Icebergs On The Fraser

Well, it’s over, it’s all over. The recent cold snap that hung around for roughly the entire month of December has come and gone. Comparing to the last few years this has been a bit of a change to the typical winter season. Lately the lower mainland of B.C. has been having very mild winters but this year the temperatures dipped down as low as around -12 at night. A lot of ice and snow built up which offered great opportunities to capture some interesting content.

While running a few errands over a weekend I noticed huge chunks of ice along the Fraser River. I’ve never seen ice floating down the Fraser River in the Lower Mainland before, it inspired me to capture some footage and put together a little something.

Something about the ice is very peaceful.

Cheers,
Mike

HEAT 3 Smart Gloves

Hello Readers,

Have you ever been shooting photographs outside during the cold winter months but you’re struggling to operate your camera and keep your hands warm at the same time? Do you find it annoying how you can’t access your phone when and if needed during those times? The moment you remove your gloves your fingers freeze up and become cold as ice? Well, while I was searching online for what other photographers might be using, I stumbled upon a pair of gloves near the end of 2014 that looked quite promising. I don’t usually review products but I do read plenty of reviews to help make my decision when purchasing an item of great interest. However, there are times when not enough information is provided when searching for a certain item, atleast not enough to help me. So I thought if I’m going to write a review of a product that I’m excited about, I better do it right and by that I mean, sharing as much information as possible… along with content!

Living in the lower mainland of British Columbia, you might think it doesn’t get that cold comparing to places in Canada further up north or east. But let me tell you, from December to February, it gets fairly cold. Even when its zero degrees Celsius my fingers start to freeze up when trying to use my camera. Most Canadian provinces experience a wide range of well below zero temperatures and for those who like to shoot photographs in those temperatures might have a difficult time due to their gloves. This is where the Heat 3 Smart Gloves by The Heat Company come in. The lower mainland of B.C. has had quite the cold snap this year so I got another great opportunity to put these gloves to the test. With temperatures between -10 to -12, these gloves keep my boney fingers warm and operational.

This product was originally a custom made item and is now in its third generation. HEAT 3 gloves were designed specifically for special combat forces of Germany and Austria. I’ve only used these gloves when photographing wildlife during the cold winter months but I’m sure one could use these for, skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing and anything else that involves being outdoors with low temperatures.
To break it down, imagine a cotton black glove one could find at a dollar store with a polyester mitten over top. However, these are not made of either material. They feature elastic microfibre with water resistant and breathable membrane which offers a high level of keeping your hands dry from snow and/or rain. However, I wouldn’t wear these gloves in the pouring rain as they are not Gortex. Alittle sprinkle won’t hurt them though.

These next generation HEAT 3 Smart gloves feature a silver fabric for perfect use on touch screens on both left and right thumb and index fingers. I haven’t tested these gloves on all touch screen devices but I assume it will work since it works with my old iPhone 3Gs and iPad Air 2. I can adjust the wheels and access all buttons on my DSLR without any problems. These gloves allow you to keep photographing without exposing your hands directly to the elements. The palm side of the gloves have full goat leather for more warmth and better grip with additional 4oz Primaloft on the cuff for even more warmth. The pull string safety straps with elastic wrist bands provides a snug fit and prevents the gloves from falling off, which makes this item an even more draft free garment. A zippered compartment is featured on the back of the HEAT 3 gloves and could be used for small items such as memory cards, keys or even heat packs if you’re shooting in really cold conditions. Although I personally do not use this feature for storage, I will say the zipper is easily accessible and maneuverable. The fold down flap for exposing the inner finger glove is quick and easily snaps into place on the back of the outer glove. The same goes for the thumb except it features some velcro instead of a snap button. There’s webbing between the first three fingers so you can take the gloves off with great ease and without inverting all the fingers of the inner glove.

In short, these are great gloves! I’ve been using them for a little over two years now and it works wonders. When needing to use the camera or any device with a touch screen, just unzip the mitten and let your fingers out. When it starts to get a little too cold for you, put the fingers back in and zip the gloves back up. You are instantly warmer than before and I’m not exaggerating. When fully zipped up, I don’t feel the cold and it allows me to stay outdoors photographing nature much longer than I can usually with stand. In freezing, windy storms and cold winter snow these gloves help immensely.

Although some may consider these gloves pricey, at around $200 CDN from The Camera Store, I think they are well worth the price. If photographers are able to spend 5000+ on super telephoto lenses and another 3-8000 on pro camera bodies, then a few hundred for an item that will keep you warm, dry and enable you to use your camera all at the same time, is definitely worth it. So check out the Heat 3 Smart Gloves they might be the ones for you.

