Belize 2012-12-02 : Coco Plum Island Resort : Dock at Night

Belize Vacation

On November 30th, my wife and I left rainy Vancouver to visit Belize for the first time.  Belize is a tiny country in Central America with a population of about 320,000.   It is 290km long and 110km wide, you can literally drive around the whole country in one day if you wanted to.  English is the official language which makes getting around very easy.

Due to our last minute booking we had to take four flights (Vancouver -> San Francisco -> Houston -> Belize City -> Dangriga) and a boat ride to reach our final destination, Coco Plum Island Resort.  The last flight is on a small plane which lands on a tiny runway in Dangriga, just part of the adventure I suppose.

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Belize City to Dangriga Hopper Flight

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Dangriga Airport Approach

Coco Plum is on a small 16 acre private island about 15 minutes by boat from Dangriga.  There are only 10 or so cabanas on the island, so it is very quiet and far removed from large resorts elsewhere in Belize.  As soon as you arrive on the island, the staff make sure you are well taken care of.  Bags are taken to your room, and the bartender makes you a tropical welcome drink.  In our case, mosquito bites :)

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Welcome Drinks - Mosquito Bite

The bar is a central hub of activity for staff and guests.  Special thanks to Leo for being such a nice guy and a great bartender.  Erwin, Bella, Sam, Crispin, and Byron also deserve special mention for making our stay fantastic.  The roof of the bar is covered in t-shirts from former guests, each with its own message.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Shirts At The Bar

After check-in, we went to our cabana and were surprised how big they were.  More than enough space for two people.  Everything is very clean, well maintained and comfortable.

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana Interior

2012-111-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana Interior

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana Interior

The ocean literally steps from the door.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana View

 

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Mangrove Trees

The resort is beautiful, tranquil, and a great place to relax.  Here are some shots from around the resort.  The island in the photo below is another resort, Thatch Caye.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : View To Paradise

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Conch Shell

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sunset

The long dock is one of the great features.  During the day a place to relax.  At night the lights attract rays, sharks (small ones, don't worry), and squid.  It's also a good place to snorkel, we saw a lot of interesting creatures and I even found a huge live conch.

2012-12-03 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Live Conch

A large hermit crab.

2012-11-30 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Hermit Crab

Another type of crab which seemed to be unhappy about my presence.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Crab Under Dock

Even an urchin which did a good job of hanging onto my hand.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sea Urchin

The water is typical Caribbean: blue green, warm, and clear. Katie and I spent a lot of time snorkeling around the area.  We also ventured out on most of the snorkel trips from the island to the local barrier reef.  Belize has some of the best snorkeling I have encountered anywhere in the world and I have been to a lot of great locations.  The reefs are still in great shape and there is a huge variety of coral, fish, and invertebrates.  Spotted Eagle Rays are common.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Spotted Eagle Ray Over The Coral Reef

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sting Ray

Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Coral Reef

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Snail on Coral

A lobster trying to hide in the coral.  The lobster here don't have big claws.

2012-12-03 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Lobster on the Reef

This puffer fish was also trying to keep a low profile, but I spotted him.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Hiding Puffer Fish

There are also a lot of birds in the area, including pelicans.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Pelican Unhappy With Us

We had a few nice sunsets while we were there, though not quite as good as we had in Thailand and Hawaii.

2012-12-01 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sunset At The Bar

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sunset in Belize

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Sunset In Paradise

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : The Dock At Sunset (Final)

On some days, there are several inland tours you can participate in.  We chose to visit the Belize Zoo, which is small but well laid out and quite natural.  Animals have large pens with plenty of room for cover.  Considering that this is a third world country, the animals were well kept.  Unfortunately, when we were there it was raining and a lot of the animals were not visible.  We didn't get to see a jaguar, which is one of the big draws.  It also made getting good photos harder, but here are a few from our visit.

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Inland Tour : Monkey at Belize Zoo

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Belize Zoo : Monkey at Belize Zoo

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Tapir

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Deer and Food Thief

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Inland Tour : Puma at Belize Zoo

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Inland Tour : Peccary at Belize Zoo

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Jaribou Stork at Belize Zoo

On the say to the zoo, we also stopped at a gift shop that had captive Coatimundi.  Similar to a racoon, they are very cute and curious animals.  Unfortunately, they have to live in this small cage.

