Monday, February 20, 2012

After the gale.

A month ago at Indian Point a winter storm roared through here: big breakers, surf, thrashing trees and the immense sound of the wind rushing through the forest. Today is calm. The rolls of cloud stretch to the horizon of distant Islands in the Salish Sea. The forest floor is now carpeted with green branches, the ones that somehow missed me as I dodged around taking photos while drinking in the energy of the storm. Without the drama, what is there here today to make a worthwhile picture or two?

We have been inside our home or making dashes from car to stores in town for the past few days. Rain, rain, rain, in all its possible variations. Today only a few occasional drops still fall to keep water speckled, rocks shiny, the orange trunks of the arbutus and the green leaves of the salal gleaming in the grey light. This is what is on offer today if I can bring my sights down from action to contemplation.

I notice too that there have been furniture movements on the beach as well: familiar drift logs have moved on, the gravel beach has become steeper, little streams wind out of the undergrowth and hit the beach running. Al cleaned and washed and tidied. Fresh sheets of seaweed and accents of new jetsam and flotsam catch my eye. While photos are my aim, I am not adverse to a little beachcombing as well. Someone`s storm loss may be my lucky find today.

Fresh images, washed and glazed by rain, are my subjects today at Indian Point.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Winter gale at Indian Point

The gale builds rapidly to forty knots. A winter south-easter is roaring across from Puget Sound and rushing up Fulford Harbour. Big waves, by our standards, crash upon the rocky shore and the wind screams among the trees of Indian Point. Here I am with my camera, perched on a cliff edge, leaning out to get just that perfect angle. I am happy today, there is something about being in a storm that makes the adrenaline flow and of course these conditions create great pictures.

The dangerous part of this walk today are the trees; the chances of a branch or a top being whipped loose and landing on me is high but I am on task, focussed on recording the action. Spectacular! Even among the shadowy trees it is easy to capture the blurred thrashing of the younger ones with a slow shutter speed, although pressing the camera against a large tree trunk for stability does not work as it usually does because even down close to their roots they too are stirring uneasily.

Further down the cliff edge trail I hear a voice behind me. A bearded fellow shouts that he thought he should warn me in case he startled me into leaping over the edge. I laugh and reply that if only my camera was rescued so Bill`s last photo could be saved! I catch up with him later back at the point facing into the storm. Just the two of us here, two people addicted to wind and wave.

He introduces himself as Derek Lundy and I realize that he is a writer about the sea and a sailor himself. I’ve even read one of his books about a square rigger sailing around the Horn, based on the life of an ancestor of his and say how I really liked it. A distant ancestor of mine was lost off the Horn so it had a real relevance for me. He mentions another book he has written about the Vendee Globe race. We part to follow our separate paths home.

A few days later I buy ‘Godforsaken Sea’ and find it a very well written book indeed and I have enough sea experience to move completely into the story. I finally get to the chapter where he interviews the sailors who race alone around the world nonstop through the Southern Ocean. As they talk about how the experience has affected them it is as if a door has opened for me. They are talking about the stuff that I have felt myself and had difficulty transmitting to others. All my sailing in the Pacific was well north of the Southern Ocean but I remember vividly how we repeated our mantra “Boring is good” while at sea because so often it seemed that the other side of routine was wild. Then there were those long, long voyages, especially the last leg home from Tarawa on the equator to Vancouver Island, - over two months, many thousands of miles, amid typhoons, squalls and westerly gales. When talking about the experience I have tried to compare it to war-time combat, living close to death, combined with a sense of the transcendence of the great oceans. During the final approach to Juan de Fuca Strait when it looked like we might survive after all, a sense of deliverance was mixed with a tremendous regret to be moving from this enormous experience back into the superficial, chatty world of human society. Extreme conditions beget extreme experiences and major changes in how we see the world.

No coincidence after all to meet a fellow sailor drinking in the powerful natural energy of a gale at Indian
Point.  for Derek`s website. The windjammer book is 'The way of the Ship'

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bushwacking. A walk on the wild side


It’s the beginning of February on Saltspring Island and the first green leaves are beginning to break bud. So far we have had a mild winter and this morning is warm and bright: time for a walk with my camera at Burgoyne Bay which is a fifteen minute drive across the south end of the island. Partway down the gravel road I pull over near the foundation rocks of an old building and begin to photograph the ruined rail fences and big maples against the looming cliffs of Mt. Maxwell. I have been spoiled recently by cloud-filtered light and find this glaring bright sunlight difficult to work with. The camera cannot handle the range of darks and lights anywhere near as well as my eyes do and the photos will be overly light and overly dark. Adjustable later on the computer to some degree of course, but I regret the filtered light of semi- cloudy days.

There was a light frost last night and as I walk across the fields of this heritage farm ( now a provincial park) the shady grasses are still white. The frost emphasises every detail. As I crest a rise and am about to enter another field I notice a path branching off to the left. A path never taken! Just follow it until I can see where it is going, I say to myself and begin an uphill course through the deep woods. In fifteen minutes I come to the park boundary and a private posted road blocks my progress into the unknown. Will I retrace my steps? Hardly! I find a sketchy trail that follows an old logging road and push through the broom and new young firs on a downhill course. Somewhere ahead is the top of another field. The trail peters out and I have another choice to make. Too late to go back now!

Soon I am wading through waist high salal, testing every step carefully, pushing through brambles and winding around old stumps. This is logged-off land and the new growth is really taking off. Deeper and deeper into the briar patch I wade. Looking up I can see that there are no treetops ahead so the field cannot be far off. The last hundred feet is a mess of young May trees with their sharp thorns and I am glad of my heavy canvas work jacket. I awkwardly step over an old wire fence and am out at last. This kind of off-the-beaten-path venturing really should not be rewarded with success. I am likely to do it again soon.

I walk across the fields to photograph in an alder swamp, visit with ducks and gulls on the shore of the bay and drop in on the old barn on my way back to my van. I get several good photos but I will mostly remember this morning for my little stroll on the wild side.