The calm after the storm: Kitimat River in flood

Tuesday, October 25, 2017 was a beautiful sunny afternoon after four days of storms, snow on Saturday and three days of heavy rain which reached more than 200 millimetres (about eight inches).  The late fall sun was out but the Kitimat River was higher than usual. (Robin Rowland)

Super tide on the Skeena

"Super" low tide on the Skeena River at Telegraph Point, Sept. 28, 2015 (Robin Rowland)

“Super” low tide on the Skeena River at Telegraph Point, Sept. 28, 2015 (Robin Rowland)

I had great plans for shooting the super moon and the eclipse blood moon on Sunday night, September 27. Unfortunately the ideal shot of the moon rising over our iconic Mt. Elizabeth (which I have captured in the past) was impossible, there was a storm blowing in, and the overcast was so heavy that dark moon wasn’t even visible.

But today, I captured the related super tide –at low tide–which is the shot, I am sure, no one was looking for. To be honest, I was trying to shoot fall colours on a gloomy day where the Skeena lives up its original in name in the language of the Tsimshian First Nation, K-shian, “water that falls from the clouds,” also translated as “river of mists” and now is colloquially called “the Misty River.”

I was amazed at the Skeena was so flat, and so low at a time when it had been raining for the past couple of days and should have been much higher.

A few hours later when I was driving  back from Prince Rupert, in a pounding rain and wind storm, the river was actually higher than I had ever seen it before.

I didn’t realize what I had until I was watching  the weather segment on the CBC National, and the Weather Network presenter mentioned there was a super tide.  Google checks confirmed that a super tide accompanies a super moon.



Telegraph Point, on the Skeena, taken at 1135 hrs on September 28.

Telegraph Point is about 44 kilometres (27 miles) inland from where the Skeena reaches the Pacific Ocean, and the tides do reach even further inland than that.   Low tide at Prince Rupert  was at 0811 on Monday. There aren’t tide tables this far inland (not needed for sailors)

As I arrived for an  appointment in Prince Rupert, it started to rain. By the time I had completed my appointment and had had lunch, I drove back in a wind driver rain storm. I stopped briefly at Telegraph Point and grabbed some quick shots.

This shot, roughly the same angle as the first low tide shot,  was taken at 1457, just after high tide at Prince Rupert at 1426.  You can’t see it in a still image, but  in the river the water was moving rapidly upstream.


This was taken at 1512 from the same spot as the first low tide shot.


Another angle from Telegraph Point taken during the storm at 1512.

(All images above taken with Sony Alpha 55)


This was one of my first shots of the day, taken about 25 kilometres further upstream at 1101. (taken with Sony Alpha 6000)


Shots of fall colors along the Skeena, October 16, 2014.


DFO tide table for Prince Rupert, Sept. 28

Supermoon means supertides

Supermoon 2015 to cause highest ‘super tides’ for 19 years (Independent UK)


Kitimat blizzard and blackout February 5 to 9, 2015

Digging out in Kitimat

Attempting to dig out in Kitimat, as the blzzard continues, Saturday morning, Feb. 7, 2015. (Robin Rowland)

A “Pineapple Express” brought a major blizzard to the Kitimat region last week, dropping approximately 180 centimetres of snow from the morning of Thursday, February 5, 2015 until the skies cleared late on the afternoon of Saturday, February 7. In my neighborhood, the power first went out at about 3 pm on Thursday, came back at 11 pm. It went out about 11 am on Friday and didn’t come back until about 2:30 pm on Saturday.

Power was also out at Kitamaat Village from Thursday until late Sunday.  Early Sunday morning, the Haisla Nation Council ordered a voluntary evacuation, with two convoys of vehicles heading to Kitimat. While many people stayed with friends and families, about 20 people took refuge at the Riverlodge Leisure Centre. Other members of the Haisla Nation stayed in the village, gathering at the Haisla Recreation Centre.

The clean up continues in Kitimat.

Images from Thursday night until Wednesday afternoon. A mixture of photos and frame grabs from video.

This gallery does not include the images I fed to The Canadian Press.

Here is a link to the CBC News photo gallery of my CP images.


