Best Of

18 Favourite Photos of 2018

2018 shaped up to be yet another busy and exciting year with lots of adventures into new and unique areas. It also saw the release of an award-winning documentary film titled Anthropocene: The Human Epoch that I assisted on, a museum exhibit by Ed Burtynsky and book by Harley Rustad featuring Big Lonely Doug, and media coverage on the old-growth issue across the country and around the world. The highlight experience of my year though would have to have been the three weeks that I spent working as a naturalist and photographer aboard the Maple Leaf in the Great Bear Rainforest. The Great Bear stretches along BC’s central and north coast and is part of the largest temperate rainforest in the world. From whales to wolves, bears to eagles, and waterfalls to tall granite walls, the region is beautiful beyond words. The trip also underscored to me though just how special Vancouver Island and BC’s south coast truly are. Due to the better weather and prime growing conditions, it’s right here, in our own backyard, that one can still find some of the most magnificent ancient forests harbouring some of the world’s largest trees. But unlike the Great Bear, where 85% of the old-growth forests are now off limits to logging thanks to decades of conservation efforts, the ancient forests of the south coast are now highly endangered and still being cut at an alarming rate. So throughout 2018 we again clocked thousands of kilometers on logging roads and hiked through magnificent forests and horrific clearcuts in an effort to expose both the beauty and the destruction taking place. Clearly there is still much work to be done in the coming years to ensure that these incredible ecosystems remain standing for generations to come. For now though, please enjoy what are some of my favourite photos from this past year. If you have a favourite, let me know in the comments below! For the wild, TJ.

Fine art prints of these images and more can be ordered online at: tjwatt.com/prints

WOOOOSHHH!! A humpback whale bursts through the surface just off the bow of our boat in the Great Bear Rainforest. To say this was surprising would be a major understatement. In the hour prior to this moment, we had been floating silently while a group of about 20 whales swam nearby, calmly diving for krill. It was fun trying to guess where they might pop up but you never really knew where it would be and certainly none of us could have predicted a breach! Shocked, I somehow managed to spin around and catch at least one good shot before the giant splash ensued. Humpback numbers are thankfully on the rise today after being nearly hunted to extinction a century ago. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with these gentle giants. Listening to the peaceful “pwwossshh” sound of their breath break the silence was something I could listen to forever.

Drawn to the river by the smell of spawning salmon, a Spirit Bear named Warrior pauses momentarily in a sun-dappled creek before chasing after her lunch. Spirit Bears are not an albino but actually a white variant of a black bear and only a few hundred are thought to exist on Earth. Patience, local knowledge, and a lot of luck are the most important ingredients when hoping to view one of the world’s rarest animals. Thankfully, legendary Gitga'at bear guide, Marven Robinson, helped us to fulfill our dreams on this trip.

A bald eagle soars through the Khutze River Valley in the Great Bear Rainforest on BC’s north coast. During the fall salmon run, hundreds of eagles can be seen perched in trees and fishing along the rivers. By carrying the dead salmon off into the woods, the eagles help to fertilize the forest as the decomposing carcasses release nitrogen into the soil. Capturing birds in flight is always a difficult challenge, so I was thrilled to see the eye contact in this image and the beautiful definition in the wings and feathers.

Much of our time in the Great Bear Rainforest was spent floating up and down remote rivers as quietly as we could, hoping to catch a glimpse of local wildlife. Bears were often the main focus but there were many other creatures big and small that we got to see as well, like this kingfisher perched on the roots of an old snag. I really love the balance of elements in this scene and the colours as well. Reminds me somewhat of a painting.

A young male grizzly bear leisurely walks along the banks of the Khutze River looking for salmon. This was my first time seeing a grizzly up close and also the first grizzly we saw upon arriving in the Great Bear! It would also prove to be one of the best photo opportunities over the whole trip. Despite their immense power and potential for ferocity, it was amazing to spend so much time in close proximity to these animals and see just how gentle and playful they can also be.

