Thursday, July 20, 2017

Newfoundland Post #5: Cape St. Mary

Out of sequence. I thought I'd share this before getting back on track, a whole week's worth of story and pictures from Witless Bay to come.
Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve is one of the best and most accessible places in the world to see nesting seabirds. Problem is, it's foggy 200 days a year. The rest of the year, it's winter.
Here's a link to a good description. Take a minute to read it.

Here I am at Cape St. Mary, site of the famous Gannet colony ecological reserve. I spent two hours out there yesterday in the fog and a pouring rain so hard I think frogs might have drowned. It's a 1400m hike out to the "Rock" – 2000 steps on my fitbit in each direction (my doc would be happy!) – and everything I was wearing is still trying to dry. I bought an extra sweatshirt (as if I needed one, but it fits and it was on sale!). I 'crashed' at 9pm so here I am up and awake at 3am! Here's the story in a nutshell (what else is there to do at 3am?), even though I'm out of chronological sequence.

I checked into the Bird Island Resort — it's a motel/efficiency in St. Brides, just 4 km from the entrance to the reserve. Locals say that if the wind is from the SW, it will be foggy. It's from the SW. It's foggy. I hear the soothing sound of a foghorn in the distance every 30 seconds. Conditions are different between here and the reserve, but I didn't expect that much difference!

I plan to stay for a few days, maybe I can get some downtime from the endless travel, perhaps I can take out my oil paints again, only one picture so far this trip and it's not done.

Like many other Newfoundland communities, St. Bride's features a fishing port, a bunch of scattered houses and a convenience store that may or may not sell gas. Bird Island Resort is attached to one of those, and there's actually another 'motel' in town, and of course, the usual giant church. Groceries are, well, limited but they also have a bunch of chest freezers in the back with some frozen packaged goods and some meats. There's one restaurant where I had pan-fried fresh cod fillets last night.

Wifi is iffy, it doesn't work on the table in the room but it does on the edge of the bed, where I am right now. They won't admit it. The housekeeper's teenaged daughter knows, but they won't listen to her. The room faces West, right on the ocean. Beautiful sunsets, they tell me (ha!). Here it is during a clear moment:

(all of these next shots are unedited, just so you get a feel. Straight out of the camera, the D5500 with my 17-35 wide angle mounted) 

When I turned around, this is what I saw. This is the town of St. Brides, or at least the port – there's more behind me. 

The roads here are awful. In fact they fit perfectly with the title I'm going to use for the Blurb book, which I also used when I was here 11 years ago: "The Path of Least Potholes". More on that later. It's a bone-jarring 4km drive to the entrance of the reserve and then their driveway is 13km of nice pavement, except for the odd dip that can get you airborne if you drive too fast. Then you arrive at the visitor centre:

No joke, this is from 50 feet away. Something should have told me what I was in for! 

About half an hour later I arrived at "The Rock". As I said, it's 1.4km, a pretty easy trail for those who actually have knees, and it didn't actually start raining until I was halfway out there. FWIW, my goretex Cabela's jacket did its thing. Jeans, on the other hand, aren't waterproof. My feet were soaked inside my waterproof hiking boots from the water running down into my socks. When you reach the "Rock", here's what you see (again, SOOC):

There are thousands of Gannets. More on the surrounding cliff walls. Hope I get another look at it in better weather! 

I was carrying both cameras: the D5500 with the 17-35 wide angle on it on a neck strap under my jacket, and the D800 slung over my shoulder on the BlackRapid strap, hanging down at my side with the 70-200 mounted. I actually added the 1.7x telextender while I was out there in the rain. No simple feat.

Here's an image with that lens. Not retouched. 

I did work on one image, two frames after that one. Lightroom's DeHaze slider is magic.

Some sort of Gannet lovemaking behaviour. I'll find out more when I get back to the reserve in the next couple of days. 

This is a pretty tight crop, so I can't make a large print from it. Hopefully if it clears up a bit, I can come back with the 600mm and shoot some closer shots. It's not weatherproof enough in this rain, though.

More to come, of course!

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