This summer we invested in some new camera gear, a Canon 6D camera and lens.  Shortly after getting it my friend ehpem, who hosts a terrific photoblog called “burnt embers“, and I got together to explore the inherent beauty found in the castle and gardens located at the Hatley Park National Historic Site in Victoria.  And what an afternoon we had!  My previous visit had been with the lovely Mrs. Toad on a very chilly winters day, and those shots are featured in our gallery “Hatley Park Castle“.  What a huge difference in visiting the place in the two different seasons, the lighting and entire feel was radically different.  The colors were intense and really came alive in the summer, and in the winter we found more of a moody and dramatic feel in the Hatley Park gardens.  It’s a place I look forward to returning to often.

Hatley Park Castle - Victoria BC Canada

Hatley Park Castle – Victoria BC Canada –

One of my favorite spots in the gardens have always been here at this pond with a lovely bridge and pagoda.  As the afternoon wore on the sun began to fall on the horizon, bringing out dramatic shadows and contrast to give the scenes we found real depth.  As we toured the gardens, taking in some of the features that make it so special, I was shooting hand-held and trying to get used to the changes in composition and depth-of-focus that a full frame sensor exhibits over my previous camera.  I was definitely expecting a noticeable improvement in the quality of the images created with the new gear, but I wasn’t expecting such a huge and marked improvement.  Even now, a few months into it all, I am still utterly amazed each time I post-process a shot and see the new results.

This picture has to be one of my favorites from recent shoots.  The lovely reflections in the still waters of the pond reflect back such wonderful colors in the gardens and details in the delicate architecture of the bridge and pagoda.  This section of the gardens are called the “Japanese Gardens” if I recall, and as such you find so many of these kind of vignettes typical of traditional Japanese gardens.  If you look very closely at this picture, you see a pair of heron statues standing in the right area of the frame in the shadows a bit.  I really love how their silhouette adds a touch of life to the scene and how they are reflected back in the pond.

Hatley Park Castle - Victoria BC Canada

Hatley Park Castle – Victoria BC Canada –

The gardens were created in 1912 by B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, James Dunsmuir, and his wife Laura.  The Wikipedia page for “Hatley Park National Historic Site” states:

Hatley Gardens

In 1912, the Dunsmuirs engaged the American landscape architects Franklin Brett and George D. Hall of Boston, students of Frederick Law Olmsted, to develop a landscape for the entire site. They prepared a classic design for an Edwardian park that included the overall layout for the entire property. The plan organized the estate into four distinct landscape zones, progressing from a series of nine formal ‘garden rooms’ near Hatley Castle, to recreational spaces, then to agricultural lands, and finally to the forest surrounding the estate.

During the Dunsmuir era, approximately 100 gardeners and groundskeepers tended the estate. During the years when the cadets attended Royal Roads Military College, the Department of National Defence employed approximately 50 gardeners and groundskeepers to maintain the property; a testimony to their commitment to retain the integrity of the estate.

Today, Royal Roads University employs five full-time gardeners, one arborist, a garden curator, seven seasonal gardeners and groundskeepers, and one manager to tend to the entire 565-acre (2.29 km2) estate, including the formal gardens.

As the university does not receive any federal, provincial or municipal funding to maintain the site, the gardeners must make choices about the areas that can be best presented. They have made the Japanese, Rose and Italian gardens the showcase areas of the property.

This incredible attention to detail is lovingly maintained today and a visit to the castle and gardens at any time of the year is a wonderful experience to be had.  Even though the bustling metropolis of Langford and Victoria sit just outside the grounds gates, you are almost immediately immersed in a new world, one where the only sounds to be heard are the birds who call the gardens home and the hushed whispers of the visitors as they travel around the expansive grounds taking it all in.  The sense of wonder and being a part of something much bigger than you, something absolutely special, makes it almost feel like you’re standing on hallowed grounds at times.  Hours pass by in the blink of an eye, and you suddenly realize you’ve only just scratched the surface of the exploration.

If you find yourself in the Victoria area here on Vancouver Island, we really encourage you to head out to Hatley Park to take it all in for yourself.  It’s a day of wonder and discovery, one that you will not forget anytime soon.

Thank you so much for your kind visit today, we really appreciate it.  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors, so please do feel free to leave us any comments you may have.  Until next time, friends!!




  1. avatar ehpem says:

    Hi Toad, thank so much for the shout out, I really appreciate that!

    What a great pair of shots you have given us today, they really give a good feel for the gardens.

    I have not worked all of mine up yet – none so far from the pond, but they are on my list. Now I have a post processing standard to aspire to as well!

    It sure was fun to get out with you and explore with our lenses, and the location was a great choice for doing that.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You’re way too kind, Ehpem! Thank you, my friend! I really had a great time with you exploring the gardens and look forward to a follow-up trip sometime soon!

  2. avatar Ron Wilson says:

    ‘Love the pond shot.

  3. avatar LensScaper says:

    Those are truly beautiful gardens, Toad. The bridge in the first one reminds me a little of the bridge that features in some of Monet’s paintings.

  4. Photographs very beautiful and classic, and an great story of interest to go with it, thank you Mr Toad.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks Joseph, we really appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment here today my friend!

  5. avatar Edith Levy says:

    What a beautiful place. Incredible images Toad and I checked out the gallery…all gorgeous. It is amazing how a place looks different depending on the season.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I was actually surprised in post-production when I uploaded the new shots and wandered through the gallery to see the contrast. As you said, the seasons really do reflect a vastly different look and feel to the place. Many heartfelt thanks for your kind, kind visit today my friend, and for your terrific comments!

  6. avatar Jim Nix says:

    beautiful work my friend!

  7. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    What a beautiful place to enjoy Toad. Love the images especially the first one. Looks like a great place to meditate.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Indeed it is, Len, indeed it is! Many thanks for taking the time to pop by, good sir, we really do appreciate it!