Live, Laugh, Adventure

……and take lots of photos along the way!

Kauai: Polihale Beach

Wow! This truly is the mother of all beaches!

I heard those words from my wife standing beside me as we first walked out on Kauai’s westernmost point, Polihale Beach.

We had talked about coming out a few days before and to tell you the truth I wasn’t sure I wanted to come.  I had heard stories about people getting stuck on the road.  I had heard it was hot.  I had heard there was no shade.  I had heard there were no trees.  Suddenly all that didn’t matter and I was plenty glad we did come.

Yes the road had a few sketchy sections.  Yes its was hot.  No there were no trees or shade.  But oh what a glorious beach!

Polihale is one of Hawaii’s longest stretch of Beach.  Its a remote, wild beach characterized by rough waves, rapid drops and rip currents.  There is no reef barrier to protect the beach from waves.  The only safe spot for a swim is at Queen’s Pond located about midway along the shoreline.  We happened to visit on a very calm day and there were some people swimming but from what I’ve read it can be pretty dangerous.

The northern end of the beach lies at the start of the Na Pali Coast with its world famous cliffs.  Although we didn’t stay that long from what I’ve seen of other photos this is a great place to take sunset photos especially when the last golden light of the day plays on the cliffs.

Because of its remoteness, its often not crowded.  It makes a great place to wander the beach and get lost in its beauty.

Even the local dogs like watching the waves roll in.

Or if you’re more energetic there is plenty of room to run.

On a clear day the Forbidden Island of Ni’ihau is visible offshore with Lehue Rock to the North.

When we were there a group of locals had rolled out onto the beach and set up their shade tents.  I stopped and talked with them for a little while.  They were pretty friendly.

Despite the great beauty of this beach, I found it a bit tough to come away with a photo I was really happy with.  This was one of my favorites and gives weight to the adage that sometimes simpler is better.

Despite some of the difficulties in getting there, Polihale is well worth the effort.


Vancouver Island: Robert’s Roost Trail

Robert’s Roost is one of my favorite local hiking trails.  When I want a quick hike, a little fitness training or just a wander in the woods with a nice view at the end this is my go to trail.

To access the trail park at the Morrell Nature Sanctuary.

View Larger Map

Head straight down the main trail past the information booth.

This section of trail can be stunning in the fall and is a great place to take photos of fall colors.

The main trail through the sanctuary ends at a green gate.  Walk past the gate and out into the open area under the power lines.  Continue directly across the power lines and look for a trail leading into the forest.  Its marked by 2 vertical metal bars.

Within a 100m or so you will come to a fork in the trail.  Go right.

Within a few short meters you will come to another junction.  On the trail to the right there should be a sign on a short stump with ‘K2′ on it [Edit – this sign may now be gone].  Go left (straight where Chase is).

The trail winds its way gently uphill through the forest with plenty of exposed roots to catch the unwary hiker.

Along the way there is plenty of evidence of the working history of this forest.  In some of the large stumps you will see horizontal slats cut in a few feet up.  These are springboard holes cut by loggers before the age of chain saws.  The logger would chop the springboard hole with an axe and shove the end of a long board into it.  They would then stand on the board to chop or saw the tree down.  Using a springboard put them up high enough to avoid having to saw though the thick part of the tree at the base.

In general the trail is fairly easy walking.  Some areas in this lower section can get muddy but there is usually a way through without getting your boots too dirty.

This is typical West Coast rain forest where Mother Nature is busy reclaiming her own.

As you hike further you are treated to views of the tranquil forest.  Slow down, enjoy.

The trail follows a small stream up the hill.

Two kilometers into the hike you will intersect a major trail.  Go left.

About 100m past this you will see 2 trails heading off to the right (as well as you the trail you are on heading straight).  This is known locally as the ‘Crow’s Foot’.  You want to take the 2nd trail to the right.  Look for some blue paint on a tree like this:

This next section of the trail has some nice wetlands off to the right.  They can be quite beautiful if you stop and wander off the trail a bit to explore.

About 300m past the crows feet the trail pops out on a logging road.

Turn right, walk about 20m and look to the left for the trail heading uphill (where Chase is standing in the photo below).

