The East Coast of Canada - Part I Peggy's Cove

by Dr. Robert Berdan
June 30th, 2014


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Peggy's Cove Lighthouse spherical panorama - CLICK HERE to view in full screen mode.


My visit to Newfoundland last summer prompted me to take another visit to the east coast this time to visit and photograph New Bruinswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Joining me was fellow photographer Kamal Varma. We flew into Fredericton drove south along the St. John's river valley to Black’s harbour where we took the Ferry to Grand Manan Island for a day. Afterwards we drove our rental car up the Fundy coast to Prince Edward Island (PEI) and circled Cape Breton and Nova Scotia. We had 10 days which gave us just enough time to make the route. I will present separate articles on each province and show what I found to be particularly scenic locations. I would like to start the series of photo-essays with Peggy’s Cove as this location was closesest to how I imagined the East Coast would look.




Peggy's Cove - harbour before sunrise - Nikon D800, 14-24 mm lens



Boats in Peggy's Cove at Sunset - Nikon D800 70-200 mm lens



Peggy's Cove before sunrise -Nikon D800, 70-200 mm lens




Peggy's Cove Lighthouse sunrise - I was the only person present at this time of day.

Peggy’s Cove is located about 45 minutes drive south of Halifax and has a population of only about 60 people. It’s most famous for its’ light house which may be the most photographed Lighthouse in the world. We passed and photographed many lighthouses on our coastal drives and while Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is scenic, it’s the tiny harbour with boats, docks and artisan shops that make this place special. We arrived about 10:30 am on a clear blue sky day and already there were several hundred visitors walking around the town and lighthouse. I decided I wanted to stay here for a day in order to photograph the cove at sunrise and sunset. My friend preferred to spend the night in Halifax. My first task was to find a place to stay overnight in Peggy's Cove.




Peggy's Cove Lighthouse at sunset



Around noon the lighthouse is crawling with visitors and its almost impossible to get a photograph without people in it unless you carryout some photograph trickery.



Paggy's Cove Lighthouse in late afternoon showing seaweed filled pools on the rocks.

Accommodation in Peggy’s Cove is scarce, though there are motels a few kilometres further down the road. I did not have a car to travel as my friend needed it to get to Halifax so finding a place within walking distance of the lighthouse was essential. There is one Bed and Breakfast in town that I knew of, however as expected it was full. We saw a gentleman working in the yard of a new Inn and I inquired if he might have a room. He said the Breakwater Inn wasn't finished and I told him I just needed a place to sleep - I would have taken a mattress on the floor. The owners graciously let me stay in a beautiful room and it was reasonably priced. The folks owned two dogs and I assured them that was no problem. All I needed was a place to sleep for a few hours as I knew I would be out shooting from 5 am to about 10 pm. Once I had a room I set to work all the angles of Peggy's Cove with my camera as the light changed throughout the day. I also had an oppurtinity to take two boat tours to get some pictures from the water.



Breakwater Inn where I stayed overnight (no web site as of yet - call them at 902-823-1755 to make a reservation)



Peggy's Cove Bed and Breakfast - see link below to their web site. If you want to stay here book early.



View of the harbour from Peggy's Cove Bed and Breakfast



St. John's Church Anglican Church completed in 1885.





Tea & Coffee House                                                                              Vsitior Information Centre




Artisan shop "Hags on the Hill"                                                  The Sou' Wester Restaurant great for Sea Food



Fresh lobsters were delivered to the Sou' wester Restaurant in the morning

Peggy's Cove Boat Tours


Peggys Cove Boat tours offers several tours including the surrounding harbour and one to Pearl Island for birds.



Captain Peter Richardson at the helm of his Boat



A marine biologist on the tour provides information about surrounding land marks and identifies wildlife for visitors



A family portrait in front of Peggy's Cove Lighthouse from the water before heading back into the Cove



Puffins and Razorbill on Pearl Island - 300 mm lens + 2X teleconverter on Nikon D300s



Puffin swimming off Pearl Island - 300 mm + 2X teleconverter hand held.