Thursday, February 5, 2015,  approximately 6:15 pm



At this point, early into the storm, all the power was out in Kitimat, with the exception of the street lights on Haisla Boulevard, which illuminated a few trees as I shot this on Albatross Avenue. Sony Alpha 6000, ISO 3200, 1/30, F3.5 from my window. (Robin Rowland)  (Higher ISO images were too noisy)

Friday February 6

Trees in park

The same view, from ground level, the next morning. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)


Heavy snow on branches (Robin Rowland)

Heavy snow fal;s

As the power goes out again on Friday, heavy snow continues to fall. (Robin Rowland)

Trying to dig out

Trying to dig out in the early afternoon. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)


A pick up tries to make it through the heavy snow. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)


A District of Kitimat crew digs out the fire hydrant in front of my house, Friday afternoon. (Robin Rowland)


A woman in white makes her way through the blizzard, Friday afternoon. (Robin Rowland)


The snow was really heavy near sundown on Friday. (Robin Rowland)


Trying to dig out as night falls. Note that is supposed to be a pedestrian crossing. (Robin Rowland)


Front end loader

Friday night

This front end loader was called in late Friday evening. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)…….

Fire truck

….so a Kitimat Fire and Rescue pumper could get back to the fire hall. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)

Saturday morning

Lights come on

About 3 am Saturday, some lights came on in the Kildala neighborhood, while much of the rest of Kitimat was still in the dark. (Robin Rowland)

Buried Kitimat

On Saturday morning, much of Kitimat was buried under about 170 centimetres and the snow was still falling. (Robin Rowland)


Digging out begins again as the blizzard tapers off. (Robin Rowland)



A raven flies overhead as the snow stops falling. (Robin Rowland)

walking isn snow

As the storm ends, two people walk on the heavy snow on Albatross Avenue. (Robin Rowland)


Snow scene

With the storm ending, the beauty of the trees and snow. (Robin Rowland)

View of the channel

A view of the snow covered Kitimat estuary and Douglas Channel after the storm. (Robin Rowland)

Sunday, February 8

haislacoks3Volunteer chefs hard at work in the Riverlodge Leisure Centre kitchen during the voluntary evacuation of Kitamaat Village. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)



Digging out the trailer park. Framegrab.  (Robin Rowland)

Roadblock on Village Road

BC Hydro contractors at a road block at the entrance to the Kitamaat Village Road. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)


Monday, February 9


Clearing a roof


Clearing a roof Monday morning. Framegrab.  (Robin Rowland)

Heavy snow on roofs
The snow was clearly a heavy load on one roof. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)



On Monday morning, side streets were still clogged with snow. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)



And the Service Centre was still digging out. Framegrab  (Robin Rowland)

District Snowblower
While the District of Kitimat snowblower was still working on main roads, like Nalibila. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)




A snowblower clears the sidewalk behind my house. For those not familiar with Kitimat, as part of the original Garden City plan, sidewalks are generally behind houses. (Robin Rowland)



Heavy equipment digs out the fire hydrant in front of my house. As seen above it’s usually two guys with shovels. I estimated there was at least three metres, perhaps four metres, of snow on top of the hydrant, put there earlier by the snow blower clearing the street. (Robin Rowland)

Harvard Yard in the Boston blizzard of 2003

Old Burial Ground Cambridge

Headstones on The Old Burial Ground, Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts during the blizzard on Dec.6, 2003 (Robin Rowland)

Boston, like Kitimat, is buried in snow.  I was in Boston, staying in Cambridge for a conference, when the region was hit by a blizzard in December, 2003.

According to the Boston Globe, the area has received 196 centimetres of snow so far this winter (77.3 inches).  Kitimat got about 180 centimetres  (70.80) inches during the storm between Thursday morning February 5 until the afternoon of Saturday February 7.

So here, from archives, are the images I took while stuck in that blizzard of 2003.  (Note: I am still working on the Kitimat blizzard photo gallery)


Old Burial Ground, Cambridge, in blizzard

The Old Burial Ground, Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts during the blizzard on Dece.6, 2003 (Robin Rowland)

John Harvard in blizzard

The statue of John Harvard in Cambridge, during the blizzard of Dec. 6, 2003. (Robin Rowland)

Old Burial Ground, Cambridge

The US flag at a headstone on The Old Burial Ground, Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts during the blizzard on Dec.6, 2003 (Robin Rowland)

Storm warning on the Skeena

Storm over the Skeena River

Menacing clouds over the Skeena River, looking west from near the Khyex River (Robin Rowland)

On Thursday, October 3, I drove to Prince Rupert for an appointment. With heavy cloud cover on the way into to Rupert I didn’t get much of a chance to shoot the fall colours which are just beginning to peak on some parts of the Skeena (but not everywhere, due to micro-climates you can drive through bright yellows and then a few kilometres further on it’s all still green).

Appointment over and after a hearty seafood lunch at Cow Bay, I headed back to Kitimat, listening on the car radio to the storm warnings and wind warnings from Environment Canada for yet another major early fall storm approaching the BC coast. It was soon apparent from the darkening skies that you didn’t need an Environment Canada weather warning that a storm system was moving in.


