Flying to Bamfield

Bamfield Airport - As rustic as it gets. Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Bamfield Airport - As rustic as it gets. Vancouver Island, British Columbia

I had the opportunity to fly with a great fellow to the west coast Vancouver Island town of Bamfield yesterday. It was purely a flight for enjoyment but I also used the journey as an “aerial photography test” to see whether photographing from small airplanes with windows actually works. I know many have been doing this for years but I have always used helicopters and ultralights for photography and we have always taken the doors off the aircraft. Being the beginning of winter up here with temperatures just a little above freezing the idea of popping the doors off doesn’t sound too appealing. I’m tough but do have my limits and certainly comfort has to work into the equation at some point? So, what happened you might ask?

Well, I cleaned the windows as well as possible before we took off and hoped for the best. The weather certainly wasn’t perfect for shooting brochure images but it was very calm and in many ways perfect flying weather. We proceeded up the Cowichan Valley to Cowichan Lake and then followed Nitinat Lake to the beautiful west coast of the island. This is the area of the Carmanah Valley and West Coast Trail and truly must be one of the most spectacular areas on the planet.

We landed at Bamfield Airport, a really funky strip that would likely bring goose bumps to people that don’t fly in small aircraft very often. What a fun spot, the quintessential small airport in the middle of nowhere. Leaving the airport we headed south at tree level over the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed the unspoiled forest and beautiful beaches of the area. The sky was gorgeous and made for some interesting images, just not the brochure variety but that’s OK.

For the photography technical folks out there, I ended up shooting at about ISO 800 due to low light and the slightly tinted windows of the airplane. Most of the images were shot at around 1/500 at f5. This isn’t exactly the sharpest area of the particular lens (Nikkor 17-55 f2.8)but I had to weigh in the fact that the plexi windows were a little scratched and didn’t want too much depth of field. The slight tinting of the windows threw the colour off a little but working with the RAW files I seem to be able to control this somewhat. Reflections were an issue; I would try using a black cone over the lens or something similar next time.  Overall, the images are useable but definitely not as sharp as flying without a door. I’ll wait for the weather to warm up a little before we do that.

Looking south towards the Juan de Fuca Strait and Washington State

Nitinat Lake looking out towards the Pacific Ocean

Aerial view of the Pachena Point Lightstation, British Columbia

Bamfield Airport, British Columbia

Air traffic control tower? at Bamfield Airport, British Columbia

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7 Responses to “Flying to Bamfield”

  1. Margy says:

    You captured some excellent pictures through the plexiglas. My husband and I have an airplane and I love to take picture as we fly low over the terrain. One problem I encounter quite frequently is reflections on the plexiglas. Early and late day pictures come out the best, or ones out the side window. But in my case, there is a small wind wing (used only on the ground of course) right in the way. That is quite a runway at Bamfield. Our plane can’t handle such runways, but we’ve been to some really great ones farther north. Because many communities depend on air for the transport of their products and people, they are longer and a bit less bumpy. You might like to come over to my blog and see some of my flying posts. – Margy
    .-= Margy´s last blog ..Fabulous Ferry Firmament =-.

  2. Petite Splendours says:

    The photo of Nitinat Lake is just like a painting – so stunning and very peaceful. Hope you had a great flight!

    Have a fantastic weekend

  3. Diane AZ says:

    These are all terrific photos even if they were taken through the windows. Looks like a fun trip, I’ve never been to an airport as small as Bamfield’s.
    .-= Diane AZ´s last blog ..Rainy Reflections =-.

  4. kevin says:


    Thanks for the link to your flying posts. I browsed through there a few months back, it sure looks like you enjoy the flying as much as I do.


    Thanks, it does look very peaceful and in fact was. Enjoy your weekend as well.


    Bamfield is an amazing little airport, makes the small grass strip on Pender Island where I lived for the past twenty years look like an international airport! What’s even more funky is the “control tower” or house or whatever one would call it. I’ll add a photo a little later.

  5. Lynn says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Such a beautiful place. I don’t think I will ever fly in a plane without the door. The airport is cute and rustic, and far different than I am used to – but I bet it takes less time to check in and go through security.
    .-= Lynn´s last blog ..River Crystals =-.

  6. kevin says:

    Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for dropping by. Yeah, security is a little lax! The funny thing is that their is a customs phone number on the buiding so you can call in after landing in Canada. I can’t imaging anyone coming out to check up on you but… you never know!!!

  7. The Girl from the Ghetto says:

    I love your photos. I’ve been to Washington State, but not to the coast. Now I’m sad seeing what I missed shooting. I’m a very amature photographer myself. I wish I had the funds to be able to travel and shoot pictures “no where near as good but similar” to these.

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