Friday, May 30, 2014

Here Comes Tourist Season

ferry, ferries, horseshoe bay, beautiful british columbia 

Where I live on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, we have a huge influx of tourists starting around the Victoria Day long weekend towards the end of May. I live in a small village that's swamped with tourists every summer.

I hate to generalize but you can often spot an out-of-towner pretty quickly. Usually they're the ones driving really slowly and rubber-necking. Or sometimes they drive crazy fast...the northern coast is known for its twisty-turny highway, so we get a lot of daredevil motorcyclists that love to do things like pass on the double solid lines.

If you see a group of people walking down the middle of the road in our village, you can be sure they're tourists. There's something about the laid-back atmosphere of this place that seems to encourage people to act as if the road is meant for them and them alone. Insolent tourists! 

Once in awhile you'll come across someone who's obviously just escaped from the city but can't quite shake the fast-paced impatience that seems to come with city life. You have the occasional guy who blows up in the liquor store because they don't carry his brand of whiskey, or then there's the woman who storms out of the cafe because the harassed waitresses have failed to serve her immediately. Luckily this kind of thing doesn't happen too often but the locals like to latch onto a good story when they hear it and pass it along.

I sell my photography at fairs and at the Sechelt Farmers' and Artisans' Market from April through September so of course I run into a lot of tourists. Quite often visitors from the city are completely starry-eyed about the Sunshine Coast. Many people have the dream that one day they'll be able to move here. I was one of those people about a dozen years ago. I frequently visited someone who lived here and it got harder and harder to return to the city afterwards. Eventually I moved here and embraced the slower lifestyle.

The photograph above was taken at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, which is just outside Vancouver. It's a 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to the Sunshine Coast, and it's a spectacular trip, with lots of mountains and islands in view and the occasional pod of dolphins or group of orca whales spotted alongside the ship. Anyone who lives here likes to complain about the cost of the ferry but I have to admit, the scenery is simply amazing and I'm sure tourists are routinely blown away by the trip.

I did two versions of the Horseshoe Bay ferry image. I added some fun filters to the photograph below to make it seem more like a painting.

If you're ever on the Sunshine Coast, please drop by the Sechelt Farmers' and Artisans Market on Cowrie Street in downtown Sechelt from 9:00-2:30...I'm there most Saturdays, selling my wares.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Check out the yacht that cruised into one of our harbours here the other day! This is in Gunboat Bay in Pender Harbour, on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. The plain fact is that the yacht couldn't have gone any further because the ocean narrows at this point (towards the foreground) and the yacht was so enormous, it couldn't possibly have fit through the gap.

I was down by the ocean photographing the clouds above the harbour when the yacht motored into the middle of the bay and deployed its anchor with a tremendous splash. The lucky passengers spent the night onboard the luxurious yacht, surrounded by the magnificent mountains, islands, and coastline that make up Pender Harbour. They were gone the following day.

I'd love to know who owns this beauty so if you have any ideas, please let me know. Apparently she's registered in the States and changed owners last year. She also had a name change, from "Glaze" (which you can see on the side of the yacht) to "Just Cause".
yachts art

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Where Have the Hummingbirds Gone?

rufous hummingbird flying
Male Rufous Hummingbird in Flight

I don't know where all the hummingbirds have gone lately but they've vanished. This seems to happen every year...I put out hummingbird feeders in the front and back and get lots of visitors starting in March when the Rufous hummers return from Mexico. But by this time of year, I rarely if ever see them at my feeders.

Rufous hummingbirds are particularly feisty and will try to drive off any other hummers that come near "their" feeder. So the area is always buzzing with activity for a couple of months. This year I even had one particular male bird constantly perched on a tall tree branch which gave him a good outlook for any invaders in his territory. I could sit on the living room couch and see him there most of the time. But now he's gone, along with all the others.

I'm very careful about cleaning my feeders and putting out fresh nectar, so that isn't the problem. I suppose there are enough flowers for the hummers to feed on now but I've asked around and other people say they still have hummingbirds visiting their feeders, so I don't think that's it either. I just don't know what it could be. Having them around for only two months out of the year isn't enough! I guess I need to move to some tropical paradise if I want to see them year-round.
flying hummingbird art

Friday, May 23, 2014

Canada Post Letdown

painted turtle

O.K., so I was a little bit late in sending my mom a card with a pair of handmade earrings tucked inside for Mother's Day. I mailed the envelope on May 6th (a Tuesday) hoping it would get there by Mother's Day on Saturday. Not a chance.

Not only didn't it get there within the week, it took two weeks and two days before it arrived. My parents live in Ontario and I'm in British Columbia. There are only three provinces sandwiched between us. You'd expect a letter would arrive within five days. I was hoping beyond hope that maybe the service would even improve after they raised the postal rates a little while ago. No way.