2012-12-04 : Belize Vacation : Inland Tour : Coatimundi

 

Being far removed from a large city there isn't much light pollution and on a clear night there are a lot of stars visible.  Though I have almost no experience with star photography I decided to give it a shot.  Here you can see the mangroves lit up from a small amount of light on the island.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Mangroves at Night

I also tried to 'light paint' some of the mangroves with a flashlight in a few of the shots.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Mangrove at Night with Light Painting

 

One of the cabana at night.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Cabana at Night with Light Painting

While the snorkeling was great, I also enjoy scuba diving and went out with divemaster Steve for two dives (thanks to Byron for setting it up!).  As expected, it was amazing.  The reefs are teeming with life.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Spotted Eagle Ray

Here Steve swims with a green sea turtle.  This guy didn't seem spooked and just swam around with us for a while before moving on.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Steve With Green Sea Turtle

Pterois Lionfish are not native to the Caribbean, and are quite damaging to local species.  They don't have the same predators here that they do in their native waters, and their numbers are rising.  They are strikingly beautiful fish (though poisonous so don't get too close), but they should be removed from these waters when possible.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Pterois Lionfish

2012-12-03 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Pterois Lionfish

The variety of coral is just fantastic.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Fan Coral

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Coral Formation

Some great camouflage.

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Fish Camouflage
Finally, a few parting shots.  The bar at night.

2012-12-02 : Belize Vacation : Coco Plum Island Resort : Bar at Night

Mangrove trees at sunrise.  Shot straight into the sun, then converted to a sepia tone.  I just liked the composition.

Belize 2012-12-02 : Coco Plum Island Resort : Mangrove at Sunrise (Sepia)

The dock at twilight, a few stars visible in the sky.  In the evenings, the hut is converted to romantic dinner spot for two.  I like the contrast of the warm red light in the hut with the cool blue and green tones of the surroundings.

Belize 2012-12-02 : Coco Plum Island Resort : Dock at Night

We left a lot unseen in Belize, it will warrant a return trip some day.

A couple of people have asked what type of camera I used.  I have a bit of info about some of my gear here, but specifically for these images I used:

  • Nikon D800 DSLR camera
  • Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 lens (the wide angle zoom)
  • Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens (the normal zoom)
  • Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod and BH-55 ball head

For the underwater photos, I use:

  • Canon PowerShot SD870 IS Digital ELPH
  • Canon WP-DC17 Underwater housing

The Canon camera and housing is a relatively inexpensive way to get decent underwater photos.  The housing is good to 40m of depth and suitable for recreational diving.  The major drawback is that I can't shoot in raw and adjust white balance in post processing.  White balance adjustments are needed much more for underwater shots then for photos on the surface.  Unfortunately, I can only do so much with a jpg file.

 


Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View & Me

Hiking Stawamus Chief South Peak - Squamish, BC

Last week, I decided to head up to Squamish to hike the south peak of the Stawamus Chief. As with the Lions hike, I'm not going to go into how to get to the trail, etc. There are plenty of sites that can give you good info about the trail: Vancouver Trails, Club Tread, Trail Peak, Live Trails.

I wish I had got a better shot of the rock face, I'll have to do that next time.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Rock Face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a very popular hike in the area, expect to see at least a few people on the trail and on all of the peaks. The south peak is the most popular and the shortest hike as well. Middle and north peaks are less popular but still see their fair share of hikers. The Chief is not only popular with hikers, but is also a huge draw for climbers who come to challenge themselves on the granite face. I found this interesting video while writing this post: Patagonia climbing ambassador Sonnie Trotter climbed the first free ascent of Cobra Crack (5.14). Props, that is something that I'll never do.

You start your hike in the campground, nice and easy.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Campground

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A map and some info before you start the hike.

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also a warning. The trail isn't long (about 6Km round trip) but it is steep and if you are unprepared you can get into trouble. I saw some yahoo going up in flip flops!
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Warning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail is very well maintained. Kudos to the crew that come out to maintain this for the rest of us, very much appreciated.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Trail start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure beats the stair climber at the gym.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Stairs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another sign along the route, very easy to follow as long as you pay attention. There are several of these along the way which will guide you to any of the peaks along with some of the other trails available in the area.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Trail sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail is quite steep for most of the route.

