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Vanuatu/Gold Coast : Part 1

For this trip , I went old school by recording our thoughts and adventures with a pen and paper. This was to save time and space during the trip by not having the laptop around to gawk and half edit images that I know I will be re-doing when I get home anyway. I have to say that in retrospect, it did leave me having a much more restful holiday despite the activities that we managed to squeeze in! The only piece of new gear we were looking forward to trying out was a go pro hero7 with underwater housing for Marianne’s planned dives.

We left Adelaide on a balmy winter’s morning travelling in a maxi cab that was probably the equivalent of our UberXL experience last trip. No dramas with check in to Brisbane. The kids had their customary playground session at the airport before boarding the plane with their customary excitement that lasted for the entire trip this time! Two hours on the plane was easy for everyone save for Charlotte’s ears. Before we knew it, we were back on the ground and heading off in our rental Nissan X trail courtesy of a smooth pick up from alpha rentals.

Our first hiccup of the trip , though rapidly resolved, occurred when we were trying to check in to our accommodation at Upper Coomera booked through getastay. Apparently, since they had allowed us to use the house for 3 nights instead of 5, they booked us in for the wrong 3 night block of the 5 nights. This meant that they weren’t expecting us for another 2 days! Thanks to some understanding behalf of the hosts,as it was our mistake, we were still able to use the property, albeit later that afternoon than anticipated.

We took that opportunity to have our customary ‘can’t be bothered’ Maccas lumch on arrival followed by some supplies shopping at the Westfield Coomera. Then, finally, we checked in to our house which was huge for our purposes and complete with pool table and arcade games deck! Oohh boy did we spend some time playing the likes of Donkey Kong, Galaga and Dig Dug!

Coomera River on a beautiful evening

That evening, after a brief shoot at Coomera River where the sun created some great rays and golden light, we had a great pizza meal courtesy of Don Angelo’s Pizzeria (well, takeaway since it was full beyond bursting despite the torrential downpours)

Saturday June 29:

At 5am amdist some rapidly changing skies, I drove to Fingal Head in hope of some good conditions. It was eerily similar to our 2016 visit. It seems that each time I go there, I end up getting drenched on as the heavens opened up just after dawn on this occasion. In timing with that and some splash action, the A7R2 decided to malfunction at a critical moment ….thankfully it recovered quickly for the rest of the trip.

Long exposure of the Giant’s Causeway at dawn

When I returned home, Marianne told me that the girls had been chatting to each other all night and Charlotte’s cough had developed a hacking quality to it along with bouts of continuous sneezing ….hopefully some kind of local allergy rather than flulike illness??

Within the hour, we had eaten breakfast, packed and headed off to Seaworld for the day. In all honesty, I felt that it was starting to show its age as my memories as a teenager back in the 1990s seemed to correlate exactly with what I was seeing in 2019 ? It was still a great deal of fun and the girls’ best memories of the days were of the seal and dolphin shows. The shows were ironically the weakest point for me. I wonder, is there anything wrong with providing entertainment for purely entertainment’s sake /value these days? Seaworld does well to provide education , especially for young children, but perhaps the subtlety of a blunt axe isn’t needed for all ages! During the day Charlotte also loved her first experience on a full sized roller coaster while Jaime enjoyed her Manta Ray feeding experience despite having her finger nibbled on. Bigger rides for both girls next time , height permitting!

Charlotte and Jaime really enjoyed the dolphin show
Charlotte and I , 3rd row back – is that really a fun face??

After a brief rest at home, I headed to Ouyan street for a sunset shoot of the Surfers Paradise skyline. Somehow I ended up assisting with fixing someone’s tripod in between a couple of long exposures but it ended up being a win-win situation. There was some ‘hangriness’ (hungry/angry is a term we use a lot at home!) when I returned home which was exacerbated by a long wait at ‘My Friends Asian takeaway’. Unfortunately the food was not worth the wait either so that place will not be high recommendation at all.