Razorbills on Pearl Island - 300 mm lens + 2X teleconverter Nikon D300s



Seal Ledge has a small colony of seals that you can view on the Pearl Island tour


During my stay I was invited to take a one hour tourof the harbour on Peggy’s Cove Boat tours for only $25. I jumped at the chance in order to have an opportunity to photograph the lighthouse and shoreline from the water. One of the highlights of the tour was viewing live video of Mackeral and lobsters on the ocean bottom. The tour is moderated by a graduate in Marine biology. The Captain and owner of the boat, Peter Richardson mentioned he also provided puffin and seal tours. I explained to him I was a professional photographer and he offered to take me out early next morning to Pearl Island in order to photograph Puffins and other sea birds as well as seals. In return I offered to send him some of my best pictures from the trip. For anyone interested in seeing sea birds or seals visit Peggy’s Cove Boat Tours web site or call 902-541-9177 to make a reservation.



A waterproof video camera is thrown overboard along with some bait and visitors can watch lobsters and other fish live on a big screen TV in the boat. .

Between 10 am and 6 pm the light house is surrounded by people. After 6 pm the number of people starts to diminish, but there were still lots of folks who stayed to capture the light house at sunset. However, at 5:00 am I had the lighthouse to myself. I tried to photograph the lighthouse from all angles using a variety of lenses.



A photogapher from Halifax used a drone to capture images of the lighthouse from the air to get unique shots of the lighthouse. I have invited the photographer to share some of his photos in a article and hope he will contact me in the future.



There are no trees in Peggy's Cove though there are a variety of wild flowers in the area. One of the most unusual plants is the Common Picture Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) that is found in wet areas. This plant feeds on tiny insects. The rain accumulates in the bottom of the cup shaped leaves where the insects become trapped and drown. These plants are found in grassy marshes around the Cove and are sometimes referred to as "Indian Drinking Cup".



Blue Flag grows around pools near the Lighthouse. These pools are fairly high up on the rockes and are either due to rainfall or large rogue waves that spill out over the rocks.



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Peggy's Cove Lighthouse spherical pan - virtual movie CLICK HERE to view in full screen mode.

While at Peggy’s Cove I tried every trick I know in photography. I created a number of spherical panoramas of the lighthouse, used HDR to capture the early morning light and used an 8-stop Double polarizing filter to try and capture the water in front of the lighthouse with long exposures that would blurr the ocean. Spending 24 hours in one location gave me the opportunity to capture a wide range of lighting conditions and also to get know some of the people.



Peggy's cove in sweet light at sunrise



Sunset over Peggy's Cove with lobster traps in the foreground.



Peggy's Cove in late afternoon light



The sun showing through the top of the lighthouse - under exposed 3 f/stops and I used tungsten white balance, 70-200 mm lens with my Nikon D800 camera.




Photographed at sunrise with 8 stop Polarizer - approx 10 seconds exposure to blur the ocean water




Black and white photograph of Peggy's Cove Light house taken around 6 am

Weather and lighting plays a big part in successful photography and it’s the one thing photographers can not control. Photographers living nearby a scenic location always have the advantage of being able to come back and visit this location under different weather and lighting conditions. One well known Canadian photographer, Sherman Hines has photographed Peggy's Cove in different lighting and seasons and has produced a book (see below).


Those seeking souvenirs there were books on the history of Peggy’s Cove, photographs of the lighthouse and even time lapse videos of the lighthouse for sale. Other attractions in Peggy's cove included an info center, Art Gallery, several artisan shops and St. John’s Church. Many visitors to Peggy’s Cove will find a couple of hours sufficient to photograph the lighthouse and take a boat tour, however serious photographers will want to stay for at least one sunrise and one sunset opportunity. Birders and bird-photographers during early summer may want to consider a boat tour to Pearl Island, be sure to bring your binoculars. If you only have time to visit one scenic place in Nova Scotia my recommendation is to go to Peggy’s Cove. If you have more time – head down the coast to Lunnenberg.


Links and Additional References


Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia by Sherman Hines (1992) Nimbus Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-55109-009-0


This is Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia... Canada by De Garthe (1956) Published in Halifax, Nova Scotia


Both books are available in the Peggy's Cove gift shop above the restaurant

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