While I'm complaining about services in Canada, I might as well add one of my major gripes here and now, and that is the cost of air travel. I don't know why American air travel is so much cheaper than ours, but it is. Oh, and fuel is way cheaper too.

I like being a Canadian and I think we have lots of benefits here too, but once in awhile, like when my mom's card and earrings take two and a half weeks to travel only partway across the country, I get a little miffed.

Then again, I've heard Americans complaining about their postal service too. Oh well, I know there are worse problems in the world than mail that moves at a turtle's pace. 

Now I know that I have to get that Mother's Day card in the mail a good month before the big day.

By the way, I just found out that today is World Turtle Day. What a coincidence that I posted a photograph of a painted turtle. Happy WTD, take it slow!

painted turtle art

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Black Bears

black bear

I saw my first black bear of the year a couple of days ago. He ran across the road in front of my car as I was driving down a logging road.

The above photograph was taken several years ago. Despite his size, I almost walked right by him but I had that spooky feeling that somebody was looking at me and spotted him to my left. I had my dogs with me but they couldn't see him because the grass was so high and the bear couldn't see the dogs either. The bear froze with his mouthful of grass and we stared at each for a long moment. So what could I do besides take his picture? I had a problem with the autofocus though because it was focussing on some vegetation in front of the bear and not on his face. So I took a couple of steps to my right, tried again, and got the shot shown above.

All this happened a year to the day after I first met this bear. The two sightings were a couple of kilometers apart and the notch in his right ear makes him pretty distinctive so I recognized him. He's also the only bear I've come across that doesn't run away when he sees me. Apparently he likes to have his picture taken.

The first time I saw him (and by the way, he's also the biggest bear I've ever seen), I was walking the dogs with my husband in a field bordered by forest very close to where we live. We'd just taken the dogs off their leashes when one of them started barking like crazy. I took some rather boring shots of the bear running away through the long grass. But suddenly the bear stopped running, turned around, stood up and looked straight at us. I couldn't help myself...I started merrily clicking away until I noticed that his mouth had opened slightly. My husband said, "I think we should get out of here." That was probably the understatement of the day. So we slowly backed away and the bear did the same. He calmly strolled into the forest.

Here's one of the photographs from my first meeting with Big Ben (as I've come to think of him).

bear standing up

The first time I ever saw a bear I was scared practically senseless and made quite a wide detour to get back to my car. But you get used to seeing them after awhile and now it's second nature. One year I saw a bear or two every day for weeks whenever I went on my morning walk with the dogs. Lately they seem a little more scarce but I'm sure they're out there.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

April Showers Bring May Flowers


Of course you've heard the expression, "April showers bring May flowers". Well, it's true, because we get a lot of rain here in the Pacific Northwest and now that it's May, we have the flowers to prove it!
I thought I'd share just a couple of flower pictures with you. Tulips are one of my favorite flowers to photograph and for the image above, I wanted to add a romantic flair to it so I added some textures to make it look more painterly and kind of dreamy.

But maybe you prefer realism, so I'll also share my photograph of magnolias that were in full bloom.


I find it easier to photograph flowers than to grow them and besides, the deer around here love to eat flowers and any special veggies or bushes you may have growing in your yard, so I've given up.

spring flowers art

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Used Cars

old cars, abandoned cars, rusty cars, antique cars 

Last week after visiting the osprey nest I hiked back to my van, started it up, and within seconds realized that I virtually had no brakes at all. The 15-minute drive home was nerve-wracking, to say the least.

I'd been looking for a "new" (used) van for months but there aren't many choices available here on the Sunshine Coast because we don't have a very big population. But now my hand was forced: I needed a van right away.

When I got home I looked in the weekly paper which had just come out that day. Miracle of miracles, there was a van in my price range. It was the same model as I already had (a Dodge Caravan) but it was four years newer and it was a sweet deal! I called the guy up right away and went to look at it the next day.

The van looked fantastic...very clean, no rust, and under the hood looked really good. I'd brought my husband with me so we took it for a test drive. The owner told us that all it needed was to have the bushings replaced and he had the part right there. Everything else seemed perfect so I bought the van.

Notice I said that everything "seemed" perfect. Well, it wasn't.

Five days later the "service engine" light came on. My heart sank. I called our local mechanic and made an appointment to bring the van in. Then I called the former owner of the van and told him about it. He swore this had never happened before (and I believed him), and to just disconnect the battery for 15 minutes so that the light could re-set. So that's what I did. It didn't dawn on me that by doing this, the mechanic would be unable to do a proper diagnostic on the van because the codes would be wiped out. I just wanted that damn light to go out!