Cheers,
Mike

I Got Hacked!… Twice!

Hello World,

For those who follow my work, my website was recently hacked… twice! I was finally able to put it all back together yet I’m still in the middle of making some changes.
I had to pony up and obtain some higher security applications, hopefully it will help but what has me boggled is who would want to hack my site? I guess a trogan some how got in and did as much damage as possible. Hopefully this will be the end of the attacks.

I have several interesting blog posts coming up so please stick around. They should be an interesting read.

Cheers,
Mike

A Little Unboxing

There’s not much to say here. The video does all that for me.

Cheers,
Mike

Revscene Summer Meet 2016

Here’s little video of this years Revscene Summer meet. It took quite some time due to the style of editing but I think it came out decent.

Cheers,
Mike

Wells Gray Provincial Park

Hello mikeschmeee blog followers!… if there are any. I don’t update the blog often and there’s a reason for it. I’ve been travelling lately! So it’s a bit hard to type a little blurb but I make notes during my trips and compile everything together once ready. This past long weekend, British Columbia Day, I spent a little time in Wells Gray Provincial Park or Wells Gray for short. I was unaware of this hidden gem until stumbling upon it as I was making my way towards the province of Alberta, which will be covered in a separate blog post.
Wells Gray is a fairly large provincial park right above the town of Clearwater. If you ever get the chance to visit the park or just passing through Clearwater, be sure to stop at a restaurant called Hop N Hog Tap & Smokehouse, which has great BBQ; chicken, ribs, pulled pork, sausages, corn beard, beans, the list goes on!

Before heading into the park, I HIGHLY recommend picking up this book from the Clearwater information center:

I know some might think its pricey but the book will really help with getting around the park in certain areas. It has a lot of useful information, which in my opinion should be posted all over the park but I get the feeling this place is either supposed to be left untouched to give you a wild like feeling, or the province of BC just doesn’t want to use some of their tax dollars on some much needed upgrades.

Among other items on the list that you’ll want to bring with you to Wells Gray, is bug spray. Some people don’t care for this but believe me, you WILL want bug spray. I use Ben’s 30 wilderness insect repellent eco-spray. The mosquitoes at Wells Gray are massive and they swarm towards you as if its their last meal but with a layer of bug spray on your exposed skin, the mosquitoes don’t even bother approaching. Some are brave and try but the deet keeps them off and you are bug bite free.
Lasty, you’ll need a vehicle to get around as this place is not really designed for starting at the beginning of the park and venturing off by foot. Although, I’m sure you can do that but check with park officials first.

The park has a lot to offer with the heart of the park starting at the end of Clearwater Valley road, which gets a bit rough after the Helmcken Falls view point. Hiking, backpacking, camping, canoeing, kayaking and even guided adventure tours are available. But from my experience the park seems like it needs some sprucing up. The roads leading to certain spots like Bailey’s Chute or Trophy Mountain Flower Meadows, could be in much better shape. I’m not saying you’ll require an AWD vehicle but something lifted with meaty tires would definitely make things easier when travelling on certain roads of the park. Despite all this, a lot of people like to stop at Clearwater and check out Wells Gray on their way towards Jasper and/or Banff.

I think the biggest attraction is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada, Helmcken Falls. This spectacular waterfall is 141 meters (463 ft) on the Murtle River, the waterfall is three times taller than Niagara Falls! Surprising, isn’t it? Most people think Niagara is huge but I think that’s due to its size in width. But the strange part is, photographs do not give Helmcken Falls justice. You really don’t get the sense of scale unless you can spot a person on the south side of the falls, along the Helmcken Falls Rim Trail. But even so, it still doesn’t feel that big, however, the sight is breathtaking. Getting there is easy and definitely worth a stop even if you’re just passing through the town below.

Helmcken Falls Rim Trail:
South from the Helmcken Falls viewing platform is the Helmcken Falls Rim Trail. Some call it the South Helmcken Falls Rim Trail, either or, it’s the only trail along the edge of the Murtle River which leads to a small opening along the tree line of the canyon right beside the waterfall. This trail is an easy walk with little gain as its mostly flat but don’t forget your bug spray. These suckers are everywhere! A bug net should add an extra layer of protection, that is if you are one that hates mosquitoes buzzing around your ears and eyes, looking for a spot to have a snack on your body.

