I have visited Mill Pond on Dewdney Trunk Road in Mission, BC a number of times, but not usually for photographs. Fall is one of my favourite times of year to photograph and so I try to get out as much as possible during the fleeting time fall foliage is available. Last year had nearly constant fall rain (600 mm/23.6 in during October/November) and was dubbed the “dreariest on record” by Environment Canada’s weather forecasters. 2016 had relatively poor fall foliage colours too, so I didn’t always find what I was looking for in spots I’d targeted. I was heading back from a “failed” trip one afternoon and stopped at Mill Pond to see if there were any interesting reflections on its surface. I was not disappointed – there were a few trees and shrubs that had some decent foliage colors and the lack of wind made for some good reflections. The first photograph here of the pond is actually the last one I put together from 4 separate exposures. These had to be a bit longer in duration (15 seconds) than those earlier as it was almost dark when I made this photograph. I am not sure what species make up most of the colours in the first photo but the second is primarily from Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) leaves.
A rainbow over Hatzic Lake and Hatzic Island near Mission, British Columbia, Canada. Photographed from Neilson Regional Park in Mission.
Rainbow over Hatzic Lake and Hatzic Island (Purchase)
-click to enlarge-
This fall has been really wet. This October we’ve had 28 days with rain (26 was the old record) – the dreariest on record. While it is “only” the 12th wettest by volume, the frequency has made it difficult to photograph what fall foliage colours there are out there right now. This year doesn’t appear to have been an overall great year for color in the Fraser Valley anyway. Just as with photographing wildflowers, however, it just takes one good spot – you don’t need a whole forest. So even when the conditions aren’t great or the fall foliage is more of a rotten brown colour, it is always worth it to get out and look for individual trees/shrubs with a better display.
On Tuesday I drove through the farmland in the northern part of Abbotsford to see if I could find some new farm scenes with fall foliage. I found a few new locations, but one I had been planning to shoot was a movie set on that day. This blocked me from trying to shoot there – the movie set people don’t exactly like people hanging around with a camera and tripod! I eventually crossed over the Abbotsford-Mission Bridge and found my way to Neilson Regional Park in Mission. I haven’t been to this park in probably 25 years, so I was curious if anything would feel familiar about it. I recalled walking down to the shoreline with my parents and seeing schools of carp (or a similar species) near the shore. On Tuesday I found only a brief rainstorm (and no fish), but some direct sunlight gave me the opportunity to photograph this rainbow in rather scenic surroundings. Hatzic Lake is in the foreground here, and some of the fall foliage on Hatzic Island provided some nice colours. The mountain in the background is Mcnab Peak (I believe). I think this is the first rainbow I have photographed while not standing in my backyard. I’ve seen many, but often not in a photogenic location. Happy to have been at Hatzic Lake for the 10 or so minutes this one was in view!
For more of my photographs of this area visit my Fraser Valley Gallery.
On my way to Rolley Lake Provincial Park a few weeks ago I stopped to photograph near the Ruskin Dam on the Stave River in Mission, British Columbia, Canada. After several heavy rainstorms in October the excess water collected in Stave Lake is released over the Ruskin Dam. The Dam is currently undergoing a refit and reconstruction to upgrade the original structure built in the 1930’s – which is why you see the crane tower and all the scaffolding and work materials here. Only 3 of the 7 original spillways are currently flowing – after the refit there will be a total of 5.
Ruskin Dam in Mission, BC
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I also recorded a video of the Ruskin Dam water flow which indicates the sheer volume a little better than the photograph above. You can imagine the roar of the water coming over the dam, but there is no sound on this video because in addition to that all you’d hear would be the traffic of the road and a conversation between two fisherman nearby!
Steelhead Falls near the Hayward Reservoir Trail in Mission, British Columbia, Canada
Steelhead Falls in Mission, British Columbia
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Yesterday I headed to Steelhead Falls in Mission, British Columbia. I had previously attempted to find this waterfall but the main parking lot was closed, and when accessing the trail I went the wrong way (there were no signs) and was disappointed. Starting from the parking lot yesterday the falls were pretty easy to find after a short hike (in the correct direction) to Steelhead Creek. This is a great falls to photograph – there are many tiers and cascades that have a wide variety of angles of approach so the options are plentiful for photography. I was lucky to have the cloud cover hold as the forecast was for afternoon clearing. Photographing waterfalls in the sunshine is usually a nightmare so I prefer to head out on overcast days for even lighting and cooler temperatures for hiking.
Side view of Steelhead Falls in Mission, British Columbia
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While loading up in the parking lot on the way in, there was a lot of strange vocalizations by the Ravens (Corvus corax) in the trees overhead. I had initially thought some of the noises may have been an owl, but later saw a Raven making the same noises that sort of sounded like blowing on the open end of a bottle. Either way, it was a really creepy (though interesting) way to start a solo hike with nobody else around.
