Camping and Kayaking at Porteau Cove

Susannah and I love camping. We also love kayaking. Unfortunately these days we don’t get to do either very often. We had a camping trip planned for Spring but had to cancel at the last minute. Then it was summer and all the campgrounds were booked up. Finally, after the September long weekend, we got the opportunity to go camping for 5 nights at Porteau Cove Provincial Park.

Porteau Cove is our favourite local camping spot. It’s only a 45 minute drive from Vancouver which means if we have to pop back to the city we can. It’s also located at the edge of a Marine Park and has great wildlife viewing.

The Park has 60 sites – 44 drive-in and 16 walk-in. We’ve stayed at several different sites and definitely have our favourites. We were stoked to be able to book one of the best sites in the walk-in campground. We like it because it’s at the end of the campground so only has one neighbour. There’s also an additional area next to the designated site that we can spread out in.

Our little campsite

Surprisingly, the walk-in campground was not busy. Almost every day the entire walk-in area cleared out and we had it to ourselves for a few hours before a few new campers moved in.

An empty campground is rare in BC

Almost to ourselves anyway…

This Stellar Jay was very cheeky

The weather was a mixed bag and while it rained quite a lot, we were treated to some fantastic sunny and even hot periods between storms. We were able to get out on the water quite a bit and paddle around the Coast.

The perspective you get from the water is completely different from the view from the beach and you can feel like you are the only people there.

Kayaking is good for marine mammal watching.

Can you spot the seal?

As well as accessing unknown beaches.

The campground is very long so if you walk from one end to the other you’ll be treated to some great views down Howe Sound and with the ever changing weather it’ll look very different each time. The misty BC look is one of my favourites.

Susannah in her happy place

Once or twice a day a train runs along the adjacent train tracks and it’s super noisy, but apart from that we found our September camping trip to be quite quiet. We spent time exploring, beach combing and watching the world go by.

A rock display left by one beach comber
Looking very Autumnal

There was a film crew working on the water and at the dock which was entertaining to watch. This boat sped in and out delivering people and gear to the set on the water.

Porteau Cove and the view of Anvil Island will always a very special place for us. We hope to visit again soon.

The RCMP Musical Ride

RCMP Musical Ride

The RCMP Musical Ride is coming to town!

The RCMP Musical Ride consists of a troop of 32 riders and 32 beautiful black Hanoverian horses. Together they perform drills and precise formations set to music. It’s a great show of Canadian culture and also history – the drills and use of lances date back to the late 1800s. The show even includes a cavalry style “charge” which is a crowd pleaser.

RCMP Musical Ride

The Musical Ride is touring across Canada in celebration of Canada’s 150th  birthday. They are visiting all ten Provinces and one Territory. This week you can catch them in Burnaby at Swangard Stadium on August 18, and in Vancouver at the PNE on August 19, 20, 22 and 23. On August 21 they’ll be in Maple Ridge at the Maple Ridge AG Association grounds.

RCMP Musical Ride
We saw them a couple of years ago and just loved the beautiful horses with their sleek black coats contrasting with the red serge of the riders.

If you are wanting to do something a little different, check out this entertaining, family-friendly event. The full schedule can be found here.

The Orpheum Theatre

This week I was lucky enough to go on a self-guided tour of one of Vancouver’s most magnificent buildings, the Orpheum Theatre. Built in 1927 the Orpheum originally hosted vaudeville acts and showed Hollywood silent movies. The theatre’s decor is opulent, with grand staircases, gold leaf, crystal chandeliers and detailed walls and ceilings.

It’s a photographer’s dream location!

Before I say more about the tour, take a look for yourself. Here is a quick video I shot while walking through the theatre.


See? Did I not say it’s magnificent?!

The tours run 3 times a day on Tuesdays, Wednesday’s and Saturdays. I went on a very quiet Tuesday and it was almost like having the whole venue to myself. The tours are for one hour and are self-guided which means you can take your time – be sure to stop for photographs! Theatre staff members are around to assist and answer any questions.

The history and stories of the Orpheum are very interesting.  It was at one time Canada’s largest and most opulent theatre. It still houses its original Wurlitzer organ. The Wurlitzer is the last one in Canada still in its original location and working. Staff told me it’s worth over a million dollars today!

The Mighty Wurlitzer
Wurlitzer detail

Tony Heinsbergen, the artist who painted the iconic ceiling mural in 1975-6, was also involved in decorating the Orpheum before it’s original opening in 1927.

The ceiling mural was painted by Tony Heinsbergen in 1975-6
Details of the domed ceiling

There are 145 crystal chandeliers in the Orpheum.

