The Meandering River

Posted: 29th October 2014 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography
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There is no better way to whittle away some time than to visit and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Vancouver Island in BC.  Trees seem to reach for the skies, the rivers run fast and hard, and the rugged landscapes that the west coast of Canada is famous for are found here.

The Cowichan River - A Serene River Scene - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

The Cowichan River – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

In light of how busy we’ve found ourselves recently providing professional services for our clients, it made sense for us to take pause and get back to the roots of Toad Hollow Photography, even if just for a brief moment.  We were asked at a client consultation when was the last time we worked for ourselves, just for fun?  This does happen quite a bit for Mrs. Toad and I, we try to make a point of getting out on missions of discovery whenever we can.  With our schedules being what they are, it’s been a bit more difficult for us to find time to share these experiences with you on our blog.

So, let’s take a moment today.

As most of you who follow us regularly know, we love the island and we really do try to get involved as much as we can in local efforts to preserve what we’ve got going on here.  After having lived here since 1980, you’d think we’d run out of things to explore…  and I’m here to tell you this just isn’t possible.

A few weeks back we decided to take an afternoon just for ourselves, and to head out to Lake Cowichan, my old stomping grounds and haunts that we used to frequent as teenagers.  At the back of our mind was to capture shots we could share with the various environmental groups we work with.  At the front of our minds was the pure experience itself.

The Cowichan River feeds from Lake Cowichan, a huge lake located on Vancouver Island.  It’s an important river with a heritage designation, one that supplies food, entertainment and water for much of the Cowichan Valley directly and indirectly.  As Mrs. Toad and I stood on a footbridge overlooking the serene river, it struck us how peaceful the setting was.  The river meanders, seemingly forever, and dotted all along it’s shores you will find homes and docks.  In the summer the river is filled with enthusiastic rafters and people floating, taking in the delightful temperatures and landscapes of the island.  In the winter, it turns into a peaceful place, a place you can come and commune with nature and spend a few private and intimate moments with someone who means the world to you, or just yourself.

Thanks for popping by The Hollow today and sharing a moment with us, we really appreciate it.  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have below.

Silent For 100 Years

Posted: 27th October 2014 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s been nearly 100 years since last these guns unleashed a barrage of heavy artillery towards our own 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles in the European war theater of WWI.  In 1917/1918 these German Field Guns grew silent as the Canadian forces overwhelmed the German infantry and took possession of them.  Today they stand proud in Esquimalt’s Memorial Park as war trophies, reminders of the horror that is war, and the tools the armies used to try to annihilate each other.  Completely refurbished over the course of the early months of 2014, they have recently been re-installed at the Memorial Park.  The spirits of those who fought for and against these formidable weapons are almost tangible, and these links to our history, be it good or bad, are important for both current and future generations.  After all, the horrors of World Wars are something not to be forgotten and the lessons we should take away are those of peace, understanding and acceptance of everyone, no matter where they came from or the history that preceded them.

German Field Guns - German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun, Reg. #595 - Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada

German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun, Reg. #595 – Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada –

For those who follow us regularly, you all know of our deep love for the history and heritage found here on Vancouver Island.  Many of our citizens from the island participated in all the major conflicts in the world, and WWI is certainly no exception.  Therefore it comes as no surprise that artifacts and items like these artillery guns are personally important and meaningful to our veterans and their families.  For those, like us, who have no direct family members affected by WWI, they stand as artifacts that when observed and touched in person create links to a global history of incredible significance.

German Field Guns - German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun, Reg. #595 - Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada

German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun, Reg. #595 – Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada –

German Field Guns - German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun, Reg. #595 - Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada

German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun, Reg. #595 – Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada –

German Field Guns - German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun, Reg. #595 - Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada

German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun, Reg. #595 – Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada –

You can just imagine my surprise and delight when I learned the refurbished guns were going to be exhibited by the ocean several days before they were to be re-installed at the park.  Our good friend, a local military historian, invited me to attend the exhibit and shoot it, and I can honestly say this was one of my key photography highlights for this year.  Opportunities like this are few and far between.

The German 77mm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art Field Gun was widely used in this conflict by the German Imperial Army, with 5086 of these weapons commissioned and engaged during the war.  It was considered to be a workhorse and was used in all fronts and all battles.  This gun was captured at the second battle of Cambai on September 29th, 1918.