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though well maintained, no cake walk and Mr. FlipFlop likely had a fun time in some sections.

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lower part of the hike is in the forest and the shade makes it easier on a hot day. As you get near the summit, you start to see the sun trickle though.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a few ladders on the route, don't see that on most hiking trails.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Ladder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Ladder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A large overhang looms over the trail.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Overhang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warning on the trail. As I said before, the area is popular with climbers so do not throw anything over the edge.

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Warning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know you are reaching the summit when the forest gets thin and the rocky soil yields to solid granite.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Near summit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Near summit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chain and ladder help you navigate the grade.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Chain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Ladder 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon after, you start to get rewarded with some great views.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't get distracted though, one wrong step and you are going over the edge.

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Cliff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now just a scramble to the top.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Scramble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tough life for trees that live on the summit.

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once at the summit, you get a beautiful view of Howe Sound and Squamish.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like on the Lions hike, this raven took the easy route to the top.

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Squamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also see the middle peak with a few hikers enjoying the view.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Middle peak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some hikers coming down from the middle peak.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Middle peak climb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ventured to the cliff edge, though didn't spend much time there.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Cliff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with my trusty Nikon I brought up my tripod and f-stop Guru backpack. It's a great pack for a day hike with photo gear.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Gear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon after I arrived, I was joined by a chipmunk.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Chipmunk buddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We became good buddies after I gave him a couple pumpkin seeds from my trail mix.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Chipmunk buddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got any more???

Stawamus Chief - 2012-09-13 - Chipmunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Chipmunk buddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few more views from the top. Can anyone tell me the name of the mountain in the background? Please post in the comments. UPDATE: It is Mount Garibaldi (thanks Jesse).
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me wrecking a perfectly good shot.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View & Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good spot for lunch.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View & Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a map of my route to the summit tracked using Runkeeper on the iPhone.
Stawamus Chief Hike - Map KML : Google Maps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While at the top, I also shot a complete panorama which resulted in a 100 megapixel image. If you want to see the full size image check my previous post.
Stawamus Chief Panorama : Sept 13, 2012 : 2048 pixels

 

 

 

 

 

On my way down, I stopped along the creek to take a few photos. I tried some shots with a polarizing filter and a neutral density filter to get longer exposures.

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on my way home I topped in at Shannon Falls which is only a few minutes from the Chief. First, an HDR image of the falls, I was hoping it would turn out a little different.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Shannon Falls HDR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just a regular shot, but taken with a polarizing filter to get a longer exposure.
Stawamus Chief - South Peak - Squamish BC - 2012-09-13 : Shannon Falls


Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the lions

Hiking the Binkert Trail To The Lions

The Lions are two very familiar peaks that can be seen from Vancouver. I have hiked most of the mountains in the immediate Vancouver area but the Lions always looked down on me with a smug look. Every time I looked to the North Shore I could see the twin peaks and I knew I had to get up there one day. On August 18th, five of us decided to make the trek and I was the only Lions virgin in the group.

The trail starts in Lions Bay and is a 16km round trip journey. The elevation gain is 1280m (4200') with some very steep sections you will feel in your legs. This is a strenuous hike and of the hikes I have completed may be second only to Black Tusk in terms of effort.  I would not bring your dog on this trail, there are sections that would not be easy for your four-legged friend and there are some very steep cliffs.  The hike took us about 3.5 hours in each direction, with a one hour break at the top to enjoy the view, eat lunch, and take photos.  For more detail on the trail feel free to check out these links (some include updates on conditions): Vancouver Trails, Club Tread, Trail Peak, Live Trails.

Some photos from the hike.  First, the motley crew ventures out at the start of the day.  The trail is fairly flat and everyone is feeling good.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : motley crue

Things begin to get steeper, everyone is still having a good time and chatting.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : getting steeper

 

One of the only waterfalls along the route. Not much rain in the area lately and the snow pack is almost gone so it's really just a trickle at this point. Harvey Creek is much bigger with pools large enough for a dip. There is a well built bridge over this creek so you will certainly know when you are there.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : waterfall

 

The trail takes a sharp turn up and chatting turns into cursing.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the slog

 

Coming out of the trees, you are finally rewarded with stunning views of Howe Sound.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : howe sound views

