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Wildlife: Vancouver Island Garter Snake

I ran into this Vancouver Island garter snake yesterday while watering the garden and managed to get quite close to take this video. He was actually quite curious and came to check out my iPhone while I took the video before slithering away.

About Garter Snakes

Most garter snakes have a pattern of yellow stripes on a brown or green background and their average length is about 55 cm, with a maximum length of about 137 cm. 

Garter snakes are very thin snakes. Most have longitudinal stripes in many different colours. They come in a wide range of colours including: green, blue, yellow, gold, red, orange, brown, and black. In summer, they are most active in the morning and late afternoon; in cooler seasons or climates, they restrict their activity to the warm afternoons.

The saliva of a garter snake may be toxic to amphibians and other small animals. For humans, a bite is not dangerous, though it may cause slight itching, burning, and/or swelling. Most garter snakes also secrete a foul-smelling fluid from postanal glands when handled or harmed. [source: Wikipedia]

This isn’t the first time I’ve run into a garter snake in my garden though, I saw another one (or maybe even the same one?) in the same spot just a few weeks ago and snapped this photo:

Vancouver Island Garter Snake

Have you ever been up close and personal with a snake? Please share your story in the comments below.

 

Olympic Spirit Project Postcards Are Here!

I’m so excited to announce that the Olympic Spirit Project postcards are now available in the online store! YAY!!! 

BUY NOW!

Why Are Olympic Spirit Project Postcards Awesome?

  • They are an original tangible souvenir from the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, not a commercialized or virtual product that everyone else has.
  • People LOVE getting personalized mail! All most of us get these days is bills. Send an Olympic Spirit Project postcard to let someone know you’re thinking about them while supporting this inspiring ongoing project!
  • All photos were taken by yours truly in Sochi, Russia during the 2014 Olympic Games
  • They help keep Olympic Spirit alive between Olympic Games
  • Proceeds from postcard sales will go toward continuing the Olympic Spirit Project in Rio, Brazil in 2016 and beyond!

Cards Included in the Olympic Spirit Project Postcard Pack:

The 5-pack of postcards is available for only $17.95 while they last.

If you’re interested in purchasing individual cards or multiple copies of a single card, please contact me for pricing. Quantity discounts available.

BUY POSTCARDS

What’s Next?

The Olympic Spirit Project book is very close to being completed and sent off for publishing! I can’t wait to see the images in print and to share the final book and eBook with you! Stay tuned for updates!

Oh, and if your wondering where I get the cards printed, it’s through the super awesome MOO SHOP. <— Click this link for 10% off your very own MOO order!

 

Please Share the Olympic Spirit With a Tweet!

 

 

Photography: 10 Camera Set-Up and Planning Tips

Summer presents us with some great photography opportunities with more light, longer days and clear summer skies. So with that in mind, I’m sharing some camera set-up and planning tips to help improve your photography skills not only for summer, but year round.

  1. Set your camera’s date, time and filename – Setting the date and time will help you organize your photos later when editing and will make them easier to find down the road if you’re looking for a particular photo. Set the filename to something you will find easily and can identify as your own images. I use my initials.
  2. Turn off camera sounds – Turning off the camera beeps makes shooting less intrusive. When shooting wildlife, especially, these camera sounds can distract and scare the animals, which could ruin your shot.
  3. Camera RAW SettingSet your file format – You should be shooting RAW files for the highest quality images with the most versatility for editing. Raw files can take longer to write to your memory cards, however, so if you are time bound, set it to high quality JPG mode.
  4. Format memory cards – Make sure your memory cards are formatted and ready for use. It helps to get into the habit of formatting your cards immediately after you’ve downloaded your images to ensure that they are ready for the next time you want to use them.
  5. Charge your batteries – Get into the habit of charging your batteries as soon as they get low to avoid a dead battery when you need your camera unexpectedly. There’s nothing worse than missing a shot because you are out of battery power.
  6. Clean your equipment – Clean your lenses, filters and camera sensors regularly to avoid unnecessary image editing later to remove dust and spots. Keep a lens cloth in your camera bag to clean your lenses on the go. Give your tripod a good wash and wipe down after you use it outside as well, to avoid damage or corrosion.
  7. Clean out your camera bag – To prevent getting dirt and dust in your camera and lenses, clean out your camera bag at least every few months.
  8. Pack Spare Essentials – Always carry a spare charged battery and extra memory cards in your camera bag. They don’t weigh much and it’s worth having them around if you need them.
  9. Bring a plastic garbage bag – Pack a plastic garbage bag in case of rain or as a ground cover if you have to get down in the dirt.
  10. Plan your shoot – Check a map before you head out, so you don’t waste time (and optimal light) looking for your location. Research the sun’s position ahead of time to ensure it doesn’t end up being behind a building or mountain at the time of your shoot. I use the Photographer’s Ephemeris, a handy app available for desktop and mobile devices that gives you sunrise and sunset times and directions, and lots of other information.
    Photographer's Ephemeris

