of Victoria's oldest houses, more modest than those in some other neighbourhoods but still fine examples of the styles popular in early Victoria. Here is one of several heritage homes overlooking the Gorge in this area, built in 1892 for Jane and Orlando Warner. Their adopted daughter, Lucy Musters, married Arthur Curry in 1901 and they received this house as a wedding present from Jane Warner, Arthur's great-aunt. The street is named after Arthur Curry, who achieved eminence during the First World War and later became president of McGill University. Heritage homes such as this are not just attractive to look at - in most cases they embody significant aspects of our history. The historical information mentioned here comes from This Old House, Volume 1, a publication of the Victoria Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I'm not actually getting up any earlier. It's mostly that dawn comes later and later these days. This view, which we have seen in various moods before, is so commonly featured here because the street where I live meets the ocean at this point. One of the blessings of Victoria is that one is never very far from the ocean.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Trot of Joggers

Now that I'm taking a morning walk every day I have noticed other people out walking, jogging and running. While there are many lone joggers There are also a surprising number of groups of people jogging together - such a distinct social phenomenon that I figure it deserves a new collective noun to describe it. Hence, I propose the word trot to indicate a group of joggers, as in "a trot of joggers" thumped past, or "a trot of joggers" puffed around the corner.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

I apologize for the fuzzy photo of this Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) but promise a better one some day. I am posting this one because after a year or so of intermittently chasing this small local woodpecker this is the best of several hundred photos I've attempted of the jittery little guy. He moves quickly and jerkily, mostly on the underside or backside of branches and seems quite shy. He's one of two kinds of woodpeckers I have seen locally. The other is quite large and equally difficult to photograph. Flickers are another relative that I am working on....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Crows and Cruise Ships

"It's getting cold. Let's take one of these cruises."
"Crows don't migrate."
"So we can't try something new? Whoever figured that staying here all winter was a good idea?"
"I dunno but we always stay here."
"Ducks fly south."
"We're crows. Remember?"
We could probably get in the Guinness Book of World Records."
"Yadda yadda...."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gorge Sunrise

Sunrise over the Gorge here looks a little industrial but the silhouettes of the grasses and other shore plants make a nice counterpoint to the cranes and derricks across the Selkirk Waters.