Sandstone and Water

I returned to the Oyster River this week with a small group from the Comox Valley Camera Club “Slow Photographers SIG” to photograph the surreal landscape of rock and water on this part of the river. Again, I was limited by the fixed focal length of my Fuji X1oos (Nikon D600 still in the shop for a second servicing for oil and dust with Nikon Canada) and fairly thin ND filters. I had to get creative to work around these limitations!

Oyster River Sandstone and Water #1
Rocks in a natural bowl with the main channel of the Oyster River beyond.
12 image pano, stitched in Photoshop CS6.

The colour and and texture of the rock was different on this second visit. Recent rain coloured the rock a rich reddish (almost chocolate coloured) brown and the wet stone was very different than the dry stone of the previous visit. Milder temperatures also meant that there was no ice in the the pot holes. The water level was higher as well, so some of the rock that was exposed a week earlier was now partially submerged. Different compositions presented themselves.

Oyster River Sandstone and Water #2
A long side channel of large slabs of rock and smooth gravel.

I was able to slow the exposure down to the 20 and 30 second range using a combination of a cheap Hoya ND filter and the Fuji X100s’ built in ND filter. This time I had the timer and long exposure “T” setting figured out so no manual pressing of the shutter was required. To get around the lack of a wide angle lens I tried several compositions where I created a panorama, taking multiple exposures vertically and stitching them together in Adobe Photoshop CS6 in post processing.

Oyster River Sandstone and Water #3
Water sculpted sandstone takes on the look of chocolate.

It was interesting working the landscape with a group of photographers. We discovered and shared several different compositions and did some experimenting with ND filters of different densities. I lent out my B+W 6-stop and 10-stop filters for others to try (without my Nikon I couldn’t use them).

Oyster River Sandstone and Water #4
Detail of boulders in a pothole – wet stone and water.

I loved the texture and the water worn shapes of the rocks in this place and feel that I just scratched the service in terms of finding unique compositions and points of view.  The sandstone and water seemed to look better with black and white processing to simplify the images and highlight the relationship between the stone and water. This is a place that I definitely want to return to photograph again!

Oyster River Sandstone and Water #5
Reflections in water on the sandstone.

Getting There:

The access point to the Oyster River bowls is via a logging road approximately halfway between the Comox Valley and Campbell River:

  • Drive north on the Inland Island Highway to the Cranberry Lane intersection (posted to 90 km/h)
  • Turn onto Cranberry Lane, at the cattle guard set odometer to 0
  • 1.1 km – note major road going off to the right, radio/cell phone tower in the distance, continue straight
  • 1.6 km – logging company compound, follow curve of the road to the left, heads back toward the Inland Island Highway
  • 3.3 km – road crosses high above the Oyster River on a one-lane bridge, continue straight
  • 3.5 km – junction with Duncan Bay Main Line (continues across the Inland Island Highway) and Piggot Main Line. Choose the Piggot Main Line (follows natural curve of the road to the right).
  • 4.8 km – Black Creek Main Line splits off to the left, continue straight on the Piggot Main Line
  • 6.4 km – smaller road splits off to the right from the Piggot Main Line, marked by pink flagging tape. Turn off here and continue for approximately 400 m – this last stretch is a bit rougher than the main road and with a low car you have to straddle some potholes. Take it slow and you’ll be fine!
  • 6.8 km – parking area

From the parking area, follow the road on foot down to the river. Use caution on the rocks as they can be slippery and the water flow is fast in this section of the river.