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Canada

Steller Sea Lions, Eumetopias jubatus, Hornby Island, British Columbia

By | Canada, Hornby Island, Sea Lion, Underwater Photography

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32660
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I have a real love for pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). I’ve been in the water with many big animals including whales, sharks, dolphins, massive schools of fish, mola mola, etc etc, but pinnipeds — particularly sea lions — are the most fun to be with. Sea lions are typically curious and engaging, and the speed with which they move usually makes photographing them a challenge. The Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) at Norris Rocks near Hornby Island in British Columbia, however, take the cake. They are akin to gigantic puppies. They are considerably larger than California sea lions, a fact which was immediately apparent the first time I was pinned to the reef by a friendly mob of 20 juvenile Stellers. I had been warned about their antics by a few buddies who have been diving with them for years. One fellow even jokingly (or not) suggested a helmet might be helpful. I processed all this info and wondered whether I should be worried. I had never been in 45F-degree water, had not been in a drysuit in 15 years, was admittedly a little nervous about just surviving in such chilly water, so my dive plan was to hang back and watch the other divers get pummeled. It did not go as planned. Less than 5 minutes after I first got in the water at Norris Rocks I found myself face down on the reef, both wrists and both ankles firmly in the grip (re: mouth) of at least four different sea lions, regulator gently tugged by a fifth, and several others trying to nuzzle their faces close to mine for a look. Holy shit, I thought, is this stupid, crazy or super fun? Yes, yes, and yes. Every piece of my gear was a chew toy. Every one of my limbs was a chew toy. My head was a chew toy. It was an exhilarating, intimidating, wonderful experience to be with a mob of Steller sea lions, such a dense group that it would often blot out what little sunlight was reaching the bottom. While I try to avoid anthropomorphising the animals I meet underwater, these Stellers were so inquisitive, with so much very close eye contact, that every dive was a moving experience. Every time I got out of the water I felt more alive than I had in a long time. It only took a few dives for me to become comfortable with the action, and I found that even while getting mobbed I was still able to lift my camera up enough to snap off a photo or two. Granted, most of them were crap, either because the sea lions were too close for the strobe to light properly, or both strobes had been yanked backward by a couple sea lions, or there were simply too many bubbles in the water for anything sensible to be photographed.

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo
Image ID: 32659
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I joined underwater photographer Richard Salas for the week. Richard’s work is exceptional and caught my eye some years ago. His style of lighting is especially appealing, bringing his broad experience as a studio and commercial photographer to the underwater world. When I found that my schedule allowed me to join him at Hornby Island to dive with Steller sea lions, I jumped at the chance in spite of my lack of experience in cold water. He gave me lots of great advice beforehand. Armed with a new drysuit I joined Richard and his group of friends at Hornby Island Diving. Rob and Amanda Zielinski run the lodge and dive operation on their property at the waters edge on beautiful Hornby Island. Rob took us diving in his comfortable, quick boat at dive spots just a few minutes from the dock. Amanda runs the lodge where we experienced superb food and lots of peace and quiet to keep us comfortable and warm between dives. Hornby Island Diving is a excellent operation, one of the best I have seen, which is especially important given the weather and water temps can be tough in winter. We had overcast skies most days with a couple of blue sky days, very little wind and calm seas. Water temps were right around 45F the entire week. Water visibility was great, relatively clean with a beautiful emerald green color. We dove twice a day with lunch between dives. I took a day off midweek to make a couple really beautiful hikes on Hornby Island. Over 6 days of diving I made 10 dives at Norris Rocks (and a couple dives elsewhere) and shot thousands of photographs, trying to squeek out a few good images in the chaos of action, bubbles, flippers and teeth that really portray how beautiful these huge creatures are. Gradually some keepers emerged, a couple on each dive, and in the end I was pleased with the images I made. These are some of my favorites. I am planning to return in 2019 for more. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32661
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32662
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32663
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32664
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32670
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32679
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32685
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater,  a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater, a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32695
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32757
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32675
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32687
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32737
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32777
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32788
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32789
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Adams River Sockeye Salmon Swimming Upstream

By | Canada, Salmon

Sockeye Salmon swims upstream in the Adams River.

This is another sockeye salmon photograph (Oncorhynchus nerka) that took a while to grow on me, but which is now one of my favorites. Usually underwater photographers spend much of their time trying to eliminate backscatter and bubbles from their compositions, hoping for the clearest and most pristine rendition possible. For some reason, perhaps because I do not shoot underwater much anymore and have lost the grip I used to have on backscatter-free imagery, on this trip I deliberately placed my camera into some of the most turbulent, sand- and pebble-filled sections of the Adams River rapids. My hope was to make a few gritty images showing the sockeye salmon struggling against really difficult currents. While in most of my attempts this approach resulted in photographs in which the salmon is so heavily obscured by gook and turbulence as to be unusable, I did manage a few keepers with which I am happy. In these few frames — such as this one — the suspended sand and streaking bubbles add to the atmosphere of the image and help to describe the amazing migration story of these fascinating fish. I had to experiment and discover some different lighting techniques that allowed me to shed artificial light on the scene, balancing strobe light with the available sunlight while not highlighting the bubbles and sand any more than necessary. The trip ended up being one of the most challenging and technique-expanding underwater photography efforts I have made in years. I really hope to do it again.

