About msanseve

Outdoor enthusiast.

Oceanspray – so much more than just another pretty face!

Oceanspray in Mt. Tolmie park

June 21 – the Summer Solstice – has just passed and the dog days of summer can’t be far away now. For Victoria and southern Vancouver Island the riot of Spring wildflowers found on every walk in the hills is passing. The forest is getting dryer, the grasses are turning golden yellow, and summer blooms are starting to appear. Delicate Rein Orchids, purple Harvest Brodiaea, pink Hooker’s Onion — and many more – are starting to pop up.


A bloom that comes out in profusion at this time of year is Oceanspray – Holodiscus discolor. The cascade of tiny flowers from this shrub are ones we might admire in passing, but not stop and examine for a closer appreciation.

Oceanspray - fresh blooms

If ever there was a summer to rectify that omission, 2018 looks to be it – this year’s Oceanspray display seems to be one for the record books. Shrubs all over southern Vancouver Island are dripping with cascades of blossoms. Colours range from white through cream to buffy ochre. Others, throughout the southern reaches of British Columbia and down into the Pacific Northwest, will be out soon if they aren’t in bloom now.

Oceanspray blooms - starting to age

First Nations throughout the Salish Sea and beyond are well aware of Oceanspray – adding dried seed heads to boiling water for use as a tonic. Dr. Nancy Turner, writing in Plants of Coastal British Columbia, says that the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) and Stl’atl’imx (Lillooet) peoples waited until the flowers passed and then gathered and “steeped the brownish fruiting clusters of oceanspray in boiling water to make an infusion that was drunk for diarrhea, especially in children. This solution was also drunk for measles and chickenpox, and as a blood tonic”. (pg. 71)

Another Oceanspray attribute is the hardness and strength of its wood – it is known by many as “ironwood”. Dr. Turner notes that virtually all coastal First Nations from the Salish Sea southward were aware of Oceanspray’s versatility. They made the wood even harder by heating it – often polishing it with horsetail stems. It was used to make digging sticks, spear and harpoon shafts, and arrow shafts. The W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) and Cowichan* peoples put Oceanspray to many other uses as well: salmon-barbecuing sticks, scrapers, halibut hooks, cattail mat needles, and even knitting needles.

Next time you spy an Oceanspray take a few minutes to look it over – they are gorgeous at this time of the year when overflowing with flowers, but are well worth a look year-round.

*From Wikipedia: When the Cowichan band was created pursuant to the Indian Act, seven nearby peoples were amalgamated into one “band.” The Quamichan/Kw’amutsun are the largest cultural group, but the nation also includes Clemclemaluts (L’uml’umuluts), Comiaken (Qwum’yiqun’), Khenipsen (Hinupsum), Kilpahlas (Tl’ulpalus), Koksilah (Hwulqwselu), and Somena (S’amuna’).



The October 2017 edition of the Island Bushwhacker Newsletter

TheOct 2017 edition of the Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section’s monthly newsletter – the Island Bushwhacker – appears here on Mary’s website and on the main ACC-VI website.

Click to read and/or download the Oct newsletter: Oct Newsletter
The Oct Newsletter will be on the ACC-VI pages shortly (the official copy).

The image featured on this page is from the hut-based summer camp the VI section held in Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park – absolutely gorgeous!

The September 2017 edition of the Island Bushwhacker Newsletter

The Sept 2017 edition of the Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section’s monthly newsletter – the Island Bushwhacker – appears here on Mary’s website and on the main ACC-VI website.

Click to read and/or download the June newsletter: Sept Newsletter
The Sept Newsletter on the ACC-VI pages: ACC-VI copy (the official copy).

The image featured on this page is from the first week of the Lone Goat Summer Camp in the south Chilcotens — a stunning area!

The June Edition of the Island Bushwhacker Newsletter

The June 2017 edition of the Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section’s monthly newsletter – the Island Bushwhacker – appears here on Mary’s website and on the main ACC-VI website.