Storm over Kaien Island

Stormy weather at the Port Edward turnoff on the east side of Kaien Island, looking west. (Robin Rowland)

Prince Rupert is on the northwest corner of Kaien Island. Highway 16 skirts the the west end of the island until you come to the bridge to the mainland where the highway will either go east to Terrace or south to Port Edward. At the viewpoint just before the bridge, you could see the gathering storm. (By the way there was no rain at all during the time I was driving back and stopping at various points to shoot).


Storm over the Skeena

Storm over the Skeena, looking east at Basalt Creek. (Robin Rowland)

Stormy weather on the Skeena

Stormy weather on the Skeena, at Basalt Creek, looking south across the river. (Robin Rowland)

Just a few kilometres further on, despite the dark skies, the Skeena was flat calm. Those pictures in the next blog.

How to photograph stars on a moonlit night from a floating lodge

(First in a series of notes for photographers working in the Pacific northwest)

Stars over Clio Bay, Douglas Channel, BC, 9:50 p.m. Sept. 14, 2013.  (Robin Rowland)

Stars over Clio Bay, Douglas Channel, BC, 9:50 p.m. Sept. 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland)

The standard advice for photographing stars is to find a clear sky, far away from urban light pollution, with no moon and someplace solid where you can put a tripod. That’s great, perhaps for New Mexico, Arizona, or even parts of California.

Up here in the northwest, where there is rain forest because it rains, you make the best of your opportunities.

So here’s how to photograph stars on a moonlit night from a floating lodge. There are some conditions, of course. Calm seas are the only way to go. Mountains are great. Where you’re anchored (boat wise)  is also a factor.

Tropical day

Last weekend I was shooting some news stock, both video and stills, at Clio Bay, southeast of Kitimat, BC., site of a growing environmental controversy. (See more on Clio Bay at the end of this article)

It was a beautiful weekend on Douglas Channel, rather unusual for mid-September, with a clear sky and near tropical temperatures.

Entrance to Kildala estuary, September 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland)

Entrance to Kildala estuary, September 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland)

The last time I was out on Douglas Channel on the same mid-September weekend in 2011, there was, to say the least, a raging gale. The Kildala arm is somewhat sheltered, so it was  just choppy.  Out in Douglas Channel one to two metre waves and worse storm conditions on the actual coast.


Entrance to Kildala Estuary during a storm September 18, 2011. (Robin Rowland)

Entrance to Kildala Estuary during a storm September 18, 2011. (Robin Rowland)


Setting up for the star shoot

After the news shoot, I stayed overnight at the floating Tookus Inn, which is moored, for now, in Clio Bay. I had checked various weather forecasts, especially the Environment Canada marine forecast, as well as  the regular Environment Canada regular forecast and the Accuweather forecast app on my iPad. All said clear skies.

So given this very rare opportunity, I spent the evening shooting the stars over the mountains of Clio Bay and the west side of Douglas Channel.

Here is a shot taken just as we arrived back from the news shoot, a great blue heron nicknamed Henry on the log boom seen in the night shots.

Great blue heron on a log boom at Clio Bay, BC,  (Robin Rowland

Great blue heron on a log boom at Clio Bay, BC, (Robin Rowland)


By checking the Photographers Ephmersis app, with my local knowledge, I knew we would have an early sunset (behind the mountains) long before the official time, a long twilight and that the moon would rise behind and to the left (east) of the lodge before the sky was really dark.

Camera is a Sony A77, with a Konica-Minolta 17-35mm wide angle, manual setting and manual focus on (except where noted) a Giotto MT8260 carbon fibre tripod, using a MH 5001 pan head. (I have a solid Manfrotto tripod, but the lighter Giotto is much better suited for working in remote areas, or where travel storage is limited, as this weekend when I was travelling on a fishing boat. With the pan head it can do double duty both for my video camera and still gear). I used the usually recommended setting of ISO 800 for star photography and varied both exposure and focal length. Shot RAW+JPG.

All images were processed from RAW to Tiff and then to web friendly JPG in Photoshop CC, using minimal  black level, white level, curves and contrast sharpening.

This shot was taken at 8:41, just as I was setting up the tripod, camera sitting on the balcony rail. ISO 320, F4, 1/8sec, looking northwest. FL 17mm.

