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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Electric Lichen

I went out this morning when it was still dark, hoping to catch some nice color with sunrise for some further experiments with waves and water. When it got light, however, there was a thick blanket of cloud so decided to focus down on some of the smaller plants I pass every day. Here is a lichen that caught my attention by its brilliant yellow color. It seems to be one of those plants that is thriving in this cold, wet weather

Monday, November 29, 2010

Water in Motion 2

About a month ago I wrote a little about my experiments with using a couple of polarizing filters to mimic the effect of a neutral density filter. The purpose was to achieve that silky, misty water effect at less cost (neutral density filters being very costly). At the time I was limited to using my 50mm prime lens since it was the only (non-telephoto) lens I had that I had two polarizing filters to fit. Recently I was able to complete a second set of two circular polarizer filters that will fit some of my other lenses and here is the first experiment. I am quite pleased though I still don't feel in complete control of the effects. There is really a nice wide range of exposure times available. The photo above is composed of two exposures fused. One was a 15 second exposure and the other was a 4 second exposure. In addition to allowing one to mess around with the intensity of the light the polarizing filters nicely increase the definition of the clouds.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hard Landings

I visited Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary several times in the spring and summer so I decided to see what kinds of birds it had to offer at this time of year. The Inner Harbor is hosting flocks of Mergansers - both hooded and Common, American Wigeons, Buffleheads and lots of Mallards. I didn't see any Mergansers, Buffleheads or Wigeons at Swan Lake but there were plenty of Mallards being very charming and tame. I wonder why Mallards seem to be so much more trusting than other ducks that reside in human habitats? As well as the ubiquitous Mallards there were some Ring-necked Ducks and some American Coots. But the woods surrounding the lake seemed almost empty of birds in comparison to spring and summer when the Red-winged Blackbirds and other songbirds fill the air with their chirps and warbles. Most of the lake was covered with a thin sheet of ice as in the photo above.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Victorians of greater experience than myself can correct me but I think our recent snowfall was a little unusual. Generally snow here arrives later, in December or January. However, whenever it comes, it seldom gets very deep or stays long. And, except for the odd patches in the shade here and there, it is pretty much gone now and even yesterday it was looking pretty tacky - gray and slushy. One thing I've learned about snow is to photograph it when it's fresh as in these photos. The footbridge on the left is the same as was featured HERE about three weeks ago. Quite a remarkable transformation for such a short period of time.

Friday, November 26, 2010


It seems when winter comes I spend a lot more time talking about the weather. Part of the reason is that I spent much of my life living in an area (in Africa) with very predictable, dependable weather. From mid-October to mid-May there was not the slightest possibility of rain and very little cloud. The temperature varied from hot to very hot. Every day dawned sunny and bright. The rest of the year was rainy season and one could expect a downpour for an hour or two every day or every other day. Here it is hard to see a pattern though it seems that Victoria often is cloudy in the morning and clears up during the afternoon. Beyond that it is very difficult to guess what the weather will be like on any given day. But another reason for my obsession with the weather is because I spend a lot of time outdoors taking photos. Hence, the amount and kind of light is very important and this is a direct result of the weather. The snow scenes I took yesterday are so drained of color as to be almost monochromatic. This gives them a kind of calligraphic appeal that I like, but I love color.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More of the White Stuff

It snowed again last night. Today's photo was taken only about an hour ago when I was out on my morning walk on the West Bay Walkway. It's warmer than it was a few days ago and there were lots of other walkers out this morning. Snow seems to make people friendlier - nearly everyone I passed today said "Good Morning!" and smiled. Usually only about 50% of the people greet each other on the walkway.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Little Snow

There's not much snow in this photo and that's pretty much the situation here. At this time of year we are usually pitying our friends in the east while they don their parkas and get out the snow shovels and snow tires. This year, however, Ontarians are basking in warm weather while we're suffering from wind chill in sub-zero temperatures. Well, it was clear and sunny yesterday when I took this photo and it almost felt like winter was over. But today....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


One of the nice touches along the Westsong and West Bay Walkways are the two drinking fountains. As well as providing water to pedestrians there is often a bowl nearby for dogs. The fountain above is located at Songhees Point but the ice that covers it is an indication of the weather for the last few days. Yesterday snow was added to the icy cold and in the morning we had a real little blizzard. I ventured outside long enough to take the photo to the left. Today we still have some snow left on the ground and it is minus 5 degrees Celsius outside. But it is bright and sunny so I'll be going out soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Daily Fungus

I've fallen in love with fungi. They are such wonderful subjects - they are practically infinitely varied (about 1.5 million species); they come in all sorts of interesting colors, shapes and sizes; they stay nice and still and generally grow where the light is soft. What more could a photographer ask? What's more, they are a very weird and interesting life form. The more I find out about them the more they fascinate me. Wikipedia has a good article on fungi and is also host to the Fungi Portal with loads more information.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Crème Brulée

Maybe I'm just hungry this morning but the cap of this mushroom looks to me like some kind of delicious little cake topped with crème brulée or maybe carmelized sugar or... maybe crème brulée drizzled with carmelized sugar. (This probably means it's time to crawl directly to the emergency sugar stash....)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blue Bridge

Today's photo is just to remind my fellow Victorians that today is the day to decide the fate of the Johnson Street Bridge. The photo was taken in September a year ago when an art event to celebrate the bridge was organized by artist Derek Houston and Lots of meetings and discussions later, today it all comes to a vote on whether to build a new bridge or not.

