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West Coast Wildlife

Gray whale off of Vancouver Island – Patrick LaMontagne

My wife and I just came back from a wonderful week on Vancouver Island.  With visits to the Comox Valley, the city of Victoria, and other parts of the Island, the highlight was our trip ‘over the hump’ to Ucluelet and Tofino.

We booked a boat tour of the Broken Group Islands out of Ucluelet with Archipelago Wildlife Cruises in advance and had a great time.  I have long had a dream to see whales in the wild, specifically humpbacks, and while we didn’t get to see them breach, it was still a very thrilling experience.  Gray whales, bald eagles, seals, sea lions all made appearances, along with various water fowl.  This cruise was the best part of the whole vacation.  The owners of Archipelago are great hosts, and I wrote a lengthy 5 star review on Trip Advisor about them, which has yet to be posted.   But it’s easy to see why they’re rated the Number #1 tour on Vancouver Island.  A great couple to spend the day with, and after 5.5 hours on the boat, we definitely felt we got our money’s worth.

Humpback whale and calf in The Broken Group Islands – Patrick LaMontagne

One of the big reasons for this trip was to gather photo reference for my upcoming Totem painting series on West Coast wildlife.  Eventually I intend to paint a number of animals that call that area home, even though many of them aren’t exclusive to the west coast.  An otter, bald eagle, seal, sea lion, black bear, and a few whale species are all planned.  While it would be great to take my own photos for these, I often do better by finding photographers willing to sell or share their work for reference purposes, and I’ve been very lucky in that regard.

Bald Eagle in Tofino – Patrick LaMontagne

Even though I took many of my own photos, a few shown here, my Nikon D60 (while still a very good camera) doesn’t have the power I need to get the close-up shots I’m looking for.  One thing we found out quickly, we at least need to start looking at buying a zoom lens.  A realization I came to on this trip is that even though my skills are still limited to point-and-shoot, I’m really starting to enjoy taking photos, and I want to become a better photographer.

Bald Eagle taking off in Tofino – Patrick LaMontagne

I did come home with a couple of great sources for reference photos so the trip was a huge success, despite my own photos not measuring up for reference use.  I found that visiting the area left me feeling more inspired than ever to launch this series, and I’m eager to get painting.  I’ve got some commissions I’m currently working on, so I won’t put digital brush to canvas until October at the earliest on this series, but I’m really looking forward to it.