Finding the Right Spot

Jedidiah sunburst-3391

We take a lot of photographs in the remote areas of the Washington State and British Columbia.  We travel to a lot of these places on our boat, Salish Lady.  Our boating/photography trips usually involve challenges of selecting a general location, getting there by boat, finding a safe place to anchor, and then launching the dinghy to get to shore.

I think all serious landscape photographers know that getting just the right light is the most important factor in achieving a STUNNING photograph.  However, without some kind of interest in the composition, even the absolute best light and color can’t move a beautiful photograph into the STUNNING category.

Working in the wilderness of Inside Passage makes it doubly hard.  The environment here is beautiful and overwhelming.  Almost every place you stand feels like it should be the “spot”.  But it is also a very complex environment and our eyes do an incredibly good job at distilling the environment for us.  In a photograph, complexity can get in the way of creating the STUNNING image.

Finding the right spot to take the photograph becomes an obsession.  We spend hours and hours trekking across the shore, up hills, and wandering around on small islands.  Don’t get me wrong; we really enjoy this exploration and would do it even if we never had any intention of taking a photograph.  However, finding a spot with just the right “stuff” drives this process.

So how do we decide on the right spot? All the usual rules of composition apply, but the trick we have found that seems to trump everything is simplicity.  We drive to create a simple image, without distractions, but still something to capture the viewers’ emotions.  We like to allow the simplicity combined with the colors tell the story.  When we are really successful, the image tells a story and hints at the broader beauty of the area.  A goal we strive for but rarely achieve.

So when faced with an overwhelmingly beautiful vista, look for the simple composition.  Have faith that from a simple image the story will be clear.

Back on the Water


We are back on our boat Salish Lady for another year of cruising in the Pacific Northwest (and BC southwest).  This year is a little different because I (Shawn) have semi-retired from some of my business concerns and hope to be fully retired by the end of the year.  Although I still have some business responsibilities, this is the first time in many years where I can set my own agenda every day.

Spending time on our boat has helped with the transition because there are always maintenance tasks to be completed.  She can be a demanding lady at times.  Boat projects are a nice distraction because they are discrete tasks that can be planned and completed in a few days.  It is always nice to progress through a “To Do” list relatively quickly.

I was very fatigued because the last few years have been extremely stressful. The downtime I have had in the last month to rest and recover has been rejuvenating.

I am now starting to turn my focus to writing and photography, two hobbies that have had the potential to be much more than just hobbies.  In previous years, we had a pretty good stream of articles and photographs that were published in boating magazines, but that activity waned as I had more demands on my time and energy due to my businesses.

Currently, Corinne and I are working on two different book projects.  As I start to put more energy into them, my days have become increasingly busy and it won’t be long before I will whine about never having enough time.  We also plan to put together more of our images with the “she saw/he saw” theme that we initiated last winter.  We post many of these on our Z Frontier Photography Facebook page  (

All-in-all it has been a nice transition to a new focus for my time and energy and I am enjoying the chance to work on some creative endeavors.

2012 Summer Cruise – Bamfield to Victoria

Frances Barkley ferry service to Bamfield

We were on our way back to Victoria by 6:00 AM today. The fog was pea soup thick this morning. The fog finally lifted about 10:30 AM to display a crystal clear blue sky day.

The ocean was very unsettled coming around Cape Beale. On the whole it was not that bad a ride. The sea swell was about 5 ft but it was confused. The ocean felt like a giant washing machine with us as a little cork slogging through. The ride was a little uncomfortable for about 2 hours, but not a problem. From Pachena Point to Sooke, we rode a 3 to 7 ft swell. It was coming from our stern which gives a pretty comfortable ride. Sometimes we have the sensation of surfing as a wave from behind lifts us to the top and slowing move forward, until it pass us and we drop down into the trough.

There was nearly no wind at all today. So although the swell got a little large, the water was pretty smooth. We battled the outgoing current most of the day. It was taking about 1.5 to 2.0 knots off of our speed, so we used a bit higher RPM on the engine to compensate a little. Even with the extra engine power, the day was a long one. Our return trip was about 1 to 2 hours longer than our outbound trip 2 weeks ago.

There was very little boat traffic on the way up Juan de Fuca Strait. There was the usual procession of large freighters in and out Juan de Fuca Strait and a few commercial fishing boats trolling their gear. Otherwise we only saw one sailing vessel at least. We spotted a couple of other vessels on Radar but never got a visual on them due to the fog.

The Coast Guard have been announcing a lot of military activity at the military exercise areas WH (called Whiskey Hotel) and WG (Whiskey Gulf). The Coast Guard (Canada and US) were indicating that both areas would have live fire exercises. Not a problem for us as we are not close to either area.

There was no room on the dock in Victoria’s inner harbor. Corinne found us a reciprocal spot at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club in Cadboro Bay on the east side of Victoria. The Seattle Yacht Club membership has proved quite handy so far. We were warmly welcomed and once we got the paper work finished, we took Prince for a walk in the ritzier part of Victoria. We were headed for a park at the head of Cadboro Bay, but discovered that dogs are not allowed in the Park after 9:00 AM.

2012 Summer Cruise – Poett Nook to Bamfield

We walked Prince on another marshy beach in Poett Nook this morning. There was a pretty little creek in the southwest corner of the bay. However, the beach area was rather slimy and mucky, so it didn’t encourage us to walk the waterline.