Click to read and/or download the June newsletter: June Newsletter
The June Newsletter on the ACC-VI pages: ACC-VI copy (the official copy)

There are still two places left in this year’s Summer Camp in the beautiful Chilcotens. Want to go? Read all about it on 20! You could be hiking here: LoneGoat

May edition of the Island Bushwhacker Newsletter

The May 2017 edition of the Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section’s monthly newsletter – the Island Bushwhacker – appears here on Mary’s website and on the main ACC-VI website.

Click to read and/or download the April newsletter: May Newsletter
The May Newsletter on the ACC-VI pages: ACC-VI copy (the official copy)

The picture featured here is a shot from the Lone Goat area on the boundary of the South Chilcotin and the Coast Range — where this year’s ACC-VI Summer Tent Camp will take place! LoneGoat

The April Edition of the Island Bushwhacker Newsletter

The April 2017 edition of the Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section’s monthly newsletter – the Island Bushwhacker – appears here on Mary’s website and on the main ACC-VI website.

Click to read and/or download the April newsletter: April Newsletter
The April Newsletter on the ACC-VI pages: ACC-VI copy (the official copy)

The picture featured on this page is Josh Slatkoff’s award winning shot of Triple Peak coming out of the clouds. The full image is on page 14 of the newsletter.

The Island Bushwhacker: March Edition

The March 2017 edition of the Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section’s monthly newsletter – the Island Bushwhacker – is hosted here on Mary Sanseverino’s blog (Mary is newsletter editor) for this month while our main website – accvi.ca undergoes an update.

Click to read and/or download the March newsletter:  accvi-newsletter-1702

The picture featured on this page is Dave Rainforth’s award winning shot of climbing  Mt. Serratus in the Tantalus range. The full image graces the cover in this month’s edition of the newsletter.

Vancouver Island 150

As part of the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday the Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section has set the following goal:

Can we collectively climb 150 Vancouver Island peaks and hills during this year, and record our summits online?

And what a great goal! It should be a lot of fun, and hopefully the process to get your summit photos and ascent info online will be easy. We can go beyond 150 too — I’m willing if you are!

A peak or hill eligible for inclusion can be any Vancouver Island or Gulf Islands peak that is:

Here’s what you do:

  1. Climb a peak that has not yet been recorded in the project (check out the Google Map below this post to see what’s been recorded so far)
  2. Go and and climb it!
  3. Take a summit photo of the summiteers
  4. Record the date, name and lat/long coordinates of the summit, name of the summiteers, and a few notes about the trip (say a max of 250 characters for the notes — but you could go more if you and your team are just full of things to say about the trip!!)
  5. If you have a Google account click the following link and you can upload your summit photo to the following shared Google Photos space (check out the photos there already – you don’t need a Google account for that): https://goo.gl/photos/kmY6w5hEfkL8KDk77 Click the “Add to Album” icon on the upper right.
  6. Once you’ve uploaded the image, click on it to enlarge and get access to the “Info” section of the image. The Info section is a big white rectangle that runs the length of the right side of the screen. It is titled “Info” and by default contains details like the file name, the type of camera, etc. It is here where you can add the following information. Put your mouse on or above the grey line that appears under “Info”. Add the following to your photo:
    • Summit name
    • Date
    • Lat/Long (any coordinate form will do, but decimal degrees is preferred. It can be a bit confusing moving between the various forms of representing latitude/longitude but here is a good reference: http://www.ubergizmo.com/how-to/read-gps-coordinates/ )
    • Names in the party
    • Notes
      If you don’t see the big white Info bar on the right side of your image, click on the “i” in the small circle on the upper right hand side of the image. That will toggle open the “Info” rectangle. You’re Done — I’ll take it from there!

  7. If you don’t have a Google account, would rather not use the technique described above, or have any trouble getting the uploads to work you can simply send an email to msanseve+accvi150@gmail.com You need to attach your photo, and include all of the info noted in 6 above in the body of your email.

Our ACC-VI Vancouver Island 150 map

Click the small “Arrow in Screen” icon on the upper left of the map to see peak details. The “[ ]” icon on the right enlarges the map to full screen. If you have any questions / comments or would like to help out – please get in touch: Mary Sanseverino – msanseve@gmail.com (but please don’t send me photos and info for upload on this email – use the address in point 7 for that).

