Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Honeymoon Day 7

The weather wasn't necessarily cooperative this day

For day 7 we woke up early (not as early as planned... but early enough) to pack up, check out and return to the Tofino Whale Centre to head out on our bear tour! It had to be early for low tide, when the black bears take advantage of stranded fish and crabs for easy meals. It was a little rainy out, but not looking too bad. We got everything packed, ate some Clif bars then hit the road. We got there, paid and got suited up. They also gave us raincoats to take.

Howie getting the boat ready

Howie was our skipper again but this time it was just us. We boarded, choosing the front row after asking what seats would be the best, and headed out. It wasn't raining too hard, but at speed and in the front of the boat the rain pelting your face is quite unpleasant. Add to that my lack of sunglasses, and I was doing everything I could to keep the rain away from my eyes. I ended up just holding the hood on my coveralls over my eyes as best I could and trying to either face downward or to the side. Once I figured out what angles worked, it wasn't too terrible except that my hand was quite tired from holding the hood in place.

The other hand was occupied with my camera, which I had covered with an Op Tech rain sleeve. I also gaffer taped the front end of the rain sleeve to the lens hood so I didn't have to worry too much about the sleeve moving around. My camera stayed dry through the windy trip, which gives me a lot of confidence in the usefulness of these sleeves. It did get a bit humid inside the bag, but I think that's to be expected. I would definitely recommend keeping a couple of these on hand if you want to shoot in the rain, sand, snow, or near salt water.

After traveling for several minutes, we finally arrived to a less open area. By the time the skipper found the first bear, it had mostly stopped raining. I took my first couple shots, and checked the LCD. They were awful!

A wet front element doesn't make for a very good picture

I had anticipated this issue, and pocketed some napkins to dry off the front element. After a couple of quick swipes, big difference! (next time I'll leave the lens cap on until I'm ready to shoot...). Our first sighting may have been the best, since it was a mother and two first year cubs.

Following Closely

"Keep Up!"


After that, the sightings seemed to come fast and frequently.

The bears would turn over rocks to hunt for crabs

There were always crows hanging around, looking for scraps

Chowing on crab

"I didn't do it"


Bald Eagle (cause I like bald eagles)

When it was finally time to head back we had seen at least 15 bears, a few bald eagles, some seals, porpoises and a lot of crows. The weather had also held out for us, with just a little bit of sprinkling after we had reached the area where the bears were. Once we got back and got our suits returned, we headed to lunch at Breakers Wholefood Eatery. I had a smoked salmon sandwich and Erin had a falafel wrap. Tasty. Once we finished lunch it was time to hit the road, so we headed toward Ucluelet. We decided to make a stop along the way at the intriguingly named Incinerator Rock, which was a neat beach stop-off with some huge rock formations. We spent a few minutes walking the beach there, but were really tired so we headed out and finished our drive to Ucluelet.

Incinerator Rock's shoreline (rock formations not shown)

Thankfully that was a short drive, but we arrived way early for check-in at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. Luck was on our side yet again, our room was ready!

The spectacular view from our balcony

This was the nicest place we stayed (though Delta Victoria was a close runner-up) throughout the honeymoon. I must admit, when we drove up I didn't think it looked that great. The front of the building looked plain and a bit dated, but once through the front door it was clear that the place was top notch. My pictures really don't do the room justice, but here they are:

Even the elevator was cool

We showered and rested up for a bit after we got settled in, and then it was off to dinner at Romans Pizza. I had veal parmesan and Erin had a margherita pizza. Then it was back to the hotel to relax for the evening. Once it was darker, I took some long exposures off the balcony.

Tim Horton's count - 10

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Honeymoon Day 6

This gray wolf is just the beginning

This is another picture heavy post. It may have been our busiest day.

We started out hoping for breakfast to come, alas it never showed. We gave up eventually and just had Clif bars. After we finished breakfast we got ready and headed out for our whale tour at the Tofino Whale Centre. We got there a bit early, so wandered around for a few minutes then headed back.

Saw this in the parking lot, no idea what it is

We found the Sugar Shack

We suited up (there were 11 of us total) in the coveralls they provided and walked to the boat then headed out.

Is that an astronaut? With a duckface?

Photo by Erin

The first thing we saw was a deer, followed shortly by a wolf.

Black-tailed Deer

It spotted us, but proceeded to ignore the boat

The boat followed the wolf for quite a while, trying to get everyone an opportunity for a clear sight of it.


The picture at the beginning of the post was taken after the wolf had wandered off from the above perch. The boat was able to get much closer to him after he moved to another rock.

Tufted Puffin

The tufted puffin isn't a very good shot. There's a lot of room to crop, but it's very blurry zoomed in. Taking pictures from a boat on even slightly choppy waters is challenging, to say the least. Especially at 400mm focal length. This was one of a pair, and they flew off before I could really get steady (or lucky). We spotted a whale in the same area as the puffin, but I didn't get any pictures then. I wasn't ready. Luckily the whales were much more active in later locations.

