The Point Atkinson Lighthouse after sunset at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The Point Atkinson Lighthouse (1912) in Lighthouse Park at Sunset (Purchase)
Recently I posted a photograph of the Point Atkinson Lighthouse in Lighthouse Park to Twitter and realized it had been probably 8 years since I’d been there. A few days later I drove out to the park on an initially clear day that was later infiltrated by a lot of high cloud. The glare from this kind of light is one of my least favourite light conditions, but I decided I was going to explore a number of trails I was unfamiliar with in the park regardless.
First I went to Juniper Point. From there I followed the Shore Pine Trail to Shore Pine Point. The Beacon Lane Trail is a direct route to Lighthouse from the parking lot but it is wide and easy to walk compared to some other trails in the park. Those familiar only with the Beacon Lane Trail would be well advised to pick better footwear and clothing for the Juniper Point and Shore Pine trails as they often resemble walking down a steep creek bed. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. It isn’t difficult, but it isn’t something to attempt in sandals either. Both Juniper Point and Shore Pine Point offer nice views to the south and west of Lighthouse Park. Views of Bowen Island, the Salish Sea, and even to Vancouver Island can be found here. The trails on this side of the park can be narrow, but also offer nice views of old grown Douglas Fir trees, and there are plenty of Salal (Gaultheria shallon) and various fern species to give the location that temperate rain forest feeling.
Point Atkinson Lighthouse (1912) in Lighthouse Park after sunset (Purchase)
From Shore Pine Point I went down to the main viewpoint for the Point Atkinson Lighthouse – which is rather overgrown now and shows mostly the top of the Lighthouse. This wasn’t the view I was looking for so I went to West Beach via the West Beach Trail. This is one of the classic views of the lighthouse, but it also gives good views of passing boats and any sunset that may occur. I was fortunate that the high cloud I disliked earlier in the day stuck around, but the sky opened up a bit to the west creating a nice sunset. I tend to photograph most sunsets while facing east as I prefer the subtle colors in the eastern sky to the bombast of the sunset to the west. The light from the sunset itself is great for objects found to the east – with a nice warm glow often contrasting with a more purple/blue tint to the clouds in that direction. The first photograph in this post shows a nice glow on the rocks and a still orange light in the clouds to the east. The second photograph above shows the light as it was only 12 minutes later. A much more subtle glow on the rocks and the lighthouse with a very blue/purple tint to the clouds. A third version of this lighthouse at sunset shows both the warm glow on the rocks and purple hues in the sky.
Queen of Oak Bay (1981) on the Salish Sea (Purchase)
As with my last trip to Lighthouse Park where I visited Juniper Point, I had a goal of what to photograph but my favourite from the day is probably not one of the expected subjects. At Juniper Point I photographed this sailboat while waiting for the right light for other subjects. On this latest trip to Lighthouse Park I liked the shape of the clouds with some not overly brash sunset colours but likely wouldn’t have made the image without the ferry being present. The Queen of Oak Bay (built in 1981) was kind enough to sail into the scene returning to West Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. While these are interesting clouds – without the ferry (or something else) present this wouldn’t be a photo that I’d share.
For more of my photographs of Lighthouse Park visit my West Vancouver Gallery in the Image Library.
Earlier this year I purchased the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens and I’ve been quite happy with the results. In this fairly non-technical review I’ll discuss some of my thought process while considering buying this lens, a few relevant specifications, and provide a few example photographs.
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens
Why should I buy a long zoom lens?
Before I’ve purchased a new lenses I really try to determine what I am missing from my current lenses and balance that with the cost of filling that particular gap. For about 8 years I didn’t really have much need for anything new. This changed a few years ago when I upgraded to my first full frame camera, the Canon 5D Mark IV. The transition was expensive as I had to replace several EF-S mount lenses. After my upgrades I missed the “reach” given by the crop sensor on my old camera, and this made my 70-200mm seem a lot shorter than it had before.