If the Great Bear Rainforest wasn’t magic enough already, the bioluminescence in the ocean on our first night there was like something out of a sci-fi movie. Stirring the water with a pike pole caused it to light up a bright neon blue. You could see the shapes of fish swimming by, larger things following them, and little sparkles twinkling in all directions that seemed to mirror the stars in the sky. A few of the crew even jumped right in and made ‘glow angles’ with their bodies! Later that night, when it started to rain heavily, the whole bay lit up in a milky glow. It’s something I will never forget!

The view from a few thousand feet over Clayoquot Sound, looking west towards Obstruction and Flores Island. One thing you quickly notice when flying over Vancouver Island is just how pervasive logging roads and clearcuts are. Almost every direction you look, the landscape is scarred or altered. In only a few rare and special places can you can get a glimpse of the island the way it once was - carpeted from coastline to mountain top and back down again in ancient forests of every shade of shimmering green. Thankfully, the local Ahousaht First Nation have a Land Use Vision calling for protection of over 80% of the old-growth forests in their territory. May this view stay looking this way for many generations to come.

Flores Island in Clayoquot Sound is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Located a 45 minute boat ride north of Tofino, the island is home to the incredible Wild Side Trail. The trail winds along 11 kilometers of stunning coastlines and amazing ancient forests before delivering you to the long, sandy beaches of Cow Bay, seen here during an amazing summer sunset. To capture this shot, I was running around barefoot looking for little pools of water to catch the reflection in and then holding my camera just above the sand to create the mirrored effect. I really dig the little trees too - three trees just like the three friends that were on the trip together!

Would you look at these little guys! These psychedelic looking creatures are tiny carnivorous sundews (Drosera rotundifolia), which can be found in the bog forests of Vancouver Island. Rather than make their food through photosynthesis, the sundew supplements its diet by feeding on insects! The sticky dew or “mucilage” on its tentacles helps it to trap and digest its prey for a hearty meal. The plants are so tiny that you could easily walk right by them unless you knew to look for them. For this image, I carefully laid my camera on the ground and used a macro lens to peer into the miniature world. I love the rainbow colours and cartoon-like shapes, which remind me of something from Willy Wonka or Dr. Seuss!

A camas flower awaits its time to bloom in Uplands Park. A fun photographic exercise is to pick only one lens and go for a walk in nature. One of my favorite lenses to do this with is my macro lens. It forces you to slow down and pay attention to the small things. Here, the soft textures and pastel tones of the flower really caught my eye.

A cluster of mushrooms grows in the mossy hollow of old-growth bigleaf maple tree near Lake Cowichan. This would have to be the cutest little colony of fungi I’ve ever seen! I half expected to see a little pixie land on one of them and head through a door into another world.

The hidden sandstone canyon and waterfall at Sombrio Beach is a truly magical place. I never tire of coming here as it always looks a little different depending on the time of day and the season. Aside from the picturesque waterfall, mosses, and ferns, there’s an eye-catching blend of natural curves and lines well.

Reflecting on the Nahmint. Confused? Try turning your head upside down 🙃

The Nahmint River Canyon near Port Alberni is a swimmer’s paradise when out hiking in the hot summer months. The cool, blue waters are flanked by towering cliffs and ancient trees, while the deep pools harbour schools of steelhead salmon. I first visited the Nahmint back in 2006 on one of my very first trips to photograph old-growth forests for conservation. With its exceptional recreational and ecological value, it’s back in the spotlight today as an incredibly important area to save from old-growth logging taking place.

In May of 2018, while on an Ancient Forest Alliance expedition in the Nahmint Valley, we came across an incredible old-growth Douglas-fir tree measuring 10 feet wide and 216 feet tall, making it the 9th widest Douglas-fir tree in the country according to the BC Big Tree Registry and as tall as Big Lonely Doug. It was a truly beautiful, awe-inspiring tree. Two weeks later, it was a stump. Cut down in one of the many clearcuts auctioned off by the BC government’s own logging agency, BC Timber Sales. Under BC’s current forestry model, old-growth forests are a non-renewable resource, as forests are re-logged every 50-70 years, never to become old-growth again. Ecological values aside, a record-sized tree like this one, growing on gentle terrain and next to the main road, can form the basis of an industry based on “big tree tourism”. In this light, trees can be viewed as a renewable resources in that people will come to see them time and time again, generating revenue for local businesses and leaving the forest standing at the same time. However, each time another giant tree or grand grove is cut down, we permanently remove that option from the table. With less than 1% of the original old-growth coastal Douglas-fir trees remaining on BC’s coast, it’s time for the BC government to create a science-based plan that protects these ancient forests and help create a shift to a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry instead.

