While on Salt Spring Island on Canada’s west coast for a plein air painting workshop, I took some time to engage my photographic interests. In previous posts I have shared some of the colorful abstract photos. In this post I concentrate on black and white photos. This set of photos were taken on September 11, 2012 – a “free” day that I had before the painting workshop began. I spent this day, walking about with my camera – specifically I retraced by steps through a favorite part of the island that I had come to know from a visit in November 2007.
With my hiking boots and a backpack full of camera gear I headed down Beddis Road for my destinations at Beddis Beach and Cusheon Creek [map].
The hike down Beddis Road was almost 10K and with very frequent stops for photos, progress was slow – but I had the whole day, so was in no hurry. I was frequently changing lens and camera settings – sometimes capturing a very specific object or scene and at other times more interested in capturing an abstract feeling. Some of these images were captured with he intention of the photo being the final product and others were captured to use a references for future paintings.
It took the better part of two hours until I arrived at Beddis Beach but what a welcome sight. The beach was quiet, the tide low and the water cool but acceptable enough to wade in (up to my ankles).
From Beddis Beach it was a few hundred meters (south and west) further, to the trail entrance dropping down into the lush, green and quiet Cusheon Creek valley.
Well here I was, Sunday November 18, 2007, the last full day of my vacation/painting excursion on Salt Spring Island. I wanted to make the most of it but I had so many thing that I wanted to do, places to discover and revisit, that I didn’t know where to start. I did start off leisurely though – sleeping in a bit more than was normal, then having some hot chocolate beside the fire and cooking up some scrambled eggs for breakfast.
It was not raining this morning so I was definitely heading outside but I was unsure what to do. On the one hand I would like to do some painting on the other hand I could go out with my camera, cover a lot more ground and collect reference photos to use later for paintings back in the studio.
Photo taking is what I did – with a vengeance. I finished off my second memory card (started a 3rd) and depleted all of my batteries (again). I followed what were becoming familiar paths – heading down to Beddis Beach and then continuing on to Cusheon Creek. Wanting to explore a bit of new territory, once down by the creek I took the trail to the right, east, towards the ocean rather than starting my trek upstream as I had been doing.
I never did reach the ocean outlet on this hike. The trail seemed to fizzle out but like they say “it’s not about the destination, its about the journey” and the journey this day was good – good for photos and good for the soul.
After the journey in the valley I was back to Beddis Beach (yet again):
It was at this point that I had filled my memory card so I headed back up Beddis Road to pick up a new one from “home” before continuing my photo gathering walk up Beddis Road.
Heading back to Fridas Villa , I couldn’t help but go right past it down to the beach again for one last visit. By this time it was getting dusky but that just lent yet another mood to this favorite place.
It seems I should end the story here and with that serene last photo but it was still only 5 pm on this last day. That evening I did take one more shot at painting (inside of course, at the kitchen table).
I worked on a variation of the abstracted piece I’d done the day before. I wasn’t too happy with it though – the light didn’t seem right. Finally I painted a quick little landscape, just to use of the remaining paint on my palette, then cleaned up my painting gear and packed it away. I spent the rest of my last evening with a soak in the hot tub and some time beside the fireplace – it doesn’t get much better than that.
Friday November 16 (2007) marked my 5th day on Salt Spring Island and the 7th day since I left home on the train. It would turn out to be another day without any painting but with many reference photos being collected.
The day started off slow. I spent most of the morning reading and did finish Salt Spring (History of an Island). It was a good book that really gave me a good sense of how this island had developed over 150 years.The island has had its challenges and issues – it is more than just the idyllic Canadian paradise that it seems today.
I ended my morning with a trip down the road to Beddis Beach. It was an overcast but peaceful morning, the water was calm. I didn’t stay too long this time. As I headed back past the community orchard, there were a group of people doing some clean up.
The afternoon I set off on a hike. I started back up Beddis Road – taking photos of everything from fallen leaves to mushrooms to sheep.
I turned off Beddis Road and continued walking up the side of Cusheon Lake Road, then up on Stewart Road to Peter Arnell Park. There had been a fair bit of climbing but the view from the top was breathtaking. At the Park I headed off road onto the park trails – rather narrow and mountainous but very peaceful.
Around 3 PM, I knew I’d have to start heading back in order to beat the early sunset. Little white diamond markers guided me back to the road where I began my descent. It was about a 200m drop from the peak of the park down to Fridas Villa driveway. When I did get back to the driveway I just continued down another 40 m – back to the beach. I spend another hour there, watching a black lab playing fetch and wandering around (taking photos of course).
