Sunset at the Estuary in Campbell River, BC

A few evenings ago we were treated to the most beautiful sunset at our campsite at Thunderbird RV park in Campbell River, BC.

This is our view from the back window of the RV! I’m so glad we picked an RV with a big picture window in the back.

The estuary fills up with water at high tide, which just happened to coincide with sunset, producing beautiful reflections.

Sunset at the Estuary in Campbell River BC by Anne McKinnell
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I made this image with my Canon 7D and the Sigma 10-20mm lens at 13mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/4 second exposure. I’m not using my Sony NEX right now because I’m getting ready for my trip to Africa and I want to make sure I’m familiar with all the functions on my 7D again!

This is a single exposure processed entirely in Lightroom. I exposed for the sky and then in post processing I opened up the shadows to increase the detail in the foreground, and increased the saturation of the yellows to bring out the foreground grasses.

Ah, what a night!

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Campground Wildlife in Campbell River, BC

Our new home for the rest of the summer is in Campbell River, British Columbia, where we found a beautiful campsite with abundant wildlife, only 5 minutes walk from the marina!

Campbell River, a mid-point on Vancouver Island, is the place we planned on moving to before we decided we love the RV lifestyle and didn’t want to buy another house after all. Why have a house when we can live at Thunderbird RV Park where there are views on both sides and everything we need in walking distance?

On one side of our campsite is an estuary that is marshy at low tide where the birds find lots of fish. I watched this Great Blue Heron catch dozens of tiny fish before giving us a fly by.

Great Blue Heron
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Ray took this photo of me photographing the birds from the campsite.

Photographing at Thunderbird RV Park

The eagles always seem to be playing in the trees and flying overhead. A perfect opportunity to practice with my new Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens!!

Bald Eagle Flying

Golden Eagle flying

One morning we were greeted by some young deer in the campsite. I made this photo from inside the RV through double paned tinted windows!

Deer in our campsite

At high tide, the estuary looks more like a lake.

Thunderbird RV park

Yep, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere :)

On the other side of the park is the ocean. We take our lawn chairs and drinks down at happy hour and watch the cruise ships go by on their way through Discovery Passage. The ships travel between Victoria or Vancouver and Alaska. This is one of the Disney Cruise Ships.

Disney Cruise Ship

Can you see the Mickey Mouse ears on the exhaust stacks? No? Here’s a closer view.

Disney Cruise Ship

How cute is that?

As you can see, we are loving our new location at Thunderbird RV Park in Campbell River. I made all of these photos in our first few days. This is looking promising!

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Our New Favourite Campsite: Alabama Hills

One of our last stops in last winter’s snowbird season was a place that has been recommended to us by a few fellow RVers: Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California.

Some of the best places we’ve discovered have been from those kinds of recommendations, and this one sure didn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s now our favourite campsite!

We had the most amazing view of any campsite we’ve been to. Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet, was clearly visible from our site (that’s it in the back under the dark cloud).

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California
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I made this photo just before sunset one evening as the last of the day’s rays lit up the tops of the peaks. With my Sony NEX6 mirrorless camera firmly attached to my tripod, I used a small aperture to ensure that both the rock in the foreground and the mountains in the background were all sharply in focus.

If you’re curious about the new mirrorless camera’s, check out my review of the Sony NEX6.

The best part about this location was that there was no one there but us. Our days usually included a couple of people stopping by for a quick look, but otherwise we had the whole place to ourselves. It’s probably not like that in summertime as it was April when we were there.

This photo will give you a better idea of what our campsite looked like:

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California

It was a bit of a bumpy road getting out there, but not too bad. Nothing broke, so I think it was well worth it!

I have many more images to share from this location coming up soon on the blog!

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Wallace Island Marine Park, British Columbia

The best part about summer on the coast of British Columbia is being out on the water on those warm, calm days. My little power boat, “Snoopy”, takes me to all sorts of out of the way places where I can explore the bays, coves, and watch the wildlife.

Between Vancouver Island and the mainland, there are hundreds of little islands to explore. Only some of them have public docks, so when I find one that does, I like to stop and explore on land too.

