Monday, July 24, 2017

Sandcut Beach

Neon green cave plant life...
So green it glows...
Sandcut Beach -- about 75 minutes to the west of Victoria -- features some shallow caves that are alternately exposed and hidden by the changing tides. The roofs of the caves are lined with this bright green carpet of... well, some sort of plant life.

Water seeps through and down the sandstone cliffs to flow to the ocean, creating these abstract patterns in the fine sand.

A film of water gently etches the beach...
Beach sand etched by a film of water...

Friday, July 21, 2017

Beaches

Sandcut beach stretches off into the distance...
View from the top of Sandcut's waterfall...
No, not the sappy 80s chick flick...

To the west of Victoria on southern Vancouver Island are a series of beaches that collectively make up the 47 km long Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. The terrain of the beaches varies from fine sand to gravel to fields of barnacle-covered boulders. A few of them feature waterfalls that get quite spectacular during the rainy winter months.

None of them are suitable for surfing in the ways that the beaches of Tofino and Ucluelet are although I did get a few short runs in at China Beach recently. Mostly I played on the water with my paddle board, periodically accompanied by a curious seal or sea otter sneaking up behind me in the kelp beds.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Buskin' it...

Dancers, jugglers and acrobats...
Jugglers, dancers and acrobats... plus fire!
Last weekend the six day Victoria Buskers Festival wrapped up. We saw about six acts, including long-time returning favourites Les Vitamines (above lower left).

There was some controversy over the event this year. In past years, it was a two-week long event with many more acts spread out over the main harbour waterfront.

However, the organizer of that event had some sort of falling out with his business sponsors and Victoria city which led to his festival leaving town and re-locating to the interior city of Kamloops. It won't be back.

Instead the city and businesses threw their weight behind a new scaled-down event.

It definitely wasn't of the same calibre of previous events. There were fewer acts, spread out over venues that were separated by a few blocks, forcing you to hussle from one show to the next to see the good acts. Nor were the chosen venues physically ideal for crowds of spectators.

Hopefully, the new iteration improves for next year...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Manic Monday: Blow me down!

Not the landing that this para-glider had hoped for...
Only his pride was hurt...
Scootering on a fine sunny day along the Victoria waterfront, my wife and I came across this scene... a para-glider over the local beach got caught in winds that blew him ashore and into a power line. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt although he did seem embarrassed by the attention he attracted from passing motorists and pedestrians.

It took a fire truck to come and unhook his lines from the overhead light. No word on whether he was facing any sort of fine or charges for his misfortune.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gorge rapids

White water spills out of the upper Gorge in Saanich, BC...
The churning waters of the Gorge waterway... 
I've been looking for opportunities to practice my stand up paddle surfing skills. Inspiration caused me to consider the Gorge waterway as a potential source of wave action.

Most of the time, the water along this river-like sliver of ocean is calm and inviting. However, under the local Gorge-Tillicum bridge, the waterway narrows and can produce whitewater rapids as the water flows out of upper Portage Inlet at low low tide.

I went to check them out and was disappointed to see that they are completely unsuitable for practicing any sort of paddle board sport. The water is turbulent, full of eddies and whirlpools that don't mimic ocean waves in any way. Even the most experienced paddler would likely find themselves getting tossed into the churning, heaving water and facing a watery death.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pride Parade 2017

Highlights from Victoria's 2017 Pride Parade...
2017 Pride Parade highlights...
This past weekend's Pride Parade was the biggest one to date. The usual faces were in attendance, including flamboyant regular Attila Basset who went for a simpler costume this year... one that didn't require its own set of wheels to transport.

I remember simpler times when it was a parade that celebrated the gay and bi- communities. Then the transgender crowd become part of the event.

This year marked a sort of gender-bending free-for-all where dozens of new 'genders' are now required to be recognized in Canadian law, each with their own pronouns such as zie/hir/ey/em, etc. It's now possible for someone to identify as 70% female/ 30% male, whatever that means. In times like this I identify as 'extraterrestrial' because I'm pretty sure I'm not on Earth anymore.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Post-parade

Spectators watch the Canada Day Parade go by in Parksville, BC...
Canada Day Parade spectators
Parksville Canada Day parade...
Parade floats are cheered on by the crowds...
Parksville on Vancouver Island celebrated the recent Canada Day with a parade. Being a small community without a big budget, the parade was big on emergency vehicles whooping it up with their sirens.

Still it didn't stop the crowd from enthusiastically cheering and waving. In fact, the parade was so long that one little girl lost interest and got down into the gravel to play.