No other photo of mine created more of a stir this year than this shot of my colleague Andrea Inness walking past a giant old-growth redcedar tree cut down in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni. The image sparked outrage from the general public and went viral on social media, garnering hundreds of thousands of views and even making the front page of Reddit World News. ‘How can this still be happening’ people ask? ‘It must be illegal!’ Truth is, old-growth logging in BC is still taking place and at an alarming rate. 10,000 hectares is cut on Vancouver Island each year alone as the companies target the best remaining stands with the biggest trees. The vast majority of the time, this is taking place in very remote areas, far from the public eye. I do my best to bring back images that showcase both the beauty and destruction of our old-growth forests, but it’s still only a sliver of the bigger picture. Lets hope 2019 is the year that we start seeing some real progress on the old-growth conservation front, as time for these forests is quickly running out.

A wave breaks over the rocky shorline of Sombrio Beach. Storm watching is one of my very favourite pastimes and this is one of the best places to chase big waves! I was also impressed by how calmly the cormorants sat atop their precarious perch as well.

Morning mist hangs over the meadows of the San Juan River estuary near Port Renfrew. I enjoy the peace found at this time of day and often go down to the ocean to watch the sunrise or, when I’m in Port Renfrew, come here. The air is still and the sounds of the world waking up can be heard one bird at a time. Some days you’re treated to a fiery sky of pink and orange while others, like this cool, blue winter morning, are shrouded in mist. It often leaves me thinking of this quote from E.B. White “Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.”

17 Favourite Photos From 2017

2017 - a year that certainly seems to have had its fair share of ups and downs for many folks, myself included. Throughout it all though we learn valuable lessons, grow stronger, and remember to remain grateful for the simple gift of life itself. I was fortunate enough to be a part of some really amazing projects again this year, such as working with Ed Burtynsky, one of my earliest idols and inspirations in photography; having my photo published in Reader's Digest Magazine; guest judging the British Columbia Magazine Photo Contest; and embarking on a number of trips to explore and document incredible wilderness areas across Vancouver Island and BC. Below is a collection featuring some of my personal favourite photos from 2017. As always, I'm looking forward to what new places and faces this next year has in store. I hope you'll join me on the adventure! TJ. *Prints available here.

Nestled in a stunning stretch of old-growth forest along the Juan de Fuca Trail near Port Renfrew, a series of beautiful waterfalls flow through the sculpted sandstone walls of Payzant Creek. I amazed to see how the bubbles twirling in an eddy were captured in the photo as well. It's a truly magical place to visit and well worth the 6km round trip hike from the Parkinson Creek trailhead.

The little bonsai tree at Fairy Lake near Port Renfrew is one of the most photographed trees around, so it can be hard to capture it in a new or unique way. On this particular day though, the water level was really high and a layer of mist hung over the lake's surface, making the tree (which grows on a log) appear as though it was growing straight out of the water. It was pretty surreal looking and resulted in one of my favourite photos yet.

During a hike through the 'FernGully Grove' near Port Renfrew this winter, the sun was casting heavenly rays through the mist, illuminating the cool blue water and lush green ferns of the forest. It really is all about being in the right place at the right time, but that being said, much is still left up to luck. You can only be outside so much of the time and it always leaves me wondering what stunning sights must appear on a daily basis that only the mountains, trees, and wildlife will ever bear witness to.

I've wished and waited my whole life to see the northern lights and this year, during a summer trip to Prince George, it finally happened. Along the drive into town, we were treated to a dazzling display of dancing green beams that made the whole sky appear to be alive and flowing with energy. By the time we arrived, the show had mellowed out a bit but I still managed to capture a few of the purple and green bands brushed like neon paint across the night sky.

