Monday 8 April 2019

Chemainus Lake

Returning from a trip to the Cowichan Valley in January for some misty morning photography, I stopped to check out Chemainus Lake. The last time I had been there was years earlier, and it had, at that time, felt sad and overused. This time, however, I found a new robust dock, excellent roadway, and fresh gravel at the put-in. I thought, "Time to bring the canoe."

So, on the last day of March, I got up early, canoe already on the roof, and head south. I arrived while it was still dark, put the canoe in the water and set out onto the little lake amid a rising mist and almost total silence.

I paddled around in the cold pre-dawn light, watching the mist swirl and listening to the birds waking up and becoming active. That time of day, on a small body of water, is perhaps the best time of all. The feeling of positive aloneness (sabi) and the feeling of connection to the natural world work to create a rich sense of contentment and hushed awe.

I drifted around, watching the sun slowly rise, painting the tree tops first, with it's golden glow, then eventually the mist, which became thicker with the change in temperature.

I surrendered to the beauty, feeling the cares of the week drifting away amid the mist. There is something about this kind of beauty, the majesty of it, the power of it, that creates an especially receptive mind. I thought about work, relationships, harmony and discord. A wetland is a place that mirrors these qualities. So much life, and with it, so much death.

I experimented with my new camera and the even newer vintage Pentax 28mm lens. It is always difficult to capture the scale of a place like this. Chemainus Lake is small, but also packed with endless views, sights, and details. There are so many nooks and gaps in a wetland and in fact this little lake has channels between the main lake and the shore, bands of water that curve around behind reed banks and a beaver store.

Then, the sun broke over the trees and the morning began in earnest. This always causes me a bit of excitement, the golden hour has begun! I race to get photos, everywhere I look a new subject, a new breath-taking image.

The first shots were of the reed banks, as the light broke across them. I paddled to two spots of the lake to get different perspectives.

As I did, the nesting geese started honking, and within minutes a flock of new geese arrived.

In the reeds, marsh wrens and song sparrows started to mill about, joined by red-wing blackbirds going from perch to perch and back again. The morning chorus, or racket, had begun.

Song Sparrow
Male Redwing Blackbird
Female Redwing Blackbird
Resident Nesting Canadian Goose
About that time, a paddling fly angler joined us on the water. I was off in a corner with my long lens, trying to get portraits of some of the smaller residents, but I snapped one of this young fellow. We humans tend to dominate the landscape, with our impressive tools, including tackle and vessel.

Young Male Human
Another angler arrived on the dock, so I headed down to the far end of the lake. Along the way I marveled at the beauty of this little spot. The shoreline from the water is truly stunning.

As more humans came onto the water the non-resident geese took flight to the air, and I retreated further into the reeds.

Canadian Geese Take Flight
My Hideout Amid the Reeds

In a shady corner I took out my other new vintage lens, the Revuenon 55mm 1.2. This bokeh master lens creates unique artistic renditions that, in some ways, capture a place better than razor sharpness ever can.

Revuenon 55mm 1.2 - #1
By that time, there were anglers arriving every few minutes. I waited against the reeds near the dock as two young fellows in kayaks, a woman in a float tube, and two older guys in a tinner made there way out. I took a photo of the men with kids on the dock. "Can I touch it?" came the call of one child as a fish was held out flopping for inspection. The curiosity and excitement in the kid's voices was a welcomed sound.

Men and Boys Enjoy the Sturdy Functional Attractive Dock
I was glad that these folks would enjoy their time, AND was also glad I was leaving. I packed up while another fellow prepared to head onto the water in a pontoon boat. I would be back to take more photos on this fantastic jewel of a lake on this special island.