German Field Guns - German 77mm Nahkampfkanone L/27, Reg. #9739 - Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada

German 77mm Nahkampfkanone L/27, Reg. #9739 – Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada –

This gun, the 77mm Nahkampfkanone L/27, was captured by the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles at Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 1917.  Combined as a set, both these guns together form two of three First World War German Field Guns in the province of BC today.  Close scrutiny reveals pock marks and signs of active fire against the guns, all of which serves to bring us closer to the story in the realization that real men stood on those fields during WWI, in the face of great personal danger to themselves.  As we all know, many of them never returned home.

German Field Guns - German Military Reenactors - Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada

German Military Reenactors – Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada –

German Field Guns - German Military Reenactors - Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada

German Military Reenactors – Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada –

German Field Guns - German Military Reenactors - Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada

German Military Reenactors – Esquimalt, Victoria, BC, Canada –

On the day I visited to photograph the guns, two very authentic looking reenactors from The Victoria Esquimalt Military Reenactors Association (VEMRA) were dressed in full uniform at the site to add a great layer and dimension to the pictures.  I believe I even heard them speaking in German as they setup to provide striking poses for the photographs, making me look around nervously just in case an invasion was indeed imminent.  No invasion came, I am happy to report.  The only real shooting that happened on this day was with my trusty Canon 6D.

To see the entire catalog of 22 images captured at this exhibit, please visit our gallery “German 77mm Field Guns“, or click here to see them in a full-screen slideshow.  Further information on the guns and their storied history can be found at two Victoria News articles: “Rare First World War trophies in Esquimalt echo Canada’s military past” and “Esquimalt’s big guns coming out party“.

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Qualicum Beach Museum

Posted: 21st October 2014 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Of all the places we frequent, Qualicum Beach and Parksville remain some of our very favorites with stunning landscapes, seascapes, heritage and sights and sounds to take in and enjoy.  Each season reveals a very unique tapestry, with the summer season being bright, warm and active with countless visitors making their way here for vacations and getaways.  The winters are more quiet, leaving the visitor with the sense that you have the entire place to explore, all to yourself.  Treasures are found everywhere, and the deeper you dig into the foundation of this fabulous community, the more wonders are revealed.  In today’s post we are featuring a selection of photographs of the Qualicum Beach Museum, a place that tells a story that is simply amazing to explore.

Qualicum Beach Museum - Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Qualicum Beach Museum – Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

What today is a mecca for locals and visitors alike, Qualicum Beach was once a playground for the rich and famous.  In future posts we will be sharing shots of the Crown Mansion Boutique Hotel & Villas and share a bit of the history behind it.  These stories all intermingle as the community was being founded, resulting in a true destination that has something for everyone.

Qualicum Beach Museum - Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Qualicum Beach Museum – Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

One of the buildings on the premises was actually once the original power house for the community.  Today it’s a wonderful old brick building, literally beaming with history and heritage.  Inside the museum, all sorts of mysteries and stories are shared, many of which are a surprise to even people like us who have lived on the island for years and years.

Qualicum Beach Museum - Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Qualicum Beach Museum – Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Qualicum Beach Museum - Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Qualicum Beach Museum – Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

On the day we took these photographs, the museum was closed.  We have since returned and visited when it was open, and we have to say it was a terrific experience.  Displays covering paleontology, local history and folklore, and video presentations are all exhibited, providing a detailed look into how the area came to be.  Many of these features leave you wanting to see and learn more.

Qualicum Beach Museum - Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Qualicum Beach Museum – Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

The doors and entrances into the facility have murals painted on them.  These colorful representations give you a glimpse into what the area and life was like back then.  Even though 100 years or so has passed since these sights were commonplace, you find reflections of the period everywhere.

Qualicum Beach Museum - Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Qualicum Beach Museum – Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Perhaps one day we’ll have a chance to shoot some of the artifacts on display in the museum as this is something we strive to do with all the community museums on Vancouver Island, where possible.  We would really enjoy that.  In the meantime, we really encourage everyone to come and visit in person, learn about the Qualicum Beach/Parksville area, and take in a myriad of adventures that are so quintessentially Vancouver Island.

Thank you so much for visiting us here today at The Hollow!  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have!

Some items we have a chance to photograph have a life of their own.  The stories of those who once owned them are forever imprinted in their fabric, and if you listen closely you can learn a little of the person and the times they came from.  In today’s post we are continuing a new photoblog series recently started we call “The Cowichan Valley Museum” where we are hoping to share some photos of exhibits on display at the museum, and discuss what is known of their history.

