• The barn at Haynes Ranch
  • White Lake
  • Rock formations near White Lake
  • Custom Crafted Home
  • Custom Crafted Home
  • Naramata from the Kettle Valley Railway Trail
  • Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park
  • Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park
  • Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park
  • Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park
  • Higher elevation

A spring Sunday outing in the Okanagan-Similkameen

One of the great things about the South Okanagan-Similkameen region of British Columbia is that you can experience very different landscapes and climates in a very short period of time.

On Sunday, a warm spring day, I took a meandering drive along the back roads of the Okanagan Valley, crossing into the neighbouring Similkameen Valley and back again.

In a very short distance, I passed through wetlands, desert, spreading vineyards, forests of different types and mountain scenery. There were deep blue lakes and a few shallow saline ones. There were cattle and horse ranches and vast expanses of wilderness. Cities, villages and little hamlets. Spreading mansions and tiny hovels.

At the farthest part of my journey, I continued north from Penticton along the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, past the vineyards of Naramata, and up a twisty dirt mountain road towards Chute Lake. It was a journey I’d never made before, even though it is just an hour and a half from where I live. There, earlier fires have left stick-like trees dotted across the rugged mountains of Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park.

Although the temperature was warm, there was still a lot of snow at the elevation of around 4,000 feet making it impossible to explore further. I took a few photos and made a mental note to come back again when the snow is gone.

An old barn is reflected in one of the oxbows at the historic Haynes Ranch just north of Osoyoos, B.C. (Richard McGuire Photo)

An old barn is reflected in one of the oxbows at the historic Haynes Ranch just north of Osoyoos, B.C. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Clouds cast shadows over the mountains and grasslands at White Lake, north of Oliver, B.C. The small saline lake is surrounded by sagebrush and is in a protected area. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Clouds cast shadows over the mountains and grasslands at White Lake, north of Oliver, B.C. The small saline lake is surrounded by sagebrush and is in a protected area. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Steep rock formations rise from the sagebrush grasslands near White Lake, north of Oliver, B.C. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Steep rock formations rise from the sagebrush grasslands near White Lake, north of Oliver, B.C. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Hand-crafted custom home, open concept, lovely mountain views in every direction. Beautiful skylights. Great starter home for a handyman willing to give it some TLC. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Hand-crafted custom home, open concept, lovely mountain views in every direction. Beautiful skylights. Great starter home for a handyman willing to give it some TLC. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Hand-crafted custom home, open concept, lovely mountain views in every direction. Beautiful skylights. Great starter home for a handyman willing to give it some TLC. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Hand-crafted custom home, open concept, lovely mountain views in every direction. Beautiful skylights. Great starter home for a handyman willing to give it some TLC. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A hiking and biking trail now follows the former bed of the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan Valley and beyond. The view of Okanagan Lake and the wine country around Naramata is spectacular from this portion of the trail. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A hiking and biking trail now follows the former bed of the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan Valley and beyond. The view of Okanagan Lake and the wine country around Naramata is spectacular from this portion of the trail. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The barren rock of Okanagan Mountain rises above the forests east of Okanagan Lake between Penticton and Kelowna. Some of the higher forests have seen fire damage in past years. This view was taken from Chute Lake Road. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The barren rock of Okanagan Mountain rises above the forests east of Okanagan Lake between Penticton and Kelowna. Some of the higher forests have seen fire damage in past years. This view was taken from Chute Lake Road. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The barren rock of Okanagan Mountain rises above the forests east of Okanagan Lake between Penticton and Kelowna. Some of the higher forests have seen fire damage in past years. This view was taken from Chute Lake Road. (Richard McGuire photo)

The barren rock of Okanagan Mountain rises above the forests east of Okanagan Lake between Penticton and Kelowna. Some of the higher forests have seen fire damage in past years. This view was taken from Chute Lake Road. (Richard McGuire photo)