Post sunset hues of Surfers Paradise

Sunday June 30:

It was a great morning down at Southport where joggers, photographers , cyclists and surprisingly few surfers all congregated pre-dawn. The light ended up being quite beautiful and being not so far away as Fingal Head, it meant that I returned home in good time for breakfast with the kids and Marianne.

Southport at Dawn

The rest of the day would be spent around Mount Tamborine and driving through the Gold Coast Hinterland. There was great natural beauty , however the heavy traffic was definitely off putting after 10am. Our first stop was Curtis Falls which in the morning, was not yet crowded. Eventually, more people would stream in (some wearing some pretty inappropriate clothing). Thanks to the previous days showers, there was reasonable flow in the waterfall. I ventured barefoot on the downstream side of the falls away from the barricaded areas and managed a couple of shots before leaving.

Curtis Falls

Next stop was the Tamborine Skywalk. The entrance fee was reasonable for the experience but honestly, I’m sure the ground sections were equivalent to any of the trails in the area. The price of commercialism and regulating access to sensitive environments I guess. On our way out from the skywalk, traffic had really started to build up as I presume visitors from the Brisbane area started to filter through. We had planned to have lunch and explore the Cedar Creek Falls area but were unable to find a park in the overwhelmed and far undersized car park. Instead, we randomly parked anywhere we could do so legally and had our packed lunches on some random rocks. While we eating, quite a number of visitors turned around also unable to find a park.

Gopro Selfie on the Cantilever

After lunch, we decided to drive back to the holiday house to get clean, pack up and chill out before departing for Vanuatu. Dinner was again courtesy of Don Angelo’s and by 630pm the girls were in bed attempting to get an early night’s sleep ahead of a predawn trip to the airport.

Monday July 1

4am start, pack-up and off to the airport. I think time has accustomed us to this routine and there were few gripes from the girls. Even at 5am albeit on a Monday morning , the highways into Brisbane were already starting to suffer from congestion but not enough to delay our rental drop off. Alpha car rentals had a very smooth and efficient drop off process and overall, I’m sure I would rent from them again given that their prices were very competitive compared to the other major rental companies.

The airport side of things was again smooth with no interruption and again, without fuss, we ended up on the Air Nauru plane bound for Port Vila!

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Autumn in Tasmania : trip notes as they occurred!

April 20:

It was a little unusual for us to be departing for a destination at the end of the day. Somehow in the past, it has always worked out that we’ve been on morning flights so the girls have had something to look forward to on waking up instead of the anticipation building throughout the day. We managed to get a few things packed during the morning as well as drop off aging Giz (our Jack Russell) to my parents place. After a quick lunch, we introduced Charlotte to her first superhero movie Wonder Woman . From a 7 year old’s perspective, she was just interested in the fighting and glory scenes rather than any character building or plot advancement moments!

We took our first ever UberXL ride to the airport which I have to say, worked out at least as well as any cab we’ve taken. Then the girls went through their usual airport routine of checking in while stopping off for a play at the playground before boarding the plane. Everything went smoothly. Oh except for the swearing bogans behind us …..clearly situational awareness and foul language around children are aspects that some don’t care about?

The flight itself went very well and our landing , baggage collection and car pickup all went seamlessly. By the time we landed, it was well after 7pm so we opted to go for the quick MacDonalds option for dinner before meeting up with Marianne’s parents, Pat & Quyen at the supermarket since things had gone so well.

Arrival at Hobart Airport

The accommodation was in the suburb of Dynnyrne. It was a beautiful and massive home which was really meant to be two separate 2 bathroom apartments which we had hired out for the whole family. It was one of the best places we had stayed in save for the rather tricky parking. There were two parks nearby and Mount Wellington was basically straight up a road two blocks away from us. South Wellington was the plan for the following morning.

April 21:

This was one of many early dawn walks for the trip. Pat and Quyen decided to come along for the hike to South Wellington. We left at 5am and arrived on the mountain a bit more than an hour before dawn. The colours had already started to shine and unfortunately I took a wrong turn down the zig zag path which chewed up 5 minutes of valuable time. Having never been to the area, I decided to explore off track before the Rocking Horse and photographed some of the leaning dolerite columns before attempting some commercial shots for icebreaker. The wind up there was pretty intense and it was good to have shot on the leeward side of the mountain.

