Drive south from Tofino and you come to the wonderfully named town of Ucluelet. There are some great trails near the town that take you around the coastline and one of them goes past a lighthouse. The Amphitrite Lighthouse is a great looking lighthouse. In the days of modern navigation techniques, the concept of lighthouses seems a little out of date but they still serve a purpose and they do provide a nice focal point to a view of a rocky coastline. The lighthouse was one of the first things to see on the trail we took and I should probably post some of the other views in another post at some point. In the meantime, here is the light to keep you going.
The sunsets at Tofino were beautiful and I included some shots of those in this post. Sunrise was also pretty impressive. Winter means the sun is pretty far south so the position it comes up is not so far off that in which it sets. It does provide a very different light to things with some of the headlands that we could see from the hotel now having nice light on them. When you wake up to a view like this out of your hotel window, you know you are a lucky guy and are likely to have a good day!
On our trip to Tofino, we were on an older ferry from BC Ferries. The Queen of New Vancouver was our ride in both directions. I am not an expert on BC Ferries but this boat clearly looked a lot older than the majority of the fleet. That’s because she is. All of her sister ships have been scrapped but she was refitted around 2007 for another ten to fifteen years. (Wikipedia is my friend.). I guess that means her days are numbered. I am not sure whether she is used regularly but I did hear that another ship was in maintenance. Maybe that is why she was in use. Anyway, here is the old girl. We rode on one of the newer ships a while later and they are definitely better equipped for the passengers. Maybe she still has some time to go though.
Our visit to Butchart Gardens was focused on the lights but we got their before the sun went down and explored the Japanese garden. It was closed for the lights event so this was the only time to check it out. The gardens as a whole were quite quiet so it was peaceful wandering around the plants, across the bridges and around the water features.
There was a device for scaring wild boar. It was a water clock which would gradually fill with running water at which point it would overbalance, tip out the water and then fall back making a noise designed to startle any passing wild boar. I was particularly interested in some branches for one of the plants that were twisted into some bizarre patterns. I couldn’t make out whether this was natural or not but, if it is, I do wonder what the purpose would be.
Early morning walks after a cold night mean frost everywhere. I guess I am accustomed to frost on hard surfaces but softer items, for some reason, didn’t seem like things that would have frost on them. Plants are not warm blooded so why wouldn’t the frost gather on the leaves too. This is probably obvious to everyone but me but I was quite taken with the frost crystals on the leaves.
Aside from the mere presence of frost, I was also impressed by the shapes that the frost crystals had developed in to. They were quite exaggerated and a decent size compared to the leaves themselves. Since it had been a cold and calm morning, getting shots of the leaves was easier than normal since usually the gentlest of breezes will cause motion in the leaves making a sharp shot hard to achieve. The stillness was my friend (and also made for a more comfortable walk since, without wind, the low air temperatures were not uncomfortable).
The drive across Vancouver Island on our way back to the ferry was exceedingly pretty. The temperature in the passes was pretty low and what I imagine happens is that the mist freezes on to the trees. The result was these beautiful white trees looking like they had been created as some Christmas decoration. We were on a main road so no chance to stop and photograph them but, as we got down to Port Alberni, the mist was still around.
As we crossed the river, we got a view along the water between the trees with the mist hanging over the surface. It looked really beautiful. I stopped further along the road where I found a gap in the trees and could get down to the bank. Once out of the car, I figured that the cold temperatures could be handled for a short while and walked back to the bridge. We had a ferry to catch so I wasn’t going to spend too long exploring but this might prove to be a very photogenic place to explore if you had the time.
While we got to Butchart Gardens before the sun set as seen in this post, the purpose of the visit was to see the illuminations. I had been there before during the day and knew it was a pretty garden but I didn’t know what to expect with the illuminations. I thought it might be pretty but was not expecting it to be so dramatic. The first are had some lovely lights within the trees with animated icicles. We then followed a route around the gardens to cover all of the areas. These areas also included displays themed around the twelve days of Christmas.
One area that really blew me away was a section under tree cover where they had lasers mounted on the tree trunks that scattered their light into the canopy above. The effect was magical and I spent a long time looking up at it as well as trying to get a decent shot of it. On one, the lens wasn’t originally zoomed out and so it drifted a little in zoom. The result was rather good but not what was needed. I like it but it will stay out of public sight.
Walking down in to the valley below the main house, the lighting was absolutely amazing. The density of light installations and the use of color was really impressive. The use of trees and plants to catch the light was great as was the use of some of the surrounding rock. They also had some streams of blue lights to give the effect of flowing water.
We had arrived at the gardens before the sun went down and we got in very quickly. There was no traffic. As a result, we had seen the whole display after dark relatively early in the evening. We were able to head back to town and, as we started to drive out, the traffic coming in was awful. We were sailing out but the cars were backed up the hill. I imagine it would take a long time to get in. I think our timing worked well.
The ferry ride from Swartz Bay back to Tsawwassen was on a day that wasn’t particularly nice weather wise. And we emerged in to the open water from the islands, I was wandering about with the camera. The view to the mountains north of Vancouver opened up and they were in clear sunlight with the snow reflecting the warm winter light beautifully. It was a distant shot but a panorama seemed to be a good idea. Everyone on the boat seemed to be taking notice and plenty of people came out on deck to take their photos.
The days of the Martin Mars flying boats are probably done. Coulson had been flying them on firefighting duties but they have been superseded by more modern and cost efficient types. One of the airframes had been painted up in US Navy colors as what was supposed to be a move to a museum but that plan fell through. The two airframes are now sitting on the ramp at Sproat Lake and are showing no sign of moving.
The drive to Tofino takes you right past the Coulson facility so I stopped off on the way over. They don’t take visitors anymore so I just took a look through the fence. On the way over, I was really looking in to the sun so getting a shot was tricky. On our way back a few days later, we had made progress compared to schedule and the light was on the better side so I stopped off briefly to get a couple of more shots. I wonder what the future holds for these planes?
Just before Christmas we made a trip to Vancouver Island to see Butchart Gardens at night with their illuminations. We got there before the sun went down and took a stroll through the Japanese Garden, a section that is closed for the night event. At the bottom of the garden, you come to Butchart Cove. There was a hole in the trees that provided a very predictable but worthwhile frame for the view into the cove. I decided to go for HDR for the shot given the extreme range of light between the shady trees and the exposed cove.