The barren rock of Okanagan Mountain rises above the forests east of Okanagan Lake between Penticton and Kelowna. Some of the higher forests have seen fire damage in past years. This view was taken from Chute Lake Road. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The barren rock of Okanagan Mountain rises above the forests east of Okanagan Lake between Penticton and Kelowna. Some of the higher forests have seen fire damage in past years. This view was taken from Chute Lake Road. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The barren rock of Okanagan Mountain rises above the forests east of Okanagan Lake between Penticton and Kelowna. Some of the higher forests have seen fire damage in past years. This view was taken from Chute Lake Road. (Richard McGuire photo)

The barren rock of Okanagan Mountain rises above the forests east of Okanagan Lake between Penticton and Kelowna. Some of the higher forests have seen fire damage in past years. This view was taken from Chute Lake Road. (Richard McGuire photo)

There's still snow, ice and ponds of meltwater at higher elevations along Chute Lake Road, north of Penticton. The road passes close to Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, seen in the background. Although there was still substantial snow in some places at this elevation of nearly 4,000 feet, the air temperature was close to 20 C. New growth is springing up on land once burned by forest fire. (Richard McGuire photo)

There’s still snow, ice and ponds of meltwater at higher elevations along Chute Lake Road, north of Penticton. The road passes close to Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, seen in the background. Although there was still substantial snow in some places at this elevation of nearly 4,000 feet, the air temperature was close to 20 C. New growth is springing up on land once burned by forest fire. (Richard McGuire photo)

Waiting in the rain

Gastown at night in the rainIt took about an hour and a half to get the shot I wanted. I was in Gastown in Vancouver and it was raining, so there were nice reflections on the pavement. I tried about three angles before settling on this one and setting up a tripod.

I wanted a couple with an umbrella to stop next to a historic steam clock, but I wanted it completely candid, not posed. I also wanted interesting traffic movement, lights and the steam from the clock to be visible.

I waited while people passed in groups, some quickly, some with no umbrellas. A vehicle stopped illegally next to the clock for about 10 minutes. Drunks sometimes almost stumbled into me, and people asked what I was doing.

I was shooting at 1/10 second to get the right blur in the traffic and passing people, but wanted to freeze the subject, so they had to be stopped. Often they were too dark and appeared silhouetted.

Finally this couple stopped in just the right spot, with a beam of light behind them. A red car cruised by, and the steam was right. I held an umbrella over my camera gear and a remote release in my right hand, and in my left I pointed a speedlight at the pavement to bounce up at the couple and their umbrella. Then I fired this shot. I was soaking wet, but didn’t care.

 

  • Traffic check
  • Roadside suspension
  • Towing the vehicle
  • Checking a license

With the RCMP at a check stop for impaired drivers

Especially during the holiday season, but also on busy summer weekends, the RCMP set up check stops to look for impaired drivers and other offences.

Before Christmas, I had the opportunity to accompany the police one cold evening as they pulled over cars on a busy street in a residential neighbourhood. I wrote a story about what they do, and also took photos to accompany the story. I had to agree not to show identifying information of people they pulled over such as license plates or clear shots of faces — in a couple cases I had to digitally blur and distort faces before using the photos.

There were several police vehicles and a number of officers involved — to pull cars over in both directions, and in one case to chase a driver who failed to stop.

It didn’t take too long before the police found one woman who blew a “fail” on the roadside screening device. I photographed the process as the constable brought her into his cruiser to record her information and then had her car taken away to be impounded.

It was very dark with only a couple dim streetlights and the lights of the vehicles themselves. It would not have been appropriate for the situation or for the photographs to use a flash. I cranked up the ISO as high as I dared, knowing I could do some noise correction afterwards in software.

Below are a few images. You can read my story here.

