Ever since we discovered the excellent British crime writer Reginald Hill we have laughed a little over our local mountain of the same name. I had been working my way higher and higher up its rocky slopes from Indian Point over the past couple of weeks and finally decided to actually climb to the summit on an established trail that begins from the Fulford Harbour side. I bought a good hiking book (“Hiking the Gulf Islands’ by Charles Kahn) and drove to the beginning of the trail. “Strenuous, steep trail”, said the guide and sure enough I soon found myself climbing a wet, rocky hillside that was clothed in moss and second growth forest. Puff, puff, Bill is out of shape, but with a stick to aid me I scrambled upward out of the shadows toward the sunlight. It was a frosty March morning on the shady side of the hill, but I was never-the-less reminded of a similarly steep trail in Samoa that lead in tropical heat up the slopes of another hill on the top of which was Robert Louis Stevenson`s grave. Perhaps it was the same combination of steep trail, early morning, the lure of bright sunlight at the summit and the hopes of a wider perspective. When I finally reached the mossy top of the hill I could see for miles, across the Burgoyne valley towards Mount Maxwell and the distant snowy mountains of Vancouver Island in one direction and out across the shining ocean to the Gulf Islands in the other. Here was the perfect place for a typical viewpoint panorama photo with a wide angle lens to get in as much in as possible while balancing on the cliff edge. I did give in to that temptation once or twice before getting down to something a little more creative. It was as though I needed to do some basic exercises in this new environment before getting down to business. What was special about this place and what did I need to do to capture it?
The first thing I chose to do was to put the distant view in the context of the mountain top itself, include some foreground, frame the distant through the near, the panorama within the local context. A nearby rock outcrop repeated the form of Mount Maxwell in the distance, a grove of small arbutus trees filled the frame and created a tunnel through which we see the distant mountain: a mountain which would seem insignificant without this tight, close-up framing. Ravens tossed themselves through the vivid air, chatting to each other and to me, an immature eagle landed on a snag just below the hill crest and the morning breeze ruffled the forest canopy far below.