Want to check out the very latest on what’s been bagged?

The coordination between the images and placing the actual pin on the map is handled by (gasp) a human – me, Mary Sanseverino. This means that the map is not updated instantaneously. I do try to get the map updated as soon as new images come in, but sometimes I fall behind. So, the very latest and most up to date account of what has been summited for the VI 150 can be found in the photos. The photos are shown in the order that they come in, so the images on the top are the most current and the top few, usually no more than 5 or 6, might not be placed on the map yet. Check out https://goo.gl/photos/kmY6w5hEfkL8KDk77 to see the most recent summit smiles!




The Gold Stars have arrived!

Huge excitement for me this week (Mar 26, 2015) — the Gold Stars (Crocidium multicaule) have arrived!Gold Star: a springtime study

This tiny member of the Aster family shows its golden head for a short time in Spring — usually about two weeks later than this! According to Eflora, BC’s electronic atlas of provincial flora, this little gem should be available in several places in my area — on Mt. Finlayson, and up on Mt. Baldy at Shawnigan Lake. I’d be so pleased if anyone can confirm them for me, but, I have never sighted them in these locations myself. The only place I know them to exist on southern Vancouver Island is at the NW corner of Jocelyn Hill in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. And, that is where I take myself every Spring. This year Jan, Alan, Mike, and I thought an early investigation might be in order — and we were well rewarded. The Gold Stars are out in abundance, with more on the way.

Gold Star: a springtime studyVancouver Island is toward the northern end of this plant’s range, but it is still a mystery to me why, in the Victoria area, Gold Stars only seem to grow on Jocelyn Hill. Up on the east coast of Vancouver Island they can be found putting on a dazzling display as they carpet sandy flats above the Strait of Georgia. Dave Ingram’s Island Nature blog has directions as to where they can be found up-Island.

The Gold Star is a Yellow-Listed plant in BC — this means it is apparently secure and not at risk of extinction. However, habitat loss is a danger for this little beauty, so when rounding the NW corner on Jocelyn Hill, do take care where you step.

Crocidium Corner on Jocelyn Hill, Gowlland Tod Provincial Park.

Gold Star delight

Tips and Tricks for Photographing Wildflowers

Happy First Day of Spring!

Before getting down to brass tacks, how about a few images of wildflowers that are blooming this week on southern Vancouver Island:

Fawn Lily (Erythronium oregonum):

This lovely bloom, with its cream coloured petals, graceful stem, and fawn-spotted leaves is a favourite on Southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Many folks call it “Easter Lily”, because it is usually out around Easter time. This year, like many other plants, it is out early.
Fawn Lily

Small-flowered Woodland Star (Lithophragma parviflorum):

Vancouver Island, thSmall-flowered Woodland Stare Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Okanagan, and south central BC all the way to Williams Lake get to see this little beauty nodding in the breeze. This member of the Saxifrage family comes on early in the Spring. A very delicate shade of feathery pink, this flower likes dry bluffs, meadows, open forests, and grasslands. On Vancouver Island we usually see it along coastal cliffs.

A few folks have asked about some simple tips and tricks for taking wildflower photos. I’ve got a few ideas to share that are not highly technical (and some are a lot of fun to experiment with).