Sgt. Kevin Schur signals a vehicle to pull over during a check for impaired drivers. RCMP have stepped up these checks during the holiday season. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Sgt. Kevin Schur signals a vehicle to pull over during a check for impaired drivers. RCMP have stepped up these checks during the holiday season. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Const. Brad Chaput completes paperwork in his cruiser, suspending the license of a woman who failed a breath test. The woman sits in the back seat. When she is finally released, she chooses to walk home, after sacrificing her license and her car. The cost of the suspension for towing, impound fees, penalties and license reinstatement is roughly $1,430 -- and that's not counting the impact on her insurance premiums. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Const. Brad Chaput completes paperwork in his cruiser, suspending the license of a woman who failed a breath test. The woman sits in the back seat. When she is finally released, she chooses to walk home, after sacrificing her license and her car. The cost of the suspension for towing, impound fees, penalties and license reinstatement is roughly $1,430 — and that’s not counting the impact on her insurance premiums. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Tow truck operator Laurence Usher of Usher's Towing hooks up the vehicle of a woman who received a 90-day driving suspension. Her vehicle will be impounded for 30 days. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Tow truck operator Laurence Usher of Usher’s Towing hooks up the vehicle of a woman who received a 90-day driving suspension. Her vehicle will be impounded for 30 days. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Const. Brad Chaput checks the drivers license of a man he's pulled over. Everything is fine, and the man is free to go. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Const. Brad Chaput checks the drivers license of a man he’s pulled over. Everything is fine, and the man is free to go. (Richard McGuire Photo)

  • Grape harvest
  • Removing stems
  • Emptying grapes
  • Sharing a joke
  • Spinning auger
  • Storage tanks
  • Ripening grapes
  • Giant tanks
  • Harvesting grapes

Time for wine in Osoyoos

I had a chance to photograph some of the grape harvest and winemaking activity around Osoyoos. I also had a chance to sample some of the product, which is very, very good.

Osoyoos, in the South Okanagan, grows grapes for some of the best wines in Canada with its ideal climate and soil conditions. The numerous microclimates allow a wide variety of grapes to be grown.

 

Kuldeep Dhaliwal harvests grapes at GK Farm on the East Bench of Osoyoos. The farm supplies grapes to Moon Curser Vineyards. (Richard McGuire photo)

Kuldeep Dhaliwal harvests grapes at GK Farm on the East Bench of Osoyoos. The farm supplies grapes to Moon Curser Vineyards. (Richard McGuire photo)

Winemaker Chris Tolley at Moon Curser Vineyards shows the giant tanks where juice from the grapes is collected prior to making wine. (Richard McGuire photo)

Winemaker Chris Tolley at Moon Curser Vineyards shows the giant tanks where juice from the grapes is collected prior to making wine. (Richard McGuire photo)

Grapes ripen in a vineyard, soaking up rays of mid-October sun. (Richard McGuire photo)

Grapes ripen in a vineyard, soaking up rays of mid-October sun. (Richard McGuire photo)

Randy Picton (left), winemaker at Nk'Mip Cellars, looks on as a hose empties fresh grape juice into a tall steel storage tank. (Richard McGuire photo)

Randy Picton (left), winemaker at Nk’Mip Cellars, looks on as a hose empties fresh grape juice into a tall steel storage tank. (Richard McGuire photo)

An auger spins, pulling grapes into a large hose. (Richard McGuire photo)

An auger spins, pulling grapes into a large hose. (Richard McGuire photo)

Aaron Crey, cellar supervisor at Nk'Mip Cellars, (left) and Sarah Elsom, cellar hand from New Zealand (right) share a joke while sorting grapes. In the background is Justin Hall, assistant winemaker and Osoyoos Indian Band member. (Richard McGuire photo)

Aaron Crey, cellar supervisor at Nk’Mip Cellars, (left) and Sarah Elsom, cellar hand from New Zealand (right) share a joke while sorting grapes. In the background is Justin Hall, assistant winemaker and Osoyoos Indian Band member. (Richard McGuire photo)

Aaron Crey, cellar supervisor at Nk'Mip Cellars, uses a fork to empty grapes from a bin onto a conveyor. In the background, Justin Hall and Sarah Elsom sort through the grapes removing any stems and leaves. (Richard McGuire photo)