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Inuksuk over howe sound

 

The Lions are still looming, a long way to go.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : break with lions looming

 

The group taking a breather after a few hours of hard climbing.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : group taking a break

 

Back on the trail, hiking turns into scrambling.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the rock scramble

 

And now with snow :)
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the rock scramble with snow

 

Near the top of the rock scramble, views are still great and a good motivator.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : boulders

 

After a few more tricky sections, you finally reach the ridge and see a full view of the Lions before you.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion on left, east lion on the right

 

It was a bit hazy, but the view from the top was truly spectacular. Hard to beat and makes the 3.5 hour climb completely worth it.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view from the lions hike

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : both lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Howe Sound from the Lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : amazing view

 

You need to be careful with your footing on the ridge, there are very steep cliffs on both sides. One misstep and you won't be around to tell anyone about it.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view and cliff

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : gap cliff and view

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Inuksuk and the lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view and cliff 2

 

Up close and personal with the West Lion.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : up close and personal with west lion

 

The West Lion towering over Scott and Jason.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion looms in the background

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion towers over Scott and Mason

 

It is possible to climb to the top of the West Lion, but only for those with some experience with this type of activity should even attempt it. It is a high consequence climb with no room for error. If you decide to do it, you need to descend down a small cliff (a rope is provided). People here are waiting to climb down.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : waiting at rope

 

Once on the West Lion, find the best route up. You can see how steep it is in the photos below.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : climb up west lion

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : tiny people on west lion

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : tiny people on west lion 2

 

The hike is popular in the late summer, especially on a nice day. We didn't see many people on the trail, but there were a few at the top.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : lions ridge and view

 

Of course, some things didn't have to climb to the top. Cheater :)
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Raven on the lions

 

I can imagine life at the top is not easy for any plants or animals that choose to live here.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : rough life on the lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : both lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : east lion

 

Vancouver feels very far away when you are up here.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Vancouver is far away

 

On the way down, your knees will take a serious beating. The trail through the forest and the gravel road seem to stretch on forever. At the end of the day though, it's an amazing climb and worth the effort for anyone who wants to make the journey.


Vancouver Sun Dog

Vancouver Sun Halo

Yesterday, on my way to the East Van Show and Shine, my friend Eli pointed out a circular rainbow around the sun.  Not something you see every day, and since we both had our cameras we took some photos.  Someone suggested that this phenomenon is called a sun dog or sundog (Wikipedia), but I think it is actually a sun halo.  A sun dog is a 'mock sun', or a bright point of light similar to the sun.  I this case, it's a complete circular halo around the sun and looks like a rainbow. There are some references to these things here and here.

Vancouver Sun Dog

Update (May 29):  After posting on a forum, it turns out this phenomenon is called  a sun halo.  It is seen when thin cirrus clouds are present high in the atmosphere on a sunny day.  Light refracts off ice crystals and creates the effect.  More info here: 22° halo at Wikipedia, NASA.


Nikon D800 with 105mm f/2.8 VR lens - pollen popping flower

Poppin' Pollen

Yesterday I noticed what I thought was smoke in the kitchen but had no idea where it was coming from. As I was looking around, I saw that a flower on the counter was shooting out pollen. I have never seen anything like this, so I had to grab my camera and shoot a short video. I have never seen anything like this!

I'm assuming this is not a common sight, otherwise I would have seen it myself before (we have a lot of plants) or I would have seen it somewhere online. Regardless, I had to capture it on video so others would not think I'm crazy :)

Shot with the Nikon D800, 1080p, 105mm f/2.8 VR lens.  View the HD video on Youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahIrYtJjMpU

 


Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure hdr

A Day in Amsterdam

Back in December 2011, I had to travel to the UK on business. I took the opportunity to route my flight through Amsterdam instead of London and I had to pleasure of spending an afternoon in this great European city. I'm finally getting around to posting some of the photos I took during my short stay. I definitely need to go back and spend more time in this city, it was a lot of fun.