South Wellington Dawn

When we returned home, everyone was up and about ready for a day’s activities. We decided to visit Mount field National Park, which on an Easter Sunday  , we anticipated would be very busy. Along the way, the fall colours of Westerway and New Norflolk were particularly striking , especially the poplars lining Tyndall Park. By the time we arrived, it was late morning and we spent a good 90 minutes exploring Russell and Horseshoe Falls. The kids enjoyed a ‘secret’ path to the 2nd tier of Russell Falls. Unfortunately at Horseshoe Falls ,  I slid and dented the V6 ring- it was able to be undone and a testament to its strength!

Second tier of Russell Falls
Horseshoe Falls at low flow

On the way back, we dropped by the Possum Shed for a yummy BLT lunch, stopped by the raspberry farm before heading back to our apartments for some rest. I thought about going out to Mortimer bay for sunset but decided against it based on the cloud; rookie mistake photographically but it turned out great nonetheless because we had a great time with everyone at a local park (Parliament street park) with its massive blue slippery dip. Dinner was a struggle to organise on Easter Sunday, but we finally ordered some OK pizza anywhere we could find! Cargo pizzeria was the only one open on the public holiday and was kind of acceptable for hungry people!

Autumn colours at Westerway

April 22

I arranged to meet Luke at Fossil Bay for dawn while Pat and Quyen decided to sleep in after considering coming out earlier. I forgot to bring my 12mm and regretted it! The 16mm really had limitations down there and ever since, I’ve made sure the 12mm and the filter kit was with me. So far , on all of the shoots save for the waterfalls, there hadn’t been anyone else photographing.

Fossil Bay at dawn

After a very efficient clean up and goodbye to an awesome rental, we were on our way to Freycinet in great weather. Our first stop was more grocery shopping before stopping by at Richmond for an un-anctipated long stop on account of its charm. On Easter Sunday, the place was buzzing with tourists. After stopping by the sweet shop and hanging around the historic bridge, we headed to Swansea for lunch , one of several bakery lunches for the trip at the Bark Mill Tavern and Bakery. As a side note, bakery lunches while on the road were something we sorely missed while we were travelling in North America – it’s not everyday that I feel like having a full cooked lunch!

Richmond bridge (Marianne’s phone pano)

Our second rental at Coles Bay was situated off the main road toward the national park and had amazing grandstand views of the Hazards from the upstairs deck. The living area upstairs was very well setup however, compared to the previous 2 nights in Hobart, the place was not as well set up for 2 families. Downstairs was crammed with 3 bedrooms and a tiny bathroom and the bifolds on our bedroom just didn’t close! Nonetheless, I’m not one to complain about such things given the amazing setting.

That afternoon , in dry weather, we set out for Mount Amos and arrived after 1 hour of sweaty climbing on the granite rock faces. Marianne was able to get out for the first time in ages since her parents looked after the kids and kindly looked after food preparation for the evening. At the top, we were alone for the evening as everyone else was headed down. Overall , the walk was not as long or as difficult as I remembered from 2008 given I was in a big rush on that occasion.

Halfway up!
Sunset Panorama
Post sunset hues over Wineglass Bay

April 23

The morning looked slightly cloudy and  I was keen to get some colour and clouds in images of Mount Amos so I set off in very calm initial conditions . Inexplicably, after 1.5km of the 2.2km, it started raining! Rain on that side of the mountain was basically an extreme hazard , so I donned my emergency spikes and carefully made my way down the mountain without incident save for one short slide which was almost unavoidable due to the lack of footholds. I still managed to get to Sleepy Bay in time, however, dawn cleared completely and I later found out that the Hazards looked great from the Coles Bay side of town.