When I took the van into the shop later that day, the mechanic got it up on the hoist to have a quick look at it while I waited in the office. Before too long he came into the office and asked me, "Did you have a pre-purchase inspection done on the van?" Gulp! 

He gave me the bad news: the van was leaking oil badly and the gaskets needed to be replaced. The rad hoses were shot and possibly the whole coolant system needed to be replaced. And the tie rods needed replacing as well. The only good news was that the bushings were just fine! Total estimated cost for repairs was over $1,000.

Well, I guess the former owner of the van saw me coming. He had fixed the links on the van just before I bought it, claiming to be a former mechanic. He must've known about all the problems. I have a really hard time believing somebody would do this to another person but there you happened. Again. Yes, it isn't even the first time that I've been ripped off when it came to buying a secondhand vehicle.

I'm wondering how many people actually go to the trouble of having a pre-purchase inspection done. It could get really costly if you have to look at a lot of cars, not to mention time-consuming. What a hassle. But still, if it saves you from buying a lemon, I guess it's worth it.

Anyway, the van's going into the shop next week to have all the repairs done. My only other choice was to sell the thing but I couldn't do that, knowing the shape it's in. I wonder how many people are honest when they're selling a used car, or anything else used, for that matter. Unfortunately honesty is a virtue that seems to be hard to come by these days.

old cars art

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ospreys Fighting and Nesting

The other day my guy and I were hiking when we came across an osprey nest on top of a tall fir tree in the middle of nowhere. An osprey was perched on a branch of the tree. Ospreys (also called fish hawks) are about two feet long with a wingspan of 4-1/2 to 6 feet. Their diet consists entirely of fish and there is only one species of ospreys worldwide. Unfortunately, osprey sightings aren't very common around here anymore so I was thrilled to see the nest.

I went back alone the next day, hoping for some action. I sure wasn't disappointed! I don't know what exactly was going on that day but eventually there were five ospreys in the sky, flying around, constantly calling to each other. It happened to be very windy and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Every once in awhile one of two of the ospreys would land in the nest briefly.

Ospreys Landing in Nest

Sometimes things would take a more serious turn though...

When Ospreys Attack

It was a busy day for the raptors and their aerial display lasted for over an hour. I was watching for the male osprey's famous "sky dance" where he hovers high in the air above the female with a fish or nesting material, beating his wings furiously, then diving many feet before repeating the manoeuvers. This never happened, although I did see an osprey bring many branches to the nest on that day and on two successive days when I hiked in to check out the activities.

Osprey Flying With Branch

I did a little research and apparently ospreys have a courtship period that lasts several weeks. I've only seen the big group of ospreys the one time and since then only one bird has been around the nest or bringing branches to it. I'll be hiking back there frequently to check up on them and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll get to see baby ospreys before the season is out.
ospreys art

Monday, May 12, 2014

I'm Going to Be on Hallmark Cards

Squirrel at Happy Hour

Hallmark tracked me down recently and asked if they could license my photograph of Tipsy, my "pet" squirrel, sipping a cocktail at happy hour. It was very flattering because of course Hallmark is the top of the pile when it comes to greeting cards and they don't accept unsolicited submissions. They're a hard market to break into.

By the way, about the photograph...a drunk squirrel is a dangerous squirrel and no alcohol was involved in taking this shot. Neither the photographer (me) or her model was actually drinking at the time. It's just water and red food coloring in the martini glass.

So hopefully sometime soon Hallmark will be adding Tipsy to their line of humorous greeting cards. Please let me know if you happen to see Tipsy on a card in the store...that would be great fun!

happy hour art

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

Mother Goose and Babies

Here's a shout-out to mothers everywhere on their special day...Happy Mother's Day!

I just called my mother (who lives in Ontario unfortunately, so I don't get to see her as much as I'd like to). Of all the nerve, mom wasn't home! Hopefully my dad has taken her out somewhere special.

I don't know how my mom gathered the strength to raise me. I was a handful by the time I hit my teens. Never once did she say, "Wait until you have kids of your own." Well, I never had kids so I didn't get a payback. I always knew I was too selfish with my time to have kids. My mom was a pretty traditional stay-at-home mother but when I was in my mid-teens she went back to school and got her Bachelor of Science degree. She got a job in a lab after that and worked full-time but she still did all the other things she used to do too, including housecleaning, laundry, cooking all the meals, and baking. I'm embarrassed to say that I wasn't much help around the house and neither were my brother and sister.

O.K., enough of the guilt fest! Probably a lot of us kids have regrets about how we took our mothers for granted. I try to remember that she won't be around forever but that's a strange feeling because she's always been there when I needed her. That's what moms are all about. They just can't seem to help it.
baby geese art