UPDATE: November 21 - Victoria voted. We are to have a new bridge but since it will take 4 years to build it we will have lots of time to say goodbye the old Blue Bridge. I think we'll lose a valuable bit of our history when it's gone but I look forward to the new span with interest.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Last night on a national news broadcast about lots of snow in Calgary the announcer mentioned that winter had still not begun. She, along with the rest of the world, seems to think that the seasons begin and end on the solstices and equinoxes. I don't agree. It seems to me that the solstices and equinoxes generally mark the middle of the seasons, not their ends. Take winter for example. December 21 is the solstice that ostensibly marks the end of autumn and the beginning of winter. I don't know where these people live but here, by December 21, it has been cold for some time. November is not exactly t-shirt or bikini weather in Victoria. Another problem with using the solstices and equinoxes to mark the beginnings/ends of seasons is that winter, spring, summer and autumn are not the same length. I'd say winter here is about 5 months long, spring is about 3 months long, summer is about a month long and autumn is about three months long. So, those of you who are slavishly devoted to the calendar can think of this as autumn if you will. As far as I am concerned, this is winter. Above, taken while I braved the icy northern blasts of Pacific gales, is a photo of the strait of Juan de Fuca. The large ship is a container vessel and the smaller ship is the Victoria Clipper, a high speed catamaran passenger ferry that operates between Victoria Harbor and Seattle.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

About Fungi

I almost always identify birds, animals and flowering plants that I photograph for this blog. Mosses and lichens and fungi however, are usually not identified. However, I will here share a bit of information about fungi that I have just learned from Wikipedia. Fungi are a "kingdom" meaning they are distinct from the other "kingdoms", animals and plants. One of the characteristics that differentiates them from plants is that their cell walls are made of chitin rather than cellulose. The kingdom contains about 1.5 million species of which only about 5% have been categorized. This makes me feel better about not being able to identify the various fungi I photograph. The fungus above was photographed recently in Goldstream Park near Victoria.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

...And Another ASTK

This is the third paste-up by local graffiti artist ASTK that I have posted here. I find these interesting for several reasons.They are stencils that are obviously prepared elsewhere and then stapled to wooden telephone poles here and there throughout the city. Those I've photographed have all been in Vic West but some have been spied in other neighborhoods. They have a very distinctive style and use consistent media. Even if they weren't all signed "ASTK" they would be easy to identify. The subjects are personalities from pop culture but I don't have any idea as to the reasoning behind the selection of subjects. Whether one likes them or not, there is no doubt that all these features make it clear there is an artistic consciousness behind these works that raises them to a level above what is normally considered to be graffiti. HERE is a link to the two earlier ASTK posts on this blog. HERE are some more and some thoughts on this kind of art. And HERE are another collector's finds on flickr.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Like I said a few days ago, it's mushroom season.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Spring

This photo so full of rich greens can serve as a suitable introduction to the next few days' posts. It's from a trip out to Goldstream Park last Friday when I realized that autumn in the rain forest here is very like spring in the incredible burgeoning of plant life. The mosses and lichens of course are thriving in the cool wetness much more than during summer's dry heat. But it is really the mushrooms, molds and other fungi that that caught my attention recently. They're popping up everywhere in all sorts of brilliant colors and odd shapes. Those in the photo below may serve as an example. Anyone know what they are? (*see note below)December 11, 2010: While browsing through an excellent local nature blog, "Island Nature" about nature on Vancouver Island, I came across a short article about this fungus. It's called Carbon Antlers or Candlesnuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Victoria Pacifica

While I like the BW treatment of yesterday's post I realized after I'd posted it that it makes the sculpture look like a cement cast. Black and white emphasizes the form more than the color, which was what I was looking for. But this classic style sculpture is fittingly done in classical material (bronze?) with that lovely green patina, so today's photos are in color. This sculpture, flanked by two smaller pieces, is on the Westsong Walkway in front of some condominiums. A plaque beneath it identifies it as "Victoria Pacifica" by John Barney Weaver. On the same plaque is some verse by Robert G. Evans:

The sea muse sought an Eden isle
Soaring on dolphins' wing
Where emerald knights in helmets white
Guard shores of endless spring.
She cast a crown of blossom jewels
Anointing this sun blessed land
Victoria's writ in nature's script
By the ocean's timeless hand.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Westsong Walkway

This morning's walk reminded me that I have not yet featured this lovely young woman. Details to follow!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Maltby Trompe l'Oeil

