Kalamalka Lake and other areas around Vernon are among my favorite places in British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan region. The above view of Kalamalka Lake, Vernon, and Coldstream was made on the same evening as another photograph of mine: a Panorama of Kalamalka Lake. Unless I am in a hurry, I always seem to stop at this lookout to stretch my legs and look at the view. On this day I was coming back from Kelowna at just the right time for some blue hour photographs.
View of Kalamalka Lake from Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park (Purchase)
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This second view is from Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park along the Corral Trail. In the larger version of this photo you can just see the viewpoint from the first photograph above on the hill in the upper left hand corner.
Choosing a top 10 list of photos at the end of every year never seems to be easy for me. It might be better categorized as a list of favourites as my choices do not always remain the same over time. I’ve made many photos this year I am proud of, and I think illustrate improvements over my photography from previous years (always a good thing). The exercise of choosing a list of only 10 photos is difficult, but I think it is a task that is well worthwhile – and I always enjoy being a part of Jim Goldstein’s annual Your Best Photos project. I have to ask myself what I like about my images, what I don’t, and which is a stronger representation of certain categories or locations I photographed during the year. Choosing images for my yearly Calendar is the start of this task, but at the very least I still have to weed out two images from that pile.
So in no specific order: My top 10 Photographs of 2013!
As I pointed out in my previous Okanagan beach post, I am not much of a beach goer. However, last year while at Ellison Provincial Park I photographed Otter Bay Beach during a sunny spring day. On my trip this year I went back to this location, but the conditions were not quite right for photography, unfortunately. I will probably be back to try again this fall or in spring 2014.
Okanagan Beaches: Kal Beach at the north end of Kalamalka Lake in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada
Kal Beach on the north shore of Kalamalka Lake (Purchase)
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I am not much of a beach person. I prefer uncrowded natural places, I don’t swim, and I tend to avoid heat when possible. This made spring the perfect time for me to photograph some of the beaches in British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan region – a summer destination for many people. Right now I presume Kal Beach in Vernon is packed elbow to elbow with people trying to cool off in the current heat wave.
After shooting some great sunset light near Vernon, British Columbia about a month ago I headed to this vantage point just off Hwy 97. The Monashee Mountains can be seen far in the distance behind the District of Coldstream. The houses and lights to the left are in Vernon, and the water in the foreground is of course, Kalamalka Lake.
Late last summer I decided I wanted a bit more focal length than my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM could offer. Not being able to afford a really long telephoto lens, I looked into the Canon Extenders. Having eliminated the 2x version, I had a choice between the Canon 1.4x EF Extender II ($350) or the newer model the Canon 1.4x EF Extender II ($499). I read many reviews of the new extender over the old one, and it just didn’t seem to be worth the extra $150, at least for me so I went with the mark II version.
Vernon Mountain Pasture (Bubo scandiacus)
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An extender attaches between a compatible lens and the camera body to give some added magnification with that lens. So the Canon 1.4x EF Extender would make a 200mm focal length more like 280mm. While there can be some image degradation, this does allow for a relatively cheap way to achieve the magnification found in longer focal lengths. An extender is also lighter and smaller than a lens, coming in at only 2.9″ x 1.1″, 7.8 oz. (72.8 x 27.2mm, 220g). An extender doesn’t take up much room in your bag or add much weight during a long hike. Using the 1.4x extender your lens operates 1 stop slower than it otherwise would. So my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM lens can only open up to f/5.6, not f/4. This is something to consider, depending on the camera you are using. I’ve been happy with the results from my Canon 7D with higher ISO performance, so if I am shooting wildlife with this combination, I will bump the ISO up a bit to compensate for what would otherwise be slower shutter speeds at f/5.6.
Of course, an extender is only as good as the lens it is sitting behind. All of the sample photos you see here were shot with the extender and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM lens. I love this lens for both wildlife and landscape shooting – and I wrote a separate review of the 70-200 in a guest post Dan Bailey’s Blog.
I asked my contacts on social media and in a few photography forums if anyone had used both the II and III versions of this extender and what they found to be improved in verion III over II. The apparent differences were not worth $150 in my opinion – especially behind the 70-200 lens I would be using it with. Many mentioned there was less Chromatic Abberation (CA) in the newest version. I decided to buy the less expensive version but to keep an eye open during post processing for CA. At this point I have only seen this in one photo, and it was a poorly exposed throwaway that was of no consequence. There still may be situations where this becomes an issue, but as I am aware of it and what shots I’ve made with the extender, I do not foresee this being an issue in the long run.
The 1.4 extender III also has improvements in the coating on the outer pieces of glass – and it is said to not pick up fingerprints like the version II. There are also improvements to better match improvements in some of Canon’s super telephoto lenses that were released at about the same time. I am not worried about fingerprints, and I am unlikely to own some of the really long telephotos anytime soon. I can currently think of better ways to spend $8000. If I come into a landslide of money I will be able to upgrade my extender in addition to purchasing really long glass.
Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) -click to enlarge-
Another issue with extenders can be image degradation. As you are placing more and more pieces of glass between your sensor and subject, image quality is likely to decrease slightly. I have not really noticed this in any of my images taken with the EF Extender II – though I am not one to do too much “pixel peeping” at 100% looking for flaws either.
If you are on a budget and looking to get a bit more reach out of a lens like the 70-200, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender II might be the perfect way to do it. For the new super-telephoto lenses the newest version may be more appropriate. Using the version II for almost 8 months I’ve had no issues and am happy with the photographs I have been able to make with it. Glad to say buying this accomplished exactly the purpose for which I purchased it!
View of Cosens Bay from Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park near Vernon, British Columbia, Canada
Cosens Bay from Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park
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During my recent trip to the North Okanagan region of British Columbia I spent some time in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park. Of all the parks and areas I visited, I think this is my favourite view of Kalamalka Lake – a view looking down on Cosens Bay. The flowers in the foreground are Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) and I found them in full bloom which was fortuitous timing to say the least.
What was perhaps not as lucky timing was what happened next. I walked a bit further up Cosens Bay Road and then jumped on a few rocks out into the grassy meadow for a better vantage point on some Balsamroot plants that looked promising. I try not to walk on vegetation if at all possible so rock hopping is a good opportunity to avoid this. I was about 10 feet into the field, standing on a rock, finishing up a photograph when I heard a distinctive rattling sound – but only twice. This made me uncomfortable to say the least – there are Western Rattlesnakes in the park and I’d just read a sign on the way in about them. They say on the sign that when you hear this sound you should identify where the snake is, then walk far around it. Great advice IF you can find its location! I could not – and it wasn’t rattling anymore so determining the source was not exactly going to be easy. Unable to find it I extended the legs of my tripod to their fullest extent and swept the grass as far ahead of me like I was looking for mines – and made my way back to the road. This was uneventful. I’ve read that people find unexploded WWII ordinates in the park too, so mine sweeping might not have been that far from the truth. The Cosens Bay area was a WWII mortar practice range. Every 10 years or so someone finds an unexploded mortar which has to be disposed of!
When a photography plan goes awry, or the weather changes, there are almost always images that can still be made. I often can look back on such instances at photos that I never would have been able to make if my plans had come to be. Sometimes those are the most satisfying.
Years ago when I would go on a day trip I would try to plan very thoroughly. No matter how much forethought had gone into a trip I found myself throwing off the whole plan because the first or second location I’d visit had more photo opportunities than I had anticipated. I would then rush through the remaining locations and not feel that relaxed when doing so. I’ve realized how silly this was.
Now my planning tends to be towards becoming familiar with locations in the area and not always the order I plan to visit them. What locations might be good at sunset, for early morning, for the harsher midday light? I find getting this information beforehand, if possible, means that I can adapt to the conditions available. After all, the conditions will seldom adapt themselves to my plans!
During my last trip to the Thompson Okanagan region of British Columbia, I had to be flexible on many occasions. While attempting to photograph wildflowers in Kekuli Bay Provincial Park and the local populations of Osprey, Red-wing Blackbirds, and Killdeer I was instead presented with wind and near horizontal rain. This didn’t bother me much either, as I already had figured this could occur and had a place to go when the weather cleared. This change in my plan did create an unforseen opportunity, however.
So I relaxed in my car reading a photography magazine and eating cold soup for dinner. I watched the rain fly past my window horizontally. Looking out my car window I saw a Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) peeking out from its burrow – then scurrying up the bank and eating some of the grass. I’d never seen a Marmot before – and I still might be able to say that if the rain hadn’t changed my “plans”. This was near a path up to a children’s play area near the campground – and I’d walked within a few feet of this burrow about 20 minutes before without noticing it. I turned the car around (less rain flying in my face) and made the above photo from inside the car. Getting my magazine wet was worth it!
As this was Vernon and not an area near Vancouver, the rain didn’t last too long, and the storm moved on. I then headed bakc in the direction of Ellison Provincial Park to see what the sunset might have in store. I’d noticed a few spots down there earlier in the day that would be great for a sunset shoot. I drove to the parking lot, walked part way down the path and realized that sunset light was just not going to happen. So I left in order to see what else I could find to photograph.
Just as I exited the parking lot I noticed a few Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) laying down in the Pine forest along side the road. They didn’t seem to mind me photographing them, though I didn’t get out of my car either. Just as I turned onto the main road on the park border – I noticed about 15-20 Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) grazing in a field. I parked the car, put the 1.4x extender on my 70-200mm f/4 L IS lens for just a bit of extra reach. I suppose deer are pretty common in the area, but I liked how they were grouped together, and in the earlier photo I posted how they seemed pretty unconcerned with my presence. Though in the above photo I certainly looks like I’d been spotted!
So what I am trying to suggest is that if you are planning your photo trips too tightly – relax! I enjoy photography a more when I’m not as concerned with where I have to be next. The planning I do helps me adapt to changing weather conditions and my own timing – allowing me to make photos during times when I would have just considered that moment a failed plan. Photography is a lot more fun that way.