Antique Baby Carriage & Doll - Cowichan Valley Museum, Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Antique Baby Carriage & Doll – Cowichan Valley Museum, Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

We don’t know her name, or much about her history, but it’s safe to say that this delicate face resting in one of the most amazing antique baby carriages I have ever seen instantly spoke to my heart.  Kathryn Gagnon, the Curator/Manager at the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives, shared some wonderful details of the carriage and doll, and this helped to paint a scattered mosaic in my mind’s eye that left more questions unanswered than answered.  This turned the session into a time of discovery for me, one that left me yearning to learn more, and to surmise and seek beyond the evident through the lens.

Antique Baby Carriage & Doll - Cowichan Valley Museum, Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Antique Baby Carriage & Doll – Cowichan Valley Museum, Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

We understand that this antique baby carriage and doll were acquired by the McPherson family on Vancouver Island sometime around 1889-1890.  I believe this may be the same family that introduced such great facilities to Victoria as the McPherson Playhouse and the McPherson Library at the University of Victoria, but at the time of this writing I am unable to verify that with certainty.  Regardless of its history, the carriage is a delightful piece in wonderful condition considering its advanced age.

Antique Baby Carriage & Doll - Cowichan Valley Museum, Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Antique Baby Carriage & Doll – Cowichan Valley Museum, Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Antique Baby Carriage & Doll - Cowichan Valley Museum, Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Antique Baby Carriage & Doll – Cowichan Valley Museum, Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

I’ve seen toys 6 months old that aren’t in as good condition as this carriage and doll.  When you consider that this is around 125 years old now, you really begin to appreciate the care that went into the design and manufacture of it, as well as the loving care the little girl who once played with it took to ensure it lasted.

Museums are a great way to feed the inquisitive nature of those who seek to learn about the past.  In many cases it’s what we don’t know that fills the experience with wonder, leaving us to explore beyond the artifact and the man-made walls of the museum in an effort to learn more about those who came before us, and the indelible imprint they have left behind on our communities.  We hope to return regularly to the “The Cowichan Valley Museum” to continue to learn about our local history, and to bring you more photographs and stories of items and artifacts that meant so much to those who once owned them.

Thank you for your kind visit to The Hollow today, we truly appreciate it.  We hope you’ve enjoyed this story, and we encourage you to leave us any comments you may have below as we love to hear from all our visitors.

Docks At Twilight

Posted: 23rd September 2014 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The throngs of tourists that crowded the roads and sidewalks just a few short weeks ago are starting to abate, and the Cowichan Valley once again settles into a peaceful time where it becomes a playground to the locals.  The days are getting shorter and the shadows longer, yet the pleasant temperatures of late summer remain for a few more weeks.  Soon the leaves will fully change color, and right behind that the frosts of winter will once again make their icy appearance on the landscape, dusting it delicately in a frigid coating.

“Docks At Twilight” – Limited Edition: 10 Prints –

Sometimes when you are out shooting in the field, you just know when you’ve captured something special.  The truth comes to life in the digital darkroom when post-processing reveals the finished piece.  This was definitely one of those times.

Mrs. Toad and I are frequently found in the bay-side burg of Cowichan Bay, wandering the walkways, taking in the quaint little shops and enjoying the marine beauty that is so splendiferous and bountiful.  From food, to art, to just a quiet moment, it’s all here in Cowichan Bay.  Shielded by land and mountains from the open ocean, the bay is frequently calm and serene, and even in times when there is a significant wind we don’t usually see large waves forming.  This makes it a natural destination here on the island.

If you look closely at our photograph posted here today, you can see the docks that lead out into the estuary and the bay, and on those docks we see a family taking in the last fleeting moments of the season.  We are thrilled to add this piece to our “Limited Edition Prints” catalog, and we hope you enjoy this small slice of life from Vancouver Island.

Thank you so much for your kind visit to The Hollow, we truly appreciate it.  Please feel free to leave us any comments you may have below as we love to hear from all our visitors.

It’s a malady as old as the ages themselves.  It’s a condition that many artists face, and while some master it, others spend lifetimes chasing it only to perish just short of the true goal.  So please bear with me today as I wax poetic on this topic, one that is just as much a part of me personally as it is part of a larger challenge that all artists face.  Such is the life of an artist, a photographer… one that is as vexing as it is fulfilling.