The trail is fairly well groomed by the use of many hikers so the path is easy to navigate. The trail is soft with all the fallen needles from the surrounding coniferous trees but there are a few muddy patches early on so a good pair of hiking boots or shoes would be ideal. However, anyone in any kind of attire can make the three hour return journey. While I was on the trail, I’ve seen people in full on hiking gear while others in a simple tank top and flip flops.
To the right of the trail is the Murtle River which is fairly wide at this point and seems to flow at a moderate speed but once you start to pass the second warning sign, the speed picks up and you start to see a large body of mist rising up towards the sky. At this point you know you’re close to a major view point.

Although I did not see any bears on this trip, I still brought both of my bear bells and a can of bear spray was on my side at the ready. I don’t mess around when it comes to safety so I take as much precaution as possible, especially when it comes to playing in the wild. While on the topic of safety, there have been fatal accidents on the South Helmcken Falls Rim Trail. The ground is eroding at the end of the trail where you get to view a close up of Helmcken Falls. The edge of this view point has a bit of an over hang and people tend to want a great photograph that shows the falls scale and beauty so they get too close and start to lean over the edge. Be warned though, this is no time to joke around. I’ve seen people taking borderline dangerous selfies and with one wrong step, they could have easily fallen to their death. So for the person who may be reading this and decides to go on this trail, please be careful! Keep your dogs on leash and don’t let anyone in your group go unsupervised.
For those who want a photograph to display Helmcken Falls size and scale, you’ll need a super wide angle lens. I snapped a few photographs with my 24-70mm and tried stitching the images together but I was unsuccessful. But like Arnold said, “I’ll be back!.”

Trophy Mountain Flower Meadows:
This place is unbelievable. The road to the parking lot of this beautiful hike is in my opinion, horrendous! There should be a detailed sign at the beginning of the road stating that this is a narrow rough gravel road with large rocks and deep potholes, with a steep incline and tight corners. However, if you’re brave and willing to stick it out, the reward is magnificent. Once you reach the end of this terrible old logging road, the parking lot at the top is adequate and is able to accommodate about 30-40 cars, if all parked correctly. There is a small outhouse and there were supposed to be two information boards. The boards were there but there was no information posted. This is where the hike begins, to the left of the information boards. Getting to the meadows from the parking lot is about 45 minutes to an hour easy hike, all up hill. You’ll pass a few small creeks running down the mountain, crossing over them on wooden board walks. The trail then cuts through the forest and opens up into a beautiful meadow of yellow glacial lilies in early-mid July and by late July to August there is a second bloom of arctic lupine, indian paint brush and mountain daisies. Any time is worth going but in my opinion the best time to see this meadow is during the second bloom. It’s an explosion of beautiful colours. The further you go up towards the end, the more open it is and you have a wonderful vantage point of Raft Mountain with lovely flowers at your feet. This is one of the most easily accessible sub-alpine meadows in B.C. and it doesn’t take a lot of work to enjoy this spectacular scene in nature.

Next up is Bailey’s Chute which is a small but very fast flowing waterfall. This waterfall has Salmon jumping through from late August to mid September. A few thousand Chinook Salmon return to Clearwater River each year, along with some Sockeye and Coho Salmon, with the spawning grounds extending as far as the gravel bars of The Horseshoe but some fish attempt to go further up the river and past Bailey’s Chute. Although I didn’t see any fish, the rapid waterfall was still a neat sight to see. It’s a fairly short walk from the parking lot to the viewing platform of Bailey’s Chute, about 20 minutes or so. Driving to the Baileys Chute parking lot is relatively easy but the road after the Helmcken Falls view point is a bit rough, mostly light gravel with some pot holes along the way. So it takes some time, about 45 minutes to an hour due to the slow speed that’s recommended. Once again, if one has a 4×4 with excellent tires, you can get there much faster.
If you continue along the trail from Bailey’s Chute, the West Lake Loop Trail begins which continues on up the river and leads to Marcus and Myanth Falls, loops through the forest to West Lake and rejoins the Bailey’s Chute Trail.

Dawson Falls:
This amazing waterfall is very easy to get to, it’s along the way to Helmcken Falls but about a kilometre before. This portion of the road is still paved and allows access to large vehicles such as motor homes and tour buses. The short trail from the parking lot leads to two spectacular viewpoints. One at the top of a bluff and another at the brink. The left side of Dawson Falls has a vertical drop of 20 metres and the water cascades on the right. The convergence of the water at the base of the falls generates a cloud of misty spray and on a sunny day, you’ll easily see a rainbow, possibly two! Whoa! Full on double rainbow all the way!