Parade burn out...
Dealing with the parade burn out...



Friday, July 7, 2017

Sally's Cafe

Qualicum Beach standing in for Chesapeake Shores...
Downtown Qualicum Beach stands in for Chesapeake Shores...
Last year at our up island condo I briefly met actor Treat Williams. He was staying at our resort as part of the cast of Hallmark Channel's Chesapeake Shores. Season 1 of the series was filmed in and around the Oceanside area of Vancouver Island, standing in for fictional Chesapeake Shores in Maryland.

It's a rather tame night time soap -- no evil twins, scheming wives or crooked businessmen -- but my wife and and I eventually enjoyed watching it just to see the familiar locations. One of the most prominent locations on the show is Sally's Cafe, the social hub of the small town. It even turns up in the show's opening credits.

In reality, the cafe is the former Chamber of Commerce building of nearby Qualicum Falls. During a recent stay at our condo, we stopped by to take a photo. I had always assumed that the interior scenes were filmed elsewhere so I was surprised when we peaked through the windows to see all the props set up to film the interior scenes as well.

They've just finished filming the second season of the continuing adventures of the O'Brien clan which should start airing later this summer.

By the way, the series makes a great drinking game if you want to try it. Every time you hear a main character heave a sigh, down a drink. You'll be tanked before the final credits role...

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: Return to Otherworld

Otherworld art installation...
The great and powerful Zardoz...
I re-discovered this old photo in my archives... a record of my attendance at Otherworld on Vancouver Island five years ago.

It's one of numerous Burning Man ancillary events across North America. I went at the insistence of a friend who was a regular at this annual event. At the time, it took place in the forest on private land near Shawnigan Lake, but has since re-located further up island to Bamfield.

If I had to describe the event, it was sort of a cross between Bartertown (see the film Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome for reference) and Woodstock.

There were two distinct groups who were there. The first group were young adults there to just sit around and socialize, dance to the techno music, and do a lot of drugs. That was most of them it seemed.

The second group were the talented artists who put together art installations such as this one. Or people with entertaining skills such as fire spinners. I would have preferred to see more of this group.

I really couldn't get into the spirit of it. Many of the people that I met struck me as self-absorbed and vacuous. It was an interesting experience but not enough that I wanted to repeat it.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Mixed messages...

Three skulls mean "Keep Away!"
Esther, Hector and Axel...
This small house is found on Tofino's main street. It was clear that the owner didn't want cars parking on the street in front of his property, but he managed to make his point with a bit of humour.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Not so fantastic plastic

Your grandchildren's grandchildren will see this...
It will last long enough for your grandchildren's grandchildren to see..
Many ancient civilizations that have disappeared have left behind traces of their existence. Pyramids, catacombs, the Sphinx, coliseums...

In a future time -- maybe sooner than later -- when our world is just another dead planet in a solar system full of them, visiting extraterrestrials may learn of our existence via the plastic that we left behind.

As a result of our throwaway society, plastic infects every bit of our globe. Micro-plastics fill the ocean and are making their way up the food chain. Recently, the beaches of Henderson Island, a remote island off South America located 5000 miles away from the nearest civilization, were discovered to contain an estimated 37.7 million items of debris together weighing 17.6 tonnes. The wall of garbage -- carried to the island via ocean currents -- is killing off the local sea turtles that can no longer access the beach to lay their eggs.

Separately, photographer Chris Jordan has documented the sad deaths of albatrosses on Midway Island in the Pacific, twitching the last of their lives away as they starve. Their stomachs are full of ocean-borne plastic bits that they have mistaken for food.

This display at Tofino's Botanical Gardens is a testament to the durability of plastic and styofoam. It's a collection of the debris that poured into the ocean following Japan's earthquake of 2011. It floated all the way across the Pacific Ocean to wash up on the shores of Vancouver Island in the two years following the disaster.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Can't you READ?!

Everywhere a sign...
Take me down to the Paradox City,
Where the pot is green and the signs are witty...
-- with apologies to Guns'n'Roses
Seen at the Tofino Botanical Gardens...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Art is where you make it...

A bit of on-the-spot art on a Vancouver Island beach...
Somewhere... beyond the sea,
She's there... watching for me...
-- Beyond the Sea
Improvised beach art on a Vancouver Island beach...

Friday, June 23, 2017

The golden hour

Mother and daughter play in the day's dying light...
A mother and daughter share quality time at the perfect end of the day..
In photography, the golden hour refers to those hours immediately after sunrise and before sunset. They are considered the best time to capture photos because of the warm light.