In my most recent adventure, I did a boat trip all the way around Salt Spring Island and decided to stop at Wallace Island Marine Park for some land exploration in the afternoon.

That’s Snoopy tied up at the front.

Wallace Island Marine Park

The 72 hectare island has numerous bays, including a couple that make excellent anchorages, and a series of well maintained hiking trails.

At one time, the island was privately owned and had a vacation resort with a few cabins and out-buildings. A few of them are still standing. I think this one is a picnic shelter or perhaps a place to keep the firewood dry.

Wallace Island Marine Park

But there is one particular building that is so fascinating it is hard to pull yourself away. I believe it’s the old store and over the past couple of decades hundreds of boaters enjoying a relaxing time on the island have carved driftwood signs with the names of their boats. Some of them are very creative!

Signs at Wallace Island Marine Park

Don’t you just love those vacations when you have enough time to relax and start whittling away on a piece of driftwood and make something like a clock with no hands or the shape of a boat with your name on it.

The island is so pristine, you would never guess it has had so many visitors over the years.

Signs at Wallace Island Marine Park

Signs at Wallace Island Marine Park

Signs at Wallace Island Marine Park

While enjoying the shrine to boaters, reading all the signs, and making photos, I made one really special discovery: a sign that said “Taa Daa”. It’s a sailboat belonging to my friend Janice. Three years ago, the death of her husband and my friend, Ron, was one of the things that made me decide to change my life when I had a sudden realization that I wasn’t living the life I wanted.

Signs at Wallace Island Marine Park
We miss you Ron.

Even though I’ve been pursuing this new life for three years now, I sometimes fall back into my old habits and forget what is truly important. I spend too much time on the computer and not enough time in nature. Seeing this sign was like a reminder to me. The sign was “a sign” that I need to be doing more of what I was doing that day: simply exploring and enjoying.

There were a few other great finds on the island too including a rusty old truck, a rope swing, the dinghy dock, and of course, lots of scenes of boats anchored in bays.

Old Truck at Wallace Island Marine Park

Wallace Island Marine Park British Columbia

Dinghy Dock at Wallace Island Marine Park

I wasn’t staying overnight, so I didn’t get a sunset shot, but I did stop Snoopy a couple of times on the way home to share with you the local wildlife, and just how beautiful it is boating in the Gulf Islands on a warm, calm day.

Seals near Wallace Island Marine Park

Boating in British Columbia Gulf Islands

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Kolob Terrace

While trying to get away from the spring break crowds in Zion National Park, Utah, we discovered Kolob Terrace in the central part of the park.

To get there from Zion Canyon, you exit the park on the south, travel west to Virgin, and go up Kolob Terrace Road where you re-enter the park. (Note, this is a different place than Kolob Canyons.)

Along the 23 mile road you’ll find lots of scenic vistas as the terrace rises to over 8,000 feet. The only people up there were the ones hiking the subway whose cars were in the parking lots. Aside from the cars, we only saw a couple of people the whole time we were up there.

We wanted to check out Lava Point, but discovered that vehicles over 19 feet are not allowed and our Big Baby Blue is 20 feet. We also didn’t go on any of the trails because no dogs were allowed.

But still there were lots of places to pull off on the side of the road and enjoy some scenic views.

Kolob Terrace, Zion National Park, Utah by Anne McKinnell
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Admittedly, our trip to Zion wasn’t quite what we hoped for this year. Between me being sick, the bad weather (a bit of a shock after 3 months of sunny 80 degree days), and the spring break crowds, it could have been better. But even with all that, Zion is so spectacular it’s hard to come away without at least a few breathtaking views.

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Kolob Canyons

Zion National Park can be a pretty busy place with all the hikers doing Angel’s Landing and the Narrows and all the photographers lined up on the bridge.

Plus, we made a critical mistake. Because we had been there before, we didn’t do as much research as we usually do. We just booked a week at the RV park.

It turned out that the week we chose was spring break!!!! Noooooo!!! All the people! It was outrageous.

