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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Night Lights

We're getting more night shots lately partly because there's more night lately but mainly because I am getting addicted to the Sony Alpha 55's wonderful handheld twilight setting. It's really liberating to be able to walk around in the darkness and shoot photos just like it was daytime. Above is a shot taken from the Bay Street (Point Ellice) Bridge looking down the Gorge towards the city. That's the Galloping Goose Regional Trail for cyclists and pedestrians with the nice yellow line down the middle. It's nearly deserted at night but in the morning it carries many walkers and commuters on two wheels.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Here's another winter visitor I have not identified before, the Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). These grebes are now in their rather austere non-breeding plumage. We are not likely to see them here in the more colorful plumage they don when mating since they move further north and into the interior for breeding season.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dramatic Skies

There has been lots of very stormy weather here of late. That almost always means if you can brave the cold wind and rain, the heavens put on a pretty good show. - Fern

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Search of Snow

This stretch of the E and N Railway line runs just south of Shawnigan Lake and we went up there looking for some white stuff. I know the rest of the continent gets more than they ever want but here on the wet west coast, we sometimes feel feel a certain lack. - Fern

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Somewhere Saturday - Delhi, India

For Somewhere Saturday this week here's a trio of shots from my trip to India last spring. All these photos were taken at the seat of government in Delhi, the capital of India, and show where the main government offices and ministries are located. Just to the left of the photo is the Ministry of Defense and shortly after I clicked the shutter both of the uniformed men on the left came towards me and informed me that it was illegal to take photos of the Ministry of Defense. However, they were very nice about it and I was impressed with their politeness. The photo below was taken looking in the opposite direction, towards the India Gate. As you can see, Delhi was quite smoggy that day.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ferry Stop

This is the Songhees Point Ferry Stop for the little harbour ferries that chug around during the daytime. They stop at various points up and down the Gorge and along the Inner and Outer Harbour as far as West Bay Marina but they don't run after dark or during the winter season.
I just noticed the interesting and strange black bands across the top of the photo above. They are some kind of technological artifact I suspect. Hmmm....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Swan Song

Here's another hand held night shot from Songhees Point, the Johnson Street Bridge, looking apocalyptic in this light. I don't know when it's slated for demolition but every time I see it I expect it to be the last. (Like yesterday's photo the photo above was shot at ISO 6400 but the shutter speed on this was 1/30. These night shots (last 3 posts) were taken with my Sony Alpha 55 DSLT using a Minolta 50 mm 1.7 lens at f2.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Songhees Point at Night

Last week I posted some views from Songhees Point during the daytime. Here's a shot taken a few nights ago from Songhees Point looking across the harbor towards the Legislative Assembly Buildings. This photo is a bit of a tribute to technology since it is a hand held shot - Look Ma, no tripod! The technology here is in my camera. On the "Hand Held Twilight" setting it shoots at high ISO (6400 in the photo above) which enables a relatively fast shutter speed (1/80 second in this case). High ISO like this usually results in a photo with lots of noise (noise in a photo is like television "snow" or static, random pixels of odd colors). My Sony deals with this by shooting 5 exposures in rapid succession and cancelling out the noise by merging them all. The end result is the photo above. The five exposures are automatic and very fast to minimize blurring due to movement (this camera will take 10 frames a second so 5 exposures take about a half second). It can take multiple exposures at this speed thanks to translucent mirror technology. Unlike normal single lens reflex cameras the mirror does not need to flip up when the shutter is opened because it is translucent (not transparent but clear enough to allow light to pass through). Since it does not need to wait for the mirror to flip up and down between shots, the shutter can open and close much faster.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Night Lights

The Westsong Walkway is beautiful during the daytime but it's magical at night too and part of the magic is these lovely ball lamps that light it. They're probably not the most efficient lighting available but they've certainly got style.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Light

The sun goes down so early now, that our afternoon walk turned into an evening walk, but this makes for lovely light. - Fern Long

Sunday, November 20, 2011


This is poutine. It's a national favorite, which originated in Quebec. How can you go wrong with french fries loaded with fresh cheese curds (tasting somewhat like mozzarella) and a gravy sauce? We had ours at a little place in Esquimalt called La Belle Patate and it really feels like a little slice of Quebec. - Fern

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Elk Lake Autumn

As Fern mentioned a few days ago, the autumn leaf colors this year have been especially brilliant although the leaves are rapidly falling this last week since we've been having hard frosts in the mornings. Here is what they looked like yesterday at Elk Lake in Saanich. This is another example of a lovely little chunk of wilderness within 20 minutes drive of downtown Victoria. It looks so pastoral it's hard to believe that Highway 17 is just behind the trees on the right hand side of the photo.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Victoria Icons

Yesterday's view from Songhees Point was taken facing west. Today's photo is taken from the same point facing east. It's kind of a junky grab-bag kitchen sink photo but I like it because so many of Victoria's icons are visible - the Johnson Street Bridge in its permanent half up position, totem poles, the ubiquitous seagull front and center, Swans Hotel, the harbour and a few boats.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Westsong Walkway

Songhees Point is a good place to get an overview of Victoria because you can see many of the city's features simply by looking in another direction. Today's photo was taken from the same point as yesterday's but here we are looking west down the outer harbour. That's the start of the Westsong Walkway on the right. When it enters Esquimalt it becomes the West Bay Walkway and in the far distance on the left can be seen the houseboats and sailboats of Sailor's Cove and West Bay Marina.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Inner Harbour Autumn