From the logging road to the top of the Roost is the steepest part of the trail.  Shortly after you leave the road there is a short section of rock to scramble up.

There is usually a rope in place to help you.

The trail continues through the forest for another 400m.

Keep your eyes open for Owls in this section.

Just below the top there is another steep section with a rope assist.

When you first get to the top you’ll find lovely views out over Nanaimo and the Salish Sea.

As nice as the views are on sunny days this is also a great location to shoot some moody weather shots.

If you wander over to the other side there are some nice views back up towards Mt. Benson.

The top of the Roost is home to an interesting collection of Manzanita bushes (a cousin to the Arbutus).  Their red bark and gnarly shapes make them interesting subjects for photography.

This is a great hike in any weather.  If you get a chance to try this trail it makes a wonderful few hours.

Trail Notes:

Driving time from Downtown Nanaimo to the trail head: about 10 minutes

Round trip distance from the trail head to the top and back: 6.2km

Hiking time: 2-3 hours depending on how fast you hike and how often you stop.

Starting elevation: 67m

Max elevation: 423m

Trail Difficulty: Easy (with a couple of short Moderate sections)

GPS Track Download:

Suggestions: bring a camera (the views are worth it!), hiking poles are nice but not required.  A printed copy of this guide may help you sort out which turns to make.  There are a number of intersecting trails which may throw you off.

Photo Map (click on any flag to see the photo I took at that location):



Kauai: The Forbidden Isle of Ni’ihau

The small island of Ni’ihau lies 18 miles southwest of Kauai across the Kaulakahi Channel.  Nicknamed ‘The Forbidden Isle’ due to it being generally off-limits to all except for the owners and their relatives, Ni’ihau is the seventh largest inhabited Hawaiian Island.

Ni’ihau was purchased from the Kingdom of Hawaii by Elizabeth Sinclair in 1864 for $10,000 in gold and private ownership of the island has passed down to her descendants, the Robertson family.

About 130 people live on Ni’ihau, nearly all native Hawaiians.  This is the only island where Hawaiian is spoken as the primary language.  The only power on the island is solar and water comes from rainwater catchment.  There is no telephone service and no automobiles.   Horses and bicycles are the main form of transportation.

Ni’ihau played a small role in the attack on Pearl Harbor when a Japanese fighter pilot crashed on the island and terrorized its residents for a week.  In another claim to fame, some scenes for Jurassic Park were filmed on the island in 1992.

Ni’ihau is also home to some of the best diving in all the Hawaiian Islands which is how I heard about it.  In researching scuba diving locations before our trip to Kauai, I read numerous accounts of the great diving here.  However, I was disappointed to learn that the dive companies generally stop their trips out to Ni’ihau before we were to arrive in October due to how rough the waters in the channel get in the winter.

I had resigned myself to missing this opportunity and did some local diving off the south shore with Seasport Divers.  I got to the know the skipper a bit on the dives and was both surprised and delighted to be invited on a quick charter they were going to squeeze in to Ni’ihau because the weather was unexpectedly calm.  Needless to say I jumped at the chance.  My wife later asked how much it cost and I had to admit that I never even asked!  Oh well, its bad karma to worry about price on bucket list events.

I was up early on dive day for a 6am meet at the dive shop.  I was so excited I set no less then 3 alarm clocks to make sure I didn’t miss it.  We boarded the dive boat at Kukuiula Harbor and were treated to a nice sunrise to start the big day.

The crossing to Ni’ihau took about 2 hours.  It was a pretty nice crossing as the waves were very calm.  As we approached the island we could see the cliffs on the northern end of the island dropping steeply to a flat sandy area.

We had planned 3 dives mostly on the northern end of the island between Ni’ihau and the small Lehua Rock just to the north.  These were advanced dives with a special gas mixture called Nitrox which extends the time you can stay underwater without getting into decompression requirements.

Lehua Rock itself is an interesting piece of geology with its dramatic layers of lava sediment from eons past clearly visible.

With the boat anchored between Ni’ihau and Lehua Rock, we entered the water for the first dive.  You’ll have to excuse the quality of the dive photos since I don’t have an underwater housing for my main camera and was forced to use my Point and Shoot camera in a small housing.

