10 Favourite Photos from 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, I've taken a look back and picked 10 of my favourite images from the past year. Never an easy task when you have thousands to choose from, but for one reason or another, these ones stand out for me personally. 2015 was the year of the plane and with many incredible aerial trips made across the island, it was hard to not choose only images taken from above. But the time spent on the ground and in the woods proved to be spectacular and beautiful as well. In 2016 I look forward to exploring more uncharted terrain, flying over new locations, and taking on some fresh personal projects as well. Here's to a great New Year and a happier and healthier planet for all!

This turquoise-blue lagoon, found on the remote Brooks Peninsula on northwestern Vancouver Island, is thankfully protected within a park. It appears more like scene from the Caribbean then the west coast of Canada but flights over this region have revealed a level of beauty that I may never have otherwise imagined in our country. Goal for 2016: camp on that perfect sandy beach.

A second shot from the north side of the Brooks Peninsula. I'm captivated by the ruggedly beautiful and wild coast found here. A land so perfectly sculpted by the intense wind and waves that have washed over its hills and shores for millennia. This photo, my favourite of the year, was taken during a helicopter flight over the region which allowed us to get a much lower and intimate view of this hard-to-access landscape. Just this winter, hurricane-force winds reaching speeds of 147 kph were recorded in this very region.

This image was captured on my first flight with Nick Temos of the Pacific Northwest Collective in early 2015. Here, the shadow of our plane is encircled within a rainbow high above the towering forests around Cheewhat Lake, home to Canada's largest tree. We took this special sight as a good omen for times to come. Nick has since generously volunteered much of his time flying us over Vancouver Island to document ancient forests and the impacts of logging from above. A good friend with a great heart, I thank Nick for the unforgettable experiences we've had already and those still unwritten.

I am forever grateful for the spiritual experiences I've had in the woods. Nothing quite compares to the peace and tranquility one can find wandering alone through the ancient forests of Vancouver Island. On this particular trip, I came across this giant redcedar tree high in a remote gully beyond Port Renfrew just as the fog was rolling through. It was like stepping back in time to another world where for a moment you could imagine that modern civilization didn't even exist at all. In 2016 I'm resolving to do more of these personal trips as they often lead to the most unique and exciting discoveries.

A forecast of rain and clouds isn't always a bad thing in photography. In fact, fall, winter, and spring are often the best times to be out shooting in a coastal rainforest when the weather provides more gentle lighting, enriches colours, and often results in fog. It's this wet weather that also gives life to these ancient landscapes, produces their giant trees, and imbues them with their unique spirit. Above is a view I never tire of - gazing up the trunk of a towering tree that's been standing in that very spot half a millennia while the only sounds around you are those of raindrops gently patting the forest floor.

Every now and then, all the quintessential elements that define a landscape or ecosystem finally come together into one scene, like this section of coastal temperate rainforest in the Gordon River Valley near Port Renfrew. It showcases, in a beautiful way, the diversity that makes old-growth forests unique, such as; various-aged trees ranging from young to very old, large woody debris and nurse logs, and a luxuriant plant understory. Second-growth tree plantations, logged again ever 30-80 years on the coast, aren't allowed enough time to regain the unique characteristics of the old-growth ecosystem that was lost. We must protect these rare and endangered ancient forests before it's too late.

Even though old-growth forests are home much wildlife, we often don't see the creatures living their as they're gone or hiding by the time we're nearby. I had a vision though of capturing an image with a large, charismatic animal alongside a giant old-growth tree. After recalling a massive cedar I had seen in the Gordon River Valley that had claw marks leading up to a hole in the trunk, I set up a motion-sensitive trail camera on a nearby tree and waited a few months to come back. Upon later checking the camera, I was thrilled to find this photo of a black bear climbing the tree among many others revealing the life that goes on in the forest while we're not around. I hope to assemble a higher quality trail camera setup in 2016 and capture more unique shots like this one.

The roots of my photography really began with experimental and abstract images before shifting to forests and landscapes today, so while on a road trip away from work this summer it was fun to play around and blend those two worlds together. Here, ripples in the fabric of space and time appear to spread out through the sky after tossing a pebble into the clear waters of a lake and flipping the image upside down.

This past spring was the first time I'd visited Uplands Park in Oak Bay, where some of the last original Garry Oak meadow ecosystem remains and where camas flowers bloom in the thousands. This year I also purchased the new Canon 24-70 f4L IS lens, which beyond proving itself to be a very useful all-around landscape lens, also has an additional macro setting which I put to use here. It was a truly sublime afternoon carefully moving through the purple and green meadows while photographing and smelling the beautiful flowers along the way.

2015 featured a spectacular supermoon eclipse as well. The last time the earth, moon, and sun aligned like this was 1982 and the next time will be 2033! I had almost forgotten to catch it that evening but the red moon caught my eye while driving in the dark countryside and I quickly zipped down to the nearest beach. There, I framed the moon among the tall beach grass (which I lit with the light from my phone) and captured this shot just as the eclipse began to recede. Mother nature will forever be a source of wonder, awe, and inspiration and for that we should show her our greatest respect, admiration, and care.