After all the time outside on this afternoon I was feeling chilled and looked forward to a soak in the hot tub. Unfortunately for some reason the tub wasn’t hot enough this day. My next choice for heat was a nice roaring fire – unfortunately I was getting more smoke than fire this evening. I guess there are days like this but overall it was a pretty good day!
November 13th (2007) – this very well may have been the best day of my trip. The morning was magical and the day was one of joyful discovery. I awoke around 6, just as it started to get light outside. As there was no storm this morning I decided to head down to the beach to catch the sunrise. I was out the door by 7 and at the beach 10 or 15 minutes later. The beach is, not surprisingly, deserted and it is much wider (perhaps 5 meters now) than when I visited the day before. I watch the eastern horizon glow and brighten for about 15 minutes before the intense sunlight slides above the distant mountains and clouds. The scene is beautiful and peaceful and I just close my yes and let the sun bathe me – ahhh.
With the sun shining on me I am warm – so warm that I take off my boots and wade into the water – just to say I did (the water was indeed breathtakingly cold).
I could have stayed there on the beach much longer but I had things I wanted to do, so just after 8, I headed back up to the Villa and had some breakfast (croissants with butter and strawberry jam and some hot chocolate).
As pleasant as my morning was, that was just the start. Tracy and Carl (owners of Fridas Villa) had mentioned that there was a nice rain forest not far away and paying a visit was my plan for the rest of the morning. Access to the Cusheon Creek rain forest is gained by following Beddis Road south to where it intersects with Creekside Drive. a little way along on the left (south) side of the road is an access trail.When planning out this trip I was aware of a little beach near by but had no knowledge of this little gem of a lush green wilderness area just a 15 minute walk away.
I started down the little trail from the road and was soon blown away by the beauty – lush green trees, moss and ferns and a vibrant orange carpet of fallen leaves; a charming little creek and wooden bridges crossing it. I started snapping photos and kept going until I had completely exhausted my camera batteries – over 200 photos in an hour and a half!
I had taken a number of decent photos and with many that could be used for painting references but for now I was done and headed back home for a bite to eat before my next adventure.
It was finally time to get to the whole point of this excursion – PAINTING! I loaded my plein air gear into my backpack and returned to Beddis Beach. I set up at the south end of the beach looking north at a scene that included beach, ocean distant land. I was working on an 8 by 10 inch (20×25 cm) panel using oil paints and a fairly natural palette of colors.
It was a nice sunny afternoon but I was disappointed that I was unable to capture that in my painting – it seemed very flat, in terms of values. Partly discouraged, I did not start another painting that afternoon – besides, I had another mission to complete before darkness.
The day before, on my walk to Ganges I had noticed a cheese farm just a short way up Beddis Road. After dropping off my paintings supplies I walked up to Moonstruck Cheese Farm where I bought a Camembert and a chunk of Tomme d’Or. I grated some of the Tomme d’Or on the pasta that I made for dinner and enjoyed the cheeses though the week.
In the evening, I did a bit of thinking about my painting, what worked and especially what didn’t. I thought a lot about value scales and the limitation of recreating the full scale of nature with paint pigments. I reminded myself that the absolute values on my painting will necessarily be different form the value of something exposed to direct sunlight. I also spent some time thinking about my use of white paint in my paintings – for a long time I had shunned it but now it was back in my palette (for better or worse?).
I had started my day catching the sunrise on Beddis Beach and dipping my feet in the ocean. Now, I ended off the day taking advantage of another of the great amenities at Fridas Villa – a hot tub in the back yard. A luxurious half hour soak under a wonderfully starry sky was a perfect ending to a great day!
6 AM – Monday November 12th, 2007 and I am awaken by the sound of the power going out. It is back in a few minutes, then out again and it would remain off until around 8. Fortunately I was warm in bed and had no place to go and no time commitments. Listening to the radio (hand-cranked rechargeable battery powered) I learned that the storm had knocked out power all over southeastern British Columbia and the worst was yet to come. The winds were supposed to peak around noon and total rain accumulations to be 100 mm (4 inches) – probably not ideal conditions for plein air painting.
I did get up around 7:30 and got a fire going in the fireplace. When the electricity returned I made some pancakes and then sat back with some tea and relaxed – a bit of reading, a bit of writing, listening to music and some contemplative staring out of the window.
