The Avon and Health Valley trails follow the Grand River east of St. Jacobs, Ontario. It passes under the main highway, crosses private land (with permission), and is well traversed. I broke this into two photo sessions with the hopes of trying different lighting. In hindsight, the lighting isn’t that different between 1:00 and 3:00 pm, even in the winter.
The trail starts at a parking lot and immediately, you are at the river’s edge.
Sections of river bank were frozen, but it was mostly wide open, much to the appreciation of the ducks.
Old farming equipment is left near the trail head as a reminder to visitors of the farming origins of the surrounding community.
Stands of trees line the trail, with one area predominantly consisting of spruce and pine trees. The low sun provided great contrast of shadows and light.
As you pass under the highway, a large farmstead is visible on the far shore of the river.
Large farm fields to the south of the river often contain one tree as a focal point, reminding us of the forest that once stood here.
A chance encounter with a horse drawn sled sent us running for a clear shot across one such field. Out of 32 pictures, one made the cut.
Even on beautiful trails, such as this, the evidence of human interference in natural environments is ever prevalent.
To see these images and many more, check out the session page and view the slideshow of the whole gallery.
My first event wasn’t a roaring success, but it was a nice short walk on a perfect winter day. We started at Lake Louise Blvd and spent about 45 minutes walking the perimeter of the woodlot.
The dogs were happy just to be out in the forest, as were we.
The woodlot is full of maple trees to the point of being homogenous.
What I didn’t realize before today is that the woodlot is used for maple syrup harvesting (since 1860) by a local business.
Either it is private land and open to the public, or they have an agreement to use the property from the city. Either way, there was a complicated series of tubing woven between the trees, with some ducking or high-stepping needed to follow the trails.
There were small, hand-written signs advertising maple syrup and other products at a nearby farm. It’s about as locally-sourced as you can get!
Wildlife was sparse today, as can be expected in such a small woodlot in the dead of winter.
While I enjoyed the walk and it was nice to get out to a new trail, I might wait to revisit the area during the height of the fall colours. The potential for colour is high in this heavily deciduous forest.
With four full days of the conference and one day of travel, the remaining time available for Vancouver photos was quite limited. It rained for the first two days of the week, obscuring the mountains and much of the Vancouver skyline. The next two days were sunny and clear, and I really wish I could have gone back up Grouse Mountain with the clear skies.
The conference took place at the Vancouver Convention Centre, which had a great view of the harbour.
On Thursday night, I checked into my flight and decided to change my seat so that I would be facing away from the rising sun, in the hopes of seeing the mountains on the way to Calgary. While my camera was packed in the overhead storage, I had my phone out and was able to watch the mountains come into view as the sun rose.
As we came into Calgary, we circled to the south of the City, illuminating the skyline, with the mountain range in the distance.
My trip from Calgary back to Ontario had seating with the sun coming in the window, so I left the window shield closed for most of the flight. I had a great time during this trip to Vancouver and I can’t wait to go back and see some of things I missed.
Another early start to the day, where I changed hotels for the rest of the week. I was quite pleased with the room and location of the new hotel, and was lucky that the hotel union strike occurring at the time did not affect either of the hotels I stayed at during my trip.
The day dawned much the same as the previous day, with clouds and cool temperatures. I decided to stay in West Vancouver for the day as I had a lot left to explore. I began with a walk to the closest Tim Hortons along the harbour with a few photo opportunities along the way.
The 2010 Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver and the ceremonial torch was relocated to the waterfront. I should have gone back at night for some more pictures, alas…
I made my way towards Stanley Park, taking in the quiet of the morning and the calm waters in the harbour with dozens of sailboats sitting idle.
Stanley Park was dedicated by Lord Stanley in 1889. It covers more than 1,000 acres and is primarily unpaved trails and old growth forest.
While most municipal parks I have seen are manicured and deadwood dragged out, Stanley Park seems to maintain a more natural approach. Two large, long-dead, tree stumps were left in place and new trees had grown from them. The deadwood offers rich soil conditions and a sharp contrast to the new trees.
As I wandered through the park towards the aquarium, I was stunned by the size of some of the trees. Cedar trees in Ontario rarely get more than eighteen inches thick; here I was seeing cedars more than three feet in diameter. I didn’t realize what was in store when I entered the more wild expanse of the park. As I neared my destination, I came across two abandoned animal enclosures. Nature had taken over, with small trees growing from bottoms of the pits and vines growing over the top of the shelters. There was something both sad and beautiful about these.
Before my trip, I spoke to a few people about what I should do with only two days of free time. There were lots of suggestions, but the two that came up regularly were Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium. As it was a Sunday, the aquarium was moderately busy.
I should have known better than to walk from a cool exterior to a warm and moist interior. My lenses fogged up as soon as I took the cover off. Luckily, I had a few spare cloths and cleaned them off while they climatized.
I love shooting wildlife, even if it’s within enclosures. It gave me a chance to work on my manual settings and trying to hold the camera still, long enough to get a clean shot with enough light.
There were seals, otters, and dolphins within the aquarium. Much of the area was accessible outdoors with low walls to give an unimpeded view into the enclosures.
I spent some time wandering around the building and looking at the various other forms of underwater sea life. This included fish, octopus blooms, frogs, and snakes. As these were all behind glass, the glare from lighting made taking pictures difficult, so I mostly just enjoyed walking around.
I left the aquarium and ventured into the interior of Stanley Park. The old growth environment is similar to the interior of Algonquin Park, with limited interference in the natural order.
The trees in Stanley Park were upwards of five feet in diameter and towered above me, making me almost forget that I was mere steps away from major roadways and the city.
I rounded out my trek through Stanley Park by passing by the Lost Lagoon. I can see this being a hotspot for wildlife photography in the spring or summer, but today it was quiet along the shore.
This was my last full day of playing tourist in Vancouver and I was ready to put my feet up after putting in more than 20,000 steps.