Sailing Ship - Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Sailing Ship – Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Just the other day as I was out photographing a feature we will be sharing here with you shortly, one that we’re very excited about, I came across this scene on the shores of the ocean here in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island in Canada.  I love sailing ships, and the old historic tall ships in particular.  There is an inherent romance in the way they traverse the oceans, bobbing and weaving across mile upon mile of solitude, with only a heading and some faith to fill their sails.  They are in an endless chase, always looking forward to the arrival, but reveling in the journey itself.

I saw the scene captured here as a metaphor for this condition.  It seems that this particular ship is always just a few feet away from that ultimate goal; the one where the perfect light comes together with the perfect subject to cast a scene that is almost magical to behold to those who seek it.  I find that as we go through the process of growing our practice here, these experiences are becoming more and more frequent.  I love the challenge of constantly learning, constantly trying to better my craft by finding new techniques, or new ways of doing things.  For me, I love this, and I truly hope that this experience continues until I am no longer active in the field, for it is the journey that’s important not the end goal.  This is all much like our common vernacular that states “it’s always in the last place you look”; this one may be self-evident inasmuch as once you find that which you seek, you no longer look for it.  In this way, the entire process almost becomes a never-ending adventure.  Just the way I like it…

Thanks for joining us today on this metaphorical quest.  We truly appreciate all our visitors and we encourage you to leave us any comments or thoughts you may have below.


Every year the terrific folks at the Maple Bay Marina, just around the corner from where we live, host a widely acclaimed event called “The Wooden Boat Festival”.  For those who love everything nautical, this is a must-see event, one that finds crowds of folks coming from points all over the world to take in the big weekend.  In today’s post we continue our running photoblog feature of this years event in our series “The Hollow’s Backyard“.  Let’s check out a couple of the absolutely terrific Chris-Craft wooden boats that were on display.

Classic Chris-Craft Wooden Boat - Maple Bay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Classic Chris-Craft Wooden Boat – Maple Bay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

In the world of boating, the name Chris-Craft is synonymous with quality built wood boats.  Chris Smith, whom the company is named after, built his first wooden boat in 1874, and by 1924 the official company name was changed to Chris-Craft as we know it today.

Classic Chris-Craft Wooden Boat - Maple Bay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Classic Chris-Craft Wooden Boat – Maple Bay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

The day was slightly overcast at times and the waters were fairly still in the marina.  This really made for great photography opportunities as we walked the docks and took in all the activities that were going on.  In the distance you could hear live music being played and everywhere you looked you found folks chatting with each other, sharing their passion for these great classic boats.

Classic Chris-Craft Wooden Boat - Maple Bay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Classic Chris-Craft Wooden Boat – Maple Bay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Classic Chris-Craft Wooden Boat - Maple Bay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Classic Chris-Craft Wooden Boat – Maple Bay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Given the tight quarters to work in, shooting handheld is really our only option at these events, there are just so many people and boats in the marina over the weekend.  I love it when we get home and check out the shots being downloaded off the camera to try to find the real gems in the collection.  For The Wooden Boat Festival, the best shots frequently do feature Chris-Craft boats largely due to the natural beauty of their incredible woodwork.

If you happen to find yourself on Vancouver Island in time for next year’s event, we highly encourage you to come and see it in person!  It’s just one of those things that is a way better experience when had personally, and if you are into photography like we are here, you’ll fill up your memory cards in no time flat.

Many thanks for visiting us here at The Hollow today, we really appreciate it!  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have below!

Today Cole Island is inhabited by only the whispers of those who came before.  It now stands as a very important link to our heritage here on Vancouver Island under the watchful eye of the Provincial Government’s Heritage Branch and a local group of local people who have formed a community called the “Friends of Cole Island“.  We’ve seen it time and time again, only the ongoing work of dedicated volunteers can make a difference for a place like this, creating a lasting legacy that will remain for generations to come.  And it’s through this legacy that we can maintain these important links to our heritage that can be shared with future generations to come.  Today’s post marks the end of this photoblog series “The Toads At Cole Island“, if you’re just joining us now we really encourage you to check out the previous posts to learn all about the incredibly interesting history that comprises the site.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