Sleepy Bay at dawn

After returning, we made plans to go to Friendly Beaches and Bicheno for lunch. Friendly beaches were pure pristine white with blue waters and comfortable temperatures. With holidays in full swing, there were quite a few people around. We ended up spending much longer at the beach than anticipated as the girsl made a beach nest and castle. During that time, I think we managed to get a couple more shots for Icebreaker.

Friendly Beaches

We moved on to Bicheno where we spent much more time looking for critters rather than the blowhole itself . After another bakery lunch, we scoffed some icecream courtesy of the local IGA before heading back to relax at the rental. Marianne’s parents went to buy some Oysters and Mussels from Coles Bay.

By mid afternoon, we were again ready for an outing. This time, the whole family went to the Wineglass bay lookout which was extremely crowded. Charlotte showed her very good fitness by following Quyen up and down for parts of the way while not even working up a sweat . As nice as the views are, once you’ve been up to Mount Amos, the lookout here is almost no comparison. Our evening was spent at the esplanade photographing a beautiful sunset. This was literally the only occasion from the whole trip where we met other photographers – on this occasion Serena Ho and Kaspars Dzenis who were on honeymoon appreciating the warm weather after settling down in Iceland.

Wineglass Bay lookout
The Hazards from Coles Bay Esplanade

Dinner was a feast of pasta and seafood purchased earlier in the day.

April 24:

My morning shoot was not an ambitious one. I went to Sleepy Bay having scouted out positions to shoot from previous day’s mistakes. The shoot and light itself went very well but i became convinced that I had lost my gopro there when in fact I had let it slip out in the boot of the car.

Sleepy Bay with pink!

After we had speedily packed up and readied ourselves for a long drive, the whole family went to Sleepy Bay to help with the search for the gopro. It was only as we were leaving that i found it stray in the boot ….. egg on face for wasting everyone’s time!

First stop afterward (after gas) was Campbelltown for a pee break, then onward to Liffey Falls. Our timing was a bit off because google maps directions took us to the campground and not the upper carpark! We arrived there just before normal lunch time and by the time we had finished up shooting (Charlotte again showing her hiking strengths) , it was after 1pm.

Liffey Falls
The spout at Liffey Falls

Lunch at Deloraine was at 2pm at the Amble Inn . It was a pretty hearty lunch since most of the family decided that enough bakery food had been consumed (I could have kept going!). We then stocked up for our anticipated bad weather run at Cradle Mountain before finally setting off for Highlander cottages at 330pm. Fortunately, the drive there was pretty uneventful and we arrived at 5pm to a no frills checkin . We were staying in Pandani cabin , the smaller of the two with two levels. One queen and 4 bunks in a separate room upstairs. The others had the bigger Stringybark cottage which had one queen and a queen and bunks in the other room. It was definitely the more spacious of the two and had a genuine log fire.

Dinner on the first night was a home favourite of salmon and couscous (replaced by risoni) with quinoa. The weather started to set in that night and that made Pat and Quyen decide against a Cradle summit attempt – a wise decision that I was trying to push them toward gently since they didn’t have full on wet weather gear.

April 25

I woke to showers , wind and no visibility. Nonetheless, I decided to take the gear up pfaast Marion’s lookout and to Plateau creek overlooking Dove Lake as that was really the only direct sunrise facing option. On a morning like that, that was the best and possibly only chance of getting any light. After a cold slosh along plateau creek battling the cold and mists pouring over into Dove Lake, I managed to catch the 1 minute of glorious light before it all faded away.

Plateau Creek, Cradle Mountain

When I returned, the latest time of any trip this holiday so far, everyone was ready for an outing so off we went to Dove Lake along the shuttle bus system. While Pat and Quyen went up to Marions’ lookout (which was misted out), Charlotte and I hiked to the Wombat pool while the others turned back at Lake Lila. Jaime needs to build endurance and patience in the wild to be more like her big sister!

