Aug 5, 2009

Newfoundland Day 10

No time for shooting. Packed my bags and on to the airport to go home.

This was a trip that I will always remember and I know it won't be my last.

Newfoundland Day 9

How can it be day 9 already? You really need so much more time for a place like Newfoundland. Whenever I go on a trip I have certain shots in my head that I want to get....and there wasn't enough time to finish the list. There's always next time.

We got up early and went to see Puffins at Elliston and the Bonavista Lighthouse. No luck, so I photographed the lighthouse and beautiful scenery.

We also spend an hour watching a beautiful Humpback which was feeding very close to shore. He seemed to be having a wonderful time "flippering".

On its side or back, the whale raises one or both flippers and slaps the water’s surface. The flippers are extremely long, measuring up to one third of the total body length – or 4.5 meters (14.8 feet). The splash, vibration and sound that this behavior made was incredible.

We left to drive to St. Johns for our final night because we had an early flight and didn't want to risk driving in dangerous hours with the possibilities of fog and moose.

Of course we stopped along the way trying to pack as much sightseeing in as possible. We found Trinity and Trinity East after some wrong turns.....once again, a stunning area.

Once in St. Johns we went to find typical Newfoundland houses which are so colorful and really make it seem like an unusual and beautiful place. We heard about a much-photographed set of houses on Battery Road and Lower Battery. Note to anyone going here......walk! A certain someone got the rental car so stuck in the winding tiny one-lane streets that I wondered if we would ever get it out. I can just picture the call to the rental agency. "Sorry about your car. It can be picked up on Battery Street wedged between two houses. may want to bring air support to help load it." Thanks for that terrifying and yet funny experience Mum!

Then off for a last look at Signal Hill.

(and I checked my lottery ticket just in case I won…that way I could just stay! No luck.)

Newfoundland Day 8

I was thrilled to finally meet one of my flickr contacts..... we met at the Dungeon and later we spent some time shooting the Puffins at Elliston. I learned a lot....thanks Tony!!

I also spent some time walking the Maberly to Catalina Trail....they call it an ambitious hike. I call it crazy. But worth it just for the beautiful scenery, not to mention the wildlife and fresh air!

Also waited at the harbor for the arrival of the Bowdoin, a 90-year old Arctic Schooner. The year-long festivities honour Captain Bob Bartlett, the famous arctic explorer.

Lying In Wait

Last Moments


Newfoundland Day 7

Another rainy day......but it didn't matter. I walked over to "The Dungeon" and spend some time figuring out how I could possibly get down to the bottom without breaking all my camera gear.....or any bones!

Newfoundland Day 6

We got up EARLY and arrived at the Elliston site before 6am. Spent a couple of hours there and then it started raining.

Did the walk to Spillars Cove in the afternoon.....what a hike! We were warned against doing the hike by a couple of the locals because a Coyote was in the area. That just made me more interested....unfortunately we didn't come across him.

It continued to drizzle for most of the day so I relaxed around our cottage and walked around town.

Wet Puffin

Upstairs Downstairs

Newfoundland Day 5

We made the long drive to Bonavista stopping along the way. When we arrived we went to the Dungeon Provincial Park which has sheep, cows and horses grazing on the land. Had an encounter with a very curious horse who decided that he’d approach me when I got out of the car to photograph the landscapes. He nearly pushed me over a few times and seemed really disappointed that I didn’t have food….but he decided to stick around and stay close anyway.

The highlight of this park is “The Dungeon” where the cliffs give way into a mammoth opening with two seaward-side channels. Continued erosion has led to inland collapse of the cave’s roof.

Then we went to get my “puffin fix” at the Bonavista Lighthouse and the Elliston Colony.

I've been told that the wind has to be blowing a certain direction for them to land on the cliff enabling nice close up shots. It was blowing the wrong way so I did the best I could photographing them on Bird Island. The Elliston Puffin site is home to over 400 breeding pairs and is actually the closest viewing of Puffins from land in North America.

We spend hours there watching as they went out to the ocean and brought back Caplin and other fish for their families. It's so funny to watch them land....they are clumsy birds and I was actually concerned that one of them would tumble off the cliff. We saw more somersaults than in a gymnastics competition.

I See You

Newfoundland Day 4

We checked out of the B&B in St. Johns and made our way to Cape St. Mary’s. Good thing we got an early start because the drive took longer than expected. That's what happens when you have a photo nut in the car pleading you to stop every 15 min. so they can capture yet another beautiful view. (and then there was the *almost* running out of gas incident in the most remote spot after visiting the Rocky River Fishery.)

Once we arrived in St. Brides where we were staying, we checked in and hurried out to visit one of the main reasons for this trip: The Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve which is located at the southwest tip of the Avalon Peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. Since 1983 this irreplaceable natural treasure has been strictly protected as a provincial Ecological Reserve.

The walk to "Bird Rock" is 1.4 km of rough terrain from the Interpretive Centre. So at 1pm....carrying all the heavy gear we walked past the grazing sheep, sheer cliffs most well over 100 metres and colorful wildflowers following the trail that would lead us to the largest accessible gannet colony in Newfoundland.(second largest in North America).

Cape St. Mary’s has:

Gannets 11,000+ nesting pairs
Common Murre 10, 000+ nesting pairs
Black-Legged Kittiwake 10, 000+ nesting pairs
Razorbill 150+ nesting pairs
Black Guillemot 60+ nesting pairs
Thick-Billed Murre 1,000+ nesting pairs

Also: Cormorants, Water Pipits, Horned Larks, Ravens, Bald Eagles,

We came across the top of the trail and I got my first glimpse of Bird Rock, a sea stack only 32 feet from the main body of the Cape St. Mary’s headland and rising 100 metres from the ocean.
I don't even know what to say.

