I encountered a very unusual autumn during and after Cape Breton Island’s Celtic Colours International Festival, which ran from 11-19 October. The weather was the best of any festival I remember, with long stretches of fine, bright, sunny days, but the leaves in southwestern Inverness County, in past years the brightest and most gorgeous anywhere on the Island, were eclipsed by those in its northern reaches. As this essay will show, bright colours were to be seen in southwestern Inverness, but the great swathes of vibrant colours seen last year on the eastern slopes of Cape Mabou were largely missing this year and my general impression was of far duller colours than normal in that area.
I arrived in Cape Breton this fall on 9 October and returned on the 24th. As in previous years, not much colour was showing when I arrived. Of late years, the lag between the festival and the peak fall colours has been growing: last year, the peak happened after I left the Island. This year, the peak arrived while I was still on the Island, though alas, by then, the fine weather had yielded to greyer skies that often did not bring out the best in the colours that were there. Indeed, when I arrived home, I worried that I might not have enough photos for this year’s fall colours essay. After having made a couple of passes through the photos I took, however, I found 717 that I deemed as candidates (many of them duplicates) and decided that this was sufficient to proceed with the essay. As it turns out, 310 of those made it into this essay, more than in any previous fall colours essay. The larger number of photos, exacerbated by my slower writing pace as I age, spread the work out into, over, and beyond the year-end holidays, making for a greatly delayed release. In spite of its tardiness, I hope perusing it will nevertheless afford you a respite from the woes of this year’s severe winter weather.
I did visit all four of Cape Breton’s counties thanks to this year’s festival schedule, spending rather more time in Cape Breton County than in previous years; however, I got few photos there because of some transient grey weather, the delayed arrival of colours (later there than elsewhere), and the constraints imposed by travel to widely separated concerts. So, as usual, the photos are mostly from Inverness and Victoria Counties, with a few from Cape Breton County, and, sadly, none at all this year from Richmond County.
The ordering of the photos in this essay is not chronological. Instead, I have grouped them into three sections: the first features views in and of Cape Mabou, that gorgeous headland between Mabou and Inverness that is the focus of much of my time in Cape Breton; the second travels back roads in southwestern Inverness County with some excursions further north to Middle River, St Anns, and Boularderie Island; the third is devoted to my trip around the Cabot Trail after the end of the festival, with photos from Pleasant Bay, the Red River Road, Sunrise, Meat Cove, and South Ingonish Harbour. I have attempted to make the time associated with each page clear in the text, as understanding the state of the foliage does require a very firm grasp of the chronology.
This essay marks the introduction of photos taken with my newest lens, a 70-300mm lens I acquired this September that I’ve dubbed “Big Bertha”. It’s heavy and requires at least a monopod to steady, but I discovered that it’s able to capture things my eyes cannot even see! It cannot do the wide-angled shots my normal lens (18-105mm) can capture with aplomb, but it can take fine telephoto shots with ease. I am still learning how to use Big Bertha, but was generally pleased with my initial efforts, some of which are seen here. Unfortunately, having two lenses means constant swapping, with the possibility that a speck of dust can enter the camera body during the swap, but the tripling of focal length Big Bertha enables makes that risk worthwhile. With this essay, I’m introducing a line into each caption that gives the camera’s ISO, focal length, aperture, and shutter speed settings: since telephoto views, even those at 100mm, seriously mislead one’s normal feel for distance in the resulting scene, the addition of this information for each photo should help correct, or at least warn of, the distortion inherent in the long focal length. I hope eventually to also add this information back in to the photos in the previous essays.
Since this series of annual fall colours essays has been running from 2005 onwards, with the exception of 2010 for which I had insufficient photos, it is inevitable that there will be duplicate scenes in this year’s essay, as revisiting “old friends”, both people and places, is one of the many joys of the festival. I expect you will nevertheless find some views that are new to you or were taken from a different vantage point than those of past years. Although this autumn departed from previous standards, its beautiful weather did produce some fine views, even if not always colourful ones. I hope you will enjoy the selection of photos presented here.
Victor Maurice Faubert
2014 January 12
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Note 1: If you are unfamiliar with the place names mentioned in this essay, a list of map resources is given here. Of these, the best computer-readable map of Cape Breton Island that I currently know about is the Cape Breton Travel Map, produced by Destination Cape Breton and, thanks to their express written permission, available as a PDF file here; I strongly urge you to download it. This map scales nicely, allowing you to zoom in on an area of interest, has a very helpful place name index, and provides a level of detail, both of back roads and streams, that is quite good.
Note 2: See the description here for the notation I use for GPS (Global Positioning System) coördinates, which are those the camera recorded when I took the photos. In some cases, the camera failed to capture the GPS coördinates when I took certain of the photos; the coördinates of those photos were determined from Grimelda, the GPS track logger I now use on my daily excursions.
Feedback on the photos and the accompanying commentary, including corrections, is always welcome; send it to the address in the footer below. All of the essays in this series are archived here.