Early in 2017 I got hooked on photographing the beautiful Anna's hummingbirds living in our backyard. It was still winter and their colours stood out in shimmering contrast to the white snow. Since they move at incredible speeds, it was quite a challenge to capture a clear shot of one. But after spending many hours watching them, I began to notice some patterns as to where they would hover or perch on a branch. I set my camera up on a tripod underneath a make-shift blind and pre-focused the lens to the location I thought the birds would be. Then, using a remote live-view shooting feature on my new Canon 5D MKIV, I would trigger the camera from my phone at a distance. The plane of focus on the macro lens was razor thin so I was thrilled when I saw the bird's eyes and bright feathers were in focus. The little snowflakes falling around him topped it all off.

This image was taken one icy morning this winter in an old-growth clearcut near Port Renfrew. The fog floating through felt as though the ghosts of the former forest were hanging around the land they had been taken from. Part of the challenge in conservation photography, I feel, is to find beauty and form amidst the chaos and destruction. Compelling art and imagery works like a bridge, carrying difficult, yet important messages into the sphere of public consciousness. Especially in our digital age, visual communication plays an evermore important role in raising awareness of the many issues facing our planet - and hopefully compelling people to take action and help make a difference.

While hiking along the edge of a recent old-growth clearcut near Port Renfrew, I was struck by the split view created by the trunk of a giant cedar tree. On the left, a window into a timeless grove of rare, valley bottom ancient forest. On the right, a scarred landscape, stripped of its once-grand flora and fauna. In the middle, an ancient tree - half its roots planted in a peaceful world it has known for centuries, the other on the edge of the ever-encroaching industrial world. With less than 10% of our valley bottom old-growth forests left on Vancouver Island, which world will prevail?

While walking along Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew, this beautiful amber-coloured kelp (Costaria costata) caught my eye. The patterns were mesmerizing and, when held up to the sun, it lit up like a work of stained glass art. I love the color amber and it was nice to create something a bit more abstract than my usual work.

Photographing little critters is a tricky endeavor. They tend to run, jump, or hide away before you even get your camera out. So when this red-legged frog hopped up on a log and sat perfectly still in a sunbeam, it seemed like a miracle! Maybe it always wanted to be a model in the frog world. Well, it finally got its chance ;)

The estuary of San Juan River is one of my very favourite places to visit and to photograph. Whether it's the changing tides, seasons, or just time of day, there always seems to be a new and beautiful angle with which to view it. On this particular winter day, the sun broke out and caused the meadow to steam. The small trees adorned with white lichens only added to the mystical feel.

Smoke from the wildfires that raged through BC's interior made its way over to Vancouver Island as well this summer. Seen here is the view of sunset from one of my favourite lookouts in Metchosin, Mt Helmcken, at the top of Neild Rd. The pastel haze created a painterly (albeit ominous) feel across the sky and the rolling landscape of the Sooke Hills.

During this year's solar eclipse, a kind fellow let me connect my camera to his telescope during the peak moment of transit (about 90% when viewed from Victoria). It was a fairly surreal experience seeing the daylight dim down but truthfully, I'm still pretty jealous of those who got to experience totality. Next time!

The style and character of old, weathered Douglas-fir trees is a wonder to behold. There is something so zen-like about the shapes and patterns they take on - like the trees you see in Japanese paintings, shrouded in mist. I came upon this particular Doug-fir during a snowy walk up Mill Hill near Shawnigan Lake. It's amazing what magical moments can be found right in your own backyard.

The start of 2017 delivered the first real winter we've had on Vancouver Island in a long time. Temperatures stayed below zero and heavy snow stuck around for weeks at a time. I went to visit the waterfall at Goldstream Park and arrived to find an icy world formed by the billowing mist. Shooting this photo was like working in a deep freeze. My hands felt like they were being crushed in a vice grip and it took few hours for them to fully warm back up, but I'm happy to have this photo to look back on now from the comforts of my cozy home :)

Slowly evolving over the course of millennia, our ancient forests form a beautiful organic tapestry, woven from the many cycles of life and death. Mother nature truly is the world's greatest artist and this nurse log seen here at the Avatar Grove is one my favourite's of her work.