A terrific feature of diving here are the vertical walls.  I think this one was taken on a dive called Vertical Awareness (hmmm, wonder why?).

Another great feature is the abundance of underwater life.  I was taking some video of the sheer number of small tropical fish and got surprised when a Giant Trevally came lumbering by.  Its not everyday you get to see a fish of this size up close underwater.

Here is another short clip of that Trevally.  I think he liked me (either that or I looked like a nice snack!).  Keep in mind that this fella was about 3 feet long.

When Giant Trevally’s aren’t swimming by there is plenty to look at on the bottom.  These are likely some sort of Hawaiian Polyclad Flatworms.

I think this is a Crown of Thorns sea star which is not necessarily welcome on the reef as they can have devastating consequences to the coral.

This is one of my personal favorite (aside from Humuhumunukunukuapua’a), the Hawaiian Lionfish.

On our second dive we swam through some cool caves (although technically these would be known as caverns since you can see an entrance at all times).

Here’s a short video of swimming through one.

One of the caves had some Black Coral growing down from the ceiling,

…and a Spiny Lobster hiding out inside.

When you dive multiple times in a day you have to spend some time on the surface in between dives to give your body a chance to get rid of the nitrogen which builds up in your body during a dive.  These ‘surface intervals’ are really enjoyable since they generally involve sitting in the sun, eating and swapping dive stories with other people.  During one surface interval we had a visit by the local Monk Seal. I’m not sure what the square patch on his back is.  Maybe he was tagged with a radio transmitter at one time.

During another one of our surface intervals the snorkel tour boat in the photo below called our captain.  It seems that a newly married guy on their boat had lost his $10,000 wedding ring when he jumped in the water and they wanted to know if our skipper could dive down and look for it.  Our boat pulled over and our fearless captain went in.  I didn’t have high hopes for finding a small ring in a big ocean but he came back up a few minutes later with the ring.  And not only that ring but he had found another one as well!  I gather this is not uncommon since one of the dive masters related a similar story of being hired to find a wedding ring at Kipu Falls (he found it).

One of the creatures I get a kick out of meeting underwater is the sea turtle.  They’re so calm and graceful underwater and generally have a ‘who cares’ attitude about divers.  Here’s a short video  of one such encounter.

The highlight of the diving was our encounter with a number of Spotted Eagle Rays.  This is the first time I’ve seen these graceful underwater fliers and it was a pleasure.  We encountered groups of them a number of times but this was about the best video I got of them.

After finishing our final dive we headed home across the channel.  As often happens, the wind had kicked up in the afternoon making the 3 hour crossing a bit of a punishing wave slamming adventure.  Luckily, the crew was used to this and had laid out mats on the dry covered portion of the deck for us weary divers to sleep on.  Everyone was pretty tired but very happy when hit the dock back on Kauai at 8pm.  Having started at 6am it made for a long but incredibly satisfying day.

And what comes after a perfect day of diving?  A perfect Kauai sunset of course!

Author’s note: after writing this post I got curious about Ni’ihau.  I found a couple of posts on youtube that, although a little dry, give a pretty fascinating tour on the island with some interesting historical tidbits. (part 1) (part 2)

Vancouver Island: Alberni Inlet Trail

Island Timberlands, the Alberni Valley Enhancement Association and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District have teamed up to provide a new hiking trail near the town of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.  The 12 km trail runs from just outside town through Island Timberland’s working forest along the east side of Alberni Inlet to China Creek.  I recently had a chance to walk the first 4km of the trail.

To get to the trail head, drive to Port Alberni and follow the signs through town to Bamfield.  From the main road into town turn left on 10th Avenue.  Continue 1.2km to the four way stop at Argyle.  Turn left and then 0.3km ahead turn right on Anderson.  Proceed 2.2 km to the trail head parking lot at the corner of Anderson and Ship Creek Road.  It’s well signed and hard to miss.  The road is paved right to the parking lot so any vehicle is suitable.

From the parking lot the trail winds its way through a flat area of forest containing (if I’m not mistaken) what looks to be some old growth fir trees.

After crossing a small stream the trail begins to head on a steady but not steep uphill for about 1.5 km.