While I assume most photographers purchase this lens for wildlife and perhaps sports related photography, I had to justify this expense by thinking about its application to landscapes. I’ve noticed in the past few years that more and more I’ve been choosing select details from a scene rather than shooting a wider view. Many locations give an opportunity to do both quite successfully, but without a longer lens sometimes those details just aren’t within reach. Likewise I’d like to shoot a bit more wildlife than I have which made this sort of lens appealing as well.
Having established a “need” in my photography for a longer focal length lens, I still waited quite some time before making the purchase. The cost of this lens is not insignificant at around $3000 CDN (I found one on sale for $2200). While editing a wildlife photograph this summer I decided to look at the price of the 100-400mm again and found that the lens was on sale for about $800 cheaper than regular price. I decided to finally fully research this lens and buy it soon as it was on sale. If new equipment isn’t an emergency then you can usually wait for a sale and get something at a discount – Canon seems to do these sales/rebates quite often. After research and a waiting period to make sure I really wanted to do this – I bought the lens one a week later. I then waited another 2 weeks for a new lens foot (not pictured above) to attach it to my RRS ballhead.
Some Specifications and Details
The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II is the second version of their 100-400mm lens. The first (released in 1998) was popular with photographers for many years, and had a push/pull mechanism for zooming. This initial version was replaced in late 2014 with version II which is the model I purchased. The mark II lens uses the more familiar rotating ring for zooming like most Canon lenses. Along with the lens Canon includes an ET-83D Lens hood (with small window for adjusting filters), the Canon LZ1326 Lens Case, and a built in tripod mount ring. I replaced the Canon lens foot with a Really Right Stuff LCF-54 foot which works well with my RRS ballhead without the need for a separate plate. The Canon foot easily unscrews from the base of the collar making replacement pretty simple.
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens
Shooting with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II
My first tests found the lens to be sharp through all focal lengths, and adding my 1.4X extender didn’t seem to change that noticeably. I’d previously had the Canon EF 1.4X Extender II (review) attached to my 70-200mm much of the time, and that has usually been the way I’ve used the 100-400mm too. I don’t find much (if any) image degradation with the extender, but the autofocus is apparently slower (this may not be as much of an issue with the newer mark III version of the extender). I rarely shoot needing to track a fast subject, so I have yet to see how it compares to the same setup with my 70-200mm, which worked great at an airshow tracking planes with the 5D IV even with the extender attached. By all reports the focus with the 100-400mm (without an extender) is also very fast. The main drawback using with the extender with this lens is that at 400mm I’m shooting at f/8, which is why the Cedar Waxing photo below is shot at 6400 ISO. The 4 stop IS did help a lot with this photograph as I was shooting handheld. Generally speaking I am shooting landscapes at apertures smaller than f/8 anyway, so this isn’t usually as much of a concern for most of my subjects.
Adult Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) (Purchase)
The 100-400mm weighs in at 1380g (48.7 oz) which is not insignificant when hand holding. The 70-200mm f/4 IS lens weighs 760g (26.8 oz). As a consequence, the addition of the 100-400mm to my bag has increased the weight, even when the 70-200mm doesn’t come along. That said, I have found walking around with the 100-400mm on my 5D IV to not be overly cumbersome or heavy. Generally I’m carrying lenses/cameras in the bag until I find a subject of interest. The extra capabilities of this lens more than make up for a bit of extra weight in my opinion. While I mostly use a tripod, I have made many photographs with this lens while hand holding. The 4 stop Image Stabilization system has worked very well so far for me when I have used it. Those shooting sports or wildlife subjects will no doubt be very happy with how the system works for them.
One unexpected characteristic of the Canon 100-400mm is a minimum focus distance of only 98cm (3.2 feet)! This lets me get 22cm (8.6 inches) closer than my 70-200mm would and gives a magnification of 0.31x. I am betting there are going to be many examples of wildflowers, mushrooms, and other subjects in the future that I can photograph “close ups” of when I wouldn’t have been able to approach them closely enough with other lenses. This was not a feature I’d researched ahead of time – I had simply presumed that the minimum focus distance would be much longer than a 70-200mm. So this was a nice surprise!