I must first thank regular visitor and commenter here, Dean Lewis, for alerting me to a new work by local muralist, Jeff Maltby. I have featured some of his remarkable trompe l'oeil in the past where it is located in Chinatown. Above is one panel of a new Maltby triptych that graces the wall of the Siam Restaurant near the corner of Fort and Langley Streets in downtown Victoria. Below is a wider shot showing all three panels. Victoria is lucky to have an artist so talented and to have patrons intelligent and generous enough to sponsor such works and share them with the public. They are a delight to the eye and I can only hope that ever more of Victoria's walls will be so beautifully and interestingly decorated in future.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Selective Focus

One way to deal with the overwhelming biomass of the rain forest is to focus down. As usual, I always try to get everything into one picture and I really have to think in order to stop and look at the distinct parts that make up the big picture. Above, instead of everything (see yesterday's pics), I managed to get it down to two items, mushrooms and moss. This is much more peaceful.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rain Forest

Two weeks ago I posted a couple of photos of a waterfall in Goldstream Provincial Park, just outside Victoria. One of the most daunting aspects of a trip to Goldstream is that the forest is so overwhelming. It is such a rich, lush, busy chaotic environment it is very difficult to capture in a photograph. However, I offer these two photographs as a first attempt to picture some of our local rain forest. Above is a fairly typical bit of the forest and below is the waterfall in context.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)

I appear to have caught some kind of infection so here is a photo from a few weeks ago of a male Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) photographed at Esquimalt Lagoon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

High Clouds

Fair weather photographer that I am, the last few days have seen me taking my morning walk without my camera bag. It's been gray and damp. So here's a couple of pics from a few days ago when the sky was blue and nicely tufted with these puffy little clouds. Above, the Victoria skyline with the sun just peeking over the horizon. To the right, the view in the opposite direction a few minutes later, looking along the Westsong Walkway towards West Bay Marina.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)

I've mentioned before that Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) are one of my favourite ducks and I've posted several photos of the male of the species because his dramatic coloration makes him easy to identify. The female of the species is not so strikingly attired and since these Hooded Mergansers are often in company with other ducks whose females are also camouflaged I am always a little reluctant to post photos of the females of the species for fear of wrong identification. In general I believe the drabber, browner based plumage of females makes them less visible when on the nest, providing a distinct adaptive benefit. Above is a female Hooded Merganser, the mate of the male Hooded Merganser to the left.

Friday, November 5, 2010

West Bay Walkway Itself

Since it has become my favourite morning walk these days I've been posting a lot of photos taken from the West Bay Walkway. Here are a couple of photos of the West Bay Walkway. The photo above is near the western end of the walkway. Here it crosses a little stretch of shallow water where one can look down into the intertidal zone. To the left you can see the same stretch of the walkway from further east.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


In 2008 and 2009 I posted seasonally appropriate photos for Halloweeen on October 31. This year there were a couple of photos of a fogbank. This is the first year I can remember forgetting that it was Halloween. Later in the day and in the evening of the 31st October, of course I realized it was Halloween, but through most of the day I just thought it was a normal Sunday. While this might be creeping senility, I tend to think it has more to do with the changing nature of the holiday. There used to be more of a sense of catharsis associated with this particular holiday that is now lacking. Every year it becomes more toothless and safe. The fearmongers are winning.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another ASTK

In early October I posted a photo of a "paste up" by local graffiti artist ASTK. The subject was Ricky of the "Trailer Park Boys" television show. Commenter Ngawangchodron mentioned that she had posted one of Bubbles and Conky by the same artist from the same show. Since then I've been on the lookout for any more of these paste ups by ASTK and so I was happy to see a new one yesterday morning on Wilson Street in Vic West. I think this is Steve Carrell who plays office manager Michael Scott in the American version of the television series, "The Office."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola)

The lovely little diving ducks are called Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola). They were swimming and diving quite energetically offshore of the West Bay Walkway when I noticed a large Harbour Seal (right below) approaching them.

The seal dived and a few moments later all the ducks were in flight. Seals are occasionally known to opportunistically attack sea birds and I suspect these little ducks must look as inviting from beneath the surface as they do above. The event was a little reminder that the animals we observe in these peaceful natural scenes probably see their environment quite differently from how we view it.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Here is a photo of Victoria's heritage supermarket, Wellburn's. It is situated on the edge of downtown on the corner of Cook and Pandora Streets. The building itself is interesting with quite a lot of ornate moldings and cornices but for me there is equal interest in the narrow slice of North American marketing history this store represents. This is neither a corner store nor a modern supermarket but seems to be a transitional stage in the evolution of the modern supermarket. For me this comes from the era when Department Stores had come to the forefront of marketing, before they lost out to the suburban shopping malls. Department stores didn't have much to do with food and stores like Wellburn's were an attempt to use the same everything under one roof technique to sell grocery items. I'm sure the history of marketing is much more complex than my ideas of it, but passing by Wellburn's always makes me think of how things change and how we got where we are. Wikipedia has interesting articles on both supermarkets and department stores and their development.

I hope any local history buffs out there will tell us more about Wellburn's. I know it's been around for a long time in that building but I don't know much more than that.