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Sunday, January 31, 2016


So I went down to Beacon Hill Park today to see if I could find anything to photograph and look what turned up. It's a bit early but maybe these crocuses know something we don't. In any case it was a joy to see. Oh, please notice the smooth unfocused background in this photo. That creamy bokeh is thanks to that little lens I mentioned yesterday, the Helios 58mm.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Helios -44-2 58mm f2 Lens

We're having very blustery, changeable weather lately. Victoria has a weather pattern of cloudy/rainy mornings followed by clear, sunny afternoons and lately we've seen some ramped up versions of this with very cloudy stormy mornings followed by brilliantly clear windy afternoons. I took advantage of this weather yesterday afternoon to try out a little lens I got some time ago, a Helios 58mm f2 screw mount lens about 50 years old. This is a Russian made lens, all manual. I am impressed at this $10 item. The photo above has got lovely color a is very sharp - the 100% crop below will give you some idea of how sharp this lens is. It also has a beautiful and unusual bokeh I'll show you next week.

Friday, January 29, 2016

John Sebastian Helmcken

Just behind St. Ann's Schoolhouse that was pictured here yesterday is the house that belonged to John Sebastian Helmcken, probably my favorite amongst all our founding fathers. He was a medical doctor and in the statue above is pictured as he was probably often seen, leaving his house with his medical bag in one hand and his stethoscope around his neck. His house is the oldest house in the province that is still on its original foundation. He built it in 1852 next door to Governor James Douglas, whose daughter he married. You can find out more about him by clicking HERE.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

St. Ann's Pioneer Schoolhouse

This modest little building on the Royal BC Museum grounds probably the earliest schoolhouse in the province. Below is information from a wall plaque on the site.
St. Ann's schoolhouse was purchased by Bishop Demers for the four sisters of the order of St. Ann who came from Quebec in June, 1858, to teach in Victoria. It is believed to be the oldest building in Victoria which is still in use, possibly built between 1843 and 1853. It was moved to its present site from the grounds of St. Ann's Academy in 1974.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Belmont Building

While we're downtown I thought we might take a look at another interesting building in the downtown core, the Belmont Building. It was opened in 1912 and briefly, at 8 stories, was the tallest building in Canada. But that was the beginning of the skyscraper era and it was soon topped. It sits opposite the Empress Hotel on the northern corner of Government Street and Humboldt and, despite its age, continues to contribute to the Inner Harbour Causeway ambience.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Crystal Garden

Here's another building designed by Victorian architect Francis Rattenbury, who also designed The Empress Hotel. This is the Crystal Garden, formerly a swimming pool and recreation centre and now a part of the Victoria Conference Centre.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Victoria Conference Centre - Main Entrance Plaza

We had a look at the interior of the Victoria Conference Centre last week and here is the most imposing exterior face, the plaza and main entrance to the building. I like how the extensive glass walls and roof echo the heritage building known as the Crystal Gardens, that also forms a part of the conference centre. We'll have a look at that later this week.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Body Slam!

Vancouver Island Pro Wrestling puts on a night of entertainment every couple of months out at the Langford Legion and it's quite a thing to see. There's all sorts of drama and high flying stunts and while it's debatable about it's status as a sport it's pretty good fun all the same. The referee really steals the scene for me. - Fern

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Victoria Conference Centre 2

Here's a little closer look at some of the totems and other art that decorate the interior of the Victoria Conference Centre. Above we are looking into the centre itself with the passage to The Empress on the left. Below is looking towards the Douglas Street entrance.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Victoria Conference Centre

Last week we took a stroll through The Empress Hotel and on the last post peeked through the passage where the hotel connects to the Victoria Conference Centre. In today's photos we have stepped through this passage and are looking at the main foyer or lobby of the conference centre. I mentioned that it has an excellent selection of West Coast totem art and we will have a closer look at some tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Otterly Delightful

Here's a nice healthy River Otter I saw on a recent walk along the shoreline in Esquimalt. He was busily swimming along the shoreline searching for (and often catching) small fish. Then he would clamber up onto the rocks and chew his meal into chunks small enough to swallow. He's quite industrious and careful, searching each bit of shoreline minutely before moving along to the next section. I doubt if he knows how much pleasure he gives to the shoreline walkway pedestrians who catch a glimpse of him on his daily rounds.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Munro's Books

When I took yesterday's photo of busker SlideManBlues I was walking towards one of Canada's most beautiful bookstores, Munro's Books on Government Street. The building was originally erected as a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada in 1909. It has been splendidly restored and occupied by Munro's Books since 1975. Below is a shot of the interior. Canada's Nobel Laureate in Literature, Alice Munro, was once married to former owner Jim Munro.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


While trudging around in a cold wind downtown last week I suddenly tuned in to some blues and shortly afterwards found a bench near this talented street performer, a blues guitarist/singer who performs as SlideManBlues. Ambrose Gardener is his name and you can find out more about him on his website, I couldn't stand the wind chill for long but what I heard sounded good and my hat's off to any musician who warms up the streets in this winter season.