Dove Lake Boatshed
Wombat pool
Fagus in variable bloom

The weather became wilder that afternoon, but after a crowded lunch back at the visitor centre, we went wombat hunting at Waldheim. This area has never disappointed and true enough, we encountered a total of 13 wombats that afternoon. By the time we headed back at 330pm, the day had been a great one and the girls rested up with some screen time before we popped over to the other Cabin for another home made dinner.

Near Waldheim , crazy weather!
Wombats everywhere!
Weindforfer forest walk

April 26

Snow set in overnight! Unfortunately it wasn’t a pleasant kind of snow fall but a wild and temperamental mix of rain, snow, hale and other precipitation through the day. The girls were great sports in the morning , enduring the wild conditions through short hikes based at the Ranger Station before we returned for a warm up and lunch at the bigger cabin. Afterward, with the snow build up, we managed to have a brief snowball fight and snowman creation session before the afternoon was yet again indoors. I had  a brief outing to Upper Quaille falls which was every bit as pretty as I had seen.

Snowing at Pandani cottage
Upper Quaille Falls

The last dinner with a happy crew was at the Cradle Tavern – great food, great atmosphere and here we are packing up about to drive back to the airport and back to Adelaide where its 20 degrees warmer than the 0 degrees here today!

Avengers Endgame on Sunday to round off a great week!

2018 : A year of living and photographing

It’s that time of year again! This year I thought I’d stray a little into a discussion about what I’ve learned in life and perhaps that may give context to my approach to photography this year. The major life event this year was being septic with appendicitis after trying to ‘tough it out’ for far too long. That resulted in a more complicated operation, a longer recovery and a second admission to hospital for another complication. It gave me a focus on considering what the most important aspects of life to me are. Photography is up there for sure, but health and family underpin all of it. Hence , photography this year has revolved around family needs more so than ever. Despite this, the photography year has still been very good to me and it’s given me more fuel to add to my constantly burning feeling of ‘impostor syndrome’.  Rather than presenting 2018 as a timeline, I thought I’d change tact and discuss several themes instead.

Extended family holidays:

Our first trip this year was with extended family to Yorke Peninsula in February. For those reading from South Australia, James Well is an amazing place to stay during the local crabbing season and we certainly took full toll of our weekend there with plenty of seafood to celebrate Chinese New Year. I love summer holidays away as most of the time, I can photography dawns and be back in time for the family breakfasts. If I’m lucky, I may even sneak in a sunset shoot or two during the trips. On this trip, I managed to photography a couple of places I had never been to before and ones which I had not seen many images of.

Wool Bay Jetty had lots of possibilities with a cliff overlooking from behind this position

 

Edithburgh Tidal pool on a blazing sunrise , one of few tidal pools I know if in South Australia?

Competitions:

In the past , I’ve been guilty of overthinking competitions. Competitions aren’t the reason I take photographs, instead, they’re a nice source of external validation if I happen to do well. Sometimes, I even used to enter competitions with a mindset of only entering images that I felt that they were within my invented moral framework of photography. If it went well, I wanted to say a big ‘screw you’ to those images which did not fall within this framework. Guess what – it never worked ! When you’re attempting to break into the top end of any field whether it be sport, academic pursuit or photographic competition, ‘one percenters’ to push limits count. The entrants who respect the rules to the limits with their amazing images will do well. And so, I only chose two competitions to enter this year: the Australian Geographic nature photographer of the year and the Epson Panorama Awards. The former because of the inbuilt ‘RAW check’ that is required for every shortlisted finalist image. The latter because the images seem more true to landscapes than many other ‘landscape’ competitions which seem based more on the ability to use nature as mere guideline for subsequent art. In the panorama awards, I’ve got over my angst-filled deliberations about whether to enter cropped images since most winners in recent times have been cropped images rather than stitched panoramas. I also threw away my ‘pro’ vs ‘amateur’ principle for the sake of the competition as I wanted to see how I fared with all comers in ‘open’ competition. I still consider myself an amateur at heart with far more limited opportunities than ‘professional’ photographers who do it for a living. I’ve had this mindset for a few years now , and it’s only been this year that I’ve had some breakthrough results. So I don’t feel that this change of attitude has been the reason for my successes in 2018, but rather, it simply means that I’m not disappointed if the images don’t perform as well as I had hoped. Meanwhile, several organisations have benefited financially from my chase of external validation!

