Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Winter Solstice at the Majorville Medicine Wheel

To celebrate the winter solstice, I'm posting my favourite solstice image, from the winter of 2014. After a fairly harrowing journey across the open prairies, plowing through snow drifts that were a couple of feet deep in places, I made it out to the Majorville Medicine Wheel site shortly before sunset and hiking up the hill with my camera and tripod.
The Majorville Medicine Wheel is a circular structure of stones constructed some 5,000 years ago on a hilltop overlooking the Red Deer River in south-central Alberta. On a nearby hilltop is another, smaller, stone structure of unknown age, and on the shortest day of the year, the two stone structures align perfectly with the setting sun.
On this visit I was fortunate that the sun managed to briefly peek through the clouds on the southwestern horizon before it set, making for a much more dramatic image. My positioning for this photo doesn't really show the precise alignment of the structures, as I was trying for a more "artistic" representation of the scene, and not wanting to aim my lens directly at the sun.

Sunset at the Winter Solstice, Majorville Medicine Wheel

More images of the enigmatic Majorville Medicine Wheel can be found on my web site at:  Majorville Medicine Whee at 

Friday, October 18, 2019

"Flying E" Tree, Alberta Foothills

One of the benefits of living in Okotoks was the ability to hop in the car and take a drive to explore the Rocky Mountain Foothills area south of Calgary.  One of my favourite spots was the "Flying E" tree, named after a local ranch.  This image is from a series of lens tests I did, comparing various older manual-focus lenses on my then-new Sony A7R mirrorless camera.  This image is from a sequence taken with the remarkable little Olympus OM Zuiko 21mm f3.5 MC lens.

"Flying E" Tree, Alberta Foothills

The following image was captured a few months earlier, using a Zeiss Contax 21mm f2.8 Distagon lens on the Sony A7R.

"Flying E" Tree, Alberta Foothills

More photos of the foothills region and other parts of Alberta can be found on my web site. at

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Peggy's Cove Redux

Not long after returning from our trip to Haida Gwaii, I was reviewing some old photos of our last trip to the other side of the continent, when we travelled to Nova Scotia in the fall of 2005.  Some of my favourite photos from that trip were taken on our arrival in Cape Breton (as the remnants of Hurricane Tammy passed through), and later during our first morning at Peggy's Cove with its iconic lighthouse.

Fall Colours Along the Margaree River

Effie's Brook, Cape Breton

Morning Light at Peggy's Cove

Sunrise and Reflection, Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

Waiting for the Light, Peggy's Cove

All of the photos on this trip were taken with the Nikon D2X.  While its 12-megapixel APS-C format sensor was among the best available at the time, technology has steadily advanced since then, and many of these images no longer meet the quality standards required for stock sales.  I guess the lesson here is that if you plan to market your photos, always use the best quality equipment available...which has me contemplating upgrading to the new Sony A7R IV with its stunning 61-megapixel sensor.

Monday, September 30, 2019

North Pacific Cannery

During our return trip home from Haida Gwaii, we had a day to spend in Prince Rupert waiting for the next BC Ferries sailing to Port Hardy.  That morning, we drove out to Port Edwards and visited the North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site a few minutes south of town.  Parks Canada has done a nice job restoring and preserving many of the buildings and the old equipment used to process and can fish during the early part of the last century.

North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site

Oil Rendering Storage Tanks, North Pacific Cannery

North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site

Boardwalk, North Pacific Cannery

Fish Processing Equipment, North Pacific Cannery

Fish Processing Equipment, North Pacific Cannery

Business Office, North Pacific Cannery

North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site

Net Drying Loft,  North Pacific Cannery

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Naikoon Provincial Park, Haida Gwaii

In September of this year, we embarked on our first big camping trip in our recently-acquired 1999 VW Eurovan, driving from our home base on Gabriola Island to Prince Rupert, driving north through the Cariboo region and camping at Lac La Hache and Telkwa (Tyhee Lake) along the way.  Somewhat ominously, we had trouble getting the van started the morning after our stay at Tyhee Lake...

After spending a night in Prince Rupert, we checked in at 8:00am for the ferry crossing to Skidegate on Haida Gwaii.  After a bumpy and rainy seven-hour crossing of Hecate Straight, we disembarked and immediately headed north to Masset, wanting to secure a spot at the Agate Beach campground.  We need not have hurried, as the campground was nearly empty when we arrived, but as luck would have it, the rain was just beginning to let up, and the sky was starting to clear, revealing a beautiful rainbow over the iconic Tow Hill, so we grabbed our cameras and headed down to the beach.

Clearing Skies Over Agate Beach, Haida Gwaii

Rainbow Over Tow Hill, Haida Gwaii

Rainbow Over Agate Beach, Haida Gwaii

Agate Beach and Tow Hill, Haida Gwaii

Tow Hill (Taaw), Haida Gwaii

Tow Hill (Taaw), Haida Gwaii

Later in the afternoon the couple camping in the site next to us, Tim and Kesia, took to the waves in their inflatable SUP boards and their dog Louka, which presented a great subject to photograph in the golden light of the setting sun.

Paddling at Sunset, North Beach, Haida Gwaii

Paddling at Sunset, North Beach, Haida Gwaii

The section of North Beach adjacent to the Agate Beach campground is named for the agates that can be found among the polished cobble that forms the upper part of the beach.  One can literally spend hours beachcombing here, looking for unique polished stones and pieces of driftwood.

Cobble and Driftwood Along Agate Beach, Haida Gwaii

After a great evening of exploring this beautiful beach, we went to sleep listening to the sound of the waves crashing along the shore just beyond the thin strip of grass-covered dunes separating our campsite from the beach.  

Eurovan, Camping at Agate Beach, Haida Gwaii

Unfortunately, the following day turned out to be a lot less enjoyable, as the van refused to start again, as it had a few days earlier.  This time, we couldn't get it to start at all, and fortunately Tim and Kesia were just packing up their campsite and offered to give me a lift back to Masset.  While I was in town trying in vain to find a tow truck, Dallas managed to get the van to start, but couldn't let me know because the cellular phone service at the campground was as bad as at home on Gabriola, so when I showed up at the campsite a few hours later with a rental car, the van seemed to have cured itself... 

We drove back to Masset to return the rental car, thinking we would spend another night at the campsite and hope the van started again the next morning, but after talking to a couple of mechanics in town, they convinced us to head back to the mainland while the van was working, rather than risking being stranded on the island for a week or two if the problem turned out to be a bad starter.  We headed down to Skidegate and changed our ferry reservation to return to Prince Rupert that night on the overnight sailing, and then on to Port Hardy via the Inside Passage the following day.

Of course, the van faithfully started every time afterwards, and once we got back to Prince Rupert and access to the internet, we determined the most likely cause of the problem was a defective starter switch, a $30 part that seems to be a common source of trouble in many these 20 year old Volkswagens.  Hindsight being what it is, we could have stayed for a few more days in Haida Gwaii knowing it was a fairly simple fix, but by then we were committed to the return trip home.