Postcards from Vancouver Island

In News & Stuff, Postcards From..., The Craft, The Life Creative by David51 Comments

Every year, off the coast of Vancouver Island, the place I call home, the herring spawn by the millions. The usually dark green water turns a magnificent chalky blue-green as the herring do the reproductive dance that makes them a keystone species, while at the same time drawing in an astonishing number of animals: gulls, seabirds, bald eagles, sea otters, harbour seals, sea lions, orca, grey and humpback whales. What an experience! At times, I could turn 360 degrees and see dozens of whales, hundreds of eagles, and thousands of gulls, the surface of the water broken every few seconds by seals or sea lions. The herring run is a spectacle, and for years I lived here knowing almost nothing about it.

On March 01, Michelle Valberg and I, joined by filmmaker Joel Haslam, loaded a truck full of gear into our friend Tom McPherson’s boat while an unseasonable snowstorm raged, kicking off an unforgettable expedition that would be as cold and wet—but as full of wonder—as I’d ever been. I was hoping I might share that wonder with you through my photographs.

Got Sony?

While packing for the expedition I realized I have a couple of lenses I haven’t used more than once, so I’m wondering if anyone needs a good deal on either a Sony FE 200-600/5.6-6.3 OSS G lens or a Sigma 135/1.8 DG HSM Art lens for Sony (Update: both these lenses have now found new homes!) I bought these gorgeous lenses thinking they’d be useful, but I’ve found they’re redundant with my others, so I just don’t use them. Both are in brand-new condition, and have never really been used. Interested? Drop me a note in the comments and I’ll connect with you. I’d love to see them go to a good home.


It’s now been over nine months since I recycled my foot. This week, I went in to be fitted for my 10th socket—the carbon-fibre sleeve my leg slides into to keep my foot on. That’s a lot of sockets, which means my leg is still changing and shrinking. My physiotherapist is thrilled with my progress, and while the recent expedition had some challenges (like walking on slippery rocks), I feel like I’m getting stronger and more adept all the time. I limp less and go for longer periods without pain or discomfort. Phantom pains still haunt me, but with less intensity. Interestingly, when my remaining left foot was cold last week (and it was so, so cold!), I felt that cold in my missing right foot as well. If I closed my eyes, it very much felt like both feet were there, and I found myself stomping them both in an effort to get blood flow back. At one point, I put an extra layer of socks on both feet before realizing the futility of adding another sock to my prosthetic. Oops.

Taking a moment to consider my next move in Kenya last month.
Photo credit, Jon McCormack

I keep getting notes asking how my recovery has been going. I sometimes forget that not everyone sees the updates that I post to Instagram. I’ll try to do better with updates, but if you’re on Insta, you can find me at @davidduchemin.

For the Love of the Photograph,


  1. Dear David,
    WOW, many of these photos are my all-time favorites of yours! Partially because I am totally smitten with otters (to the point of having an otter family puppet collection that I used years ago when working with grade school children to distract and sooth them during their visits to the school Health room). You so beautifully captured their goofy elegance. These photos feel so full of love to me, love of the incredible land, the atmosphere and the amazing creatures that live there. Seeing these photos I can actually feel the cold, wet air as if I was there! Many years ago I went camping on the West side of the Island and found it (felt it) to be absolutely magical. I have such wonderful memories of that trip, from cooking a chicken alfredo dinner via an alcohol stove perched on the hood of my ancient Pontiac beater to the next morning when a herd of wild horses charged into and through our camp space stealing apples that I’d just sliced up for breakfast! And that photo of you so touches my heart. The word that comes to mind is “noble.”
    Thank you too for your always candid, and often laughter tinged updates. The sock story – ohmigawd! What a gift to be able to find humor in such challenges, definitely one of the best aspects of our humanity. As always, sending you and your sweetheart much love!

    1. Thanks, Rory! This part of the world sure is special. I’m thrilled that my photographs brought back some of those feelings and memories! Thanks for such a lovely note. Best to you!

  2. I’ve become quite the follower of your’s over the last few years. Always look forward to your email through Craft & Vision. I find the knowledge you share about photography not just interesting and educational but extremely inspiring. I ran your “Heart of the Photo” at our camera club last fall and have shown a few of your other shorter videos since. I’ve had several of our members get back to me wanting to know more about you and how to find you. Sending them your way.