I have to admit, we love photographing places like this.  The ability to become fully immersed in a site and it’s surroundings helps us to connect the now with the past and always leaves us with a profound sense.  They day we spent on Cole Island was a hot one, in the middle of summer, and the air felt heavy and rather humid.  Once we landed on the shores and began the session, it took no time before we were discovering artifacts, features and architecture; all things we love to photograph and share with our audience here.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Every turn of our adventure found us in a process of discovery.  Artifacts are found everywhere and if you pay attention they will tell you a story.  As we’ve mentioned in our previous posts, this site was constructed in the mid 1800’s during the earliest time of colonization of the island.  It’s really amazing to consider the efforts that would have had to have happened to build a facility like this, especially at this time.  There were no power tools, no super stores to visit for building supplies…  you either found it here, had it shipped here from far away, or you made it yourself.  It’s this very tenacity that speaks to the community we have since built on Vancouver Island, a community of resilient and determined people who love and appreciate the treasures we have.  Even if sites like Cole Island remain on the periphery of our collective experience.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Of all the remaining structures on Cole Island, this one was the most personally profound for us.  This is widely considered to be one of the first homes to be constructed here in the Victoria area during the period.  Today it remains standing only through the efforts of those who strive to preserve it.  Facing a constant onslaught of wicked weather coming in from the Pacific Ocean, the slow process of decay is combated and the home remains an important symbol of those earliest days of active colonization.  Years of salt water continue to erode the bricks, stone and roof in an environment that is somewhat relentless.  Life would have been beyond difficult at the time, and we can’t help but wonder if some of the new arrivals weren’t really prepared for what they’d find here in terms of raw and rugged landscapes.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

As we enter the building, we find that only the light from the open doorway illuminates the interior.  This made for an incredibly difficult shooting environment.  Since our visit we have bought some great lighting equipment for our practice and we would love a chance to return for a more detailed photographic exploration of the house.  Even with the challenges found in the technical aspects of the interior shoot, we still find incredible history and artistic tension within these walls.  All these bricks and stones were laid by hand, by men who were convinced that life in the new land held opportunity for those brave enough to come.  We can honestly say all these years later that they were right.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

These are the remains of the wooden piers at this site.  We don’t know for certain when this was built, but it’s very, very old.  It may even be a remnant of the original piers constructed at site during the times the island was an active facility.  All the activities conducted here were centric to protecting the lower island and the new settlers who came to the lands with hopeful hearts.  You can almost feel the spirit of the men who landed here and set out to build something special, something new.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

As we make our way back to shore by boat we turn to take a final look at the grand structures left standing sentry on Cole Island.  The day was beyond exciting, a day full of discovery and wonder and one we will never forget.  Through the act of kindness we find that Cole Island remains an important site in terms of our history, and a place that is actively and lovingly maintained to remain a constant reminder of the efforts of those who came before us.  For that we remain eternally grateful to the fabulous group of people “Friends of Cole Island” who monitor and maintain this site.

Thank you once again for visiting us here at The Hollow today.  We appreciate each and every visitor we receive here, and we encourage you to leave us any comments or thoughts you may have below as we love to hear from all our visitors.

Have you ever seen the largest raptor in North America?  Have you seen it up close?  Better yet, have you seen it fly just inches over your head?  If not for the terrific people who operate The Raptors here in the Cowichan Valley, these experiences would never be possible.

We’ve now visited twice, and each adventure is beyond amazing.  This is a place you can visit time and time again, and with each visit you will come away with a deeper understanding of these incredible birds, and the connection with nature that they bring.  These wonderful birds are way beyond being just predators, they are amazing spirits and personalities.

The Birds In Action

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

Our visit to The Raptors found us taking in one of their incredible flying demonstrations.  It’s absolutely amazing to listen to the handlers talk about how these birds live in the wild, the important roles they play in our fragile ecosystems, and their unique personalities.  This is Gaston from Quebec, a stork of incredible stature.  And, we might verily add, one of incredible character too.  He is the largest bird at the center at this time, we understand, and he was amazing to see in flight and at play with the staff and the audience.

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

Quite honestly I think the hardest part about visiting The Raptors has to be in picking a favorite bird.  As I sit here typing this post, our next featured bird is this very young barn owl.  We can’t remember his name at the time of this writing, but in truth he stole my heart.  This particular little owl is learning to fly and learning about his role in the broader world he finds himself living in.  We cannot begin to tell you how endearing it was to watch him flit about in the air, having so much fun interacting with everyone, and quite honestly showing off a little…  he knew he was cute, make no mistake about it.  These little creatures when found in their natural habitats are terrific pest controllers, with each bird being capable of hunting and eating several rodents in a day.  A family of barn owls on your property will find your land to be pretty much rodent free.