  • The 3-P’s: Patience, Practice, Perseverance.
    Yup, the same as with anything one wants to get good at! Wind will be your nemesis, creaky bones and joints will complain as you bend down yet again for that perfect shot, and technology will change – usually rapidly. Keep calm and carry on shooting, reflecting on your work, tweaking, learning, and fine-tuning your process.
  • Get a tripod. If you don’t have one, its a great investment. Get something light and sturdy. Bring your camera with you to the photo shop when you buy one. You want a tripod that is sturdy enough for your camera’s weight. With a point and shoot this shouldn’t be a problem at all. There are even tripods (or top mounts for tripods) that work with camera phones like Galaxy and iPhone.If you aren’t sure about the whole tripod idea, just fill a ziplock baggy with rice and bring that along with you — plop the bag down on a rock, or the ground — it will conform to the land, then nestle your camera on top of the bag. The rice will make a solid support.More info on “How to choose the best tripod: 10 things photographers should look for”
  • Get a remote release. This is something that lets you release (press/trigger) the shutter without actually touching the camera. It can be a cable that attaches to the camera, or an electronic remote control. With many new point and shoot cameras the cable release might not be an option. The reason you want something like this is because with closeup photography any little movement, even as slight as pushing down the shutter, can cause camera shake. Camera shake equals blurry photos. So, with your camera mounted on the tripod, I suggest some type of remote release to guard against motion blur caused by moving the camera.Remote release systems, even cables, can be pricey, so there is another method – use the timer on your camera. Many cameras have a 2 second timer, but even a regular timer (10 seconds) will work — after all, it isn’t like your subject is going anywhere!
  • Use a light reflector. This inexpensive and light-weight item is a real help in getting ambient light into tight places, or in lighting up the underside of a plant, or even helping to balance light in a high contrast light/dark situation.I use a 22 inch disk with several different reflective “skins” I can zip into place. The reflector lets me “bounce” light into the subject. Where I bounce depends on the subject and the angle of light coming into the reflector. Of course, you can bounce a flash off a reflector, but keeping things simple, I usually stick with ambient light. Photography Life has a nice primer on using reflectors: How to use a reflector. Although they are inexpensive, you might want to try something found around the house — a bright white towel, or shirt can work, so can tinfoil, or some of that fancy reflective wrapping paper, or even a purpose for that old disco sequin dress! Be creative — however, you’ll probably need someone to help you hold these items in place. I can usually hold a purpose-built reflector myself, but sometimes I need to prop up in some way (or use one of my hiking companions).
  • Get a kneeler. You’ll be up and down a lot — get something to kneel on. Maybe a garden kneeling pad, or one of those thin blue camping foam pads. Your knees and back (and washing machine) will thank you.
  • Look for different angles / composition. Take your time with your subject. Move around the plant (although do it delicately – some plants are extremely sensitive to being touched), try a lower angle, try a higher angle. Try both portrait (higher than wider) and landscape (wider than higher) views. Snap and go is fine for capturing a sense of the plant and its environment, but to really infuse your work with a sense of place you’ve got to spend a bit of time with your subject and the environment it lives in (see the first point!).
  • Use a card for background. Sometimes you see a flower you would like to highlight in a shot. You want the entire bloom, but not the busy background of stems, grasses, twigs, etc. If you travel with a few pieces of card — they don’t have to be big — index card size or a bit bigger — you can place this behind the plant. White gives an “arty” look, while other colours can blend with the background, or serve as a good contrast to the subject. A card can also help your camera achieve focus. Sometimes the focus point in the camera can’t “grab on” to the bloom you want to capture. This is because the background is full of detail and the focus sensor doesn’t know “where to look”. If you hold a card up behind the flower, the sensor will have less clutter to sort through and will focus on the bloom. At this point you can remove the card and shoot, or keep the card in place. No card to hand – no worries — you can use your hand for the same “de-cluttering” purpose. Gently place your hand behind the subject and focus. However, you’ll almost certainly want to remove your hand before you shoot.
  • Learn about your camera. How do you get your camera into “macro”? You’ll want macro for close up shots. How do you set a focus point? Can you “underexpose” or “overexpose” (let in less light / more light) to your image? Can you take a bit more control of the photographic process — set the aperture size (size of the hole letting light into the camera), select the shutter speed (how fast the shutter opens and closes), or choose the ISO (how sensitive the camera “film” sensor is to light)? All of these things are a bit more technical than the preceding points, but as your interest in photography deepens, you’ll probably want to know more about all or some of these things. Your camera manual can help, but so can a course at your local rec centre, college, or university. Of course, you can always “ask the Google”! For example: “A Beginner’s Guide to Photography” .

Of course, the main tip is get out and have fun with your camera — who really cares whether you are shooting with the latest and greatest DSLR (digital single lens reflex), a point-and-shoot, or the camera in your phone. It’s all about being out of doors!