For many years there has been a real hunger to visit Canada’s West Coast and all it has to offer. Some great weather, stunning scenery all around and interesting nature and wildlife. Well, we have been quiet here at Squash due mainly to the fact that in September, I took three weeks out of my year to visit and fulfil my many years hankering!
We split the trip into two main parts. One was to explore and navigate the Island of Vancouver, the main subject of this blog, and the other to road trip through the Rockies exploring what it has to offer photographically and otherwise.
We landed in Vancouver and spent only one night in what seemed to be a beautiful and easy going City. Time didn’t really allow a longer stop over here but it would have been well worth a longer stay if we could. However, our break wasn’t to be a City one so we immediately headed out to the Port of Tsawwassen for the Ferry across to the Island.
Once on the Island we chilled in the beautiful capital City of Victoria, listening to the live Blues singers whilst watching the world go by in the harbour area with a cool beer…
The next day we were off again embarking on a road trip that would take us all over the island to see many different sights. First stop was Sooke and around the south west coast which was on its own quite beautiful.
Next on the trip was to head across the island again and head for Tofino and Ucluelet where we were to spend a wonderful two nights in beautiful surroundings. We came here to do a spot of whale watching and we saw not only whales but otters as well which was a real bonus to us.
We were on a 12 seater RIB and I decided to take out the weighty and cumbersome 400mm f2.8 on a 1.6x crop Canon 7D. The first time we were out in the open waters of the pacific and I think I managed to shoot waves and coastline but really not much in the way of Whales despite seeing both Grays and Transient Killers.
The second day I fared much better, we were still on a very ‘rocking’ RIB but this time we were sheltered from the tidal flows by the islands and rocks as we cruised the inlets south of Ucluelet. Using the big lens was a lot easier and much more stable.
The experience was a first for us and one we would want to repeat as many times as we could. We convinced ourselves later on in the trip that it was worth the expense and were to have the chance to photograph and see more whales when we visited the north west of the island, at Telegraph Cove.
We continued back across the island to enable us to continue north up the island along the west coast. The scenery at times was spectacular and the few lodges and cabins we stayed in along the way made the effort of travelling all the way up more relaxed and enjoyable.
Black bears are fairly common in these areas and we were privileged on one or two occasions to see one scuttling along the sides of the roads. We did however also take the chance to go ‘bear watching’ whilst on the island and again, from a sheltered RIB we were able to grab some intimate moments as first a male bear and then a female and two cubs scoured the shoreline in search of hidden culinary delights under rocks and in little pools.
Although we were relatively close to these wild animals they seemed to be totally undisturbed by our presence and continued feeding long after we were gone.
Once we had reached the north west and Port Hardy and Port McNeill we decided to embark on a short ferry trip to another much smaller island called Cormorant Island and visit its small harbour area called Alert Bay. This is a wonderful piece of unspoiled ‘1st Nation’ island that takes you back in time to perhaps an era when life was much more simple but maybe harder and tougher. Amongst the working fishing vessels lay older wrecks and long since dilapidated piers leading to a decaying house on stilts.
The area was rich for photographers and just the bay area alone could have kept me occupied for a few days. The two shots here show the diversity on offer but the island seemed kind of sad and although very friendly, you feared the population had seen much better, more prosperous days. Both of these shots below were handheld but nevertheless show the beauty in existence for the serious and creative photographer.
Our stay was drawing to a close on Vancouver Island but the last hoorah was to take yet another whale watching trip, this time aboard a larger vessel, and have yet another opportunity to photograph these beautiful, gentle creatures in their own habitat. The added bonus was to also hear them via a hydro-mic which simply added icing onto an already gorgeous sweet tasting cake!
The next instalment will be the continued road trip through the Rocky Mountains for the second half of our trip to Canada.