    I don’t know if you are directly engaged in the sales side of your business but, if so you might recall that I bought the “The Traveling Lens” program back in January. I be am really enjoying it and using it as a warm up for a trip I will be taking later this spring. Love your images from the Vancouver Island excursion. Growing up in BC I visit the island a lot. Thanks so much for all you share.

    1. Hi Peter! I’m not sure how this comment escaped my notice, but thank you! And thank you, too, for introducing me to your camera club and vice versa. That’s an honour. I don’t know if you’ve taken the trip you mentioned in your comment but if I’m not too late, have a wonderful adventure!

  3. Stunning images. As I am from Vancouver island, I have to say among my favs (which really are all of them) the last one at water level just feels like home to me. The rocks/waterline and blue/green water, clearly a herring spawn and those gulls flying in such numbers, so moody. The VI wolves, such a treat and honour to see, so elusive. One is lucky to find one. Those otters! I recently learned of you through our Camera Club (Cowichan) and CANNOT tell you how inspiring I found your talk, ‘heart of a photograph’. Your kind way of being and wanting to help others be all they can be made me reach out and sign up so I can read more from you, your blog etc. I hope to get one, if not all your books at some point. I am an experienced photographer, but I have SOO much to learn. Thank you for your invitation and teaching. AS to your leg. I have been down a road in my life where health reasons made me question if life would ever be the same. It takes time is all I can tell you. 8 years later I have added back all the things I wanted and a little more into my life, photography being a big part of that, returning to what I love and I am more excited by it then ever. You WILL heal and you WILL find your place among yourself as strength, both mentally and physically, pull you forward dragging you whether you want to or not. You will find the ‘balance’ (pun intended). I am glad the world will continue to see your images. I am glad YOU will continue to do what you love.

    1. Author

      Wow, Pam, what a lovely note. Thank you. Nice to meet you, if only virtually. You’re practically just down the road from me! Thanks for the kindness and encouragement. Seems daily things get better, more natural in terms of how it all feels, less pain. Some days feel a little more challenging but isn’t that the case in life for any of us. We rise to the challenge. We bounce back. We find courage and light where we thought there was none.

  4. Great work. Maybe a sock on the prosthetic might help keep you warm! The mind works in mysterious ways.

    1. Author

      That didn’t occur to me! But the extra sock made my boot fit better, so there’s that. 😉

  5. Great photos! I was over there with Michelle photographing wolves last summer.
    If you are not using the Sony 200-600, which lens(es) are you using?


    1. Hi Marion! I’m using primarily a 600/4 with 1.4x, and 100-400/5,6-6.5. Also a 300/2.8 and 24-105/4 – those are the lenses that get the most use.

  6. Wonderful images! (David DuChemin, famous bird photographer. 😁). Sounds like a great trip, too. I’ll be to head up there sometime. Thanks for the images and so glad you’re getting better in your leg!

  7. Thanks David! The Island sounds like a wonderful place! Maybe one day! Impressed you have progressed so far so quickly! Your persistence is amazing! Well done! You have shared some wonderful images with us! Cheers! Particularly like the otter on the rocks with the light on its face! Keep at it ! Cheers Glenn

    1. Thanks for that, Glenn! The encouragement is always welcome and appreciated!

  8. As usual beautiful David, it is great you are recovering well and getting out and about with a camera. Although I have to say it must be hell when your prosthetic foot gets cold. Stay safe.

  9. Absolutely stunning photographs David. Great to hear about your recovery. Keep going Mate, you got this 🙂

  10. An incredibly beautiful trip. Glad you were able to have the experience. Your photos are amazing. You captured many unique moments in the animal world.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Sherry. It really was quite wonderful. Nice to come back with photographs I’m proud of, but even more important to have had such magical encounters and moments.

      1. Thx for this David. Sounds like an amazing experience. Living in sunny South Africa we can hardly imagine that type of cold. Great photos. And great to see you doing so well. From an ex physio turned amateur photographer 😜

  11. The best part of your story is not the amazing photographs, it’s that you are out there agin in the world you love. Congratulations

  12. Always wonderful to hear about your photography, your trips, your awe at all things “life.” You are an inspiration in more ways than photographically. Thank you.