Periodically the trail opens up to give some very nice views of Mt. Arrowsmith and the town of Port Alberni.

Passing through 1.5km you’ve gained about 150m in elevation and the trail begins to flatten out as it passes through a very peaceful wetland area.

The wetlands must be popular with frogs since they were sending up quite a chorus while I was passing through.  From the wetlands you descend down into some deep rain forest with a nice little stream crossing.

As you emerge from the rain forest the trail opens up and trees begin to change.

Just short of Follinsbee Creek the trail forks.  To right the trail follows the creek down to the ocean.  I took the left trail which heads over to a look out and then continues on to connect up with the left fork to run south along the inlet.

At about 4km there is a short but steep scramble up from a logging road to the lookout.

This vantage gives great views both up and down Alberni Inlet and is a great place to stop for lunch or to camp for the night if you got a late start on the trail.

I headed back to the trail head after having lunch at the view point.  The next time I do the trail I’d like to head down Fillinsbee Creek and see what the section down along the inlet looks like.  The views on the way back are just as nice.

This is an interesting trail.  While it doesn’t have that pristine ‘hiking in the middle of nowhere’ feel, it is a pretty interesting blend of working forest, views and nice terrain.  Kudos to the creators of the trail who obviously had a vision and put a lot of work into it.

Trail Notes:

Driving time from North Nanaimo to the trail head: 1 hour

Round trip distance from trail head to the lookout and back: 8.8km

My time hiking the trail (including about a 20 minute lunch): 3 hours

Starting Elevation: 120m

Maximum Elevation: 300m

Trail difficulty: easy

Trail Brochure :

Island Timberlands Blog (where they post any trail closures):

GPS Track Download:

Suggestions: bring a camera (the views are worth it!), hiking poles are nice, make sure you print off the trail map (see link above) and bring it with you.  There are trail markers on the route but sometimes you need to consult the map to figure out which way to go on some of the logging roads.

Photo Map (click on any flag to see the photo I took at that location):



Kauai: Baby Beach

While we were on Kauai we settled into a daily rhythm of sightseeing during the day and then about 2 or 3 pm we would look for a beach to have a little downtime on.  We’re beach people and we love settling in on the warm sand and listening to waves lapping on shore.  Without even being aware it became our unwritten mission to try and hit a different beach every day (I’m happy to report that we failed in that mission even after 2 weeks!).

On one day we chose Baby Beach.  Even with guidebook in hand it took us a little while to find the entrance.  After visiting the Spouting Horn (for the third time, seems my wife couldn’t get enough of those $15 pearl strings!) we turned off of Lawai Road on to Hoona Road just fine, but it took us a little while to find the tiny entrance to the beach.  However, once we parked and walked down we discovered how cute this little beach was.

It’s not big and the snorkeling isn’t any good but for an out of the way place without the crowds to tuck in and let the clouds drift by it was ideal.

The water is shallow and protected by a reef just offshore making its waters popular for swimming with small children.

One glance at the homes tucked away at the end of the beach left me daydreaming of owning one.


Man verses Elk

I live on Vancouver Island.  Most people who live here don’t realize it but if you drive inland off the main highways you pretty quickly get into some remote and undeveloped country.  Sightings of wildlife, especially our local Roosevelt Elk, are fairly common. If you’re not familiar with what an Elk is picture a cow built like a horse and you’ll be pretty close.  Here’s a short ‘tail’ of one such encounter.

I was driving out of the back country from hiking in the Nanaimo Lakes area when 3 big Elk bounded out in front of me from the bush. After I restarted my heart I gently stopped the truck at the side of the road.

I could see that the Elk hadn’t gone far into the bush and wanted to get some close up photos of them. Being a subscriber to Murphy’s Law, I knew without looking that I must have the wrong lens on my camera. A quick look down at my camera confirmed this.  I quickly changed lenses and set up my camera for wildlife shots.

Now Elk are very elusive and will run off at the slightest noise so I knew I had to stay quiet. I mentally prepared myself by thinking ‘I am smoke….I am the mist on the water… I am the wind in the trees…I am stealth itself’. Being as ready as possible I gently opened the door to begin the pursuit of my photographic prey. The loud reminder from my truck that the key was still in the ignition reverberated beautifully off the mountains surrounding me, leaving no doubt in minds of the Elk that they were being pursued by a moron.