Around noon, the rain stopped, the winds disappeared and the sky began to clear. It didn’t look bad at all so I headed out for a walk down Beddis Road towards the beach. Before the beach, I stopped off at the community orchard and wandered around taking photos:
I was overwhelmed by the colors I saw, here particularly but on the coast in general – such a contrast to what I had left 2 days earlier in Edmonton. Here the grass, the ferns were so green, the fallen leaves such a rich rusty-orange. I felt wonderful and inspired and was taking tonnes of photos! After the orchard stop, it was across the street and down a short path to the beach. It was less than a day since my first visit to Beddis Beach but already it had changed.
There was not much of a beach to be seen on this visit. Being near high tide the beach was disappearing from the ocean side and after the rain of the last night there was continued heavy runoff that turned the land side of the beach into a stream. Nonetheless was still a beach and it was still worth a visit. Walking back “home”, my camera continues to get a workout as I saw all kinds of wonderful color and textures that I had to capture:
The afternoon of my first day on the island, I walked in to Ganges, the main town in the centre of the island to pick up some cooking supplies. It is about 7 1/2 kilometers from Fridas Villa to the town so it was about an hour and a quarter walk each way. Not a problem though, I love walking, especially to explore new places and I would have an opportunity to take lots of photos. I walked along the side of the relatively quiet Beddis Road past delightful forested areas and farmland (with the last kilometer along the busier Fulford-Ganges Road).
Back at Fridas Villa, as the early evening darkness descended, I warmed up an Indian combo plate for supper and rested my walking-weary feet and legs, while watching a movie. That was the day – a good day but I was starting to feel guilty about not yet painting.
The first day of my November 2007 adventure to Salt Spring Island was the train journey from Edmonton to Vancouver (as described in an earlier blog post). I arrived at Vancouver’s Pacific Central station around 0830 on a Sunday. On this, day 2, I continued on towards my destination of Salt Spring Island. I would need to catch a ferry but first I would need a bus to Tsawwassen. Fortunately the bus terminal is co-located with the train station and the bus travels via the ferry to Victoria, so I buy one ticket that will cover my transportation from the Vancouver train station all the way to the Fulford Harbour ferry terminal on Salt Spring Island.
Fortunately I had an hour or two between train arrival and bus departure so after I had bought my ticket, I had breakfast and then strolled around, enjoying the coastal humidity and greenery, before finding a bench upon which to sit and wait for the bus loading time. The next part of the journey went very smooth – I got my luggage onto the bus, got a seat and rode until we were on the ferry at Tsawwassen, an hour or so later. Once on the ferry it was off the bus and time to wander around the big boat. I headed up to the deck and back to the stern as the ferry began it’s trip across the Georgia Strait, through the Gulf Islands and to Swartz Bay ferry terminal north of Victoria.
As it was November 11th, Remembrance Day in Canada, so I paused at 11:00 to remember. With the overcast skies, cool sea breeze and very few other people around, it was a solemn and memorable moment.
I always enjoy the ferry trip between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, especially as we move through Active Pass, the narrow channel between the Gulf Islands of Mayne and Galiano. After an hour and a half the ferry arrived at Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. Shortly before arrival I made my way down to the vehicle deck to pick up my luggage from the bus. Then I made my way back up top to join the pedestrians walking off of the ferry.
At the Swartz Bay terminal I found my way to another, much smaller, ferry that would take me on a 35 minute journey back over to Salt Spring Island .
As we approached the Salt Spring I was reminded why I love it there. I could see natural beauty of the mountains, veiled by low clouds and there was a touch of autumn color on the shore too. Then of course there were reminders of the quirky and creative nature of this place exemplified by the floating domicile in the bay as the ferry approached the Fulford Harbour dock.
I was met at the ferry terminal by Tracy Harrison and Carl Borgstrom, proprietors of Fridas Villa and given a ride to their home. Attached to their home is Fridas Villa, a self-contained one bedroom suite that I had reserved for my stay. It is located on Beddis Road just a short walk from Beddis Beach and (as I would discover) a number of other wonderful locales
After a day and a half on the rails, waves and roads I was ready to stay put. By the time I got settled in to my home for the next week, it was already mid-to-late afternoon (I was on holidays and not paying much attention to the exact time). There was however a little time (i.e. daylight) left for exploring the “neighborhood”. I headed down the road towards the ocean, past a friendly looking community orchard and down a little trail to the beach. Being late afternoon it was already cooling off and there was a bit of a wind but the beach was very refreshing and comforting. I spent some time strolling up and down the gravel beach soaking in the atmosphere and scouting out possible painting locations. I would return to Beddis Beach everyday over the coming week and come to see it in a variety of conditions.
After this brief walkabout it was starting to get dark so I headed “home”, finished getting settled in and spent the evening resting in front of the fireplace. The next day I wanted to get down to work!