Most of the photos here were shot while on a photo tour with Photo Tours of Amsterdam.  I booked this tour after reading positive reviews on Trip Advisor.   Things didn't start well as my flight was delayed.  Rather than arriving at 8:00am which would have given me plenty of time to get to my hotel then meet my guide at the 1:30pm start time, my flight arrived at 12:30pm.  I rushed to the hotel, dropped off my things at the front desk and didn't even check in.  I just grabbed my camera and tripod and jumped in a taxi to head to the meeting spot.   There, I met Jonathan who turned out to be a fellow Canadian currently living in the Netherlands and discovered I was the only one on the tour that day.  This allowed Jonathan and I to just explore the city and go where wherever we wanted to go.   Jonathan was a good photographer, and also knew a lot about the city.   I didn't get a lot of good photographs during the day, it was a gloomy and flat winter day.  Things were better at night, and I'm happy I brought my tripod along for some shooting.  Overall, Jonathan spent more time than he needed to with me and was a great guide.  I learned a lot about the city and brushed up on my skills as well.  I would definitely book another tour with this company if I'm in one of the cities where they offer tours.

Some of the photos from that day, it was raining on and off and mostly overcast skies.  I love European cites, there is so much more history and culture compared to things in North America.  It's hard not to appreciate the architecture on display everywhere.  This is one of the markets many markets we found just walking around.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 market

A three shot HDR, not my best work but I love the buildings here.  Also, Amsterdam has a lot of pubs :)

Amsterdam Dec 2011 pub hdr

I didn't process many in black and white, but I likely will as scenes like this lend themselves well to such processing.  The canals in Amsterdam are fantastic, and are the reason why it's sometimes called Venice of the North.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 canal black and white

I love graffiti, and there was plenty of it in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 5

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 3

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 2

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 1

No idea what this is, but it was an interesting courtyard.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 courtyard

The Hermitage.  I wish I had time to visit.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 hermitage

Throughout the city you will find a lot of houseboats in the canals.  Some are beautiful, or at least interesting.  Others are complete trash heaps and detract from an otherwise beautiful city.  In another life, I would like to live on the water in one of these boats.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 boat

Jonathan told me what these little critters were, but for the life of me I can't remember.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bike

Youth Hostel, I got a few shots of this, I'm sure it looks great in the spring when the vines are covered in leaves.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 hostel

Some guys saw me taking photos and started goofing around.  The people I met in Amsterdam were friendly and helpful.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 clowning around

Dutch cat, seems content in his bed.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 dutch cat

So many of the buildings have interesting details like this.  They just don't build them like they used to.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 building detail

Jonathan showed me a good spot to practice my panning technique.  There is certainly no shortage of subjects zipping by and you don't need to wait long to see some interesting characters.

panning 4

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 3

The Dutch carry everything on their bikes.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 2

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 1

Amsterdam is know for diamonds, but I didn't bring any back for my wife on this trip.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 diamonds

The Theater.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 cool theatre

I had no idea there were going to be this many bikes in the city.  They are literally everywhere, of all shapes and sizes, and locked to any stationary object available.  I saw entire families on one bike, or people hauling a substantial amount of goods using special bikes.  There are multi-level bike parking garages which hold thousands of bikes.  It really is great to see, I'm sure it cuts down on the number of cars on the road.  Oh, and there is a hose in this photo too.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 horse and carriage

The only thing there may be more of than bikes is bongs.  Imagine if every coffee shop in Vancouver were a bong store, then double it :)  I also found out that you don't go to a coffee shop to get coffee, they sell weed.  If you want coffee, go to a cafe.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bongs

This liquor store had the coolest bottles I have ever seen, sadly it wasn't open when I was there.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 3

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 1

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 2

More bikes, bikes, bikes.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 Bikes

The train station.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 main train station

Interesting bridge detail.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bridge detail

The Magere Brug, or "Skinny Bridge".  Well lit at night, and one of the more famous bridges in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bridge detail (magere berg)

None of the buildings have elevators, so they set up these contraptions on the outside to move things in and out.  Also, you can see big hooks at the top of the buildings in some of the photos.  These were used to attach pulleys to winch stuff up to the higher levels.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 elevator

Electric car charging station.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 electric car plug in

The city looks great at night.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 long exposure

Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure hdr

Amsterdam Dec 2011 canal hdr

This is on the edge of the Red Light District.  Down that alley, you can see red lights on the side of the building marking windows where guys can take their pick of women.  It's actually a very trendy area, with a lot of tourists visiting pubs, restaurants, or doing some shopping . The alleys are right in the middle of everything, and everything seems to be clean and safe.  As you can imagine, they don't take kindly to tourists taking photos in front of said windows.  I didn't press my luck by trying it.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 red light district

