Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve

The best part of visiting this nature reserve wasn't the herons (we only saw one from a distance) but the rabbits. We found them on the paths in several places, but one in particular was quite a cooperative subject.


Moving slowly, I got quite close to it and then crouched down to take photos. After I stopped moving it settled down and when back to nibbling on the plants. But then I was surprised when it started to move towards me. It was obviously aware of me and would stop and look at me every so often. The closer it got, the more nervous it was, until finally it made a break for it and dashed by me and then Shelley and continued on down the path. I'm not quite sure why it was so determined to go past us down the path!


I also enjoyed the flowers and insects:


bee on flower

And a few reflections:

reflected flowers

See also, Shelley's photos of the rabbit sneaking by me.

See all 9 photos

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Vancouver Zoo

After crossing back into Canada near Abbotsford, we were close to the Greater Vancouver Zoo so we stopped in for a visit.

grizzly bear

The zoo covers quite a large area and is mostly outdoors in a park like setting. Unfortunately it's not very good for photography since most of the enclosures are heavy chain link fence, and often several layers of fence. And many of the enclosures are large, which is good, but it means the animals can be far away. So I didn't get a lot of photos, but it was a beautiful morning and we had a nice walk around.

grizzly bear

The bald eagles were injured, rescued birds.

bald eagle

Wild eagles were flying overhead.

bald eagle

arctic fox

caribou / reindeer



See all 15 photos

Friday, May 26, 2017

Getting Whacked

After several mellow flights earlier in the day, we launched at Woodside mid afternoon on a hot sunny day. I got some good lift off launch and found some stronger thermals over the ridge. I ended up the highest and was feeling pretty good about it. I cruised along the ridge heading back to where I'd found the last thermal and I heard my wing get hit by some turbulence. All of a sudden my brakes went soft. Actively piloting, I automatically pulled some brake. But they stayed soft. I looked up and my wing was an ugly mess from what I assume was a large frontal collapse or a stall and it was no longer flying. I thought about it for a split second and went hands up, trusting my wing to recover. I don't recall being afraid, just trying to figure out what was happening and how to deal with it. Thankfully, I can often stay quite calm in dangerous situations. Then again, I've also had times of deep fear that I just couldn't shake.

I remember glancing down to see how much height I had. Luckily I had lots, but it gave me a good reminder why it's not a good idea to fly too close to the terrain!

I didn't think about my reserve (parachute) at all. Hopefully if the wing hadn't recovered I would have thought of it! I was flying my new lightweight harness (Supair Radical 3) with a front mounted reserve so it was right in front of me. The front mount is a bit awkward, but it's definitely more accessible in flight than under the seat ones.

The wing (my new Geo 5) recovered, opened back up, and resumed flying, as it is designed to do. I don't even recall much surge. It was over in seconds. Although I wasn't far from launch, no one  even noticed my brief moment of "excitement".

I immediately turned away from the top of the ridge where the strong thermals were. My first instinct was to get down and on the ground as soon as possible. But it wasn't that rough away from the ridge so I decided to "stay on the horse" and keep flying. I didn't stay up as long as if I'd stayed on the ridge but I found some mellower lift and had a decent flight cruising around.

After I landed I felt a bit shaken and a little queasy - perhaps delayed effect from the adrenaline.

On a more positive note, Shelley showed off her hard earned ground handling skills when the shifting wind blew her wing off to the side as she was launching and she calmly stepped under it, kited it level, turned and launched smoothly. The instructor next to me even commented on what a good job she'd done.



After our brief sojourn in Bend we headed back to the coast, taking a slightly different route to get us to Newport where we stopped in at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It's not a huge aquarium, but quite nice - worth visiting if you're in the area and like that sort of thing.

sea otter

Horned puffin


We camped at Cape Lookout State Park. (A coastal paraglider soaring site, but the winds were wrong.) We walked to the beach to watch the sunset, saw other people enjoying a glass of wine, and went back to the car and fetched the bottle of Ortega we'd bought at Symphony Vineyard near Victoria. It made a fine accompaniment to the the wonderful show of waves and setting sun.


As usual, I wasn't using a tripod but I attempted a few shots with slow shutter speeds. This was 1/8 of a second. (Sitting and braced, and thanks to a stabilized lens.)


Although the color of the sunset stood out, the backlit waves were also interesting in black and white.


Of course, I couldn't resist a few reflection shots.

sunset reflections

Barn swallows without a barn were using the side of the campground washrooms as a substitute.