Last of the twilight and sunset at Clio Bay and Douglas Channel, BC, 8:41 p.m. Sept. 14, 2013 (Robin Rowland)

Last of the twilight and sunset at Clio Bay and Douglas Channel, BC, 8:41 p.m. Sept. 14, 2013 (Robin Rowland)

From the ephemeris you can see that the sun has officially set, we’re already 20 minutes past civil twilight, but the last rays of the sunset can still be seen over the mountains of Douglas Channel to the northwest.

Ephemeriis 2038

About fifteen minutes later, the moon has risen over the mountains, (waxing 64.9 %) behind and to the left of where I am aiming the camera to get stars over the mountains and Douglas Channel. This was a test shot, at 9:03, using my backup A55, on the balcony rail, ISO 1600, F3.5 at one second. Even with the bright moon, you can see stars in the night sky.

Moonrise over Clio Bay, :57 p.m. September 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland)

Moonrise over Clio Bay, 8:57 p.m. September 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland)


It’s now an hour after the first shot at 9:40.08 The A77 with the KM wide angle is on the tripod and I am using a remote trigger.

Stars over Clio Bay and Douglas Channel, 9:40 p.m.  (Robin Rowland)

Stars over Clio Bay and Douglas Channel, 9:40 p.m. (Robin Rowland)

The moon is higher in the sky, shining directly on the log boom to the left and illuminating the far off mountains on the west side of Douglas Channel. The forest in the right foreground is mostly illuminated by the moon, with some light from the lodge as well. The constellations to the west are clear. ISO 800, FL 24 mm, F4, 15 sec.

A similar shot minutes later at 9:52:01, FL 24 mm F 4 15 sec.

Stars over Clio Bay, Douglas Channel, BC, 9:50 p.m. Sept. 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland)

Stars over Clio Bay, Douglas Channel, BC, 9:50 p.m. Sept. 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland)

Moon is at a slightly different and higher angle, most of the lights in the lodge are out, so the forest is no longer fully illuminated, moolight reflects off the log boom, stars appear brighter.


Last of the main shots. At 10:14:51, FL 24 F4 but shorter exposure at 10 seconds.



Clio Bay and Douglas Channel, BC., 10:14 p.m. September 14, 2013.  (Robin Rowland)

Clio Bay and Douglas Channel, BC., 10:14 p.m. September 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland)



All the lights were turned out at the lodge at 10, so there is no longer any artificial illumination, which brings out the moonlight on the log boom but still captures the moonlight on the distant peaks.  Angle is slightly different, so one constellation is behind the forest.  (After that because it had been a long day and I had to get up early for the boat trip back to Kitimat, I went to bed).

Clio Bay is a considered a safe anchorage in case of storms. Saturday night was beautifully calm. But not one hundred per cent. Compare the stars in these images.

Blurred stars

Blurred stars

The first at 10:10:22 shows a small amount of blur  in the stars and trees as the lodge moved in the water during the exposure.

No blur

but at 10:18:21 it was relatively still and the stars and treeline are sharper. Both using tripod and remote trigger.

Both 13 seconds at F4


Overhead lamp on balcony and stars at night at Clio Bay. (Robin Rowland)

Overhead lamp on balcony and stars at night at Clio Bay. (Robin Rowland)

This shot was taken at 9:26 p.m, ISO 800, FL 17,  6 seconds at F4.  As I tried various angles, the camera captured a lampshade  hanging from the balcony ceiling, painted with light from inside the lodge. I found I preferred the original JPG and could not duplicate the tones of the image by processing the RAW.


Clio Bay

Clio Bay is an inlet on the east side of Douglas Channel, just south of Kitimat, BC. For years, Clio Bay has been used to sort logs so they can be sent by boom or ship to the Lower Mainland of BC or to Asia. Over the years, thousands of logs have sunk to the bottom of Clio Bay. Now there is a proposal by Chevron and Apache, partners in the KM LNG project across the Channel at Bish Cove to dump thousands of tons of clay on top of the trees. The question is what will the clay do? Will the clay kill a thriving ecosystem among the old trees or will it create an new ecosystem by making a new seabed. The debate continues and that’s why it’s an ongoing news story.

Raven Coast Workshops

Watch for Raven Coast Workshops, photo workshops and tours for all levels of experience and skill in the unique environment of BC’s pristine and historic Pacific Northwest. We aim to start full workshops in 2016, when two new luxury hotels in Kitmat are slated for completion. In the meantime for 2014 and 2015, we can organize smaller workshops or individual charters along Douglas Channel, the Kitimat River and in the historic Skeena River region. High quality accomodations are currently available for a limited number of guests. Please contact us, let us know your interests and budget so we can set up your charter or you can join a small group workshop for a photo-trip to remember.