Though there has been a real nip in the air, the last few days have been so bright and sunny that it has been impossible to resist going out and enjoying the fall colors. This is one of my favorite views of Victoria, the Inner Harbour from Songhees Point.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One More From Cairn Park

As 'Paul from Powell River' commented yesterday, Cairn Park is one of Victoria's tiny jewels, so for you Paul, here is one of the many fabulous views from near the top. The colors this fall have been phenomenal haven't they? - Fern

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blustery Days

I began to express my love of this season, and declare it "my favorite" but I believe I did the same thing in the summer and before that in the spring etc. This was taken on a late afternoon walk in Cairn Park. - Fern

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembrance Day

This years ceremony down in front of the Legislature Buildings was a wet and cold one. The Canadian Scottish Regimental Association Pipe Band provides today's portrait. - Fern

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gyarah Murti

On this Remembrance Day weekend I've been thinking about Gandhi and the Salt March he led in 1930 and how, thanks to Gandhi, civil disobedience has become an increasingly popular and effective way of effecting social change. The group of statues above depicts Gandhi at the head of the Salt March. I photographed it in Delhi in April of this year.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

Today's post brings up to date the list of newly arrived winter residents with these photos of some Bufflehead Ducks (Bucephala albeola). There are still a few more wintering birds that I have not seen yet this year - Goldeneye Ducks for one. The photo above is of a male Bufflehead. Below are a couple of males and a female. Most of these small ducks (and mergansers) are busy these days flirting and bonding. The males in the photo below are engaging in one of the flirting behaviors. They get low in the water and then chug along at high speed for a short distance, creating lots of showy turbulence to impress the coy female. This is coupled with standing up and spreading the wings impressively. While they flirt and bond at this season, I haven't seen any that were consummating their relationships. I'm guessing that they do not actually mate until after they fly to their summer nesting areas in the spring.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Most Popular?

Great Blue Herons are year round residents here but I didn't see much of this one during the summer and was happy to see him back on his usual perch high in an evergreen tree above the Sailor's Cove end of the West Bay Walkway. He's there most mornings, alternately preening and snoozing in the sun. I'm guessing that these birds are the most photographed birds in North America because they're big, they're widespread, they often live in or near urban environments, and (photographer's delight) they often stand perfectly still for long periods of time. Over the last few years they've appeared on this blog at least a half dozen times.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Common Merganser (Mergus Merganser americanus)

Here's another addition to the roll call of winter residents, A small flock of Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser americanus) who paused near the shore to do their morning toilette. Later in the year, during breeding season, the males wear quite a distinctive plumage but at this time of year these birds pretty much all look the same whether they are male, female or juveniles. In January of this year I posted a photo of these mergansers with the male in breeding dress. These are the most common of three types of mergansers we regularly see here. The other two are the Hooded Merganser and (much less often) the Red Breasted Merganser.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Watching for Breakfast

It's been like homecoming week on the West Bay Walkway this last few days. Shoreline residents I haven't seen all summer are suddenly reappearing in their old haunts. Above is a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched high above Sailor's Cove in the rigging of a sailboat.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Saanich Inlet

At the summit of the Malahat, on the Island highway is a rest stop which provides a fantastic view, south towards Port Angeles. - Fern Long

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goldstream Park

There have been lots of posts on this blog of Goldstream Park, like this one
and this one. It's worth a visit at any time of year but in the fall, it is spectacular! - Fern

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

American Wigeon (Anas americana)

Here's another common winter resident, the American Wigeon (Anas americana) (or Widgeon if you prefer). We do see them in the summertime also but there are many more here in the winter. They are almost as ubiquitous as Mallards and share many of the same areas and habits.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bonaparte's Gull

Every time I think I've seen or photographed everything, something new and interesting pops up. This morning it was this lovely little gull, Bonaparte's Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia). It was swimming near another gull. I suddenly realized that it was much smaller than the other gull and I took another look through the telephoto lens. That distinctive spot behind its eye told me I was looking at something I had not seen before. Then, as though it was aware of my intense scrutiny, it spread its wings and took flight. According to Wikipedia, this gull was named after Prince Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a zoologist and nephew of Napoleon.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Look Carefully....

Almost lost amidst the blaze of autumn leaves, this Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) pulled my eyes away from the abundant mushrooms near the trail around Matheson Lake. While I am quite familiar with the local Black and Grey Squirrels that live comfortably in our urban areas, I don't remember seeing a Douglas Squirrel before and I am happy to add this one to the roster of local indigenous animals that I have recorded here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mushroom Season

Last week I posted a photo of some mushrooms we saw on our excursion to Matheson Lake Regional Park. We went there for the the express purpose of seeing some mushrooms and we weren't disappointed. We must have seen more than a dozen different varieties, including a little clump of Amanita muscaria, a mushroom I have not seen before though I have long wanted to. Unfortunately the Amanitas were all in sad states of decay and being near the trail's edge were mostly tattered and broken so I will not post any photos of them and encourage you to click their name above and see the many excellent photos of them on Wikipedia. I don't know the name of the cluster of ghostly white mushrooms pictured above. I'm still working on how best to identify mushrooms. One of the identifying features of mushrooms is the spore print but to get one you have to pick the mushroom and I am reluctant to do that so I may continue to appreciate mushrooms anonymously....