Having lulled the witless beasts into a false sense of security, I set off into the bush. The 20 minutes I spent trying to work my way close to them produced nothing more than a profound understanding that whoever designed the Elk must have put that white patch on the back of their ass as the bovine equivalent of a one finger salute. I’m sure I could hear them laughing as they ran away.

Nature 1, Lorne 0.

The Elusive Elk.

Kauai: Mahaulepu Trail and Beach

The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s South Shore is a striking coastal hike that takes you from the end of Shipwreck Beach along sand-dune cliffs, Kiawe trees, limestone formations and rocky bluffs and inlets to Mahaulepu Beach and beyond.  It is the last stretch of accessible coastline on the south shore that remains undeveloped.

Mahaulepu’s name (MA-HA OO-LAY-POO) comes from a legendary battle that took place in the 1300’s when Kalaunuio Hua, a Big Island ruler, tried to conquer all the islands.  Legend has it that Kukona, the 7th Alii Aimoku (King or Chief) of Kauai at that time, met the invaders on Mahaulepu Beach, led them on a merry chase inland and then conquered them when they were all tuckered out.  This gave Kauai the historical distinction as an island that was never conquered.

Hiking on the trail is fairly easy with no great elevation gains or losses and you can walk for as little or as long as you want before turning back.  The scenery is stunning.  Some of my favorite photos from the whole island were taken on this hike.

There is no shortage of interesting things to look at and photograph on this trail.  We stopped to watch a local getting into the water (spearfishing?) at a location that I wouldn’t have thought possible.  I was quite sure he was going to get pounded into the rocks by the large waves but evidently he was experienced at it.  You can see him at the base of the cliffs in the photo below.

Towards the end of the first section of bluffs on the trail there are interesting pillar formations.

We found some carvings on some of pillars but somehow I don’t think its from the ancient Hawaiians.

As you continue along the cliffs you begin to get views of the emerald green mountains which lie along the coast between Poipu and Lihue.  At the base of the mountain you can see a little bit of the Poipu Bay Golf Course.

The trail continues past the golf course to Mahaulepu Beach.  We were getting hot and thirsty so we decided to head back to Shipwreck beach and go up to the Hyatt for cold drinks (highly recommended by the way, a cold beer never tasted quite so good!).

A few days later we had the opportunity to visit some of the farther sections of the trail.  My wife had booked a horseback ride at CJM Stables (highly recommended, she had a great time) which is just beyond the golf course.  I’ve long since learned that back problems and horses don’t mix well so while she was on the ride I took my camera for a hike on the trail and beach.  It worked out well since the path taken by the trail riders comes down onto the beach so I got some shots of them there.

If you drive past the Hyatt you pass a gate and enter a dirt road.  This road takes you CJM Stables (turn off to right) and also allows you to drive down and park very close to Mahaulepu Beach.   This is a very good access point for the farther sections of trail but the road is a little rough.  There is a lot to explore in this area including Gillin’s Beach, limestone cave, the lovely Mahaulepu Beach itself and the striking area of trail beyond the beach.  Make sure you get back out past the gate before 6pm, however, since they seem to close it for the night.

The beach area is very scenic with views of sand, water and mountains broken up by very colorful green plants which seem to thrive on the sand. Not a lot of people seem to go there and at one point we had the beach all to ourselves.

I spent some time watching a local spearfisherman getting ready to go out.

Continuing past Mahaulepu Beach, there is another area of rugged coast and gorgeous views.

I didn’t have time to fully explore this area when we were there.  I’m definitely going to spend more time here the next time we visit.  If you love hiking and gorgeous coastal scenery I highly recommend this hike.

Kauai: Shipwreck Beach

Shipwreck Beach is a small beach located in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on the South Shore of Kauai.  It has plenty of sand for relaxing in the sun and lots of great scenery to keep your eyes occupied.

The cliffs at far end of the beach are a focal point for visitors.  They are famed for the Harrison Ford and Anne Heche plunge from the cliff in ‘6 days and 7 Nights’.  Clearly some of the locals watched that movie.