The true magnificence BC's coastal old-growth forest is something that needs to be experienced in person - that humbling feeling of being dwarfed by monumental trees, while the fog floats through the forest and quiet solitude surrounds you. I feel this image though, from the slopes of Edinburgh Mt near Port Renfrew, conveys some sense of the timeless beauty that can be found here.

The Ancient Forest Alliance embarked on a trip this summer to visit part of BC's Inland Temperate Rainforest near the towns of Prince George and McBride. An area in particular, the Parthenon Grove, was one of the most stunning forests any of us had ever seen. The grove was filled with dense stands of old-growth redcedar trees adorned with golden lichens, giving the forest a fairy tale-like feel. Incredible places like these continually inspire me do everything I can do to help protect our amazing ancient forests...forever.

16 Favourite Photos From 2016

Well, it has been another incredible year, jam-packed with new adventures, discoveries, and photos! It's hard to pick favourites from it all but here are my personal top 16 from 2016. Do you have a favourite image? Let me know in the comments below! A huge thanks goes out to the amazing groups and individuals that I've worked with this past year and to all those who have supported my work. It wouldn't be the same with out you! For those who might be interested, prints of most these images are available in my online store as well. Here's to a happy, healthy, and wild 2017! TJ.

A tree climber makes his way up Big Lonely Doug, Canada's second largest Douglas-fir tree near Port Renfrew. Climbing this tree for a second time was something I never thought we'd get the chance to do but it was just as amazing an experience as the first time. It's hard to convey just how small you feel in comparison to this gentle giant but hopefully this photo does it some justice. You can see a drone video of the climb here. Canon 5D MK2 | 17-40 f/4L lens | 1/200sec | f/9.0 | ISO 400.

A giant rainbow arcs across the ancient forests of Edinburgh Mountain near Port Renfrew. I've never seen a rainbow so intense or that hugged the land so tightly. As new roads and clearcuts continue to threaten the largest remaining intact old-growth forest here on southern Vancouver Island, I couldn't help but think that the mountain was happy to see us there, working to protect its forest friends. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L lens | 1/200sec | f/8.0 | ISO 200.

The little bonsai tree growing out of sunken log at Fairy Lake must be one of the most recognizable and photographed trees on Vancouver Island. That only makes for a fun challenge though, to see how you might capture it in new and unique ways. Since the lake is connected to the nearby San Juan River, water levels can rise dramatically during periods of heavy rain. When they did just this fall, it left only part of the tree poking through the lake's surface. At times, the entire tree can become submerged. How it lives through all of this I am not quite sure, but I'm sure happy that it does. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS lens | 1/4 sec | f/6.3 | ISO 200.

I love to watch the sunrise. It's a great excuse to get out of bed early and it's wonderful to have the world to yourself, if only for a little while. Of course, it's often beautiful too, like this fiery morning sky reflected in the San Juan River estuary near Port Renfrew. Canon 5D MK2 | 17-40 f/4L lens | 1/100 sec | f/5.6 | ISO 1600.

My heart normally pulls me deep into the woods but over a weekend this past summer, some friends and I headed for the hills instead. It was refreshing (minus the mosquitoes) to get up high and explore an open landscape with sweeping panoramic vistas. The mountain we climbed was 50-40 Peak, located about 45 minutes outside of Port Alberni, and this was the view from near the summit looking towards Cobalt Lake (where we camped) and Triple Peak in the far background. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS lens | 1/800 sec | f/10 | ISO 400.

The evergreen forests of coastal BC are dominated by a million shades of green and brown, so the autumn yellows of this vine maple (Acer circinatum) in the old-growth forests around Echo Lake appeared as though someone had splashed brightly coloured paint across the canvass of the woods. I love the way the tree's branches flow and curve so gracefully as well. Nature is the world's greatest artist! Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS lens | 1/125 sec | f/5.0 | ISO 1600.

