The weather in Victoria over the Thanksgiving weekend was not great for aviation photography with a fair bit of rain and definitely only one day when the sun showed up. That day was not going to be one on which I would suggest to Nancy I go photographing helicopters. That might not have been the smartest suggestion. However, when the morning was rainy and cloudy and we were planning on a relaxing day, things could be different.
I hopped in the car and drove around to the heliport which is used by Helijet for their shuttle service to Vancouver. The Sunday schedule is not the busiest so I had to plan accordingly so I got there in time for an arrival and they were scheduled to head back out again not long afterwards. I could fit all of this in before heading back for a spot of lunch.
The S-76 is a pretty elegant looking helicopter. The design has been around for a long time and has gone through a number of iterations but the basic airframe shape is good in my opinion. It is a lot larger than you might imagine with plenty of seating capacity which makes it good for this shuttle service. One of the airframes was parked at the heliport when I got there so I got some shots of that. Then it was a question of waiting for the inbound flight to arrive.
The problem with the heliport is the fencing. It has quite a tight mesh and it is possible to shoot through it but it requires some care in aligning the end of the lens with the holes. Sometimes I do better with this than other times. When the helicopter is coming in, I have to try hard to get it right. Stepping back away from the fence does provide a little elevation but not much so shooting through the fence is going to be required.
The sky was grey and dreary so approach shots were not going to be too good but I was going to try them anyway. Once it was close to touchdown, it was a sprint to the fence. They taxi off the pad to the space in front of the terminal (generous description, I know) and then shut down. It was too long before they were firing up again. Given that the wind was not too strong, they were able to lift and head straight out. As they got on to the pad, it was noticeable just how far aft the rotor was pitched. Once airborne, this resulting in a nose high altitude and then they were off.
Victoria residents like to make use of the water for their activities. While we were there – and despite the weather being far from friendly – there were plenty of people out on the water. Their choice of activities varied. We had some stand up paddle boarders, there were kayakers, canoes and what looked like dragon boat teams but maybe that isn’t the right term for this type of boat. Wherever I was wandering, there was always someone out on the water. They managed to avoid the ferries and floatplanes without too much trouble!
I may have complained a little about the weather being damp and windy during our trip to Victoria but there was one upside to this. Unfortunately, it took one missed opportunity before I realized. The wind was strong and from the west. The normal approach for Harbour Air is to come in through the opening to the harbor and then touch down in the outer area before taxiing into the Inner Harbour. With the wind coming from the opposite direction, they reversed the flow.
I had seen this once before on a previous visit to Victoria many years ago and had forgotten it could happen. Our hotel was located right on the corner of the shoreline around which the planes would approach and we had a view out of our (not huge) window as they came around to touch down. The first time I realized I could get the shot, I had to make so with shooting through the window. This does not do much for image quality but it was still okay and I got an Otter coming in.
The next time something was due, I planned ahead. The window of our room did open but it only opened a very small amount. Not enough to get a camera out of except when looking off to one side. However, the restriction on opening was the result of a small screw that was in the track for the window and it was not very securely fastened. With my fingertip, I was able to remove the screw and with that out of the way, the window could fully open. A Twin Otter was on the way so this time I was ready to get a clearer shot. There is plenty of warning of their arrival because the sound of the props reaches you long before the plane does. Besides, they are on final approach so hardly going too fast. The only downside to this shot is that the touchdown location is further around and out of sight of where we were. Bad weather can have its benefits.
The walk from our hotel in Victoria to a favorite breakfast spot took us alongside one of the local shipyards. This yard had plenty of decent sized vessels out of the water and being worked on. I was quite taken by their method of moving the boats around. They have a lift area in the water and then the ships get put on supports on rails. There is a turntable in the yard which allows each vessel to be moved to a different part of the yard. I had seen a hint of this on Google Maps before we went so was interested to check it out when we walked by.
I have posted a few things about Butchart Gardens but this is a slightly silly one. Like any public place, they need to have trash cans around the place for the visitors to deposit their detritus. In their case, they can’t just have a normal trash can. That would be far too out of keeping with the rest of the venue. They need to have something more in keeping. How about these for the best looking trash cans you have come across.
I had a bit of time one morning during our Victoria stay to walk along the shoreline. The hotel that we were staying in was right on the shore so I only had to step outside and then I could walk around to the more open are of the harbor. This also meant I could get some shots of the Harbour Air operations. Their floatplane base is in the Inner Harbour area but the planes taxi out to the outer areas for departure.