The cliffs are also popular spots for weddings and photo sessions.

The steep shore break on Shipwreck Beach make it a local favorite for body surfing but result in challenging conditions for swimming. Fair warning given that the waves can slam you around pretty good on this beach if you aren’t a strong swimmer or know how to time your entrance and exit.

I watched this lady after she jumped off the cliff and then swam around to get out on the beach.  I was actually a little concerned (the former lifeguard in me) when she got caught between some rocks on shore and a large incoming wave but she got out okay.  I latter zoomed in on the photo and got quite a chuckle out of the look on her face as she watched that big incoming wave starting to pile up.

During one visit to Shipwreck Beach, my wife and I went swimming to cool off after sitting in the sun.  We were looking behind us at incoming waves to time our exit and to my delight (and my wife’s great concern) we could see the image of a green sea turtle riding the wave in.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my wife get out of the water so fast.  We had a good laugh later about it.  That image was so cool it will remain in my mind forever.

The frequency of waves on this beach make it a good location if you are interested in shooting some longer exposure wave photos.  You will need a tripod, polarizing filter and at least a 3 stop ND filter to cut down the light enough to shoot at 1/4 to 1/2 second shutter speed required to give the waves the impression of motion.  Shoot at the lowest ISO your camera offers.

Public access to the beach is between Poipu Bay Resort Golf Course & the Hyatt.  Also, the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail starts here and is a great hike to explore the otherwise inaccessible coastline.  This is a spectacular trail and will be the subject of my next post.

Kauai: Poipu Beach

The South Shore of Kauai is known for its abundant sun and generally drier weather than other areas of the island to the north and east.  Poipu is the main resort area in the south.  Poipu beach is Kauai’s most popular beach and a highlight of the South Shore.  It was once named Amercia’s Best Beach by the Travel Channel.  Its not hard to see why.

The beach area has large sections of soft sand to park yourself and gaze into the warm inviting waters.

The swimming areas are split by a ‘tombolo’ (known as Nukumoi Point).  A tombolo is a narrow piece of land extending from short to an island.

The tombolo is popular with beach visitors and provides endless entertainment.

The beach has a protected swimming area for kids and lifeguard services.

One of the special things about this beach is its attraction to the Hawaiian Monk Seal.  They are often found basking in the sun on the beach after an active night of feeding.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is one of the most critically endangered marine mammals on earth and is subject to federal protection.  In a very refreshing twist to the usual situation, its the wildlife that decides where it wants to go and the people move aside.  When a Monk Seal decides what area of the beach is his (or hers) its your responsibility to move and keep clear.  On more than one occasion we witnessed a team of volunteers setting up barriers around the seal to ensure their privacy.  See the Kauai Monk Seal Watch Program for more information.

The area to the right of the tombolo has the best snorkeling.   Large honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) frequent the area.  They are very special to see while snorkeling.  There are also a large variety of different kinds of colorful tropical fish including my personal favorite the state fish of Hawaii, the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (and yes my daughter and I spent time learning how to say the name).

For as popular a beach as Poipu is, it never seemed overcrowded to us.  We enjoyed the opportunity to people watch and let the gentle waves wash the stress away.

In the late afternoon the crowds thin out even further as people head home for dinner.

As the sun begins to set those with a photographic eye will see many opportunities for unique and beautiful photos.

The beach is a great spot to watch the sunset.  We would sometimes stroll down there from our condo with a drink and take in the beauty.

Here are a few photos taken on our last night on Kauai.

Even after the sun goes down Poipu Beach is still a gorgeous place.

America’s best beach?  You won’t get any argument from me!

What’s in my photo bag?