Some long exposure fun while Jonathan kept watch on the traffic.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure

One of my last, and one of my favorite, photos from the day.  I set up on a tiny island in the middle of an intersection.  I had a view of a tram coming right at me, and veering off to the right.  This was my first attempt, and the best of the bunch, I actually thought the tram would hit my camera, but it turned out well.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 long exposure train

 


D800 Banner

My New Camera, the Nikon D800E

UPDATE Feb 14, 2012: I'm no longer getting the D800E but the regular D800.  I have outlined the reasons for doing so in a different post.  I'm sure both models will produce great images, if you have any thoughts about one model or the other feel free to leave a message in the comments.

I have been waiting impatiently for a new, affordable, full-frame camera from Nikon for over a year.  I have been shooting with a Nikon D90 and it's a capable camera but I knew I wanted to make the jump to FX.  Over the last few years, my lens selections have definitely been with a future FX body in mind.  I could have bought the D700, which is certainly a capable camera but the next model was 'just around the corner'.   From what I have read, the new D800 was to be released in the first half of 2011, but mother nature doesn't always cooperate with corporate schedules.  First, the earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan disrupted the Nikon plant in Sendai.  The plant makes the high end bodies and lenses and that put a quick end to any chance of a D800 release.  Nikon was well underway with repairs when the heavy flooding in Thailand hit.  Nikon's plant there was underwater, which stopped production of their very popular D7000 among other bodies and lenses.

Two major disasters would cripple any company, and Nikon did their best to keep production up and repair the damage.  Schedules were delayed, products in short supply, but Nikon seems to have handled the situation very well and pulled out of the mess and started 2012 off very strong.  First, they released their flagship D4, a camera packed with the latest technology from Nikon.  It has received a great welcome, and should be a good performer when it starts shipping in late February or early March.  Second, they finally announced their compact full-frame model, the D800.  They surprised many with two variations of the same camera: with anti-alias filter (D800) and, for the first time from Nikon, one without the filter (D800E).  I have put a deposit on a D800E and hope to have my hands on one in April.  It will be a long wait.

I won't go into the specifications of the D800, there are plenty of good links and preview articles out there (Nikon D800 pagedpreview, Rob Galbraith).  I'm excited by the new technology in the camera, 36mp sensor, new autofocus and metering system (same as the D4), top notch video features, and much more.  I plan to shoot with this camera for the next few years and continue to learn about this great hobby.

Once I get the thing in my hands, I'll post some sample images and an update.

Camera Size has the D800 in the database now, see how it compares to the D90 (my current camera), D300S, and D4.

Nikon D800 Front

Nikon D800 Angle 1

Nikon D800 Angle 2

Nikon D800 Back

Nikon D800 Top

Nikon D800 With Grip


Nikon D4 Logo

Finally! The Nikon D4 is Announced

Nikon did not have a good year in 2011 as they were affected by two major disasters. The earthquake in Japan and following tsunami forced the shutdown of their plant in Sendai.  This plant produces their professional line of cameras and lenses.  Later in the year, the flooding in Thailand submerged the Nikon factory at the Rojana Industrial Park.  This plant produces many of their consumer cameras and lenses.  Because of these disasters, their entire product line-up was affected and shortages of equipment were common.  Nikon planned to introduce a few new camera models and lenses in 2011 but all announcements were postponed while they worked to rebuild their facilities and solidify their supply chain.

Towards the end of 2011, things were looking up and production was getting back on track.  Nikon did make one product announcement, the SB-910 Speedlight but the year ended with no significant products for us to drool over.  The good news is that 2012 has started off with a bang.  Leading up to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Nikon has announced a new flagship digital SLR camera, the D4 (official press release).  Along with the new pro camera, they announced an 85mm f/1.8G lens and a wireless transmitter.  A big announcement to start the year and I expect more to come in the coming months.  The rumoured D700 replacement, the D800, is very likely the next body that will be announced but when that will happen is anyone's guess at this point.