The detailing in the walls and panels is incredible.

In 1973 Famous Players decided to convert the Orpheum into a multiplex movie theatre. A “Save the Orpheum” public protest and a fundraising campaign was launched.

The moving picture projector

In 1974, the City of Vancouver bought the theatre for $7.1 million. It underwent restoration in the mid-seventies and was recognized as a National Historic Site in 1979. The theatre is now home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

The Orpheum is an amazing venue and well worth a visit. Whether you are a local or a visitor to Vancouver, put this iconic Theatre on your must-see list. You won’t be disappointed.

Star Trails and Olympus Live Composite

The Perseid Meteor Shower happens every year from mid-July as the Earth passes through the debris trail of the Swift-Tuttle comet. The last meteor shower was visible between August 7-12 with peak viewing on the night of August 11. We decided to head up Burnaby Mountain to check it out. So did half of Vancouver and it was really crowded when we arrived at about 12:30am. Luckily many people were already packing up to leave and within 45 minutes the area had emptied out considerably.

It was too cloudy for perfect meteor viewing so instead of trying to capture meteors I decided to try out the live composite function on my Olympus O-MD E-M5II and to capture some star trails.

Live Composite is extremely cool. Essentially in this mode the camera takes a series of photos and stacks them in-camera to create one image. With each successive shot, only new light is added to the original image which prevents overexposure in the brightest part of the picture. You can see the image developing on the LCD screen as it happens which means you can stop the process when the image reaches a point that you are happy with it.

The image below took about 15 minutes to capture and is a stack of about 80 or so images.

Stacked images to create star trails – Olympus O-MD E-M5II

The orange glow on the left and right are clouds. The totems were lit by the headlights of cars as they circled around to leave the mountain. Ordinarily, any kind of random uncontrolled light is not desirable in this kind of image but in this case, I was happy with the side light painting the totems as it gave them colour and texture and gave the image depth. This was my second attempt at this shot. My first effort is below and is an example of what can go wrong.

Shot ruined by flashlight
Shot ruined by flashlight

Remember I said each shot added new light to the image? When the man in red stood up in my shot and waved his flashlight around his light was added to the photo. It was dark and he was just trying to find his way back to his car, but it was a little frustrating as the shot was already over 10 minutes into creation. A really cool feature of the Olympus Live Composite mode is that I could see this as soon as it happened, abandon the shot and start over.

For my second, more successful try, I recomposed a little higher to avoid people wandering through the shot and kept my fingers on the cable release just in case. I am pretty happy with the final image.

The following night we went to further away from Vancouver to Porteau Cove Provincial Park to try again. We hoped to get further away from the City lights and light pollution. While we did see a few meteors I decided to have another go with Live Composite. This time, I did not compose with a foreground element in the image, opting instead for the horizon line. Porteau Cove is extremely dark and has really good star visibility which resulted in a much denser set of trails. This shot is about 150 images stacked together and took about 25 minutes to create. Look closely and you can see a couple of meteors as they streak in a different direction to the star trails.

Star Trails over the horizon at Porteau Cove

Due to the extreme darkness, it is difficult to use autofocus so I manually set the focus to infinity. I shot all these images on the Olympus O-MD E-M5II with the Olympus 17mm 1.8 lens. This lens has focus markers which make it easier to set to a certain focus distance.  If you have a lens without distance markers or without a hard stop at infinity you could find infinity focus during the daytime and add a piece of tape or use a permanent marker to mark the exact spot on the barrel of your lens.

Stacking photos for star trails can be done manually in Photoshop or by using software such as StarStax, but what I absolutely love about the Olympus Live Composite mode is, well, it’s live. It saves time, does a great job and also creates an ORF, an Olympus raw file, which means you can edit for colour, contrast etc afterward. This feature is nothing short of awesome and is just one of many reasons I love my micro four thirds camera.

To use Live Composite mode for star trails you will need a stable tripod. I’d also recommend a cable release or remote trigger so you don’t nudge the camera when starting or stopping the shot. You’ll need a wide-angle lens with a wide aperture of at least 2.8. The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm 1.8 is a great little lens for this purpose, but I would also like to try out the 12mm f2 or a fisheye. I set my exposure for each shot to 10 seconds which kept the stars sharp, but this will vary depending on how dark it is and what you are trying to achieve. Try a few single exposures first to get your settings. Then, get creative and watch your image as it appears!

Summer is coming and with it will be warmer temperatures and clearer nights. I can’t wait to get out and try this again to see what I can create with Live Composite.