Storm Watching: Vancouver Island

Storm Watching in Tofino, British Columbia during an intense October storm

By: John Entwistle

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We had no idea what to expect when we booked a weekend in Tofino, British Columbia for the middle of October. At this time of year, you could easily run in to any type of weather, from mid-summer beach days, to full on winter storms. 

Needless to say, the photographer in me was pretty excited when the weekend was approaching, and more and more weather alerts and warnings were being issued. That's right... We were off to Tofino as it was about to be hit by the remnants of a Pacific Typhoon. 

I have heard many great things about winter storm watching along the coast of North America. Pelting rain, howling wind, and intense waves... Everything a photographer dreams of! And oh boy did Tofino deliver!

Our ferry ride on B.C. Ferries from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo was surprisingly calm. That all changed the second we got off the boat. We were instantly in to some very heavy rain and strong winds. Tofino, which is on the other side of Vancouver Island from Nanaimo, was a 2.5 hour drive away. This was one of the most intense (non-winter) drives I have ever done! The wind was blowing branches, leaves, and rain all over the place. Visibility was questionable at times, and the weather was intense. Luckily, we made pretty good time across the island, and arrived at our hotel just before 10pm.

The power decided to go out just after 11pm, and so we settled in for a great sleep. I was of course very excited to get out and shoot the storm the following day. 

Strom Waves at Wickinninsh Beach
The waves of the west coast of Vancouver Island during an intense fall storm

Now, shooting a storm requires much more commitment than shooting your standard landscape or ocean sunset. The entire weekend, we were being pelted with rain, sideways wind, and constantly had to be cautious of the waves and tides. I had no idea how much a storm surge could affect the water level, but some "beaches" we went to, were not beaches at all! 

Pacific Waves
The storm produced some of the largest waves I have ever seen

My camera equipment all got very wet. It is at time like these that I was thankful that I made an investment in appropriate, weather sealed, camera gear. Unfortunately, by day 3 of shooting, even my Canon 6d had seen enough of the wet weather and decided to start acting up. I had to retire it to dry inside while I relied on my Sony a6000 for the remainder of the day. 

Wind on the ocean
The offshore wind would catch the tips of the waves, causing a huge amount of spray

By the time that our last day rolled around, the majority of the storm had already passed. Apparently the true heart of the storm missed Tofino and much of the lower mainland. I can't imagine what being in the centre of the full on storm would have been like! I think this storm was intense (and beautiful) enough for me! 

Black and white wave
Black and White images are a great way to focus on the power of the storm!

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.