Nikon D4 on Nikon's website

Nikon D4 brochure (PDF)

Nikon D4 full specification

Nikon D4 High Res Front Transparent

Nikon D4 Back

Nikon D4 High Res Top Transparent


Nikon D4 Trio

Nikon D4 Leaked by the French

The rumours were flying around for months and the mill was in high gear for the last few weeks about Nikon's new flagship camera, the D4.  Official announcement is likely to come on Friday, Jan. 6th (late Thursday in Canada/USA) but a French magazine spilled the beans early.  A scan of the article can be seen here.  Looks like a great body, and should compete well against the new Canon 1DX.

Specs:

  • 16 megapixels
  • ISO 100-12800 (expandable to 50-204800)
  • 51 autofocus points
  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • 10-12fps
  • 91000 point metering system
  • 1080p video recording
  • CF/XQD card slots
  • 1.34kg weight
  • €5,800 (likely to be about $6,000 USD)

Full details when officially announced by Nikon later today.

Nikon D4 Front

Nikon D4 Left

Nikon D4 Back


GUY LARAMEE Book Art 1

The Art of GUY LARAMEE

A talented artist who works in several mediums.  His book carvings caught my eye, very unique and interesting.  Worth a visit to see the rest of his collection.  Visit Guy Laramee's website.

GUY LARAMEE Book Art 1

 

GUY LARAMEE Book Art 1


Full Moon at 400mm

Almost a full moon

A friend of mine (Maggie) told me about the December 10th lunar eclipse.  No idea how I missed the fact that this is happening, very unlike my geek self.  We had a clear sky tonight, and I still have the monster 400mm f/2.8 lens I borrowed for the Bald Eagle shoot so I decided to take a few practice shots.  No real point posting more than one photo, the moon doesn't do much different between shots.  The lens, as expected, delivered great results on my D90.

Full Moon at 400mm


BBC icicle of death

'Brinicle' Ice Finger of Death

The BBC has the most amazing footage of the natural world.  I own several of their sets, including Blue Planet and Planet Earth. If you haven't seen them, I recommend you do.

This short video is another great sequence that few could capture.  It shows an ice 'Brinicle' forming under the Antarctic ice sheet, you can read more about it here.

BBC prevents embedding, view the video on their site here.


Alan Sailer high speed egg

Air Gap Flash & Alan Sailer's Photostream

I have seen a lot of good high speed photography, but Alan Sailer has some of the most interesting shots out there.  These shots are taken using some specialized equipment, including an 'air gap flash'.  I have never heard of this device until today, and apparently it's a DIY flash that has the potential to kill you.  Standard flashes (Canon, Nikon) have a minimum duration of 1/40,000th of a second.  It seems short, but when photographing bullets it's an eternity.  At 1000 feet/second (not that fast in bullet terms), that bullet can travel 1/3rd of an inch so it's more of a streak in the image than a bullet frozen in time.  This air gap flash can have a flash duration of 1/1,000,000th of a second (about 25x faster than a standard flash).

You can make your own air gap flash by following the directions here.  However, if you don't know how to work with high voltage, don't even try.  As the author of the site says "you should not build this because this flash will kill you".  What you essentially make is a 35,000 volt capacitor that releases a 1.5" spark across a gap.  If you don't know what you are doing, that voltage will be released into your body and you won't be around to tell anyone how that felt.  So don't build it, but do read about it, it's an interesting device.

This is what the air gap flash looks like when complete.

air gap flash

As far as the images you can capture with it, here are a few samples.

Christmas bulb filled with gelatin and shot with a marble.

Alan Sailer christmas bulb high speed

 

Hot dog shot with a pellet gun.

Alan Sailer hot dog high speed

To see more of Alan's great work, visit his Flickr Photostream.  He has a ton of amazing photos there and doesn't just shoot things with a gun.  He has an air cannon that is used to shoot a lime through a piece of beef or a ping pong ball through fruit.  Definitely worth a visit.

 


Peter Jackson reveals the Red Epic secrets behind The Hobbit

Looks like The Hobbit will be filmed in 3D using a whole bunch of Red Epic cameras.  Check out the link below to see the 3D rig they put together, very cool.  They are also shooting everything at 5K and 48 frames per second.  Should be a visually amazing movie.

Engadget Link w/ Video


Joey L Photography

Joey L. Photography

Another photographer worth checking out.  Fantastic portraits and location shots, very inspiring to view the portfolio.

Joey L. Photography