What’s in my photo bag?  Here’s a list:


  • Canon 7D: I agonized for months between the 7D and 5DMII but in the end chose the 7D as fitting more of my needs overall.  It’s been a good body for me especially shooting sports.  Now that the 5DMIII is out I’d sure like to try that for its IQ and low light performance. (update: I now have a 5DIII and am loving it)
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS Lens: this is the lens that’s on my camera most of the time.  It’s a good combination of ‘walk around’ zoom range and image quality.
  • Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens: this is my favorite lens.  It’s close to being Canon’s sharpest lens and a real delight to use.
  • Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens: Under the right circumstances I really enjoy shooting wide.  For a crop camera this is one of the few choices to get you really wide.  Even though it’s not an L lens, many photographers feel it comes very close in image quality.  You have to be careful using it at 10mm though since it does come with significant distortion.
  • Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens:  When I bought this lens I wasn’t sure how much I would get into macro photography.  While its not the main kind of shooting I do its fun to take out occasionally.  While this isn’t an L lens many photographers feel that it comes close in IQ if not in build quality.
  • Canon 50mm f/1.8 II Lens:  While the ‘nifty fifty’ has the build quality of a something you’re likely to get out of a cereal box, it’s a dirt cheap way to get a very fast lens for low light shooting.  I don’t use it a lot but for certain low light events (think fire dancers) it will perform where my other f/4 lens fear to tread.
  • Canon 1.4x EF Extender II:  This is a recent addition to my bag.  I use it mostly for shooting sports (rugby) combined with my 70-200.  It does cost you a stop and you take a small hit on IQ but it will get you in closer.
  • Canon Speedlite 580EX II: I don’t shoot flash a lot but when I do this speedlite works nicely.
  • Feisol Tournament Carbon Fiber 4 Section Tripod:  My first tripod was a heavy metal Manfrotto.  After suffering the weight, freezing my hands off on the metal legs and not being able to fit it in my backpack I found that I just stopped carrying a tripod.    To get back into it, I spent considerable time researching a better tripod.  I ended up choosing a Feisol Carbon Fiber tripod.  It weighs considerably less than my old one, is easier on the hands (no metal) and the legs are cleverly engineered to fold back over the ball head to reduce the length to the point where it will even fit in my 22L day pack.  As an added bonus it has no center column which I find to be a tremendous source of vibration.  I love this tripod and would buy another in a second.
  • Markins Ballhead: If you do any shooting off level ground do yourself a favor and get a ballhead. It makes lining up your camera so much easier and less frustrating than a pan/tilt head.
  • B+W 77mm Circular Polarizing Filter
  • Kirk L-Bracket for Canon 7D: An L-bracket allows you to switch your camera between landscape and portrait orientations very easily.  It keeps the camera centered on the tripod and up high where it’s easy to use (important feature for photographers with back problems).  Kirk makes very good quality equipment.

As with most other photographers, I have yet to find the one perfect bag for all situations (does it even exist?).  As a result I have ended up with a number of photo bags that I use depending on the situation:

  • Lowepro Fastpack 350 Backpack:  This is my most recent addition to the bag collection.  I was looking for a larger bag to hold all my gear plus laptop and headphones, documents etc for air trips on holidays.  Overall I like it.  Its suspension is comfortable, its well designed and well made.  My only grip is the silly little compartment in the camera section.  If this was just a little bigger it would fit my 70-200 nicely.
  • Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW Sling Bag: This was the first camera bag I bought and I still use it often.  Its a little small with the 7D but still works.  I can carry my 7D with max 70-200 mounted (but won’t fit with the 1.4 extender on), 24-105, 10-22, 100 macro and filter pack.  Its quick to use as a sling and very convenient.  Don’t plan on long hikes though.  It gets uncomfortable after an hour or so.
  • Kata 3N1-33:  This was the first bag I bought for airline travel.  While the storage is well laid out and it holds a lot, the suspension system is absolutely terrible.  Sorry Kata, but you’re going on Ebay.
  • Osprey Talon 22L and 38L: I love Osprey packs.  After trying many bags to hold photo gear while hiking and snowshoeing I eventually settled on carrying all my photo gear in individual padded pouches and have found this works very well.  I have pouches for each lens and only bring the lenses I think I will be using.  I have a neoprene fitted cover for my camera which protects it from bangs.  The Osprey packs are extremely well made and very comfortable.  They have very well designed suspension, hydration sections and are laid out nicely.  They come in a variety of sizes.  For summer day hiking I use the 22L.  For winter day hiking I use the 38L.  We like these packs so much that every member of my family has at least one.