What are some of the things you do to set up your camera and plan your photo shoots? Share in the comments below.

Stay tuned next week for 10 Exposure and Camera Setting Tips!

 

Day Trip: Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island

One of Vancouver Island’s truly unique beach experiences is Botanical Beach, near Port Renfrew in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park.

Botanical Beach is about a three-hour drive from either Victoria (via Sooke) or Nanaimo (via Lake Cowichan), so make sure you head out early to give yourself plenty of time to explore and enjoy the beach. It is a day-use area only, camping is not permitted on this beach. The best time to visit is at low tide, so you can walk out across the flat sandstone and granite beach to view tide pools filled with brightly coloured marine life.

 

Botanical Beach, BC - Map

Botanical Beach is one of the richest tidal areas on the Island’s west coast. You’ll find that the tidal pools are full of life, including mussels, snails, sea urchins, anemones, crabs, little fish, kelp and more. It’s a natural aquarium that will keep you busy for hours.

Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island

Tide Pool on Botanical Beach Tide Pool on Botanical Beach Tide Pool on Botanical Beach

There are also opportunities to view larger marine life. I’ve seen a pod of grey whales and orcas breaching off Botanical Beach on two separate occasions. Whales have feeding grounds just off Juan de Fuca Park. The best time to see Grey whales is during their migration from the Mexico to Alaska in March and April. Harbour seals and sea lions are also commonly found playing offshore from August to May. Keep your eyes peeled on the open water and you could get lucky.

Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island

Tips for Visiting Botanical Beach

  • Look in the tide pools only – do not touch the marine life.
  • Do not remove, collect or disturb any tide pool life, shells, plants, flowers, kelp, etc. Even touching the water in a tide pool with sunscreen on your hands can create an “oil slick” that could kill the vulnerable creatures in this sensitive ecosystem.
  • Watch your step while exploring. The rocks can be very slippery and can be dangerously sharp.
  • Bring your camera. Photos make great souvenirs.
  • Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun and bring a hat for additional protection.
  • Be sure to remove any valuables from your vehicle. Thieves are active in the area and it’s not uncommon to get back to your car to find that you’ve had an unwanted intrusion.
  • Watch for wildlife. Juan de Fuca Provincial Park is a wilderness area and there are black bears and cougars in the area. Be aware of your surroundings and if you happen to come across local wildlife, do not feed or approach it. Wildlife gets dangerous if they feel cornered or have young. Steer clear, even if it means you need to leave the beach for your own safety.
  • Bring binoculars in case you’re lucky enough to see whales playing off shore.
  • Pack a picnic. There are a couple of diner/cafe options in Port Renfrew, but there is nothing right on or near the beach. Pack a lunch with you if you plan to make it a full day trip.
  • Pack it in, pack it out. If you bring a picnic or a snack to the beach, make sure you pack out all your garbage and dispose of it responsibly. No one likes a litterbug, please keep our parks and beaches clean.
  • Stay for sunset. It’s absolutely beautiful!

Botanical Beach is a true gem on Vancouver Island’s west coast. It’s a must see and is one of my all time favourite day trips. For more information, please visit the BC Parks website.

What have you discovered in the tide pools at Botanical Beach?

Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island

Day Trip: Sandcut Beach on Vancouver Island

How to Get to Sandcut Beach

Sandcut Beach is one of my favourite day trips along Vancouver Island’s southern west coast. It is situated between French Beach Provincial Park and Jordan River, about 30 kilometres west of Sooke along the Juan de Fuca Highway. Access to the beach is easy to find with a gravel parking lot just off the highway.

Sandcut Beach Map

The beach is about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot along a trail through thick forest of giant cedar, spruce and douglas fir trees draped with moss and witch’s hair, also known as old man’s beard. You’ll walk along a boardwalk and take in fantastic views of the Olympic Peninsula through the breaks in the trees as you make your way to the beach.