Next to the Trophy Mountain Flower Meadows, my favourite part of this provincial park is Moul Falls. It’s actually a very popular and easy hike that many frequent. It’s so popular that you can see vehicles parked on the side of the road next to the parking lot before the trail head.
The beginning part of the trail is very boring as it was once an old road to a private property but once you get to a sign which requires you to turn left heading towards Moul Falls, the real trail starts. It’s only about 30 minutes from there.

Once you reach the top of the waterfall, you start to head down to the base along the side of this small canyon. There are some aluminum stairs which were installed not too long ago with a little bench made out of a log right in front of the stairs. An interesting sign is posted on a pole near this cute wooden bench. The sign reads “Construction of the trail to Moul Falls was undertaken for BC Parks by: Anne and Roland Neave, Interior White Water Adventures & The Friends of Wells Gray Park.”
It seems as if this park is not really managed by any provincial body, by that I mean, the province doesn’t want to spend a single dollar on maintaining the park to show off the beauty that it has, and boy does it ever.

However, I’m sure one of the main goals of BC Parks is to protect the bear population and habitat while providing a safe and high quality experience for park visitors. Although I didn’t see any, Grizzly and Black bears are common in Wells Gray and are an important part of the parks ecosystem. So I guess there is a reason why the park doesn’t feel as well maintained as others. However, I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the entire Clearwater Valley road paved, along with the old logging road up Trophy Mountain.
Moul Falls is worth the trip to Wells Gray by itself, you can even walk behind this waterfall but be sure to bring some waterproof clothing or at least a heavy duty rain slicker, otherwise you’ll get absolutely soaked. Even though you are a good distance away from the waterfall when try to pass behind, you’re getting sprayed as if you are in your own bathroom shower. Due to the speed of the waterfall and the small shallow pool at the base, the overspray from the waterfall hitting the small pond at the bottom, bounces back up and hits you hard all over. For those who work up a sweat during the hike down to the base of Moul Falls, you can actually take a little dip in the small shallow pool, which is totally worth it during those hot Summer days.

As always, there’s never enough time to explore everything so I’ll definitely be returning to Wells Gray Provincial Park. Most likely the same time next year. There were a few trails that I didn’t get to hike and I’d love to get deeper into the park, especially up to Clearwater Lake and Azure Lake. Perhaps a canoeing and camping trip is in order?
There are some fun cross country skiing and snow shoeing areas as well and Helmcken Falls completely freezes over and attracts ice climbers from all over, so it’s definitely worth checking out during the colder and icier seasons too.

Cheers,
Mike

Dundarave Porsche Show & Ride 2016

I love cars, all cars, especially sport cars and boy does Porsche know how to make a great sports car. The annual Porsche show didn’t look too promising though. The day was a bit gloomy as it rained about two hours before the event but I still went up to Dundarave Village in West Vancouver to catch some content. It wasn’t much but they say a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps a video can say that too?

I was really surprised to see another and new RWB Porsche at this event, I think that makes this the forth RAUH-Welt Porsche in the lower mainland of British Columbia? I was quite excited when I saw it. I know some people are over the whole wide body vehicle trend, we’ve seen plenty of RWB and Rocket Bunny kits recently in the automotive world but I just can’t get enough. Some Porsche enthusiasts might say the RWB wide body kits ruin the car but I think they’re fantastic! I’d love to own one! But of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so while some might love it, others won’t and that’s all good.

I usually use Final Cut Pro 7 to edit all of my videos but for some odd reason the export was causing some strange blurry frames. After trying multiple things to correct the situation, my final solution was to redo the video in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, which seems to have turned out fine.
I’ll most likely be using CS6 from all my future projects. I’m interested to see what Final Cut Pro X is like though. Perhaps I’ll give it a shot later down the road.

Cheers,
Mike

Think Tank Glass Limo

A few months ago, I was planning on buying a lot of items from B&H Photo Video but with the Canadian Dollar doing so poorly I started to wonder if I should hold out to see if the dollar would jump back up again. Atleast a little bit in order to not lose a significant amount of my hard earned money. After trying a few local photography stores, no one carried a majority of the items I was looking to purchase through B&H but I suddenly remembered I purchased an item from The Camera Store in Calgary about a year ago. I searched for the desired items on their website and there they were! Everything that I was after which I couldn’t find locally was about a 10 hour drive away and the prices were so much better than expected! Infact, some of the prices were even cheaper than if I bought it from the states.