Aaron Crey, cellar supervisor at Nk’Mip Cellars, uses a fork to empty grapes from a bin onto a conveyor. In the background, Justin Hall and Sarah Elsom sort through the grapes removing any stems and leaves. (Richard McGuire photo)

Randy Picton (left), winemaker at Nk'Mip Cellars, lends a hand removing stems from grapes on a conveyor. While most grapes at Nk'Mip are harvested by hand, this batch was machine picked, a process that results in more stems. Also helping are Justin Hall and Sarah Elsom. (Richard McGuire photo)

Randy Picton (left), winemaker at Nk’Mip Cellars, lends a hand removing stems from grapes on a conveyor. While most grapes at Nk’Mip are harvested by hand, this batch was machine picked, a process that results in more stems. Also helping are Justin Hall and Sarah Elsom. (Richard McGuire photo)

Kuldeep Dhaliwal empties a pail of grapes into a bin at GK Farm on the East Bench of Osoyoos. The farm supplies grapes to Moon Curser Vineyards. (Richard McGuire photo)

Kuldeep Dhaliwal empties a pail of grapes into a bin at GK Farm on the East Bench of Osoyoos. The farm supplies grapes to Moon Curser Vineyards. (Richard McGuire photo)

  • Bird dog
  • Bomber drop
  • Spooked horses
  • Helicopter attack
  • Control room
  • Air tanker
  • Retardant tank
  • Aviation history
  • Co-pilot
  • Bird dog
  • Penticton Airtanker Base

Fighting fires from the air

I was heading home from work on Aug. 19 when I saw smoke on a nearby mountain. As there was a fire ban in force, I thought I’d better check it out.

Fortunately I had my camera with me. As a reporter/photographer, you’re always on call.

It was scary to see how quickly the fire spread from near the top of a large hill down towards the houses of Kilpoola Estates next to Spotted Lake. But it was reassuring to see how quickly planes from the Wildfire Management Branch arrived at the scene, as well as ground-based firefighters. Eventually, there wereĀ 35 firefighters, two helicopters and five air tankers used in the effort.

While the helicopters scooped up water from small lakes nearby, the tankers or bombers flew in from their bases loaded up with red fire retardant, which they dropped at the edge of the fire in its path to slow its spread. The fire was under control before it could do any serious damage, but hot spots continued burning for days, keeping ground crews busy.

From Hwy. 3 at Spotted Lake I could watch and photograph the action unfolding, and I captured some of the photos shown here. A couple weeks later, I visited the Penticton Air Tanker Base to interview and photograph the crew there that flies the planes and fights the fires from the air. I’ve included some of those photos here too.

You can read my story about the Penticton Air Tanker operation here.

A helicopter prepares to drop water on a fire that burned through sagebrush near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos on Aug. 19, 2013. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter prepares to drop water on a fire that burned through sagebrush near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos on Aug. 19, 2013. (Richard McGuire photo)

As red fire retardant settles onto a strip of land between a large house and the approaching fire, horses run in fear around the field below. The wildfire occurred Aug. 19, 2013 near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

As red fire retardant settles onto a strip of land between a large house and the approaching fire, horses run in fear around the field below. The wildfire occurred Aug. 19, 2013 near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

A bomber plane drops red fire retardant on a strip of land between approaching flames and a large house. With this one drop, it appeared to stop the flames from gaining on the house. The brush fire occurred Aug. 19, 2013 night near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

A bomber plane drops red fire retardant on a strip of land between approaching flames and a large house. With this one drop, it appeared to stop the flames from gaining on the house. The brush fire occurred Aug. 19, 2013 night near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

A bird dog plane flies above a fire marking the route for a bomber to follow. The fire was fanned by gusting winds as it spread through sagebrush near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos on Aug. 19, 2013. The aerial attack on the fire is directed from the bird dog. (Richard McGuire photo)