One of the first (non wildlife) subjects I photographed where this lens came in really handy was at Blackie Spit near Crescent Beach (Surrey, BC). This Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata) was growing in a meadow well off of the trail. I wanted to pick it out from the rest of the scene, and the 100-400mm + 1.4x extender worked well for this. As I’m not going to trample a meadow for a photo, the longer lens allowed me to make this photo when I otherwise would not have been able to. The Blanketflower photograph was shot at an equivalent of 560mm (the full zoom capability of the 100-400mm and 1.4x together) and allowed me to get the photograph that I wanted. If I didn’t have the extender attached this still would have been a photo much more possible with the 100-400mm than without it. This sort of scenario was the main reason I was able to justify purchasing this lens. Wildlife photography is great, and I intend to do much more of it, but this kind of photograph will be much more frequent and important to me.
Blanketflower Plant (Gaillardia aristata) growing in a field at Blackie Spit (Purchase)
Summer is not a peak time for my photography but in testing and experimenting with this lens I did get out and found that it may be a good time to photograph wildlife in certain locations. The Blackie Spit part of Crescent Park is not a long trip to make and has some good opportunities in the evening. I photographed the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) below while it looked for food in one of the marsh areas. I suspect I’ll be photographing more in the summer due to the wildlife capabilities this lens allows.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Blackie Spit (Purchase)
Also at Blackie Spit I made this photograph of a Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) while it sang in a bush along side the trail I was on. This photograph may have been possible with my old lens setup, but I would have had to approach the Sparrow’s location in order to do so. Maybe the Sparrow would be comfortable with that, maybe not. On that evening I didn’t have to move, however, as the bird landed near me and all I had to do was zoom in.
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) singing at Blackie Spit (Purchase)
Despite the relatively significant cost (~$3000 CDN) I justified this lens purchase for the new photography opportunities that would be available and the high quality reported by those who already owned it. I’ve been able to make landscape and wildlife photographs that would not have been possible with my previous equipment. I’d would recommend the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II as a great lens to consider for photographers who want to shoot more wildlife/sports subjects or the smaller details found in landscape scenes.
Versatile compared to a prime telephoto
77mm filter diameter matches many other popular Canon lenses
4 stop Image Stabilization
Comes with ET-83D Lens Hood, tripod ring, LZ1326 case
Close focusing distance (98cm / 3.2 feet)
Relatively heavy (1380g / 48.7 oz)
More expensive than many lenses (~$3000 CDN)
I don’t do a lot of product reviews but here are two more that might be of interest:
I thought I’d share another batch of photographs here that don’t have enough of a story involved justify their own blog post.
Baby Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Baby Eastern Cottontail (S. floridanus) Eating hawksbeard Flowers (Purchase)
I was testing out a new zoom lens in the backyard and had seen this baby Eastern Cottontail eating Hawkesbeard stems on the lawn. I sat down and waited for it to come back which it did after a few minutes. This was a rather small rabbit – the adults can be approximately 44 cm (17 in) long, but this little one was only about 15 cm (6 in)!
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Blackie Spit Park
Blackie Spit Park (Surrey, BC) is a favourite photography location of mine, and now that I’ll be occasionally photographing more birds I suspect I’ll be there even more. In July I photographed this Heron wading in one of the small canals in the park while searching for small fish and invertebrates. It was looking around a lot, so I was able to make photos of it facing both ways. I also made the photo below with a longer exposure, to try to get it looking both ways at once. I didn’t expect it to work out quite this well, but I like the result. I was also unable to really come to a conclusion as to whether I liked the Heron facing right or left, so I ultimately just published all three photos.