A Pygmy Owl sits perched on the branch of a maple tree next to the San Juan Spruce in Port Renfrew. Despite its cute looks and being about as small as a mini football, you can still see the feathers and flesh from a bird it must have been feeding on. The Vancouver Island Pygmy Owl subspecies is distinct and associated with older forests, and sadly, is on the decline. There may only be 500 breeding pairs left and old-growth logging is considered to be a major threat. I managed to get a single shot this little guy before he decided to fly off into the woods to carry on with his day. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS lens | 1/400 sec | f/4 | ISO 3200.

I feel most alive when alone in the woods. Your senses awaken and your intuition becomes your guiding voice. While wandering through a remote patch of old-growth forest in the Klanawa Valley between Bamfield and Nitinat Lake, I heard the sounds of twigs snapping up ahead. Eyes wide and hairs on end, awaiting to determine nature the sound, a large bull elk appeared along with a group of 4 or 5 females. Relieved (slightly), it was beautiful to see them up close as a guest in their home. As quietly as they appeared they slipped away back into the woods. As I fruitlessly tried to follow their path, I stumbled upon this incredible trio of Sitka spruce trees. You just never know what amazing experience may await around the next corner out there in the woods. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS | 0.6 sec | f/10 | ISO 400.

The old-growth coastal temperate rainforests of British Columbia are some of the most dense and impenetrable, yet beautiful, landscapes on Earth. Life sprouts from every available surface while debris from fallen trees litters the forest floor like a giant game of pick-up-sticks. Capturing this complex environment in a single image often presents a challenge as it ends up looking too busy or confused. On a cool winter day this year though in the Walbran Valley, the fog and light came together to illuminate this ancient world in just the right way. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS | 1/320 sec | F/5.0 | ISO 800.

The San Juan River estuary is one of my very favourite places on Vancouver Island. It's home to an amazing array of wildlife including elk, deer, cougars, bears, wolves, countless birds, and much, much more. It's in a constant flux as well, ever changing with the rise and fall of the tides. Here, mist washes over the meadow during a chilly autumn sunrise. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS lens | 1/20 sec | f/8 | ISO 200.

UBC researcher Vincent Hanlon provides scale from the forest floor to the towering trunks of two giant Sitka spruce trees in the Randy Stoltmann Grove in the Carmanah Valley. The group of researchers secured the help of expert tree climbers to assist them with a study on tree genetics in the valley which involved collecting samples of young needles from the tops of over 20 trees. I joined them to help document the project and at the end of the last day was given the opportunity climb the tallest tree in the grove - a 275ft (84m) tall Sitka spruce. The feeling of hanging in mid-air amongst giants like these is one of humbling awe. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS lens | 1/100 sec | f/6.3 | ISO 1600.

Waves wash across the ocean and the sky along the west coast of Vancouver Island. The patterns found in nature, from big to small, are something to marvel at. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS | 1/2000 sec | f/8 | ISO 400.

During a stormy weekend in Port Renfrew this fall, thousands of gulls gathered along the shoreline to avoid the windy weather. Every now and then, something would startle one of them and they would all take off in unison. I loved the way it looked against the green cedars so I hid behind a large piece of driftwood and waited for the moment to happen again. It was hypnotizing to watch but the spell was quickly broken by the sound of a million bird droppings landing all around me. Thankfully, I escaped unscathed. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS | 1/800 sec | f/8 | ISO 640.

I've waited and dreamt my whole life o a cougar and this year, it finally happened. While heading out of the Walbran Valley innot one but two cougars walked in front of our vehicle. After being passed my gear, which was packed away in the back of the van after a long weekend of shooting, I franticly worked to assemble my camera and lens in time to get a shot. In the end, I only had time to get this one image, which was taken through the front window of my van while the cougar stared directly at us. From a photographer's perspective, it would have been nice to get a clearer image, but on a personal level, I'm just extremely grateful to have seen them with my own eyes - a moving experience that I will never forget. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS | 1/1000 sec | f/4 | ISO 1600.

A male Anna's hummingbird sits perched on the branch of a cedar tree. After closely watching this little guy's patterns early each morning, I noticed he tended to land in a few particular places. So, with the hopes of capturing an image of him in his natural setting, I carefully set up my camera with remote shooting and began to watch the branch for the next 4 hours. Getting the timing and focus just right was extremely tough but after some narrowly missed attempts, it finally worked out! It took a lot of patience and planning to create this image but I'm super happy with it and have a newfound love for this beautiful bird. Canon 5D MK4 | 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lens | 1/400 sec | f/3.5 | ISO 1600.