In Tofino, locals and visitors congregate on Mackenzie Beach with wine glasses in hand to say farewell to the sun at the end of the day.

The girl who held the sun...
Not gonna let the sun go down on her...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Weeping Cedar Woman

Weeping Cedar Woman is the name of this sculpture. She stands about fifteen feet tall.

She's probably weeping because her breasts are the heads of serpents and two long serpents spill out of her empty eye sockets. Plus she's probably hungry, judging from her emaciated appearance.

The sculpture has some history attached to it which you can read about here and here.

Bizarrely, this piece of art currently overlooks the children's park at Tofino.

Happy nightmares kiddies...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Master of its domain

A young eagle surveys his domain.
Eagle-eyes watch for prey...
Hiking Ucluelet's Wild Pacific Trail is a must-do for anyone visiting the Tofino-Ucluelet region of Vancouver Island.

On this particular trip, a sharp-eyed local drew our attention to this eagle keeping a vigilant watch over the pedestrians below.

Bald eagles aren't born "bald". They are actually brown all over and it's not until they are four or five that their head feathers morph into the distinctive white colour associated with them. This particular guy/gal still has vestiges of brown around its eyes.

While in downtown Tofino one day we watched a monster of a bald eagle flying overhead. I guessed that its wings spanned six feet or more.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Wind and waves...

A lone surfer heads out at dusk...
Heading out at dusk...
Tofino is all about the surf. The town is populated with young people who are willing to pay high rents and work minimum wage service jobs just so that they can ride their boards, even if it is at the end of the day.

However, high offshore winds make for lousy surfing since they "blow" the tops off the waves creating frothy conditions. However, it's good news for the wind riders who are starting to become more prevalent in the area.

A two-day gale passed through the area during our stay there. One sunny but blustery afternoon, I busted out my 3m kite. I promptly got lifted about six feet in the air and nearly had my arms torn out of the sockets. At times I was sitting on my ass and the kite was still dragging me across the sand...

Kite surfers and wind surfer share water time...
Kite surfers and wind surfer share water time...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: First World problems

Waves wash over the gunwales of a sunken pleasure craft off Sidney, BC...
Think your day is bad? 
Pity this poor boat owner... 
Winds can be a bitch..
First published Jan 19, 2015:

Curious onlookers glance at the remains of a pleasure craft sitting gunwales deep in the water off of Sidney, BC.

A friend told me that a lot of boat owners don't get insurance for their craft because the premiums are so high.

Update Jun 14, 2017:

Derelict boats have become a major problem in the neighbouring cities of Saanich and Oak Bay who both share a common body of water in Cadboro Bay.

The problem is one of jurisdiction. The cities own the beaches above the high tide line while the federal government is responsible for everything below that. And, by their nature, these boats straddle that boundary.

In desperation, local community groups have taken it upon themselves to dismantle and dispose of the vessels. However, this is only treating a symptom and not the problem itself of irresponsible owners.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Guest photography: Roman Fedortsov

A cucumber with HUGE eyes and wicked teeth...

It has been a long time since I featured the work of another photographer here. Today's featured photographer -- who I discovered via Imgur -- is Russian commercial fisherman Roman Fedortsov.

Fedortsov's Instagram and Flickr accounts are full of the photos of the strange creatures that his boats' nets have pulled up from the deep.

Not gonna lie... some of these things scare the sh*t out of me. I mean have a look at some of these ugly mofos... When you live deep where sunlight doesn't reach, eyes are less important than having big ass teeth to hold onto whatever you bump into in the dark...

Next time I get thrown off my paddleboard, I'm gonna be thinking uneasily of what could be passing underneath me.

Pretty sure that this thing would clamp itself to your face, 
shove an ovipositor down your throat 
and lay its alien eggs...

Friday, June 9, 2017

Tofino

Tofino waterfront...
View from the Tofino waterfront...
Surf hub Tofino, and its nearby sister town of Ucluelet, on Vancouver Island are still relatively inaccessible by road. As the crow flies they aren't very far from Victoria, but the twisty, turny road to get there will slow you down to 30 km per hour in some places.

That said, every time we go there we see the signs of creeping 'Whistler-fication'. Decades ago BC's Whistler mountain was a simple, off-the-grid ski range until villages of trendy upscale restaurants, nightclubs and bars, commercial outlets, high end condos and luxurious hotels transformed it into a crowded playground for well-off city dwellers escaping their concrete canyons.