The Forest on the wat to Sandcut Beach

The boardwalk on the way to Sandcut Beach

Views along the trail to Sandcut Beach

What To Do At Sandcut Beach

After a short walk along the stone and pebble beach, you’ll find a beautiful sandstone waterfall. It’s a perfect spot to plant your picnic basket and blanket to take a break for lunch.

If you’re a rock collector, there are thousands upon thousands of rocks to explore and collect on the beach, and if you like beach creatures, some will have all kinds of life under them when overturned. On warmer days, it’s a beautiful place to swim and there are some nice sandy patches to make it easier to walk into the water.

Giant kelp on Sandcut Beach The waterfall at Sandcut Beach Waterfall at Sandcut Beach The waterfall at Sandcut Beach

Cliffs line the beach and at the end there is a gorgeous rock formation that you can climb to get a bird’s eye 180 degree view of Juan de Fuca Straight and the Olympic Peninsula on a clear day. Sandcut beach is a great place for a campfire to roast a tasty lunch (please mind the fire restrictions), and if you’re lucky, you’ll even see a pod of whales playing out in the open water as you sit on the beach listening to the wind, waves and the pebbles tumbling in the surf.

Sandcut Beach Sandcut Beach Sandcut Beach Climbing Rocks at Sandcut Beach

Sandcut Beach is one of the more natural beaches along Vancouver Island’s southwest coastline. There are no facilities provided, so make sure you come prepared.

 Tips For A Day Trip To Sandcut Beach

There are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Sandcut Beach or any provincial park in BC:

  1. Do not leave valuables in your vehicle. Thieves are active in the area and are not shy to break into cars. Make sure you take your valuables with you and lock your car before heading to the beach. There are sometimes volunteers keeping an eye on the parking lots during high traffic times, but don’t count on this being the case on a regular basis.
  2. Respect the wildlife. There is all kinds of wildlife on Vancouver Island, including bears and cougars. Be aware of your surroundings and if you happen to come across local wildlife, do not feed it, do not approach it, and give it lots of room. Wildlife gets dangerous if they feel cornered or have young with them. Steer clear, even if it means you need to leave the beach for your own safety.
  3. Protect yourself from the sun. Use sunscreen and bring a hat. No one likes a sunburn and skin cancer is largely preventable. Be sun smart.
  4. Pack it in, pack it out. If you bring a picnic or a snack to the beach, make sure you pack out all your garbage and dispose of it responsibly. No one likes a litterbug, please keep our parks and beaches clean.
  5. Bring a camera! Sandcut Beach is a beautiful place for photography, especially the waterfall. We all have our camera phones with us these days, but it’s well worth it to bring your actual camera to this one.

Have you been to Sandcut Beach? Please share your experience in the comments.

Day Trip: Exploring Protection Island

Since moving back to Vancouver Island, I’ve done my best to follow through on my promise to myself to explore a new place or try something new at least once a week. This week was no exception and when I unexpectedly ended up exploring Protection Island, just off Nanaimo, BC.

Protection Island on Google Maps

To get to Protection Island, you need to take a 5-minute passenger ferry near the corner of Front Street and Promenade Drive. Although I found the ferry cost to be somewhat expensive ($9 return), it was well worth it once I saw what awaited me on the other side.

Boat Ride to Protection Island

Welcome to Protection Island

The main mode of transportation on Protection Island is by golf cart. The dirt roads are lined with lovely rustic cabins and cottages, and the beachfront homes have absolutely beautiful views. I found the island to have a very welcoming atmosphere; the people were friendly, saying hello or waving as they passed by in their golf cart, or on their bicycle. Protection Island in Nanaimo

We arrived on the island at mid-afternoon and decided to walk around and explore a bit before finding a seat on the sunny patio at the Dinghy Dock Pub. We weaved down the dirt roads (all named with a pirate theme) and explored every beach access trail we came across.

Protection Island in Nanaimo Protection Island in Nanaimo

Protection Island in NanaimoProtection Island in NanaimoProtection Island in NanaimoProtection Island in NanaimoProtection Island in Nanaimo

It was hard to believe that Nanaimo was only a 5 minute boat ride away. It felt like a whole other world and was a bit reminiscent of the time I spent on the islands in Belize. There were even palm trees!