Great Blue Heron (A. herodias) foraging at Blackie Spit Park
Look both ways before you cross the marsh (Purchase)
I also photographed this decorated rock sitting atop a fence post at Blackie Spit. I take it this sort of thing is not rare in the area, but it was the first time I’d seen one. The large yellow flowers next to the post are Fernleaf Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina).
Decorative Rock on a Crescent Beach Fence Post (Purchase)
Also at Blackie Spit I photographed this Hawksbeard (Crepis sp.) plant with some seed heads on it that were nicely backlit by late day sunlight. I’ve photographed a number of interesting small plant scenes in this particular meadow – which you can find in my Surrey gallery.
Hawksbeard (Crepis sp.) Seeds at Blackie Spit (Purchase)
Water Lily Reflection
I’ve photographed these pond lily (Nymphaeacea) plants in the backyard before, but this time I was attracted to the reflection from this particular flower. I like finding subjects that are only a few steps from the back door!
Water Lily (Nymphaeacea) Flower Reflection (Purchase)
More of my newer images can be found in my New Images Gallery.
The historic Annand/Rowlatt Farmhouse (1888) at Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley, BC.
Farmhouse on the Annand/Rowlatt farmstead (built in 1888) (Purchase)
I recently returned to the Annand/Rowlatt farmstead in Campbell Valley Park and made some photographs. I’ve photographed this location a few times over the years, but had not published the results until recently. The farmhouse pictured above was built by Sarah Ann and Joseph Annand in 1888. This makes the farmhouse one of the oldest existing residences in the Township of Langley. The Annands sold the farm in 1905 and then Len Rowlatt first leased, then purchased the property and lived there for almost 60 years. The farmhouse and the surrounding farm buildings are now part of Campbell Valley Park in south Langley. This photograph of the farmhouse was made in 2019 at the same time as the first photograph of the barns below.
Gable Roof Barn (1898) and on the right the Gambrel Roof Barn (1939) on the Annand/Rowlatt Farmstead (Purchase)
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There are two barns on the Annand/Rowlatt farmstead. The Gable Roof Barn is older and has a bit more historical character, and was built in 1898. The Gable Roof Barn was restored in 1986, and is a timber-frame barn held together with wooden pegs. The siding is made from cedar planks that were split on the farm itself. The lean-to on the north side of the bard was where cows were fed, but now houses old farm equipment.
The Two Barns on the Annand/Rowlatt Farmstead (Purchase)
The larger, red, Gambrel Roof Barn (right) was built in 1939 by Len Rowlatt in order to house and milk his dairy herd. The complex Gambrel Roof design allows space in the hayloft without the obstruction of vertical timbers. This barn was restored to its original condition in 2001. The second photograph of the two barns (and the outbuilding photo below) was made in spring of 2017.
Two chairs under an Apple tree in the gardens surrounding the Annand/Rowlatt Farmhouse (Purchase)
There are a number of split rail fences around the farmstead. One encircles the farmhouse (which is currently rented and is a private area) and the garden/orchard surrounding the house. These two chairs look like an inviting place to relax under an apple tree.
One of the smaller farm buildings on the Annand Rowlatt Farmstead (Purchase)
The farmhouse and 2 barns are not the only older structures on the farmstead property. This small building is located behind the farmhouse and beyond the gardens. Originally there was a garage, workshop, chicken house, storehouse and a pigpen on the property. I am not sure what this building originally was built for, but most of the buildings have been repurposed over time for different needs.
For more of my photographs of the Annand/Rowlatt Farmstead, including some close ups of farm equipment and the barn windows/doors visit my Campbell Valley Park Gallery.
Evening reflections on the pond at Godwin Farm Biodiversity Preserve in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
The pond at Godwin Farm Biodiversity Preserve (Purchase)
A few weeks ago I visited the Godwin Farm Biodiversity Preserve in Surrey for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect from this spot at all – only knowing that this was a farm the owners gifted to the City of Surrey for a park, there was a pond, and I’d seen a photograph of a row of Redwood trees. I drove out there on a weekday evening, expecting to the park to be busier than it was as it is right next to a large number of houses. There were few people there, but many seemed to be walking in from the neighborhood, not driving to the parking lot. It was nice to be in this serene spot with relatively few people.