Tofino is not there yet, but the signs are clear that its rustic charms will eventually disappear under a tsunami of commercialism and city crowds.

Sun up... head down...
Tofino's main park: When the sun's up and
you want to get your head down...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Summer games

Fireside Jenga...
Firewood stacked like... well, firewood...
Here in Canada we play our own camping-style variations of popular games. For example, above we see our fireside version of Jenga.

And below, we see the West Coast variation of Tetris. This is where every cubic inch of your Westfalia is packed with your camping and surf gear in the most efficient way possible, allowing you to squat for days in the parking lot adjacent to the surf beach. 😃

Westfalia Tetris...
Packed to the max...

Monday, June 5, 2017

Zipping along

High wire act...
White water high wire act...
My wife and I are old hands at ziplining since we first did it eight or nine years ago.

The West Coast Wild zipline over the Kennedy River on the way to Tofino on Vancouver Island isn't the longest one we've ever done, but it's one of the most dramatic as it takes you over rocky gullies filled with white water rapids.

My wife went full Spiderman as she whizzed along the lines over the churning water below her.

View of the rapids...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Waiting for company

The Cobourg lighthouse at the end of the local pier...
Standing guard...
Against a distant horizon, the lighthouse at the end of the pier in Cobourg waits patiently -- as it has every year since 1924 -- to guide the boats of summer.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Time and space

Details of Cobourg's historic city hall...
Does time flow east to west... or north to south?
The clocks and weather vanes at the top of Cobourg's historic city hall...

Monday, May 29, 2017

On top of the overpass...

A mysterious call to action...
What's the story here?
A couple of weeks ago while out photographing the neighbourhood, I came across this mysterious bit of urban art painted on a local overpass.

It strikes an odd balance somewhere between defiance and resignation, jealousy and self-acceptance...

Friday, May 26, 2017

What the world needs now...

A testament to cross-border love...
A metaphor for love...
It's corrosive and shackles you in chains...
Cobourg, Ontario has a display of love locks not far from its waterfront, including the one above.

Cobourg's love locks on display...
Locks are like love... you forget the magic combination that
connected you to your lover and you can't easily break free...
The signage in the photo above says:
Cobourg has been inspired by an ancient custom where people in love lock a padlock on a chain or a bridge and take away the key, symbolically locking their love forever. Around the world, cities from Paris to Rome are filled with bridges, poles and fences adorned with padlocks.
These padlocks are an expression of hope and humanity, connecting people around the world with the one thing that unites us all... LOVE.
Ironically, in Paris, love locks have proven to be a nuisance. There were so many locks weighing down fences along the river several years ago that they were posing a safety hazard. Authorities had to cut them down and remove them.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Waiting for the crowds

An empty life guard station waits for summer crowds to show up...
Cobourg has a fabulous sand beach on the shores of Lake Ontario. Right now, it's empty but, come the summer, I'm told that every square inch of sand will be covered with sun-worshiping bodies.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Doors and windows

Colourful doors and windows in Cobourg, Ontario...
Eye-catching...
Periodically as I stroll about my eyes are drawn to doors and windows.

Ever walk into a room and then forget what you entered the room for?

The 'doorway' effect is a real phenomenon. It turns out that your brain can undergo a mental "re-reset" when you through a doorway, purging your short-term memory in order to be fresh for new sensory input.

Period windows overlook Cobourg's old town...
Weathered windows overlook Cobourg's old town...



Friday, May 19, 2017

(Not so tropical) Cobourg

Cobourg's main waterfront marina...
Not so warm as you might think...
The water colour and the background of bright condos against a marina in Cobourg suggest warmer latitudes. Although it was a spring day, the truth is that it was bitterly cold between the lower-than-normal seasonal temperatures and a brisk wind.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Urban killers

A cat mocks me from the other side of the window...
Mocking me from the other side of the window...

This guy/gal is a frequent visitor to our yard. I'm reasonably sure that s/he is responsible for the frequent dead birds that we find outside as I've seen it stalking the birds at our feeder.

On this day, I caught it napping in our garden. I've tried to trap it numerous times but s/he is extra-skittish and bolts at the first sign of people. Right now I'm experimenting with a fake owl... so far so good after four days.

Cats are extremely efficient hunters. As our pets they are always in peak physical condition. The result is that cats are decimating bird and small animal populations around the world.