Even though a long drive through the Rockies into the province of Alberta would be fun, I didn’t intend to drive to Calgary and pick up the items I’m interested in. Perhaps one day, yes, I will definitely stop by The Camera Store when I’m in that particular area but for these purchases, I placed them online and had them shipped. Three days later, the items were in my hands. The excellent customer service from TCS was very pleasing, the communication regarding an online order was timely and to the point. I highly recommend checking this place out; they’re great!

Although I purchased multiple items, I will only be covering the Glass Limo backpack by Think Tank Photo in this blog post. I won’t be going into too much detail of this bag as the description, photos and very informational video on the Think Tank Photo website is more than enough. I just want to share my overall experience with the bag and how wonderful it truly is.

I’ve been shooting wildlife for several years now and although I still have lots to learn, it’s safe to say that I know what it’s like to carry all the equipment that most passionate photographers will have when it comes to this kind of photography.
I bought this bag with the intention to bring my larger and certainly heavier lens while hiking trails and walking through large parks. I can’t speak for everyone but I get tired of carrying a lot of camera weight when I’m in the great outdoors so I started looking for backpacks that might suit my needs. Luckily I stumbled onto the Glass Limo. With this bag, I can store my camera and super telephoto lens while having a second camera on my Black Rapid RS-7 Curve shoulder strap. This way I can enjoy the hike while having my hands free whenever I’m not using the camera and not feel the dreadful and uncomfortable weight thats accompanied by carrying something in your hands or over your shoulders. If you have experience carrying a rather large lens mounted on a tripod over your shoulders, you will know how tiring it gets within an hour or so. It really varies from person to person but for me, I start to feel the discomfort right around the one hour mark, regardless of the hike difficulty. So not having to carry all that weight in an uncomfortable position is a good thing.

This backpack is absolutely amazing as it fits almost anything you throw at it. For those who are wondering, it even fits the Nikon 600mm f/4E FL ED VR (and the D4s in the Speed Changer V2) perfectly! You can also attach the TC-14E III teleconverter to the 600mm FL and it still fits without any major issues. Although I didn’t see the need of a photograph with the lens inside and the pack zipped up, here are two images of the backpack with and without the teleconverter attached to the giant lens. You can see a small bit of stretch at the top near the handle but this doesn’t cause any issues what so ever.

Not having to hold a camera or placing a large lens over my shoulder allows me to have more fun then ever while hiking. Sometimes when planning to spend some time outdoors with the intention to photograph something specific, it doesn’t always work out. So when I carry my super telephoto mounted on a tripod over my shoulder and come back with next to nothing I feel a bit disappointed as I put in all that physical labour. But now with the Think Tank Glass Limo I can easily and comfortably carry the lens in the backpack and I’m free to enjoy the scenery and it’s alright if I don’t see anything to photograph with the big lens. It doesn’t bother me one bit that the lens might never be removed from the pack and you might be wondering how pointless it would be to carry all that weight and not even use it. But that’s the beauty of this bag, you don’t feel the weight the way you do when carrying big glass over your shoulder. The weight is distributed evenly with the Glass Limo so it makes carrying any large lens relatively easy.

I put this bag to the test multiple times and I have nothing but good things to say about it. I recently hiked the entire Wild Pacific Trail and some of Long Beach near the Ucluelet & Tofino area, which was roughly 10kms total. I had the Glass Limo with the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G ED VRII, TC-20E III teleconverter and D4s with a few extra goodies inside some of the spare compartments: Cliff bars, Nikon ME-1 microphone, cellphone and two spare Nikon batteries and the hikes were a breeze. After several hours of non stop hiking the top of my shoulders were a bit sore but that should be expected when spending 5+ hours a day with around 8 pounds strapped to your back.

The Glass Limo by Think Tank Photo is outstanding and I couldn’t ask for more. It’s perfect for what I need and probably for others as well. If you like being able to move freely and still enjoy some comfort this bag is definitely for you. I highly recommend this bag even for those who are simply wanting to carry multiple items instead of a super telephoto lens. I also strongly suggest looking into some additional attachments which will for sure be beneficial: Speed Changer V2, R U Hot, and the Pro Speed Belt V2. If you want to carry an extra camera to have at the ready, the Black Rapid RS-7 shoulder strap is also a definite item that makes light of things. I believe in anything that can ease the load will make your life more enjoyable when it comes to carrying multiple items. It definitely made mine easier and so much more enjoyable.