We couldn’t even get to the narrows because there was no where to park and it was a week before the shuttle bus started.

Seriously, spring break and there’s no shuttle bus? Who planned this?

Now we know and we’ll never go there again during spring break, that’s for sure.

We decided to find a quieter part of the park to enjoy, so we went on a drive to check out some of the other park entrances. The first was Kolob Canyons.

Kolob Canyons is located on the north western corner of the park, but to get there you have to drive out of the park, back to interstate 15, and re-enter the park at the Kolob Canyon entrance. You will enjoy many scenic vistas along the five mile drive on Kolob Canyons Road, like this one:

Kolob Canyon
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I made this photo right on the side of the road. I used a small aperture of f/25 to create a large depth of field so I could get both the flowers in the foreground (Japonica, I think?) and the mountains in focus.

Next up on the blog, I’ll show you another quiet spot in the park, Kolob Terrace.

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Roadside Attraction: California Poppies

On our drive back home from our snowbird season, we stopped for a night of free parking at a Casino in Nice, California.

As we pulled in, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, behind the dumpsters in the back, a small patch of California Poppies.

When the wind died down, I went out with my telephoto lens and my Canon 500D close-up filter to see what kind of interesting compositions I could come up with.

By the way, I love the 500D filter because it means I can get macro shots without having to carry around a dedicated macro lens.

California Poppy by Anne McKinnell
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It’s funny how often I find a great subject, or something amazing happens like an incredible sunset or a herd of antelope, in the most unexpected places like casinos and truck stops.

I had been looking for a pretty patch of poppies in all the parks, and I found them behind a casino dumpster. (I think it was a little too early in the year for the poppies to be everywhere!)

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The Watchman, The Virgin River, and No One But Me

As I made this photo, there were at least 20 photographers lined up on the bridge in front of me making a very similar photo. They are just around the bend in the river. The perspective is a bit different: a more elevated position, less river, no tree. But is it really that much better? Is it better at all?

The first time I visited Zion National Park, I had to make “the bridge photo” too because there must be a reason why everyone is standing there, right? And there is, it’s a great vantage point. But sometimes you just have to move on, and this time I wouldn’t allow myself to make photos from the bridge.

Instead I discovered what I think is a better location. And there was no one there but me. That alone makes it a better location! There was peace and solitude. Those are critical components of photography for me.

The Watchman and Virgin River in Zion National Park, Utah by Anne McKinnell
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Towers of the Virgin

It was one of those mornings when I lift the blinds on the window, a little bleary eyed, and suddenly I’m awake, excited about what I see. With a little hop and a jump I grab my camera gear and I’m off!

I was staying at an RV park just outside Zion National Park in Utah. The clouds looked pretty thick, but the chances were high for a dramatic view so I set off to one of the places I missed on my previous visit, the Towers of the Virgin located behind the museum.

The drive to the museum was only a couple of minutes and surprisingly there were only a few people there who soon cleared out and I was on my own.

Something magical happens when you find yourself all alone in a place like this while the clouds slowly shift, revealing different parts of the majestic mountains, in silence.

Please click the image to enjoy a larger version.

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A Secret Oasis of Barrel Cacti

Somewhere off the beaten track in middle of nowhere, Nevada, I saw an interesting rock outcropping in the distance.

“Let’s go explore!” I said to Ray.

I could see the look in his eyes.

“Long Pants!” I exclaimed.

So we donned our long pants and set off amongst the prickly pear cactus, the teddy bear cholla, the walking stick cactus, the spitting needle cactus, the attack cactus, and the grabby cactus. And there were some Joshua Trees too.

After half an hour of careful stepping, we reached the rock. We photographed all around and as the sun went down I decided to walk around the back.

To my surprise, I found my own secret oasis with barrel cacti working their way up the rock cliff.

Barrel cacti in Nevada by Anne McKinnell
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But the light disappeared quickly and I didn’t get any more photos.

I am keeping my special location a secret for now. It’s my first secret photo location :)

Next year I will return, with reinforced pants, to photograph here again.

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