We started out early in the morning, hoping we might catch some fish during the morning bite. We trolled along the southern shore on Trevor Channel. However, the fish were elusive once again.

We docked at the Harborside Resort in Bamfield again. John welcomed us to the dock. He had been in Australia when we were here two weeks ago. After getting tied up it was time to head off to Brady Beach. Prince had a great time playing on the beach. However, when we got home we noticed that his right front foot was swelling up and he was limping. It looked more like a sprain than cut but we will keep an eye on it for the next couple of days. We were going to take him for another long walk to the north end of the Bamfield inlet before dinner, but he was just not up to it.

Shawn went up to the store to get some nuts. We like to snack on them when we are traveling or fishing instead of making lunch. If the weather is cool, Corinne prefers soup.

We spent the afternoon getting Ocean Mistress ready for her trip back to Victoria. The wind could end up being quite strong, but should be from behind us. The tide will ebbing against us and it will be in the opposite direction from the wind and swells. These factors could make it a slow bumpy day as we head south and east on the Juan de Fuca.

2012 Summer Cruise – Robbers Passage to Poett Nook

It was a quiet morning with lots of clouds. We are not planning to go very far, so we decided to do a few boat chores before leaving this morning. Corinne gave the bathroom in the Master stateroom a good cleaning. I changed a filter that appeared to be leaking. There are a couple of oil leaks that I will need to address when I get back Anacortes. The oil leaks are annoying, but don’t appear to be serious.

We went fishing at Pill Point again. All we were catching were weeds and mackerel. Last night we were told that the “catching” was better last week. That seems to be the story we often get. Well at least we caught a couple salmon in Clayoquot Sound last week.

We also learned that most of the fish are being caught 15 to 20 miles off shore in 200 ft of water. We don’t have the gear for that kind of fishing. Further it would take us 3 hours to get out and and another 3 to get back.

The sun came out a little for the afternoon. We decided to anchor in Poett Nook. It is a lovely anchorage. There is a large oyster lease at the back of the bay and a marina/RV Park on the east side of the bay. We docked at the marina to see if we could take Prince for a walk, they said yes but charged us $10 (plus tax), similar to the load and unload fees. We won’t be going back there.

We took a walk on the gravel road out beyond the RV Park area. There were no cars or trucks during our walk, but we kept Prince on the leash in case we did encounter some traffic. Along the road, there were lots of ripe thimbleberries that we snacked on.

We returned to the boat for some dinner and then took Prince over to a little beach by the old oyster farm for another piddle break. There was only a small area to explore, so we were not off the boat too long. It was a very calm night.

2012 Summer Cruise – Pinkerton Islands to Robbers Passage

We awoke to a very low tide this morning. This usually means it is a good opportunity for some beachcombing. A black bear defeated that attempt. The bear had already claimed the beach for his/her own investigation. We deferred to the bear and went to one of the small Pickerton Islands that was in the area near the boat.

It was a very peaceful morning. There was no breeze. According to the weather report, there might be a little storm this evening. However, it does not sound like it has much of a punch or will last very long.

We are planning to head back to civilization on Friday. Two week vacations are way too short. Just about the time I get relaxed, I start thinking about all the issues that are waiting for me to address.

We tried some fishing today at Swale Rock, but had no luck. I spent most of the time removing weeds from the gear. There were half a dozen boats trying to catch fish, but like us they spent a lot of time clearing weeds. The sun shone for most of the day, so at least it was nice weather for fishing.

The Port Aberni Yacht Club (PAYC) Outstation at Robbers Passage was our destination tonight. We were warmly greeted by the owners of Carpe Diem who were yacht club members who were hosts. Apparently, we lucked out today because the dock had been very busy for the last few days. Several large boats had just left which opened up space for us. This is a great outstation and one of our favorite stops. It has well maintained docks and a great trail and beaches for walking Prince.

With the sun out for the afternoon, we pulled out our deck cars and sat in the cockpit enjoying some warm weather. There was also plenty of time for Prince to get in two walks on the trails.

2012 Summer Cruise – Ucluelet to Pinkerton Islands

Today was a resupply day. After the usual Prince walk, Corinne and I were off to the local CO-OP. We needed some fresh food but were otherwise pretty well supplied. We also added some water and stopped to get some gasoline for the dinghy.

We got off the dock about 11:30 AM. We headed to the entrance of Ucluelet to do some fishing. We caught a very small salmon, but not a keeper. Corinne suggested that we troll into the islands. We eventually ended up at Pill Point. We had not luck there either. When I say we had no luck, I mean we did not catch any salmon. We did catch 6 Lingcod but since we do not eat Lingcod, they were all returned to the deep.

The anchorage for the night was in a very small and protected cove in the Pinkerton Islands near a float home. We have used this anchorage before and really like it. There is really only enough room for one boat and we were surprised that it was available. There are sailboats anchored in the other less suitable anchorages nearby.

We arrived at our evening anchorage quite late. It was about 7:00 PM when we took the dinghy around the corner to the logging road. Unfortunately, the logging site which was inactive during our last trip looks very active today. They appear to be building new roads and are using explosives based on the signs posted and 2 heavy duty metal containers about the size of garden sheds. There were some No Trespassing signs. It’s the first time I have actually seen a logging area posted. We took a very short walk and then headed back to Ocean Mistress for the evening.