The park was given to Surrey by the Godwin Family in 2015 through the Federal Eco-gifting program. Tom and Elaine Godwin purchased the land in 1969 and at one time it was a 120 acre farming operation. Tom Godwin planted a wide variety of tree species on the property, and dug the pond in 1975. Many of the tree species are labelled, and there are information signs indicating the history of various parts of the farm.
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) at Godwin Farm (Purchase)
The park is 26 acres, so walking all the trails available is not a difficult task. The trails meander through old farm fields, and orchard, around the pond, and through groves of trees. When I was there many bird species were nearby, including these Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) that flew back and forth across the pond. At one point they clustered around a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) who seemed a bit bothered as it was probably trying to fish in peace. I’d attempted to photograph Cedar Waxwings recently at Elgin Heritage Park, but they never landed close enough for a decent photograph. This flock were greater in number (probably about 10-15 individuals) and seemed a bit curious about me. I was fortunate to get these two photographs. While they came by quite often and perched near me, they never really sat still for all that long, so photo opportunities were frequent, but rather brief.
Adult Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) (Purchase)
For me, the pond was the most interesting part of the park, though all of it is worth walking through. There were obviously some species of small fish in the pond, as the Kingfishers kept catching them. The shore also had some small frogs, and one of the signs indicates there are turtles there as well. I photographed this Narrow-leaved Bur Reed (Sparganium angustifolium) plant along the shoreline with its interesting flowers. This was not a species I’d noticed before in the other ponds I’ve been around, though this species is native to British Columbia.
Bur Reed flowers in the Godwin Farm pond (Purchase)
For more of my photographs from the area visit my City of Surrey Gallery.
A park bench overlooking McLean Pond on a summer evening at Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley, British Columbia, Canada
A Park Bench with a View of McLean Pond (Purchase)
McLean Pond is one of the areas of Campbell Valley Regional Park that seems “new” to me. I don’t believe it was part of the park when I first started visiting it in the early 1980’s. I first explored this area starting about 8 years ago as I’d seen people parking there and decided to check it out myself. The majority of the area is a grassy field, but after a short walk through the grass McLean Pond comes into view. There is a small dock on the south end and one can reserve the pond for canoeing. At the north end of the pond there is a park bench (above) which offers a good spot to view the wildlife in the area.
I visited McLean Pond a few weeks ago mostly in order to try out a new lens I’d purchased (Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM) – mostly to try to get used to the new focal lengths. The wildlife I’d hoped to find at the pond was a good place to start getting acquainted with the new lens, as well as some smaller landscape scenes I was hoping to find. This particular evening had very little breeze, so I was able to get a nice reflection for the photograph below, a scene one can view from the park bench I mentioned above.
The pond (closed to fishing, btw) is home to muskrats and beavers – both of which I saw that evening. Turtles and a few frog species also live in the pond, but I didn’t happen to spot any on this visit. I did see the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) in the photo below, as well as what I presume were this year’s crop of goslings. They were swimming around in the pond, happily picking pond weeds from beneath the surface. This particular individual had a watchful eye on me much of the time. I presume this was either the designated lookout or a parent still wary of its young’s ability to avoid dangers such as photographers with long lenses.
A Wary Canada Goose (B. canadensis) at McLean Pond (Purchase)
The photograph below of two fallen, dead trees along the shore of McLean Pond was one I’d wanted to make on a previous visit, but the conditions were never quite right. The reflection was nice this time and the water plants in the foreground (Watershield – Brasenia schreberi) added a bit to the scene – and they aren’t present in the spring when I’ve visited here the most.