Barn swallow

Walking to the washroom in the morning I spotted this light show and couldn't resist going back for my camera. Beats a hotel lobby!

sun through the trees

See all 32 photos

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bend, Oregon

From Pacific City, we left the coast and drove inland over a pretty mountain road to Bend, Oregon to visit a paragliding friend and fly with him. After great flights we spent a lazy day wandering around Bend, visiting the Patagonia store and REI, and walking through Drake Park where I took lots of photos.

Drake Park

Nice to see all the flowers.

flowering tree

flowering tree

backlit tulip

There were lots of birds around


including a Mallard family with ducklings that were cute to watch.

Mallard female


The Canada Geese were humorously going bottoms up as they fed in the pond.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

The trees and blue sky made good reflections on the water


And I found more abstracts from sculptures in the park:


brushed steel

See all 27 photos

Saturday, May 20, 2017


From Victoria we took the ferry to Port Angeles - a good way to bypass Vancouver and Seattle and travel the beautiful Olympic peninsula instead.

Ruby Beach, WA

About an hour past Port Angeles we saw a sign for the Olympic Discovery Trail so we stopped to have a look and stretch our legs. Although it was in the middle of nowhere the trail was actually paved. We thought it was a loop but it never seemed to loop so eventually we turned around and went back the way we came. That was a good choice since it turns out the whole trail is 125 miles long, although it's not all completed.

mossy trees

Trillium (?)

We found a nice restaurant in Aberdeen (Redeviva) for supper and then camped at Twin Harbours State Park on the coast. I always enjoy watching the Sanderlings run around in the surf.


sand dollar

After our morning walk on the beach we stopped at Elixir for coffee with nice views of the water. Our next stop was at the Wallapa Wildlife Refuge where we walked the Art Trail and the Cutthroat Climb loop.

Willapa Wildlife Refuge

The new growth is so green this time of year.

new pine needles

When we were leaving we passed two older ladies with binoculars, birders, I assume. They saw my camera and asked if we'd found anything. I said, "Yes, beetles, and slugs, and millipedes, ...". I could tell that wasn't what they would consider good finds! But to me, all Darwin's creatures are wonderful.

Yellow-spotted millipede


banana slug

Even the bark and the moss is fascinating.

tree bark


I even found a few reflections :-)

trees reflected

The next night we stayed at a favorite spot, the Astoria Cannery Pier Hotel and ate at another favorite, the Bridgewater Bistro.

See also Shelley's post

See all 28 photos

Oregon Paragliding

landing after a two hour evening flight at Pine Mountain, Bend (photo by Shelley)
Leaving Astoria, we stopped in at Sunset Beach to see if Brad and Maren from Discover Paragliding were flying (we met them in Costa Rica). Sure enough they showed up with a few students and we hung out with them for the day. Unfortunately, the wind wasn't right for towing on the beach, but we got in some good ground handling and flying off the dunes. The wind picked up a bit in the afternoon and we moved down the beach to near the shipwreck in hopes it would be soarable but it never quite got there. Regardless, we had a fun day on the beach and got some good tips from Brad on our ground handling and launching.

The next day we headed inland to Bend. It sounded like Pine Mountain might be flyable that evening. We met up with Jeff, a flying friend we met on our Europe trip who lives in Bend and he drove us out and gave us a site intro. (Thanks Jeff!) It turned out to be fantastic glass off conditions and I had a 2 hour flight. The air was smooth and there was lift everywhere. In the end, the challenge was to get down, which is unusual since most of the time paragliding you're struggling to stay up. I was trying to be patient, assuming that eventually the lift had to end, but the sun was setting! We definitely picked the right day to arrive in Bend!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Victoria Butterfly Gardens

I always like butterfly gardens, and it made a good stop in the rain.

Green Moss Peacock butterfly

There are always lots of butterflies, the question is whether they sit still in a spot where I can photograph them. I also prefer to get them in natural settings - not sitting on the wall or on the fruit they put out for them, even though that is where they tend to sit still.

Brown Clipper butterfly

White Tree Nymph butterfly

Zebra butterfly

There were also a few caterpillars around. This interesting looking one is from the Giant Owl Butterfly,

caterpillar of Giant Owl Butterfly

And a few other miscellaneous insects, including leafcutter ants. Leafcutter ants have different "castes" which vary in size. I assume the two in this photo are two different castes. The smaller "minors" are actually the soldiers that defend the foragers.

leafcutter ant

Praying mantis are a favorite of mine.


There were also parrots and flamingos, and a few turtles.


See all 18 photos