Steller Sea Lions

Before I even got a picture of a whale, the tour was a pretty darn successful wildlife tour. But it got better. The tour guide/skipper, Howie, found a spot with at least a couple of whales surfacing frequently and we settled in there for a while, watching the whales surface, blow and go back down. Occasionally we'd see a dive too. After watching there for a while, it was finally time to head back.

Not the first, but maybe the best

This whale seemed like it was waving

The best blow shot I got

Another shot of a deep dive

But on the way he spotted a sea otter, so we stopped to take a look before finally heading back for good.

Looks like he's praying

Overall a great tour, with some really good pictures taken. We saw lots of wildlife, though didn't get pictures of everything. (bald eagle, seal, sea gulls, black oystercatchers, brandt's cormorants, starfish). The boat was very quiet, and the weather was good to us. I don't think either of us imagined a better day out there than we had.

It was surprisingly difficult to take pictures from the boat. I guess I should have expected it. A boat, sitting in the water with the choppy current, or even worse the boat moving through the water with the choppy current. I was also surprised to have some mild stomach churning due to the motion, but luckily no vomiting.

After we got back, got our suits returned and stuff, we headed to lunch at Gary's Chinese Food. (We had spring rolls for an appetizer, I had beef szcechuan, Erin had fried tofu, veggies and noodles). Then we headed back to the room for a bit to relax and plan/map out our next move. On our way back in we grabbed dinner (frozen Indian food, chicken curry for me palak paneer for Erin with an ice cream sandwich) from the front desk. After relaxing for a bit, we headed down the sunset trail on Pacific Sands property to get to Pettinger Point, which had a nice ocean view and a lot of rock outcroppings to climb on and get different viewpoints, or just to watch the waves crash into. We saw what we think was a golden eagle getting chased away by three crows. I also got some pictures of a black oystercatcher, which I had seen a few of on the whale tour but could never get a picture of them.

Pretty flower

Black Oystercatcher


We walked back from Pettinger Point then headed out to Schooner Cove in the Pacific Rim National Park. Before we even started down the trail, there was a large spotted banana slug on the path. We then walked the short trail (about 1.2km) to the beach. It was a boardwalk with plenty of stairs going up and down as it went through the forest. Once we made it to the beach, we were rewarded with a misty view of the coastline. It wasn't long before it started to sprinkle on us though, so we hurried back to the trail. We made it back to the car just in time for it start raining more steadily. More good timing on our part.

Banana Slug

Schooner Cove's view

I like this one cause I look taller (Photo by Erin)

Pensive (Photo by Erin)

And finally some goofy wide angle distortion shots.

Photo by Erin

From there we headed back to the resort, did some more laundry, had our frozen dinners (super tasty) and relaxed for a while by the fireplace before heading to bed.

Tim Horton's count - 10

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Honeymoon Day 5

Very Tall Trees

Finally got to see a bit of sunrise. It was (kind of) over the mountains in the harbor. I just happened to wake up in time to see the end of it. I woke Erin up so she could see it then we went back to sleep. After a couple hours we got up and got our stuff together and checked out of the hotel. We headed to lunch at New York Style Pizza but it wasn't open yet, so we wandered around for a bit then headed back for lunch. Erin had cheese and I had their Italy pizza. After that we hit the road, heading toward Tofino. We stopped at Coombs Country Market to check out their goats on the roof and wandered around the market for a while then got some ice cream (Nanaimo Bar for Erin, Spumante for me).


We saw this bunny on the way out.

Next stop was Cathedral Grove to view some huge and very old Douglas fir and red cedar trees. I apparently had a lot of trouble with the photos here, some are blurry, all are washed out. I think I should have brought a tripod and maybe exposure bracketed and tried to HDR them. Or maybe I'm missing an easier solution, I dunno. Anyway after walking around there for a while we headed out to continue our journey to Tofino.

Erin admiring the Douglas fir trees

About the tree

Erin and the largest tree in the park

Erin and a red cedar

Erin and a fallen red cedar

We stopped in Port Alberni for a quick Wal Mart run as well as some gas. We needed another suitcase to fit some of our shopping booty in! Also got some more drinks and other miscellaneous supplies. Port Alberni was our final stop before Tofino. Many twisting, turning, up and down the mountain kilometers later we finally arrived in Tofino. Some of the sights that I could catch a glimpse of (I was driving) through the mountains were simply spectacular. There were a few stopping off points, but I never seemed to be able to decide to stop in time for any of them. We decided to try to catch them on the return journey. After we arrived in Tofino we checked into our hotel, we had a very nice ocean view suite at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort. We settled in for a bit, ordered breakfast to be delivered to our door the next morning then headed out for dinner at Sobo. The food there was excellent (I had Halibut and Shrimp with potato gnocchi, asparagus and a carrot orange emulsion as the sauce, Erin had soup and corn fritters), the service left a little something to be desired. It took around 10 minutes after we were sat for our server to stop by the table. After that, everything was ok but it's really annoying to have to wait like that. After dinner we headed back to our room, changed clothes and walked the beach for a while. Then we headed back in, hit the showers and relaxed for a bit before calling it a night.

Tim Horton's count - 10