3 Days at Echo Lake - Hiking, Tree Climbing, & Eagles!

The last weekend of November, I had the chance to spend 3 days with friends at Echo Lake, located located between Mission and Agassiz on the Lower Mainland. It was a freeeeeezing cold trip (-15 with windchill) and harsh reminder of just how painful it can be to hold a metal camera for hours while trying to manipulate the finicky buttons with seized fingers! The breaker in our cabin shorted the first night as well - no lights and no heater makes for long, cold evenings.. The weekend was still filled with fun and adventure though. We hiked up a currently unprotected ridge to see some old-growth Douglas-fir trees growing at the higher elevation and caught some beautiful sunlight scenes with the snow. Thanks to my friend Matthew with the Arboreal Collective, a few lucky ones also had the opportunity to climb a tall Douglas-fir tree along the lake shore. You really only comprehend their size once a tiny human is up amongst the branches - wow!

In 2012, about 60% of the ancient forests around the lake were thankfully protected through a campaign lead by the Ancient Forest Alliance. However, 40% still remain unprotected on the north slope, where we hiked. Besides the impressive trees, the lake is also home to the world's largest night roosting site for bald eagles, who feed on salmon in the nearby Harrison-Chehalis River Estuary each fall. The eagles are the main reason why I visit each year at this time but unfortunately the numbers were really low during our visit due to recent flooding which covered up their fish supply. I still managed a few photos but missed the epic scenes of thousands along the river from previous years. That's nature for you I guess ;)

Presentation Time

I'm always honored when the opportunity arises to speak about photography and our environment - big or small, all talks present a great chance to have a personal conversation about our human experience on this planet. This week I spoke with a Victoria high school photography class on the topic of Conservation Photography & BC's Ancient Forests. It was around their age when my interest first peaked in photography and I hope that it may have planted some seeds along their path's to the future. If you're a local school group or organization, and would like to host a slideshow presentation, please just shoot me an email! Thanks :)

New Documentary Film on the Ancient Forest Alliance

Super happy to share this new documentary on the Ancient Forest Alliance, produced by friend and filmmaker, Darryl Augustine. The 16 minute video features an overview of the history of the Ancient Forest Alliance, spectacular images of BC’s old-growth forests (shot in 4k), and interviews with myself and Ken Wu, tourism business owners, forestry workers, First Nations, politicians, and individuals in the BC forest conservation movement. It was fun and adventurous working in the woods with Darryl on this and hopefully the film will shed more light on what we do as an organization as well as my role as a conservation photographer in BC. Enjoy!

Endangered Upper Walbran Valley - Photos & News Coverage

Anyone who has been to the Upper Walbran Valley knows it is a truly exceptional place. At the heart of the valley lies the largest contiguous tract of unprotected, lowland old-growth forest left outside of parks on southern Vancouver Island; which includes the Castle Grove and the Central Walbran Ancient Forest. I recently visited the area to photograph signs of new potential logging plans in the core area and the amazing forest that is threatened there. Subsequent to the trip I wrote a blog for Huffington Post British Columbia which they just featured on the front page on their website (above)!

To read the story, see photos, and learn more, please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tj-watt/not-all-is-well-bc-woods_b_6201668.html

We also received news coverage on the issue from other major news sources:

And here are a few short clips I filmed while exploring the at-risk forest with my partner Jackie:

It's time to see this jewel of nature saved once and for all!

Autumn Colours Near Lake Cowichan

Autumn, with its rich oranges and yellows, is a beautiful time to be outdoors in many different parts of the world. Here in British Columbia however, in a land where evergreen trees tend to dominate our forests, one has to look a bit harder to find areas bursting the colours we so closely associate with the season. So on an overcast weekend in October, my partner and I went exploring around the creeks and rivers near Lake Cowichan on southern Vancouver Island to find just that. In this region you'll mostly come across younger stands of bigleaf maples and red alders that have grown back after decades of logging but in some places it's still possible to come across small pockets of old-growth deciduous trees. These rare, gentle giants are typically covered from root to crown in thick layers of mosses and licorice ferns, which stand out even more when the leaves have fallen off the trees. Below are a few images from our colour-filled trip. Where are your favourite places to go hunting for Fall colours on the Island or around BC?

Honourable Mention in 'Adventure' - 2014 BC Magazine Photo Contest

Happy to learn that I received an Honourable Mention in the Adventure category of British Columbia Magazine's 2014 Photo Contest. This was my first time photographing mountain biking, making it a fun, fast-paced challenge, and I was stoked to come out with some decent images. After shooting a lot of skateboarding in the past however, there were thankfully some transferable techniques that helped make it a success. Big thanks to the talented riders who let me chase them on foot down hills and through the forest, asking them to fly off cliffs in near darkness while I blinded them with my flash! Congrats to the other winners as well :)

Thanksgiving Weekend

Just returned from two days exploring and documenting unprotected old-growth forests in the Port Alberni region. Shot this photo of my friend Torrance crossing a log over a gorgeous creek during one of our rugged valley treks. This weekend I am most thankful for the fact that there are still a few places left on Vancouver Island where one can go and find themselves in unspoiled nature. In many cases however, the future of said places are at risk. That is why I am also very thankful for the amazing groups of people that are working tirelessly to protect them. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope you are enjoying both your foods and your forests. TJ.

Portrait for Canadian Wildlife

It was great to have the opportunity to meet and photograph biologist Stan Orchard for a recent article in Canadian Wildlife magazine. Stan has been working tirelessly to eradicate the invasive American bullfrog from Vancouver Island as it spreads and takes over the habitat of many native species. A lack of government funding and the sheer number of frogs make for a difficult task but Stan has pioneered his own unique and successful method for capturing them. To learn more, grab the issue of Canadian Wildlife or visit Stan's website, Bullfrog Control.