What a surreal of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Thousands of seabirds nesting and raising their young. There should have been a no vacancy sign as every inch of the rock was completely packed with the beautiful gannets. They were gliding and flying amongst the steep cliffs and above our heads, plummeting into the ocean to feed.

I setup my cameras…..and forced myself to walk over to the rock right at the edge of the cliff. I setup my tripod and now I was ready to take some shots. Then I looked down.


Instantly my knees went wobbly, I started getting lightheaded and I froze with fear. I couldn’t get my legs to move and I realized that I had a problem. There was no way I could shoot from the rock now that I’ve looked down and seen the cliff I’m perched on…..but I also know I’m going to have a hard time getting off the rock and back onto the top of the grassy area where at least I felt a bit braver. I accepted a helping hand and was relieved to be off the rock. I sat down with the tripod and once I was sitting, I found that I felt more stable.

The noise from the birds was deafening at times and I thought at one point it had started raining. It wasn’t rain. I wipe my face and see bird crap on my hand. I look at my camera equipment and bags….more bird crap. EVERYWHERE. Oh well…..that wasn’t going to stop me. The fog started rolling in at about 8pm and we left just before 9pm and went to grab dinner at one of the only places we could find….The Gannet’s Nest. We arrived just before they were closing and were lucky that they were willing to feed us! Especially since we were covered in bird crap and must have caused some raised eyebrows!

Newfoundland Day 3

Took a really long hike at Salmonier Nature Park with the 100 pounds of c amera gear, visited Petty Harbor and Cape Spear. Got lost.

Also explored the Trans Canada Highway. It's crazy to me how scenic it is, with natural water areas right at the side of the highway. So much to look at.....

Lead Me Home

Newfoundland Day 2

Exploring The Irish Loop & Cape Shore.

First stop of the day was Quidi Vidi, a small fishing community in St. Johns. Apparently it's one of the most photographed locations in Newfoundland.

The narrow and winding streets make you feel like you're in another world. Pretty houses and a lovely cove......and a Brewery. What more could you want?!

The Village

Next I wanted to see the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve so we decided on O'Briens Whale & Bird Tours. It was a good decision and seems to be the tour company of choice for the locals.

We boarded one of their 46-foot vessels and because of the photo equipment, I was told the best spot to sit was the top deck of the boat on the left side so I'd be closest to the Island and would get a good view. Our guide Michael was amazing navigating the rough ocean and went out of his way to provide me with as many photo opportunities as possible. I found it extremely difficult to get any shots that I liked because I couldn't figure out how to hold onto the boat and the camera at the same time without slipping or being thrown into the air a foot or two! So this is the best I could do :)

Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is North America's largest Atlantic puffin colony. More than 260,000 pairs nest there during the late spring and summer. Overall about 95% of all North America's puffins breed around the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts.

The Atlantic puffin is a member of the auk family and is related to the razorbill, dovekie, black guillemot, common murre and thick billed murre. They are much smaller than I expected, standing a foot tall at the most. They pair for life and each year they use the same nesting burrow to lay a single egg. Newfoundland is the main breeding area for this species in North America.

The Witless Bay Ecological Reserve contains four islands: Gull, Green, Great, and Pee Pee. This area also hosts the second-largest Leach's storm-petrel colony in the world (more than 620,000 pairs nest there). In addition, black-legged kittiwakes and common murres appear in the thousands.

Seabirds generally spend most of the year at sea and only return to land from May to August to breed and raise their young. For the most part, you can only view them by boat.....landing on the islands themselves requires a scientific research or special access permit.

Then he took us about 4 miles towards Ferryland to see two Humpbacks. The waves were about two metres high and it made for a very interesting trip! We got to the Whales and they were spouting and we saw one of them do a terminal dive and show his fluke. I was so interested in the experience that I actually forgot to photograph it!

For my friend Bill....Here's a Puffin!

Newfoundland Day 1

Once we landed in St. Johns, we checked into our accommodations and wasted no time getting out and exploring the area.

Our first stop was Signal Hill. An area so rich with history and stunning views. Perhaps that's why 97% of tourists to Newfoundland visit this iconic landmark.

Originally known as "The Lookout", It was named Signal Hill in 1762 for the practice of signaling the arrival of ships with signal flags. The hill was also instrumental to our defense and communication history.

Our second stop of the day....Cape Spear. I wish I'd had more time because this is a spot you could easily spend days photographing the landscapes, old WW2 buildings and lighthouses. It's the most easterly point in North America.
We saw a few whales in the distance, spent hours photographing the shoreline and by the time I got around to the lighthouses......the light was fading fast. Next time I make it to Newfoundland, I'll be spending more time there!!!

We quickly realized that this trip was going to be a big test of strength and endurance. To make the most of Newfoundland you have to walk. And when I say walk, I mean heavy trekking up and down steep terrain, loose rock, and long trails. Then add who knows how many pounds of photography equipment and you've got yourself a great workout!!

Each day we were carrying around two camera bodies, a wide-angle lens,70-200 f/2.8 IS, 100-400, the 400mm f/2.8 IS (AKA: The Beast), a tripod and heavy Kirk BH1 Ballhead, raingear, various filters and gadgets, drinks, the ever-so-important GPS, jackets etc.

I have muscles aching that I didn't even know existed. But that's just the kind of "vacation" I needed and wanted.

The Rock