On my way back to my car I heard this Dwarf Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis brooksi) singing in the bushes. I couldn’t find it, and didn’t want to move around too much, but it made it easy on me by landing on this branch within range of my longer lens. This usually happens when I have a wide angle on, but I was lucky this time, and was walking with my new lens. This was a new species for me, I’ve not knowingly seen Savannah Sparrows before, but now I’ll be on the lookout for more. The species name of this bird is interesting – sandwichensis. Was someone hungry?
Grand Falls along the Mississippi River in Almonte, Ontario, Canada.
Grand Falls on the Mississippi River in Almonte, Ontario (Purchase)
The town of Almonte, Ontario is located southwest of Ottawa and has some interesting locations to photograph. Unlike much of British Columbia, the cities in Ontario have a long history, and those such as Almonte seem to have done a better job of preserving historic buildings and locations. I had never heard of Almonte before visiting last fall, but it had been in the news recently as Dr. James Naismith (inventor of Basketball) was born there, and the Ontario based Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship. Much like Hogs Back Falls in Ottawa, Grand Falls along the Mississippi River in Almonte is right in the city. The first photograph here shows Grand Falls from the Almonte Street Bridge next to the old Almonte Electric Plant (1925) building which is currently home to the Mississippi River Power Corporation. The “waterfall” on the left is actually water that has gone through the power station.
Fall Foliage and the Mississippi River in Almonte (Purchase)
This second photograph shows the Mississippi River below Grand Falls and just downstream from the Almonte Street Bridge. While I find it is more difficult to make a pleasing image when facing downstream in most cases, here I liked the mix of the low water flow, colours, and fall foliage along the river.
This is the view just above the old power station building and shows the Mississippi River and Grand Falls from the side. I would think this is likely a much lower water flow than one would see in spring. I’ve seen other photographs of the falls with a lot higher water levels. In many ways, I find waterfalls are better photographed with lower flows – they often show more character.
Waterfall along the Mississippi River (below Grand Falls) in Almonte (Purchase)
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I photographed this small waterfall from across the Mississippi River. The waterfall is actually just downstream from the second river photo above. The red maple tree on the right hand side of the top photo is the same one as you see on the right of the waterfall above.
I thought I’d begin sharing more of my photos here that don’t have enough of a story to warrant a blog post all their own.
Fallen Leaves at Fortune Creek in Gatineau Park
When I stopped to photograph a roadside scene of some fall foliage along Dunlop Road in Québec’s Gatineau Park last fall I heard a small creek nearby. I walked down and made the photograph below of some fallen leaves and Fortune Creek. Still one of my favourite “small scenes” I photographed on that trip. You can see the rest of my photos from the park in the Gatineau Park Gallery.
Fallen Leaves along Fortune Creek in Gatineau Park (Purchase)
Love in the Rain
Love in the Rain is a sculpture created by Bruce Voyce and is currently located at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The sculpture is for the attachment of “love locks” which couples can attach and then dispose of the keys in a nearby receptacle. Previously the locks were becoming a problem on fences and other structures in the city. When I first set up to photograph this composition there was someone sitting along on the bench, which I liked in contrast to the two “lovers” in the foreground. Then they got up and left. I wasn’t willing to sit on the bench myself for this as being 20 feet away with my back to my equipment was a bit risky in a reasonably busy park, so I didn’t. Maybe having the bench empty is a happier photograph anyway? More of my Vancouver photographs can be found in the Vancouver gallery.
Love in the Rain Sculpture in Queen Elizabeth Park (Purchase)
Mount Blandshard – “The Golden Ears”
At this point I have a lot of photographs of the Golden Ears (Mount Blandshard) from various locations. This is one I made from the banks of the Pitt River (in the Pitt Addington/Smohk’wa Marsh) during a cool stretch of weather in February.
There are occasions in winter where I am essentially snowed in – more than a foot of snow or so on the road can make it tough for me to get my car out of the driveway. This year with balding all season tires and that much snow, I didn’t even attempt this. So what to do? I went in the backyard and instead of photographing my usual Chickadee photos from the rose bushes, I went for this grass seed head poking up through the snow. A bit more minimal than subjects I usually photograph.