Monday, January 18, 2016


I had intended to continue this week with a look at the Victoria Convention Centre that is attached to The Empress Hotel. However, it was so nice to see these Snowdrops blooming on the weekend that I thought I would share them with you.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Road to the Top

Running errands on the weekend, it's always nice to take a detour up Mount Tolmie to enjoy the view of Victoria and the Juan De Fuca Strait. The little road leading to the top is not quite 'hair pin turns' but it's still quite a drive. - Fern

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Inside The Empress - 3

If my memory serves me correctly this glass roofed area used to be a small conservatory stuffed full of tropical plants and trees. Now it serves as the connecting link between the hotel and the Victoria Conference Centre, a large complex that was added to The Empress when it was last renovated in 1989. The building known as Crystal Pool, on the other side of Douglas Street is also a part of this complex. We'll have a look at the conference centre and its great collection of totem poles next week.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Inside The Empress - 2

It's nice to see that this splendid old brass mailbox between The Empress elevators has not been replaced and is still functional. Note the chute leading down into its top so you could mail your letters and cards from upper floors without the inconvenience of descending. Nowadays, of course, it is known as the Canada Post Corporation and the glorious heraldic insignia is no longer to be seen on the mailboxes. However, although the name has changed I think the service is even faster now than it was last century, though it is quickly being replaced by electronic communications.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Inside The Empress

Large areas of the interior of the Empress are undergoing redecoration or renovation but there is still lots of carpeted hallways and walnut beams to get a sense of the flavor of this classic hostelry. The Bengal Lounge on the left offers dining with reminiscences of the Raj. The Palm Room ceiling on the right certainly comes from more gracious days.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Empress

Well, The Empress really looks like it could use a facelift. I mean, look at all those wrinkles. (Still, I hope I look as good if I last until I'm 108.) Yeah, I did a double take here too - the old darling is wearing a mask, a mask that looks just like her while underneath on hidden scaffolding, workers are refurbishing. It's not just the outside, the inside is undergoing extensive renovations as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Subtle Sunset

I am enjoying these subtle sunset colors because they look so warm in comparison with daylight's grays and dark greens.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Olympic Twilight

My walks lately have taken me out near sunset. These early winter sunsets are around 4:30 or 5 pm here. In summer when sunsets are at 9 pm or later I am usually getting ready for bed. I like the photo above because it shows the Olympic Mountains across the Strait so clearly. Still not much snow up there. The large gray building in the foreground is the Ogden Point Cruise Ship Terminal. And the rocky bits even nearer are on Work Point, the western side of the Inner Harbour entrance.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Train Tracks

The bus yard pictured last week is alongside the tracks that run from Victoria up island. There isn't currently a train running on this route but hopefully in the future it will be restored.-Fern

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Marina Sunset

Here's a couple of shots of the West Bay Marina taken at sunset a few days ago. The sunset light makes it look so warm (it wasn't!).

Friday, January 8, 2016

Limpet Lunch

While strolling along the West Bay Walkway yesterday I was pleased to see this Black Oystercatcher (Haemotopus bachmani), the first I have seen this year. I had begun to think that they had forsaken this stretch of shoreline due to some environmental problem but I'm guessing now that it has just been chance that we haven't met for some time. This one and a partner were busily cleaning limpets off the rocks during this low tide.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

From Clover Point

Yesterday'[s photo was looking towards the west. Today's photo is from Clover Point looking eastward. Those little bumps just right of center are Trial Island.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Clover Point

We had some sunshine today so I loaded up the camera bag and headed for the shoreline. It has been some time since I visited Clover Point. Well, it was nice and bright but there was an icy breeze blowing - cold but at least we seem to have escaped the snow the weatherman was promising. Clover point is reputed to be the spot where James Douglas first set foot in his quest to find a location for Fort Victoria. It's just off Dallas Road a little east of Beacon Hill. Here we are looking westward from very tip of the point.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


On the same evening as yesterday's photo here is what the city skyline looked like after that glorious sunset.

Monday, January 4, 2016

West Bay Sunset

Those of us who live here are very appreciative of our clean, clear air. We sre seldom bothered with any kind of smog or air pollution. However, one result of that is that we do not very often have those spectacular dramatic sunsets and sunrises that are experienced elsewhere. So, I was particularly pleased to be out on the West Bay Walkway yesterday evening when this colorful sunset took place.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Over by the train tracks in Vic West is the bus yard for the tour buses all lined up and waiting for summer. - Fern

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Best of 2015 - 5

A retrospective is necessarily a looking back exercise but this final instalment is also a looking ahead. I plan to continue experimenting with the extraordinary possibilities available with new camera technology such as the photo above. Some people might not consider the above to be a photograph but it was made in my camera so I think it qualifies. What I am interested in here is the iconic nature of this photo as well as how the processing pushes the boundaries of what is ordinarily considered to be photography. The other direction I want to explore is exemplified in the photo below. I've been playing around with black and white photography for years often trying to capture the kind of picture that we see in old prints from 100 years ago. I'm slowly beginning to realize that black and white photography is a whole different ballgame from color. When you take away the color, the relationships between the parts of the scene change as well as the mood. Experimenting in this direction would seem to be a step backwards but it too is dependant on modern technology - new cameras have multiple black and white modes and digital processing offers many more options. Don't worry though, there'll still be lots of photos of Victoria!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Best of 2015 - 4

Though I tend to feature a lot of photos of local scenery and birds much of what I like in this city arises from my interactions with the people who live here and also those who visit. Whether the family group above are locals or tourists is hard to tell but they unwittingly gave me a photo that has all I look for in a candid shot. It has a classic Norman Rockwell appeal to it and is very much a product of its time - look at those crocs and the bunny ears behind mom's head. As far as I'm concerned it's all good and I salute the unknown family pictured here. I wish all the visitors to this site a happy and prosperous New Year and many more.