I was able to get some shots of arrivals and departures as well as taxiing planes. Some of those I could shoot from our hotel window when I wanted to stay dry! I was happy to shoot the Otter movements but I was more interested in the Twin Otters. We have plenty of Otters around here with Kenmore but Twin Otters are not common down here so some variety was welcome. Besides, it is a bigger plane so a little easier to shoot at a distance!
One of our earlier visits to Victoria had involved staying close by a building that was being demolished. They were keeping the façade of the building intact and taking out the interior for rebuilding and development. Three years has gone by since that visit and I was interested to see how the building was looking. While some finishing and fit out still appears to be underway, the building appears to be complete.
They have retained the façade as anticipated and constructed a whole new building inside. In addition, one source of the building had been removed to allow the demolition process to get underway and that now has a new structure grafted on to the building. Consequently, there is a combination of the old and the modern in the way it is finished off. I assume by the next time we are in Victoria, it will be open for business. I don’t know when it was originally scheduled to be done but I assume the pandemic delayed things a little.
We made a trip to Victoria quite a few years ago when I happened to get a shot of a Canadian Forces Sea King as it flew by. That was the only one I ever shot. They have now been retired and replaced by the outstanding airframe (tongue firmly in cheek) that is the CH-148 Cyclone. Based on the Sikorsky S-92, the Cyclone development program has been a bloody disaster. Even as I write this, they are currently addressing cracks in the tail boom that have just shown up.
Just after we got off the ferry at Swartz Bay, we drove to the shoreline in Sidney. I had only just parked the car and was heading to get something out of the trunk when I heard the sound of rotors. It was raining heavily and the wind was blowing but I grabbed the camera from the trunk, set it up for rotors and looked up just as a Cyclone flew by a little way off and then turned downwind. I think they have a squadron based in Victoria International Airport so I suspect it came from there.
The conditions for shooting were awful and the light was terrible so the shots are not too great. However, sometimes you go with what is available. I was hoping that they would be doing some pattern work and that we would get another pass but this was the one and only time that we saw them. Now I have to hope that this isn’t a repeat of my Sea King experience and I never get another shot (although I’m not sure that it is a great helicopter to photograph anyway!).
I posted previously about the Christmas lights at Butchart Gardens but I separately kept the theme of the Twelve Days of Christmas for its own post. There is a route that you follow through the gardens to see the illuminations and along that route are a series of scenes for the twelve days. The first one you come to is clearly the partridge in a pear tree and you go from there.
I share each of the shots in turn to illustrate what they have. Some are pretty straightforward. Six geese a’laying is not obscure. The Four Calling Birds had a few people puzzle until they realized that they had cellphones. I found the French Hens pretty amusing. The leaping lords were frogs behind a wall and they came up in a varying pattern. Getting a shot with most of them in required some patience. The pipers were just a bit creepy for me.
When you finish walking around the gardens, you think something is wrong. You are back at the start and you haven’t seen twelve drummers drumming. The reason for that is that they are on the arches over the road that exits the gardens from the parking lot. If you aren’t paying attention, you could easily miss them. We had seen this previously but I had forgotten and it was a little while before I remembered and looked off from the area near the gift shop and saw them. The arms of the drummers do move but the photos won’t tell that tale.
Our visit to Victoria over the Thanksgiving holiday coincided with the first nights of the Christmas lights at Butchart Gardens. Pre-booking a time was necessary with COVID precautions in effect but we had planned ahead so that was taken care of. We actually got there earlier in the afternoon to have a wander around while there was still some light before taking a full walk around again when the lights were at their most effective.
There will be a separate post on the Christmas theme to the lights. For this post, I am going to share some shots of the general lighting of the gardens. We were there two years ago and they don’t change much between each year. I think there is a small change each year and that is fine with me because it really looks fantastic. Conveying the impression of the lighting in photos is tricky because the way the eye sees things in the dark is different to the camera with the darks being too dark or the lights blowing out.
However, I hope these shots give some idea of the way it looked. On our previous visit, I had been blown away by the use of green lasers to illuminate the undersides of the trees creating a star-like effect under the foliage. That was there again and looked just as good. I did think to look backwards as we walked around – it is easy to get fixated on what is ahead of you – and that area looked great from a distance too. This time there was an area with some red lasers and, while on a smaller scale, it looked very effective too.
Butchart Gardens is worth a visit at any time of year but, if you get to go for the Christmas lights, do take the opportunity. It is a lovely display and it is very tastefully done. There are plenty of gaudy light displays and, while this one is not understated, it certainly is still tasteful.