Some years are great for Fall colours, and some not as much. This appears to be a year in the Southwest corner of British Columbia that is not so great. Our dry Summer seems to have allowed powdery mildew (a fungus) to grow on the leaves of the Bigleaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum) and as a consequence has impacted the Fall colour display. So instead of great yellows and some orange, many trees are turning from green to a orange tinged brown. Not nearly as photogenic!
While the Fraser Valley does not have a wide variety of plants that make great Fall colours, there is always the Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) to the rescue. This tree, while not as nearly large as the Bigleaf Maple, seems to always come through with at least decent Fall foliage colours in some locations. Just like looking for wildflowers, sometimes all you need is one! While hunting for what turned out to be the elusive Rolley Falls (more on that in my next blog post) I was able to find this Vine Maple along Rolley Creek on the way to the falls.
The Bald Eagles are not the only species here for the Salmon. A lot of gulls were around, and a few Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) too. Herons always seem to make good subjects. They are wary but quite easy to photograph compared to some other species. This Heron was one of the first subjects I photographed with my new Canon 1.4x EF Extender II on my 70-200mm f/4 IS lens. The combo works very nicely!
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) -click to enlarge-
At the Lower Stave River I camped out a few locations that looked as though they might be likely Bald Eagle feeding spots (lots of salmon carcasses). Unfortunately I was not able to photograph any Eagles at these locations – perhaps my presence stuck out. I did manage to wait long enough to have one land in front of me but when I raised my camera (slowly) to make a photograph – they flew away into a nearby tree (the image on the right).
Stay tuned for Part III – this time at the Harrison River…
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) -click to enlarge-
Every Fall there are a considerable amount of Salmon that spawn in the various tributaries of the Fraser River. After spawning, the dead Salmon become great food for Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and other species. There are many locations I visit every year in order to see the Salmon spawn including the Harrison River, Weaver Creek and the Lower Stave River in Mission, British Columbia. There aren’t usually many Eagles near Weaver Creek, but the Harrison and Stave Rivers are usually pretty good places to look for Eagles indulging in the Salmon feast.
The photo above illustrates the one situation where adult Bald Eagles don’t seem all that afraid of someone approaching. I guess they know that people can’t climb trees quickly. I have seen a number of Eagles nearby feeding on Salmon on the ground – but as soon as they see you they take off. Those in the trees do not do this, but a bird up in a tree is not always a very interesting photo. This was the best Eagle photo I made on my first trip to the Lower Stave – but not exactly what I was after.
Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) -click to enlarge-
The first time I visited the Lower Stave River this year was in early December. Standing near a swiftly flowing channel below the Dam, there was suddenly a surge of water moving upstream – this confused me initially. I couldn’t think what would be large enough to create it. Suddenly a lot of Salmon started leaping out of the water, a few flopped up onto the bank and this big Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) surged out of the water, caught one of the Salmon, and continued up stream with the fish hanging from its mouth. I was so shocked that I failed to do anything but stand there… a video or a few photographs would have been awesome. When I finally came to my senses I did make a photograph of the back of the seals head, but this is all I gathered from the encounter. VERY cool to see though – I never expected a Harbour Seal that far upstream, this far inland. I presume it ventured up the Fraser River and the Salmon were a meal well worth the trip.
On Friday I drove out to the area searching for Bald Eagles to photograph. The Lower Stave River still has a lot of Salmon carcasses (and still some live Salmon) for the Eagles to feed on. There are also a ton of Seagulls, Great Blue Herons, and Ducks of all sorts. I still have not managed to get a “good” Eagle photo – but I am still working on it. There are a ton of Bald Eagles out in the Fraser Valley right now, so I will keep going out there for a while trying to get some of the shots that I have in my head (or totally different ones).
Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium gnoma) -click to enlarge-
Neither photo here is a Bald Eagle of course. So often I head out seeking a particular subject or photo, only to come home with completely different subjects. This is great, because even if I am not able to photograph the subject I am looking for – coming home with good photos of something else is nice. I think one of the many things I like about photography is you are just never quite sure what you are going to get.
I had never seen a Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium gnoma) before but immediately recognized it. A very small Owl species, this guy was probably only 17cm (7 inches) high. Much much smaller in size than the other Owl I photographed recently, a Barred Owl. I really enjoy the glare it is giving, though I have no idea what it was looking at. I made several photos of this owl and I think the first one here is my favourite just because of the facial expression – it looks like it is about to kill something. More apparently in a larger version is the small smear of blood on its chest feathers, indicating this is not necessarily an idle threat.
This was also one of my first set of photos using my new Canon 1.4x EF Extender II on my EF 70-200mm f/4L IS. This was handheld and I am quite happy with the early results from the combination of these two.
I have put together some of my favourite images made in the last year into this 11"x17" (28cm x 43cm) nature calendar. Included are 12 photographs of landscape and nature scenes from British Columbia and Washington State.
I am a landscape and nature photographer based in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Most of my subjects are in Southwestern British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest's Washington State. My photography is available for licensing as stock, fine art prints, and giclée canvas wraps.