Cheers,
Mike

Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR

It’s here! It’s finally here! After a long time of wishing, hoping, dreaming, planning, saving and waiting, the new Nikon 600mm f/4E FL ED VR has arrived. It took a while to obtain this gigantic lens but it was worth the wait (and the struggle?) Thank you to those who support my passionate hobby and are always cheering me on. You have no idea but your support means so much to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Although it felt like almost a year of contemplating if I should even buy such a lens, it was probably more a long the lines of a few months but even so, it was constant flipping back and forth of yes, no, I don’t know and deciding which would be better for me; the 400, 500 or 600mm FL. I’ve spent countless hours searching the net for answers and I couldn’t find much that explained what I was looking for in full detail. The major question that I had was how well any of these top three lenses performed with the TC-14E III and TC-20E III teleconverters. I wanted to know how the teleconverters would effect the speed and image quality of the lens. Although I know using a 2x teleconverter on an f/4 lens wouldn’t provide as high image quality as without a teleconverter but what of the 1.4x? The 400mm f/2.8E FL would work fairly well with both teleconverters but with the 1.4x on the 600 I would get just a little bit closer than the 400mm with 2x and the image quality wouldn’t suffer. I’ve seen photographs taken with the 500mm f/4E FL with the TC-20E III teleconverter and the quality was not great and one would have to stop down all the way to f/11 in order to achieve decent results, not a great idea when it comes to low light situations which most photographers deal with when shooting during the golden hour. All of which doesn’t seem ideal since this lens costs almost the price of a used luxury sedan.

I read as many online articles I could find and even spoke with other photographers who often use super-telephoto lenses and I came to one conclusion: Since I’m always needing more reach in my wildlife photography, I decided to go with the 600mm and use my TC-14E III teleconverter for that extra reach. After a few test shots on a few tiny birds the image quality did not suffer… well, atleast I couldn’t tell the difference if it did. I noticed the lens struggling a little bit when it came to speed but I’ll have to try that again as lighting conditions were not great. When aiming the lens at tree swallows, bald eagles or anything that had a similar colour to its background, the lens would loose the subject as there was very little contrast. This is to be expected with or without a teleconverter but you’re not always thinking of that while in the field as you get quite excited since your subjects are now within reach when using such a lens. Or atleast I’m not always thinking of contrast but I guess that’s what practice is for and its definitely a good indicator of identifying one’s level of photography.

First impressions; wow! This lens is huge but it’s surprisingly light! I know it sounds strange but it feels much lighter than my 300mm f/2.8G ED VRII. It’s most likely due to the better balancing that was done comparing to an older lens. I was told that the new 600mm f/4E FL is made out of titanium? I cannot confirm this but I’ve had a titanium exhaust on my previous vehicle before and it’s certainly light weight similar to this lens.

Here are some comparison photos next to the 300mm f/2.8G ED VRII with and without teleconverters:

Although it may look a bit intimidating due to its size (but it really looks inviting to me) you can definitely handhold this lens as it doesn’t weigh as much as you would think at first glance. My longest time hand holding it was just under a minute and I’m not the strongest person in the world.
Lugging this lens over your shoulder isn’t bad either; however, for the most part, I carry the lens and body by holding onto the tripod mount of the collar ring. My collar bones tend to get a bit annoyed after 20-30 minutes of straight walking with a tripod and lens lugged over my shoulders. Perhaps it’s the tripod and not having enough padding as I experienced the same condition with my 300mm f/2.8 + 2x tele + D4s but when planning on doing some serious trekking, I’d recommending using a backpack and take the lens out whenever needed. I use a Think Tank Glass Limo and it fits the new 600mm FL nicely, with and without the TC-14E III teleconverter. However, I’ve hiked the Lighthouse Loop in Ucluelet with this lens, 1.4x teleconverter and Nikon D4s in my backpack as well as having a D810 with battery grip and 24-70mm f/2.8E VR slung around my neck and shoulder and it was too heavy for me. I finished the 45 minute hike but the weight was just too much. You would have to build up your strength and tolerance in order to do long hikes with this particular setup but I’m sure it’s feasible if you organize the items in a way where it would balance everything out.
I usually have a second camera body strapped on me via the BlackRapid RS-7 and Brad accessory with a mid range zoom lens if I want to take a quick shot of something while hiking trails.



Compared to my 300mm f/2.8G ED VRII, the tripod collar foot has a nice soft grip at the top so holding the lens by the tripod collar foot is quite comfortable, even with an Arca-Swiss quick release plate attached.

This lens is great. 600mm is perfect for me as I shoot wildlife that tends to be quite skittish when approached so keeping a safe distance is ideal in order not to cause a disturbance. The lens also works very well with the 1.4x teleconverter and gets me even closer to my subjects. With the aperture set to f/8, I’m able to obtain the sharpest results when the teleconverter is mounted on the lens. Although I’m not testing this lens the way official photography reviewers do, I have noticed that images are much sharper at f/5.6 when shooting without the 1.4x teleconverter.