Fog drifts across the clearcut surrounding Big Lonely Doug in winter time. This might be my favourite photo of BLD. I love the way the passing fog acted as backdrop for the tree and set the solemn mood. Doug has become quite the star over the past few years, with people coming from around the world to pay their respects. Although he's lost some of his closest relatives, I hope he senses that we humans do indeed care about him and the fate of our remaining ancient forests as well. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS lens | 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | ISO 1000

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.

10 Favourite Images from 2014

2014 was an adventurous year and full of new experiences. From the thousands of images shot, I've tried pick a few favorites and create a personal top 10. Here they are (in no particular order). Hope you enjoy and here's to a fantastic 2015!

I've always wanted to photograph a full moon rise and this year I finally remembered on the right day. After racing to Cattle Point in Oak Bay, I laid down behind a patch of camas flowers which provided a unique frame and caught it just in time.

I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for sunrises and sunsets. It's a great excuse to get out into nature and the colorful display is always something beautiful and different. Here's a classic coastal sunset as seen amongst the idyllic Gulf Islands.

Even though I have been to Carmanah Provincial Park many times before, it wasn't until this year that I actually made it to see the famous Three Sisters - a tight cluster of giant Sitka spruce trees with a spot you can sit down in the middle of.

This past summer I visited the Canadian Rockies for the first time and was blown away by their raw magnificence. Here, mountains and forest are reflected in the crystal clear waters of a small lake, creating a surreal landscape view.

Also from my trip to the Rockies, a golden-mantled ground squirrel curiously approaches during one of our day hikes.

Spring in the deciduous forests near Lake Cowichan is breathtaking. After my partner came across this magnificent bigleaf maple tree in the Fall, I was excited to see it bloom. A 15mm fisheye lens allowed me to capture its full glory.

One constant throughout the years is the stunning and surprising beauty of nature. Almost like magic, fleeting moments of sheer natural wonder pop in and out of existence, treating one to the most dazzling displays of colour and form. Seen here, rainbow fog beams shine through the old-growth forests of the Upper Walbran Valley early in the morning.

Certainly not the most beautiful place I visited in 2014 but definitely the most shocking, this burnt old-growth clearcut in the Klanawa Valley was like a scene from Armageddon. The photos from this expedition provided a stark reminder of the continued gross mismanagement of BC's endangered ancient forests.

Each December I visit the Harrison Mills area on the Lower Mainland to photograph the thousands of bald eagles that arrive during the fall salmon runs. This year however, high water levels covered up the dead fish causing the eagle numbers to drastically drop while I was there. Luck did afford me this one close-up view though of an eagle fanning his/her feathers in the warm sunlight.

Not only a highlight of my year but a highlight of my life, the climb of Big Lonely Doug - Canada's second largest Douglas-fir tree - is something I will never forget. One of my hopes was to catch a classic side-on view of a climber looking like an ant on the tree - much like the famous National Geographic photos of tiny people dangling in the giant Sequoia. The nearby logging road provided a unique vantage point and helped achieve the perspective. To see the rest of the photos of the climb, please click here.


West Coast Trail 2012 - Top 10

To kick of the summer of 2012, two friends and I decided to take 7 days and hike the 75km West Coast Trail from Port Renfrew to Bamfield on Vancouver Island. It was an incredible time to say the least! Below are 10 of my favorite shots from the 1000 I took.

West Coast Trail 2012

West Coast Trail 2012

WCT bliss

WCT bliss

West Coast Trail tide pool at Camper Creek

West Coast Trail tide pool at Camper Creek

West Coast Trail sunset log

West Coast Trail sunset log

West Coast Trail Tsusiat Falls at night

West Coast Trail Tsusiat Falls at night

cave reflection

cave reflection

Tsusiat Fog

Tsusiat Fog

Boardwalk and spruce

Boardwalk and spruce

West Coast Trail Fog

West Coast Trail Fog

West Coast Trail km 0

West Coast Trail km 0