Protection Island in Nanaimo

Protection Island in Nanaimo

Appys at the Dinghy Dock Pub

All that exploring makes a girl thirsty, so after a couple of hours we found our way back to the Dinghy Dock Pub and found a seat on the floating patio for well-deserved cocktails and appys. The pub was decorated with a pirate theme and also had a huge projection tv, perfect for a fun hockey (or other preferred sport) night out. If you arrive by private boat, there are lots of boatslips around the pub to moor your boat while you enjoy your meal.

We ordered the Thai mussels, crab stuffed mushroom caps and a pint of prawns. Sadly, I didn’t take photos of the food. I’m a huge fan of seafood, so as soon as the food hit the table I dived right in. The appys were delicious, the drinks were refreshing, the service was good and the hot sun and the view were amazing!

Dinghy DOck Pub on Protection Island Dinghy DOck Pub on Protection Island

Protection Island made for a perfect mix of afternoon exploration and patio time; I highly recommend it as a fun day trip adventure if you’re in the Nanaimo area. Although we didn’t stick around for sunset, I imagine this would be a perfect spot to watch it from. I look forward to returning later this summer to take one in and to explore the island further! 

Ferry Information:

The ferry runs from 7am to 10pm (11pm on Thursdays and Fridays). It leaves Protection Island every hour on the hour, and leaves the Nanaimo side 10  minutes past every hour. The ramp to access the Protection Island Ferry waiting room is located on the corner of Front Street and Promenade Drive in downtown Nanaimo.

Round Trip Fares:

Adult – $9.00
Senior (age: 65+) – $8.00
Child (age: 6-12) – $6.00
Bikes – $5.00
Dogs – $2.00

Have you been to Protection Island? Share your experience in the comments below.

Bali Dive Guide Featuring My Photos!

Bali DIVEmApps logo

Are you a scuba diver? Are you planning to dive in Bali? You need the Bali Dive Guide from DIVEmApps!

DIVEmApps recently released the Bali Dive Guide featuring photos from my travels in Bali! (Yay!)

The guide is built by divers for divers and gives you access to information about the most popular dive destinations and dive sites around Bali, Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. Use the app to search dive sites, common fish and coral libraries. 

“The Bali Dive Guide by DIVEmApps is an indispensable tool for divers. It is an essential Dive Guide for anyone interested in diving Bali’s best sites. “
– Robert Scales, DIVEmApps’ Publisher

Plan your dives, explore new sites, check out the fish and coral sections, local emergency action plans, view detailed hand-crafted dive site maps created by experienced local guides and instructors, read the Mola and Manta codes of conduct, and learn about local conservation initiatives, review relevant fish signs and hand signals, and much more.

Bali Dive Guide Features:

  • Relevant information about Bali’s history, culture and point of interests
  • Pre dive information: Briefing, buddy check, hand signals, conservation, and code of conduct
  • Emergency Action Plan with local contacts
  • Searchable dives sites, fish and coral libraries
  • User friendly universal App (optimized for iOS 7, iPad Retina and iPhone 5)

My images are featured in the ‘About Bali’ section of the app:

In-App Purchase:

(Unlock all content on this DIVEmApps with a one-time payment $3.99) 

  • 30+ dive site descriptions with occasional tips, depth, and suggested experience level.
  • 30+ quality hand-drawn maps of some of the most popular dive sites around Bali, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Penida, Indonesia
  • 50+ common fish, coral, and invertebrates images and descriptions

The Bali Dive Guide is a great interactive tool for divers.

The Bali Dive Guide is available for FREE in the App Store.
* The Android version is expected to be released in June 2014.

Be sure to follow Bali Dive Guide on Facebook and Twitter for updates and other useful diving information.

For more photos from my travels in Bali, please visit my Flickr page

Have you used the Bali Dive Guide? What did you think?

Take a Scenic Tour with Harbour Air

Harbour Air held business card draw at Social Media Camp‘s networking bash this past weekend where winners would win a scenic tour with Harbour Air around Victoria for themselves and a guest. Although I didn’t win the draw, I was invited by two of the winners to join them for this wonderful lunch-hour adventure! Having never been on a float plan before, I was very excited! Led by Turbo the Sea Otter, the winning group traipsed from the Victoria Conference Centre, through the Fairmont Empress Hotel and down to the Harbour Air flight docks in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Turbo made a few new friends along the way. Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights After some quick photos with Turbo (I kind of have a thing for mascots – I love them!), the pilot led us down to the plane for priority boarding. After watching the safety video for the flight, we were off! Woohoo! Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight The flight was incredible! Victoria looked very different from the sky than I imagined it in my mind from driving around the city. We toured the Victoria area for about 30 minutes and enjoyed so many beautiful views, before returning to the Inner Harbour. Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight After taking a closer look at their website, I’ve concluded that Harbour Air is a very convenient way to travel around the West Coast of British Columbia. They fly from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria, to BC’s Gulf Islands and even to up Comox and Whistler. If you’re not interested in the long travel times of ferries and stresses of the road, this is the way to go. With docks at YVR, the Vancouver Harbour and Victoria’s Inner Harbour, it’s the most convenient island hopper I’ve seen, especially for business commuters.

Harbour Air also provides private charters and parcel service. Other scenic tours include flights around Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler, Nanaimo and Seachelt. Learn more at the Harbour Air website.

Sending a huge thank you to @HarbourAirLtd for the lunch-hour adventure, and to @Vancouverscape and @Bars_Bartending for inviting me to join them! It was an awesome way to take my first ever seaplane flight! I highly recommend Harbour Air’s scenic tours to anyone wanting a bird’s eye view of this beautiful place we live in. Yay!

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali – Your Paradise in Paradise

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali is the most beautiful villa I have ever stayed at. I visited Bali for the first time in the spring of 2010 to photograph this gorgeous paradise. The home is built on an old mango orchard, on a mountain with a 180 degree view over Lovina and the ocean. It is more of an estate than a villa really; there is the Main House, the Guest House, and the Sunset House.

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main entrance

Welcome to Villa Kembang Kertas – Bali

The Garden

There is a rice paddy on the grounds which they harvest throughout the year, as well as a full garden boasting fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables year round. They grow their own peanuts, mangos, lemongrass, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, lettuce, corn on the cob, citrus fruits to name a few. The kitchen staff serves fresh home grown ingredients whenever they are available. It’s so wonderful to know that you are eating fresh, local, organically grown produce while staying here!

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Grounds and Garden

The Main House

The Main House is a 2-story home plus a basement with laundry and storage facilities. It has three bedrooms (2 upstairs and one downstairs), which each sleep two people. Two rooms with king-sized beds and one room with twin single beds and each room has its own private ensuite with toilet and shower and the two king bedrooms have giant stone bathtubs.

The Bedrooms

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Bedroom Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Bedroom Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Ensuite Villa Kembang Kertas Bali Ensuite Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Master bedroom with ensuite bathroom including giant tub and shower. Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Master bedroomVilla Kembang Kertas Bali - Twin Bedroom Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Twin Bedroom Ensuite

Both levels of the house have a gorgeous deck with an incredible ocean view and sunsets that are out of this world. On the main floor is a kitchen that a chef’s dreams are made of. The main indoor area is open concept with a living space, dining area and a lounging area. All of this opens up to giant sliding glass doors onto a beautiful deck. Outside is an outdoor living room and dining room, which (when I wasn’t in the pool) is where I spent most of my time at the villa when I wasn’t photographing it. In front of the house, below the deck, there is a big mango-shaped infinity pool, with lounge chairs and a gazebo in case guests want to get out of the sun.

The Living Spaces

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main house, upper deck Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Upper deck Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main floor deck and lounge areas. Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main floor deck and lounge areas. Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main floor deck and lounge areas.Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Swimming Pool

The Guest House

The Guest House is much smaller than the Main House, but is a lovely cozy place to call home. It is a single level house and sleeps two. The house consists of a bedroom/living space with king-sized bed, a fully equipped kitchen and a bathroom with an enclosed outdoor shower. The main living space is on the deck with a view similar similar to that of the Main House.

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Guest house Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Guest house Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Guest house Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Guest house

The Sunset House

The Sunset House was closed when I visited, but it is equally beautiful. I was only able to photograph it from the outside while they were renovating.

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Sunset House Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Sunset House

More Information

For more information about the villa or to reserve your own stay at this private paradise, please visit the website at VillaKembangKertas.com.

To see more photos of the house and the grounds, please visit the set on Flickr.

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Sunset View from upper deck View from upper deck.

A Tamarindo Sunset

My favourite colour and favourite time of day is sunset.

This one is in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, where I have watched some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Like this photo? Visit my INK361 Shop for prints and other cool photo products. This iPhone case could be yours!

iPhone photo case