It also really needs to be said that the staff who work and interact with the birds and the visitors are all second to none.  One of the best moments we had during the flight demonstration was to see how excited the handler was in watching this little owl learning to fly, and seeing the advancements he is making.  It was absolutely heartwarming and a really special moment in the afternoon.

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

Next up for the demonstration was this gorgeous hawk, named Nova if we recall correctly.  The way he flew and the way he interacted with the staff here really shows the strong interpersonal ties that are created between people and these birds.  It was noted that several of the birds were relative newcomers to The Raptors, but as we watched the show we felt that the connection ran much deeper.  There is an unspoken understanding and symbiosis between everyone, and it comes shining through as a very special element.  One that will have you coming back time and time again, if you can.

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

And finally, it was time for Aries, the gorgeous Golden Eagle, to make his appearance.  Once again we find that connection between bird and staff was beyond palpable; these are true relationships that are forged.  I sat in absolute awe as we watched this largest bird of the raptor clan in North America fly around the grounds.  I was so enthralled by this eagle, I am surprised I came away with any decent photographs.  After all, it’s easy to forget about the camera in your hand as you sit in the very presence of one of these, seeing them fly with seemingly little effort.  This fellow was quite boisterous and vocal; apparently he was quite happy and excited to be here today and was telling us to notice him.  Try not to; I dare you.

Video Of Aries The Golden Eagle

VIDEO - The Raptors - Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

VIDEO – The Raptors – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

Don’t ask me how as I honestly can’t tell you, but I somehow managed to find the wherewithal to pull out my video camera during the demonstration.  I thought you might be as amazed as we were to see this glorious bird in action in video.  Click on the picture above to be transported to a short 1 1/2 minute video clip featuring this incredible eagle in full motion flight.  And prepare to be utterly flabbergasted.

The Raptors Medieval Day

One of the primary reasons we visited the center yesterday was to discuss a very exciting event that is being held here this weekend, Saturday, August 23rd, 2014.  This annual event is growing every year in popularity as the word gets out.  Here is the official post on The Raptors Facebook page talking about the big day!

What a terrific way to bridge the eons by bringing together all these great features and events!  If you are near the Cowichan Valley on Saturday, we recommend you come visit and experience this first-hand.  We’ll be there, too, photographing the costumes, the birds, the events and the visitors all enjoying themselves.  Look for us and come and say hi!

Thank you so much for your kind visit to The Hollow here today to see our latest feature story.  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so please feel free to leave any comments you may have below.  See you at The Raptors on Saturday!

Art is all about interpretation.  And when it comes to personal expression, there is no art like that of the car and motorcycle enthusiast.  Given my rather feisty reputation behind the bars of a bike like this I likely will never pilot one personally, but they still make me stop in my tracks instantly when I come across one that is obviously special.  In today’s post we’re going to take a look at a stunning custom chopper we found on display at our local “Warmlands Show n Shine 2014” this summer.  This bike grabbed my heart and imagination in one glance.

Custom Chopper - Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Custom Chopper – Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

To me, a motorcycle is the modern-day equivalent of a trusty steed.  It’s a companion, it’s a form of transportation, and it tells a lot about the rider in one fleeting look.

It seems to me that as we tour the local car shows, the appetite for customs appears to be growing.  I really do think these are contemporary forms of rolling art, no detail is ever overlooked and no two machines are even close to the same.  On this particular beautiful chopper, it might very well be the vibrant orange colors that draw your eye at first, but if you take some time to observe the finer details, you really begin to see a canvas take form.  Note the chrome on the trim, the wheels, that wicked front fork with a wicked rake…  the sunlight literally dances off the surfaces on a bright summers day.  The lines are flowing, like the air the bike cuts through as it makes its way across our byways and highways.  I think it’s absolutely beautiful.

Custom Chopper - Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Custom Chopper – Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

From the front, the combination of the dramatic reach of the forks in conjunction with the very narrow stance creates a razor-sharp line that resembles a stiletto.  The frame cuts through the air silently, even though the open pipes are not afraid to let everyone know in the immediate vicinity as to who’s here, and who’s in charge.

While although custom choppers like this one may or may not be to your personal taste, it’s really hard to argue their inherent beauty.  They have a wonderful consolidation of soft in their lines alongside the hard in their vociferous heartbeat, an almost pure definition of the term “beauty within the beast”.  It’s an allure that is much bigger than me, and one I will always heed whenever the winds of fate put me in front of a subject like this.

Many thanks for visiting us here today at The Hollow!  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors, so please do feel free to leave us any comments you may have below.