A bird dog plane flies above a fire marking the route for a bomber to follow. The fire was fanned by gusting winds as it spread through sagebrush near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos on Aug. 19, 2013. The aerial attack on the fire is directed from the bird dog. (Richard McGuire photo)

A bomber plane drops red fire retardant on flames that burned Monday evening through the sagebrush near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

A bomber plane drops red fire retardant on flames that burned Monday evening through the sagebrush near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

 

The Penticton Airtanker Base is located at the Penticton Airport. Employees and contractors fight fires over a large part of southern B.C. from the base. They can reach Osoyoos in a matter of minutes. (Richard McGuire photo)

The Penticton Airtanker Base is located at the Penticton Airport. Employees and contractors fight fires over a large part of southern B.C. from the base. They can reach Osoyoos in a matter of minutes. (Richard McGuire photo)

The "bird dog," a Rockwell Turbo Commander 690, is the flying command post when fighting fires. Ben Moerkoert (left) Air Attack officer, commands the attack and coordinates the planes, while Pete Loeffler pilots the plane. Loeffler is also a training captain. (Richard McGuire photo)

The “bird dog,” a Rockwell Turbo Commander 690, is the flying command post when fighting fires. Ben Moerkoert (left) Air Attack officer, commands the attack and coordinates the planes, while Pete Loeffler pilots the plane. Loeffler is also a training captain. (Richard McGuire photo)

Jeff Pulkinen works a a co-pilot flying this Electra L188 air tanker. The crew can set the amount of retardant dropped with instruments added to the panel to the right of Pulkinen's knees. They drop the load with release buttons at their fingertips. (Richard McGuire photo)

Jeff Pulkinen works a a co-pilot flying this Electra L188 air tanker. The crew can set the amount of retardant dropped with instruments added to the panel to the right of Pulkinen’s knees. They drop the load with release buttons at their fingertips. (Richard McGuire photo)

The insides of this Electra L188, now used as an air tanker, have been removed. One this turboprop plane carried passengers after it was built in the late 1950s. According to legend on the base, movie star Marilyn Monroe was once a passenger on this plane. From left Jeff Pulkinen, Pete Loeffler and Ben Moerkoert share a joke. (Richard McGuire photo)

The insides of this Electra L188, now used as an air tanker, have been removed. One this turboprop plane carried passengers after it was built in the late 1950s. According to legend on the base, movie star Marilyn Monroe was once a passenger on this plane. From left Jeff Pulkinen, Pete Loeffler and Ben Moerkoert share a joke. (Richard McGuire photo)

Ben Moerkoert, Air Attack officer, points to where a hose is connected to fill a tank with fire retardant. The tank can hold up to 3,000 U.S. gallons. Sometimes the plane is flown back to base after it drops its load so that more retardant can be added for another drop. (Richard McGuire photo)

Ben Moerkoert, Air Attack officer, points to where a hose is connected to fill a tank with fire retardant. The tank can hold up to 3,000 U.S. gallons. Sometimes the plane is flown back to base after it drops its load so that more retardant can be added for another drop. (Richard McGuire photo)

Ben Moerkoert (left) Air Attack officer, and Jeff Pulkinen, co-pilot, stand on the tarmac below an air tanker made from a converted Electra L188, a turboprop plane first introduced in 1957. The tarmac is red from spilled fire retardant. (Richard McGuire photo)

Ben Moerkoert (left) Air Attack officer, and Jeff Pulkinen, co-pilot, stand on the tarmac below an air tanker made from a converted Electra L188, a turboprop plane first introduced in 1957. The tarmac is red from spilled fire retardant. (Richard McGuire photo)

Ben MoerKoert, Air Attack officer, can see all wildfire activity and air attack crews in the province on a computer at the Penticton Airtanker Base. Before computers, communication was by radio. (Richard McGuire photo)

Ben MoerKoert, Air Attack officer, can see all wildfire activity and air attack crews in the province on a computer at the Penticton Airtanker Base. Before computers, communication was by radio. (Richard McGuire photo)