  13. I am curious. Seeing that you are selling your FE 200-600 mm lens, what lenses are you using such that you do not need this for wildlife photos? Thanks

    1. Author

      Good question, Arno! I already have a 600/4.0 lens which is a monster but it’s fast and I can put up to a 2x teleconverter on it. It’s my favourite lens. I also have a 300/2.8 which I can put a 2x on to get me to 600 and it’s super light and the quality is incredible. And I have a 100-400. All 3 of these lenses are better options for me than the 200-600 which, don’t get me wrong, is a great lens, but the others are better. They are also MUCH more spendy, so there’s always the trade-off… On most trips you’ll see me with 600/4.0 / 100-400/5.6 and either a 16-35/2.8 or 24-105/4.0 on Sony a1 bodies.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Dave. I could hear you all out there cheering for me. 🙏

  14. So inspiring to get out there again. I was last there for the herring spawn in 2018 on a field trip with my son’s grade 9 class to Bamfield Marine Science Center. I was reminded of it again a couple of years ago when a friend of mine, Leigh Nelson of Adventure Quest Canada, suggested I do a photography tour during the herring spawn. If I can garner some interest, it may happen, yet. I probably won’t get to the island until September this year.

  15. Another inspiring and beautiful post.
    Also living on the island, the herring spawn is on my must-do list. You’ve just moved it up several notches!
    Very glad to hear you’re beginning to thrive again. Thanks for being such a motivation, both photographically and personally.

  16. Hi David…what an amazing experience when the herring came in. So many wonderful opportunities to photograph or just sit and watch. If you get an opening next year, wouldn’t mind an opportunity like that 🙂

    You have made incredible leaps forward with your prosthesis it what I would call record time. Did you have the phantom pain challenge flying back from our Kenya trip? Hopefully that will go away one day soon.

    Have fun and say hi to Cynthia for Jo & I. Still talking about how wonderful the Kenya trip was. Still working on the 5,400 photos and trying to narrow them down. Jim

    1. Hi David, these are awesome photos that I’m having a hard time taking my eyes off! What a fantastic experience this must have been! Regarding the Sony 200-600 mm lens, which I also have and like it a lot, although a bit heavy. I would be curious to know what you are using instead – a third-party long lens? Thanks!

    2. Author

      Thanks Jim, the phantom pain comes and goes. On the way to Kenya my foot hurt pretty good on the flight, but not so much on the way home. Still haven’t figured out what triggers it. It’s pretty zippy right now, but yesterday it was quiet. 🤷🏻‍♂️ Love from both of us to both of you. 🙂

  17. Wow, that must really be something to see. Here in South Africa we have a sardine run in winter on our east coast but it is nothing on the scale of what you have captured.

    1. Author

      I was booked to do the sardine run last year, but then decided to do amputation instead. LOL. Looks like a whole other thing – I’d love to be in the water for the sardine run!

  18. I don’t mess with IG so thanks for your blog. I sailed on my friend’s sailboat around Vancouver Island from Port Hardy to Tofino last September and saw hundreds of otters. They have made a remarkable recovery and are so fun to watch. But I still have to witness the herring spawn sometime. A great draw for so much wildlife.
    By the way, I passed your name on to someone looking for a Sony 200-600.

  19. They are all great, but the 6th one down really captures me, wonderful abstract shapes, with the several small colored stones is fabulous.

  20. Keep on trucking David, your a new man with a positive outlook – congrat

  21. I’m going to beat your drum a little bit when I say that what makes these images so wonderful is mood. Composition aside for a moment, you are so adept at fulfilling your vision through light, contrast, and colour which often has the effect of injecting your images with compelling, emotional content. In this group I am most drawn to two in particular: the image of the whale fin is classic duChemin with the highlighted spray and the contrast between the dark periphery and highlighted centre; and then the final image, which could have been a very “typical” landscape shot but because of your focus on mood and your courage to let what is dark be dark (I always think of Leonard Cohen’s song “You Want It Darker”). In that image how you’ve handled the surface light on the water is outstanding and takes the image to whole other level. P.S. So glad to see you on your “feet”. What an extraordinary recovery. In a good deal less than a year, you’re wandering around the Kenyan savannah and even more remarkable, moving in and out of a Zodiak in, let us say, less than ideal conditions. Congratulations on everything!

  22. You are an amazing person! You are an inspiration!

    (And your photography is as amazing and inspiring.)

    Thank you for being.

  23. Your photo life is an inspiration to many..and I watch many of your videos trying to teach me !!!! MORE importantly your regard and outlook on life is the most inspiring to me!

  24. David – your images are so inspiring – the light and the subjects are so dynamic and mesmerizing. Equally inspiring is your recovery and I am aware that I have started to think of your prosthetic as a long term part of you – that is to say that I don’t think of it when I think of you – I think of gorgeous images telling compelling stories. Thank you so much for sharing your view of the world.

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