I’m really interested on how well the lens can perform with the TC-14E III teleconverter and so far my experience has been good. Perhaps I’ll do a more thorough review of the lens as I continue to use it. So stay tuned for more in the near future. In the mean time I’ll leave you with a few images that I managed to capture during the first few weeks of ownership.

Annas Hummingbird

Annas Hummingbird

Bald Eagles

Happy shooting!

Cheers,
Mike

Ucluelet: The Edge of The World

As I’m typing this blog post, I think to myself, there are no words to describe how I feel about this small town called Ucluelet. But I feel the need to share my experience by writing something about it as I recently came back from visiting the beautiful coastline of British Columbia. When traveling to the far west coast, most people think of Tofino and immediately associate it with Long Beach, but everyone I spoke with before and after my little trip, did not know much of Ucluelet.
Ukee, as some call it, is a very special place. The stunning view points of the Wild Pacific Trail, the mouthwatering meals the local restaurants have to offer, the friendly and relaxed community, the exciting wildlife and the overall scenery will make you want to stay in Ucluelet forever. No matter how much rain or stormy weather the true west coast throws at me, I think Ucluelet is well worth it.

Getting to Ucluelet was a bit of a long drive, if you don’t want to pull over and see the sights, you can probably make it within five-six hours coming from the mainland, this includes the ferry ride over to Vancouver Island. It took nearly an entire day of travelling for this little trip as a few pit stops were made along the way. One place to check out is Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Park near the city of Port Alberni. This small tourist attraction has old Douglas Fir and ancient Western Red Cedar trees, some older than 800 years!
Highway #4 is a very twisty but fun road to drive on. For those who are automotive enthusiasts, you will love the tight corners of this smooth and well paved winding road. I saw a few photographs of Porsche Club of America staying at The Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet and I can only assume they had an excellent time driving in. Could you imagine being in a high end sports car like a 911 GT3 and taking the sharp corners of highway #4 with pure ease?! It most certainly sounds like a fun drive to me. Not only is the road smooth and well maintained, it is also quite scenic with little view point pit stops at Ellis River, Kennedy Lake and you can see some of the neat mountain peaks such as Pogo Mountain. There is only one road in order to get there so for anyone interested in traveling to the true west coast, remember to have winter tires mounted on your vehicle from October 1st to March 31st. You will definitely encounter snow when passing through the mountain range of Vancouver Island. Whether the roads are plowed or not, don’t risk it, put on winter tires and play it safe. Not only are winter tires great on snow but they are also designed for better traction in temperatures lower than 7 degrees Celsius.

Staying at the Waters Edge Resort was remarkable, it’s a quiet and cozy place with a full kitchen, large bedroom, and spacious living and dinning room. Tall ceilings and overall clean design make this place feel like home away from home. It’s not like other higher end resorts were you’re drinking champagne while in a hot tub on the beach watching the sunset after your Michelin star restaurant dinner. As mentioned earlier, it’s a peaceful and comfortable place, which is also dog friendly. The Waters Edge Resort is located right on the edge of the Ucluelet Inlet near the Ucluelet Harbour. All windows from the suites offer a stunning waterfront view and the resort is only a short walk from Peninsula Road which has most restaurants situated on it. The protected harbour is a great location which allows for excellent wildlife sightings such as sea lions, eagles, shore birds and sea otters. If you have good optics you might catch a glimpse of a bear across the water.
Although WiFi is available the internet connection is not the greatest there nor is the cellular data network, I was able to get some internet access here and there but you’re on the edge of the world, so to speak. I’m sure my outdated smartphone and/or service provider had something to do with the poor connection but in all honesty it doesn’t matter. It should be expected to have very little communication with the outside world when travelling to such a small town. The reason for going to Ucluelet is to get away from it all so there shouldn’t be any need stay in constant touch, however, it’s hard to resist when you immediately want to share such beauty with friends and family.