A study from England revealed that even when owners were presented evidence of the destructiveness of cats on the environment, they largely refused to restrict their cats' outdoor activities, or even fit them with belled collars. I can personally testify to the irresponsibility of urban cat owners from my own experience.

I have no problem with rural cats that earn their keep as rodent hunters. In that situation, nature tends to balance things out since the cats themselves are preyed upon by other wild animals.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Stacked

Sudbury, Ontario's infamous superstack...
Spreading it around the neighbourhood for over forty years...
Sudbury's (in)famous Superstack was built in 1972 for about $25 million and has dominated Sudbury’s skyline ever since, spewing smelting byproducts from local mining operations over an area far and wide.

For years it was the world's tallest smokestack at 1250 feet high. Recently there has been talk of de-commissioning it as improvement to the smelting process have made it redundant.

Smoke spews from the Sudbury Superstack.
Smoke sallys forth...

Friday, May 12, 2017

Philosophical Friday: Be a beacon

The peak of the lighthouse at Goderich, Ontario
Sometimes you are the unwitting
lighthouse in someone else's storm...
This lighthouse on a bluff overlooking the waterfront of Goderich has been sending out its message of safe passage since the mid-1800s.

The lighthouse of Goderich, Ontario with its view of the salt mine in the background...
Ever present and on duty...



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Big Nickel

Sudbury's iconic Big Nickel...
Big Nickel country...
While visiting family in my hometown of Sudbury, I stopped in to see the iconic Big Nickel. You can read some interesting facts about the monument here.

In the distance, you can see another Sudbury icon, The Superstack.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Brick mansions

One of Goderich's many brick mansions...
A typical brick mansion in Goderich...
Here on Vancouver Island, you don't see many brick homes. Stucco and wood seem to be the popular choice.

Like many of the small towns that dot western Ontario, Goderich has many large and magnificent brick mansions that are probably a hundred years old, or more. Many of them are near the bluffs that overlook the waterfront, giving them views of Lake Huron.

Another of Goderich' brick mansions...
Home of the Addams family or the Munsters?



Friday, May 5, 2017

Goderich comes through

Sunset seen from the main beach at Goderich, Ontario...
Another fabulous sunset over Lake Huron....

I recently returned from a trip to Ontario. I've previously mentioned the fantastic sunsets of Goderich which is located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron.

Like everywhere else in Canada it seems, this spring has been cold and rainy. Goderich was no different, so I wasn't expecting to see a decent sunset during my stay, but Canada's "prettiest city" came through.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: Getting buggy with it

Nuclear fallout does the darndest things to insects.
Nuclear fallout does the darndest things to insects.
Recently my Facebook account reminded me of this photo that I first posted five years ago when my wife and I were on a weekend getaway to Seattle.

At the time, the local science museum had an exhibit about insects, complete with this large robotic mantis that was disturbingly real.

I took my inspiration for this image from the "giant bug created by atomic testing" movies (Them, Tarantula, The Deadly Mantis, The Black Scorpion) that were popular in the 1950s and early 1960s when I was a young kid.

Monday, May 1, 2017

(Not so) Little Qualicum Falls

Little Qualicum Falls on Vancouver island...
The upper and lower cauldrons...
As a result of the greater than normal volume of rain during the past winter on Vancouver Island, Little Qualicum Falls was swollen to a volume that I haven't seen in a lot time.

On this particular sunny day, there were lots of hikers about enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Free Spirit Spheres

The future of eco-tourism?
The future of eco-tourism?
Looking like newly arrived time machines from the future, these 9-foot diameter spheres are the brainchild of designer and builder Tom Chudleigh.

One of Tom Chudleigh's unique treehouses...
One of Tom Chudleigh's unique treehouses...
Known as Free Spirit Spheres they will soon join three similar globes that are suspended by cables in the trees near Horne Lake on Vancouver Island. They are treehouse 'hotel' rooms that are rented by visitors from all around the world seeking a unique tourism experience.

Free Spirit Spheres have been featured in news articles around the world. Currently, there is a waiting list of people who are willing to pay top dollar for the unique experience of living and sleeping in the trees.

Tom was nice enough to give me a look inside one of his installed treehouses.  It was easy to see how the gentle springy motion of the globe could easily put you into a deep slumber. The only downside? No toilet or running water. Bathrooms are located at ground level. If you're the type who needs to pee in the middle of the night you're going to have to hike it in the dark.

Tom Chudleigh, designer and builder of Free Spirit Spheres...
Tom Chudleigh, designer and builder of Free Spirit Spheres...