6th place in Open Nature category , Epson Panorama Award, 91/100

 

7th place, Open Nature category in the Epson Panorama awards : 91/100

 

Finalist, Australian Geograhic NPOTY

Physical health and rehabilitation:

People sometimes ask me why I do the amount of exercise that I do. The easiest answer is that I like it! There’s no way anyone would just run 40-50km a week just for the sake of it. The benefit of keeping fit is to be able to go that bit further, have that much more clarity of mind without having to worry about fatigue after long walks. It helps significantly on the backpacking trips (which requires a different kind of fitness) but even more so during the family holidays when I’m rushing to get to locations before dawn and the rushing back to get back to join the family for the rest of the day. I had grand plans scouted out in advance before the New Zealand trip, but had to adapt to roadside shooting due to the unexpected bout of appendicitis. Over and above this, while attempting to regain fitness in May, I had quite a nasty bike accident coming down from the hills on my bike which set me back further. For several months I just didn’t have the full confidence in my body but thanks to my greyhound Flynn, our morning jogs helped to get me on the rehab track. We’ve got into such a pattern that later in the year, I even managed to run a personal record time for the City to Bay an completely unexpectedly snagged first place for my age! I didn’t do a lot of hiking in Canada or Washington but hopefully next January I’ll be able to test out the benefits of this years rehabbing during a one week solo trip to Tasmania.

Rehabbing slowly with Flynn , our latest addition to the family 😉

Sponsorship and photographic income:

Our relationship with NiSi and Pikitia continue to be our main sources of trickle income. On the side, there seems to be an interest in prints and tutorials every so often, particularly after favourable competition results! Overall, this means that photography is a self sustaining hobby. Throughout the year, I managed to edit a few scripts for NiSi and tested out their Titanium circular polariser. It turns out that its more of a warming cooling filter but still does its intended job well. I hope that with any partnership that I undertake, I can continue to give honest opinions rather than feel forced into praising the hand that feeds me. I feel that as someone who doesn’t depend on photographic income to survive, it leaves me in the best position to keep acting in this manner. Marianne has also branched out in to tripadvisor. We were part of a beta that recently launched in November and have a steady build up of followers.

Test scenario for NiSi’s Titanium CPL

Local shooting:

This year I’ve ventured locally far less than I used to. To a degree, there’s photographic fatigue with visiting the same locations over and over ; even if I haven’t achieved the shot I’ve always had in my mind for certain locations. The main limiting factor is that the kids are growing up and I’ve chosen to stay home on weekends – particularly now that we seem to have established a Sunday pancake routine! I do look forward to the summer months though. From November to February, I can comfortably head out on a local shoot and wrap up after dawn before coming home to take part in the morning activities, be it sport or breakfast related.

Brown Hill has been a new spot to visit thanks to its proximity to home

 

Mannum Falls after moderate rain never disappoints

 

Only one visit to Port Willunga , an old friend

 

New year started off at Petrel Cove – I might be heading down there again!

Our ‘regular’ holidays:

Last but not least, we did go on several trips this year. The March trip to North Island was intertwined with a conference at Tauranga which I needed to attend as a physician trainee supervisor. This was the appendicitis interrupted trip. Since Marianne was pretty stressed out from that trip and fatigued, we decided to try out a resort holiday in Fiji during shoulder season in May. Finally, another perioperative conference was being held in Seattle in October which made it perfect timing for visiting the Northern hemisphere in fall.  All of these trips were planned with dawn photographic opportunities in mind. For the most part, we stayed at self catering homes and based ourselves for three nights at any one location. These are some of my favourite shots from each ‘stop’ that we stayed at.

Tauranga  was the first stop at North Island. I really only went on one shoot in the midst of my delirium and vaguely remember pain in my right groin each step of the way down!