Ucluelet Inlet

Hiking Wild Pacific Trail was jaw-dropping. The wildlife, scenery and serenity you experience on this trail is absolutely sensational. The large waves that were seen were truly incredible, some as high as 20 feet! Perhaps I’m exaggerating a little and it would have helped to have something for scale which I didn’t at the time but atleast it seemed like 20 foot waves.
There were many bald eagles to see perched on tall cone-bearing trees with one very lucky sighting of being within 10 feet of a wild bald eagle.
Plenty of seagulls and cormorants can be seen on the rocky reef and flying above but if you keep your eye out towards the water, you might get lucky and spot a few whales. I was certainly lucky enough to see a male Orca coming up for air.
The roughly 8km trail is twisty with lots of spectacular viewpoints about every 10-20 meters, with some view points being just a few steps away from each other. The amazing part is that each viewpoint looks completely different even though you’re looking at the same area of the Pacific coastline. No matter how close the viewpoints may be to each other the Pacific Ocean is a beautiful sight to see when hiking the Wild Pacific Trail. I highly recommend the hike if you ever get the chance. The trail is relatively easy with little elevation change. The path is very well groomed and you can see how much care has gone into maintaining its appearance. This is all thanks to a local named Oyster Jim Martin, he’s doing an incredible job. There is a proposal to extend the trail in the near future towards Half Moon Bay, where it might connect with the trails of Pacific Rim National Park. You can help donate to this cause by visiting the Wild Pacific Trail Society webpage or by clicking here.
I don’t know how to explain it but when hiking this trail you really feel at peace but you also sense the sheer raw power of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a strange feeling, you’re enjoying nature and marveled by its beauty but in the back of your mind at any point this large body of water has the ability to generate such force to wipe out everything in its path in a matter of seconds.

Ucluelet

I mentioned earlier how most people associate the west coast with Long Beach and what kind of trip would it be without visiting the famous beach that everyone talks about when visiting the near by town of Tofino. You just have to go, it’s the largest and longest beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Seeing the speed and water level at high and low tide was astonishing. You can totally feel the powerful energy and strength from the waves. During low tide you could walk to the small islands without fear but you better not turn your back on the water during high tide. I’ve noticed a small handful of people getting knocked down and completely soaked from head to toe with the smallest one foot wave. While watching the waves from the long stretch of washed up logs near the beach parking lot, even the small waves had enough speed and power to cover roughly 50 feet within 20 seconds all the way to the logs, sometimes catching by-standers off guard and sending them scrambling. High tide or low tide, it doesn’t matter, it’s a beautiful beach and everyone seems to have an excellent time there.

Long Beach

Now I’m not a food critic but I love to eat, I’m always a much happier person with a full belly, so I think its safe to say that I know what tastes great. And the chefs at the local restaurants in Ukee are cooking some scrumptious chow.
Abbondanza Pizza, absolutely the best pizza you can get in Ucluelet, it’s heaven! I only got to try the pesto pistachio chicken and Krista Rae but I’ll definitely be trying the margherita and Happy Hippy pizza next time I’m around. Their pizzas are made with the highest quality ingredients and imported Italian tomatoes, all baked in a wood burning oven.
Jiggers Fish & Chips is by far the best fish and chipper I’ve ever been to. This little food truck can be found just down the street from Abbondanza on Peninsula Road. The two piece meal I had was light, flaky with plenty of leftovers for the next day and nothing went stale. The abundance of fries and coleslaw along with their plum sauce was just as good. I had a side of their tiger prawns as well and just as expected, it was marvelous. Everything is freshly caught, which is the only way to do it, especially since this small town is so close to the open ocean.
The Blue Room, A West Coast Bistro, is a little cafe style restaurant that only seats about 20 people so make sure you get there early if you want to avoid line ups. Their entire menu looks amazing, notably the Ukee-rainian breakfast which includes pierogis, but I had the special feature on that day which was a green and purple kale hash with two fried eggs, multigrain toast and I also ordered a side of chorizo sausage. One person across the restaurant ordered whale shaped pancakes, which I did not see on the menu. Although it sounds like something meant for a child, who doesn’t like a little fun mixed into their breakfast. Everything that I had was fantastic! The service was excellent, the food was amazing and the view of the inlet was wonderful. Check them out whenever you’re in town.

Although the trip was short and I didn’t get a chance to experience plenty of other things that Ucluelet has to offer, I will sum up by saying there are several things to look forward to when thinking about visiting the coast:

1) The beautiful scenery and crashing waves during the winter months
2) The wildlife that one will certainly encounter, whether it’s on boat tours or hiking self guided trails.
3) Delicious food from local restaurants
4) Amazing beaches
5) Relaxed environment

Ucluelet, you got orcas swimming to the right, eagles soaring above, California sea lions calling to the left and surfers catching great waves, it’s totally extreme! I will definitely be visiting often and I’m already thinking of the next trip. I can’t wait to go back!

Be sure to check out more photos on my Flickr page.

Cheers,
Mike