Adams River sockeye salmon.  A female sockeye salmon swims upstream in the Adams River to spawn, having traveled hundreds of miles upstream from the ocean, Oncorhynchus nerka, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Adams River sockeye salmon. A female sockeye salmon swims upstream in the Adams River to spawn, having traveled hundreds of miles upstream from the ocean.
Image ID: 26161
Species: Sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka
Location: Adams River, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Photography efforts undertaken by permission of Fisheries and Ocean Canada and BC Parks.

Sockeye Salmon Migrating Up The Adams River

By | Canada, Salmon

A group of sockeye salmon school tightly as they migrate upstream in the Adams River.

In reviewing some images I shot last year I realized I almost trashed this one during the initial edit. I’m glad I saved it, because in the months since I shot it last October it has really grown on me. More than most of the sockeye salmon photographs (Oncorhynchus nerka) I made during my short day and a half at the Adams River, this photograph offers some intimacy and insight into the final weeks of life that sockeye salmon experience. The salmon migrate up the Fraser and Adams Rivers in large schools. At times they are “shoulder to shoulder”, pressed up against one another as they struggle against the neverending downstream current. Their bodies take on a rich crimson hue in their final weeks of life. That the color is “blood red” is poetic in a sense; it signifies their impending doom. They are struggling in the contest of their lives and even those individuals that successfully travel hundreds of miles from the Pacific Ocean to reach the spawning ground and produce eggs or sperm will still die. But perhaps the most appealing detail in this scene is the damage the salmon sustain in their migration. In the thousands of photographs I made of the spawning sockeye I did not see a single uninjured fish. Virtually every fish that reaches the Adams River looked “seriously thrashed”. Most injuries were contusions on the leading edges of the fishes jaws and head and on the dorsal, ventral and caudal fins. These appear to have arisen from collisions with rocks, branches and other obstacles that they slam into as they throw themselves upstream. It is a brutal pursuit. I have a newfound and keen appreciation for the hardiness of sockeye salmon after seeing the end of their migration firsthand and I hope the photographs I made will help convey that appreciation as they are used in publications in coming years.

Sockeye salmon, migrating upstream in the Adams River to return to the spot where they were hatched four years earlier, where they will spawn, lay eggs and die, Oncorhynchus nerka, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Sockeye salmon, migrating upstream in the Adams River to return to the spot where they were hatched four years earlier, where they will spawn, lay eggs and die.
Image ID: 26149
Species: Sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka
Location: Adams River, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Photography efforts undertaken by permission of Fisheries and Ocean Canada and BC Parks.

Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

By | Canada, Panoramas

Vancouver Island is covered with trees (at least those parts that have not been logged out yet). One particularly notable grove is Cathedral Grove, part of MacMillan Provincial Park. In Cathedral Grove enormous Douglas fir and Western hemlock trees are found, not yet taken by the logging industry and recently (in historical terms) set aside for appreciation now. They are located close to a highway that crosses Vancouver Island so the grove typically sees many visitors each day. I went very early one day and did not see another single person for the hour that I was there. I made this panorama, composed of seven individual images, with a tripod, ballhead with panning clamp and cable release. It’s a self portrait!

Ancient Douglas fir trees in Cathedral Grove.  Cathedral Grove is home to huge, ancient, old-growth Douglas fir trees.  About 300 years ago a fire killed most of the trees in this grove, but a small number of trees survived and were the originators of what is now Cathedral Grove.  Western redcedar trees grow in adundance in the understory below the taller Douglas fir trees, Pseudotsuga menziesii, MacMillan Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Ancient Douglas fir trees in Cathedral Grove. Cathedral Grove is home to huge, ancient, old-growth Douglas fir trees. About 300 years ago a fire killed most of the trees in this grove, but a small number of trees survived and were the originators of what is now Cathedral Grove. Western redcedar trees grow in adundance in the understory below the taller Douglas fir trees.
Image ID: 22456
Species: Douglas fir tree, Pseudotsuga menziesii
Location: Cathedral Grove, MacMillan Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

If you like this you can see more panoramic photos

Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver

By | Canada, Vancouver

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s a fun outing, especially for kids. Be advised, however, that you should arrive early if you wish to walk the bridges and through the forested sides of Capilano Gorge in peace. For once the tour buses arrive — and arrive they will — the place becomes inundated with people and its appeal lessens considerably. We got there shortly after it opened and enjoyed it greatly for about an hour before we noticed the tour bus crowds arriving.