Mount Manganui pre and post dawn

Hawke’s Bay was the next stop where I had planned to do some long hikes to Cape Kidnappers. Instead, I settled for 50m outside our accommodation at Napier.

Dreaming of walking, restricted to hobbling

I was hoping to shoot from the top of Castle Rock at Castlepoint but it looks like many others have now beat me to it! Oh well, another visit will have to do!

The topdown view from Castle Rock will have to wait!

Around Taupo, I ventured out to the desert road to shoot Ngauruhoe. We were staying very close to this lone tree along the shores of Lake Taupo as well.

The ‘Taupo’ tree

 

Mount Doom at dawn

The Waitomo area was famous for its glow worms but I don’t feel I did it justice. Instead, I took a mud bath at Marokopa Falls…

Mighty muddy Marokopa Falls

 

My glow worm attempt!

Our final stop was at Urenui near New Plymouth. I had hoped to visit Taranaki again but due to health, I restricted myself to the coastline.

Goblin Forests around Taranaki with the kids

 

Three sisters at Tongaporutu

 

Whitecliff waterfall barely flowing

 

Our final morning , 5 minutes walk from our accommodation

Fiji was a great place to unwind however, for 2 of our 5 days , we had wild weather! This gave nice photographic opportunities at various locations though.

Tidal waves at the Warwick Resort!

 

Rainbow at Maui Bay after heavy rains

 

Biasevu waterfall was flowing very nicely

 

I visited Sigatoka sand dunes courtesy of a back route more known to locals

By the time we arrived in Seattle in late September, life had more or less returned to normal. Everyone’s health had miraculously stayed in tact (last trip we all suffered from Influenza A!). The kids adjusted well to long haul flights and time zone changes. I could not have imagined a more smooth process getting from home to each of our locations. In fact, other than the kids being loud in a Seattle townhouse causing mild friction with neighbours, all of our accommodation choices were great! There was a bit of a downer toward the end of the trip when we were rained in for consecutive days but the weather did clear and we finished off the trip with a quick visit to Disneyland on the way home.

Crazy fall colours at Mount Seymour

 

Cliff Falls at Kanaka Creek

After a few days in metro Vancouver to get over jetlag, we headed over to Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island . I felt that this was the best location of the trip accompanied by great weather after a washed out start.

Harris Cove in the grey

 

Harris Cove ablaze! A few days later

 

Sombrio Beach hidden waterfall

 

Sandcut Falls at dawn

 

Parkinson Creek on the way to Payzant Creek (which we didn’t make it to)

 

The beautiful lone tree in Fairy Lake

After battling an epic day of traffic to get back to the Mount Rainier area, the weather settled in meaning we lost sight of mountains for good!

Our last view of Mount Rainier for the trip! What fall colours!

 

Fall colours in the rain at Skate Creek

 

Black bear at Paradise

 

Marmot at Paradise!

 

Upper section of Christine Falls

We left Mount Rainier to first snows! Thereafter, it cleared up during our drive, only for the weather to settle in again as we arrived at Forks, our base for exploring the Olympic Peninsula. Rain meant that the focus was largely on waterfalls, though the weather cleared up on the very last morning.

Rialto Beach with dying light

 

Sol Duc Falls in the rain

 

Second Beach in beautiful sunshine as we were leaving!

 

Bunch Creek Falls on the way back to urbanisation

The rest of the trip was based in Seattle for my conference followed by a quick visit to Disneyland !

Seattle at sunset – minus Mount Rainier

Hurrah to the finale of our trip! So glad the girls got to see Disneyland at night!

Final words:

I feel refreshed and healthy at the end of 2018. Next year, we’re taking on home renovations which could see us a bit quieter on the photographic front. We have two trips to Tassie planned so far – one solo, one with extended family. Hopefully we’ll be able to sneak in a couple more trips locally and hopefully the girls continue to develop their hiking legs and appreciation of nature. My most important lesson learned this year was to have a stark reminder of the priorities in life. Good health and family should never be underestimated. See you in 2019 from all of us!