Capilano Suspension Bridge, 140 m (450 ft) long and hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the Capilano River.  The two pre-stressed steel cables supporting the bridge are each capable of supporting 45,000 kgs and together can hold about 1300 people, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, 140 m (450 ft) long and hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the Capilano River. The two pre-stressed steel cables supporting the bridge are each capable of supporting 45,000 kgs and together can hold about 1300 people.
Image ID: 21143
Location: Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, 140 m (450 ft) long and hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the Capilano River.  The two pre-stressed steel cables supporting the bridge are each capable of supporting 45,000 kgs and together can hold about 1300 people, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, 140 m (450 ft) long and hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the Capilano River. The two pre-stressed steel cables supporting the bridge are each capable of supporting 45,000 kgs and together can hold about 1300 people.
Image ID: 21144
Location: Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, 140 m (450 ft) long and hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the Capilano River.  The two pre-stressed steel cables supporting the bridge are each capable of supporting 45,000 kgs and together can hold about 1300 people, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, 140 m (450 ft) long and hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the Capilano River. The two pre-stressed steel cables supporting the bridge are each capable of supporting 45,000 kgs and together can hold about 1300 people.
Image ID: 21145
Location: Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, 140 m (450 ft) long and hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the Capilano River.  The two pre-stressed steel cables supporting the bridge are each capable of supporting 45,000 kgs and together can hold about 1300 people, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, 140 m (450 ft) long and hanging 70 m (230 ft) above the Capilano River. The two pre-stressed steel cables supporting the bridge are each capable of supporting 45,000 kgs and together can hold about 1300 people.
Image ID: 21147
Location: Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Lost Lake, Whistler, British Columbia

By | Canada

Whistler is plugged with mountain bike trails, like a huge web running through the woods. I made a few outings to Lost Lake and the trails around there, running one morning and biking with my kids the next. We would often see shadowy figures moving deep in the forest on either side of the logging road and would recognize them as mountain bikers rocketing along single-track trails deep in the trees. Here’s a spot on the side of Lost Lake that we stopped to admire the view.

Lost Lake, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Lost Lake.
Image ID: 21002
Location: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Ilanaaq on Whistler Mountain, British Columbia

By | Canada

While in Whistler, we saw a few unusual stone structures. One was at the top of the gondola station, near the patio overlooking Whistler Village. The other was larger and situated on a clearing on the summit of Whistler Mountain. After asking around, we learned that these were statues of Ilanaaq, the symbol of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, much of which will take place at Whistler.

Ilanaaq, the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, is formed of stone in the Inukshuk-style of traditional Inuit sculpture.  This one is located on the summit of Whistler Mountain

Ilanaaq, the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, is formed of stone in the Inukshuk-style of traditional Inuit sculpture. This one is located on the summit of Whistler Mountain.
Image ID: 21018
Location: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Ilanaaq, the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, is formed of stone in the Inukshuk-style of traditional Inuit sculpture.  Located near the Whistler mountain gondola station, overlooking Whistler Village and Green Lake in the distance

Ilanaaq, the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, is formed of stone in the Inukshuk-style of traditional Inuit sculpture. Located near the Whistler mountain gondola station, overlooking Whistler Village and Green Lake in the distance.
Image ID: 21007
Location: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Green Lake Panorama, Whistler, British Columbia

By | Canada

The weather we experienced in Whistler in July was spectacular. Warm, sunny, with hardly a cloud in the sky. However, that lack of clouds made for some truly uninspiring landscape photography. I only found one image from our stay in Whistler that I was very happy with, and that is a panorama of Green Lake taken fairly early in the morning. The lake was glassed off and the float planes had not started flying yet, so it was dead quiet. Blackcomb Mountain is to the left, and Whistler Mountain is dead center.

Green Lake panorama, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Green Lake panorama.
Image ID: 21006
Location: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Granville Island Public Market, Vancouver

By | Canada, Vancouver

While in Vancouver we spent a few days on Granville Island. The collection of shops, marinas, parks and pubs there makes walking around the small island really enjoyable, and the views across to downtown Vancouver are great. We particularly liked the Granville Island Public Market, a conglomeration of grocers, fruit sellers, chocolatiers, artists, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers housed in a large airy warehouse-like marketplace fronting the harbor. We bought bags of Rainier cherries and chowed down on them while strolling through the aisles and looking over the gastronomic delights.

Fresh salmon on ice at the Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver

Fresh salmon on ice at the Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver.
Image ID: 21200
Location: Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver

Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver.
Image ID: 21198
Location: Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Sausages and bratwurst variety, Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver

Sausages and bratwurst variety, Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver.
Image ID: 21201
Location: Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Crowds enjoy the food and offerings at the Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver

Crowds enjoy the food and offerings at the Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver.
Image ID: 21210
Location: Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada