Catching the sun: days 783 — 797

Right place right time

In two weeks we went from deep blue clouds to sunlight just kissing the tops of the towers. Not too long before that it was really and truly dark.

Things have changed, is what I’m saying. I’ve finally reached the point that I’ve been shooting for all along: stabilise my photo-taking time at around 7:00, and let the sun catch up to me.

It’s beautiful. I think my favourite days were last week, just as the sun peeked above the horizon. Check out the blue and pink and gold sky, and the tiniest bit of pink on the Vancouver Island mountains!

But still, somehow it’s a bit anticlimactic. What happens now? Do I keep taking 7 o’clock photos? I feel that’s no mystery anymore, especially with the time change this weekend. I’ve already seen what early-morning-but-not-dawn Sunset Beach looks like. Or maybe I could keep following the sun the whole year round, shooting at five freaking oh six in the morning on June 20th?

Or… something else, something I haven’t thought of yet? As I wrote earlier, there are no rules, I can do whatever the hell I want! And what the hell, I’ve been feeling a bit run-down lately, and this bug I’ve been dragging might be affecting my artistic vision. 7:00 is a good time for now. Besides, I don’t know what Sunset Beach will look like. Different skies, different tides, different ferries at the dock; this fixed place, this fixed time, it’ll always be moving and changing. I knew that, I guess I just needed some reminding.

So you know what? I won’t be bummed about missing sunrises. Instead I’ll be happy I caught them, even just for a few days; happy, too, that I made myself work for it. And when the sun goes away again, I’ll still be here waiting for its return.

Black and white and blue: days 765 — 782

Keeping it cool and civil

There’s this thing called “civil twilight”: the 30–40 minutes just before sunrise or after sunset when the Sun’s centre is 6 degrees or less below the horizon. If the weather’s good there’s quite a bit of light around to get things done without artificial illumination. Civil twilight in the morning is when lights turn off, and likewise in the evening when they turn on. Hence the name, I guess?

Fun fact: I don’t know how the city sets this up, but it looks like the lights on Granville Bridge are more generous than on Burrard Bridge, staying on later and turning on earlier. I’ve witnessed both these facts this morning (while taking my photo) and last night (while strolling to the Storm Crow). Are they on timers? I figure they have to be since light sensors would be really unreliable in these parts. Maybe Granville Bridge gets more light because it’s a major commuting route?

So my day 765 photo, about 30 minutes before sunrise, was probably just at the edge of civil twilight. You can see there’s some light, though I think the eastern sky was a bit overcast, and the following day was much lighter. And as I expected, my shooting time’s stabilised while the sunrise has crept in, day by day. Look at this latest photo! Twelve minutes or so before official sunrise, and a while more before we see actual direct sunlight and the vamps have to go into hiding. Way back when it took about five minutes for the sun to clear the bridge, but now it’s rising way further north, behind those towers.

(Gawd, look at me being all observant about the natural world and stuff!)

Speaking of natural world, we’ve had some wild weather in the last couple weeks. Snow, snow, and more snow. It’s pretty, for sure, and I got to use the heavy hiking shoes I bought for Iceland (next Maaaaaaay) but… this wasn’t what I signed up for, y’know? And I wasn’t the only one tired of it, either.

Those February 11 posts look unreal with the greyscale, but I promise they are 100% unfiltered. Grey skies, grey herons, white snow, dark trees, black crows, it was all a weird alien wonderland. One time, very early on, I used a black-and-white filter to give my photo a bit of punch. Not here though!

That was during the day. Go out early enough and the world becomes blue and black. But with a bit of luck, you may get all three together.

And then the snow started melting for real on Sunday. A few bits are still there, in corners and shadows. The forecast is calling for more snow, but I refuse to believe it. For now we’re back to a regular Vancouver winter, with good, honest rain.

My latest Sunset Beach photo is special, being the first one I’ve corrected for perspective. It’s something that’s been nagging away at me for weeks: at the angle I’m shooting, it’s impossible to get the horizon and the buildings nicely aligned and orthogonal. Either the closest buildings are slanting a bit to the right, or the far left horizon is not that horizontal. What’s the solution, besides lowering myself from the bridge? Installing a more advanced photo editor so I can fix my photo. I hesitated to do it because I’m not a believer in post-processing (it’s waaay too common on IG and it seems it’s the heavily-processed shots that get amplified), and… well, I’d never done this before on a phone and was afraid of fucking it up. But I was tired of not liking my photos as much as I wanted to, and it didn’t matter if it was just me nitpicking at myself, I wanted to do something about it!

So there we go. I know the lines are still not quite straight; I just did the tiniest smidge of correction as I get used to this new software. But it looks way better, and that’s a relief. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn PhotoShop next?

I make the rules around here: days 756 — 764

Choices!

There’s really only one rule for this challenge: I have to take and post a photo every day, any time between midnight and midnight, to my IG account. No themes or anything, and no saving up photos. Simple! But because I couldn’t not overthink things, if I posted more than one photo in a day only one of them was the official daily pic, numbered and labeled with the #dailypic hashtag. All the others were just… y’know… extra. All they got was a caption.

Over the next year and a bit I changed the numbering and hashtagging to make it (a) simpler, (b) more consistent (all my photos are equally special!), and (c) make it clear how far I’ve come. Today is not day 34 of 2019, thank you very much! It’s day 764! The 1000th day is just around the corner!

And now some more changes with this new year, a couple more… rules, I guess? Rules that are pushing me to get up earlier on weekdays, so I can get more done in the morning, get a nice workout in, and get to work at a reasonable hour. And they’re working, and they’re good for me. But after I took a photo early Saturday morning, and again the following Saturday, even earlier, I realised this was totally not sustainable and I was probably going overboard.

I think deep down I worried that if I slipped once with my Sunset Beach project, I’d drop the whole thing and never pick it up again. But as the Good Book says, non sum qualis eram, so I let myself break the pattern last Sunday and my gawd what a relief that was. I could allow myself to sleep in again! And everything turned out fine because I was up bright and early Monday morning.

The lesson for me is: remember what the rules are for. And remember that nothing’s set in stone; if they don’t work, I can just change them. I have the power, not just to choose the terms of this challenge, but to follow through with those decisions.

So last Friday we set the milestone at 7:13 AM. Little bit blurry, and I’m a little surprised it took 1/8sec exposure, but never mind. We’re most of the way to my goal of 7:00. Maybe I’ll go beyond that? After all the Y opens at 5:30, so…

There were a few days when it was nothing but Sunset Beach. But then I got THE MOTHER OF ALL SUNRISES—made me late to the gym but I knew I couldn’t let this beauty go—and the next day I went on a little walk into Gastown. It’s been a while since I did that, and it felt nice. The world isn’t all sunrises and beaches, it’s also gritty urban stuff. And though I felt a bit under the weather, and the weather itself turned colder, I took a little walk on the Seawall and enjoyed terrible movies. And slept it again.

It snowed on and off today. Tomorrow, I’ll be up again ere break of day to see how much snow is left on Sunset Beach, that should be fun.

Tides and persistence: days 744 — 755

Tides come in, tides go out

Monday the 14th was when I started my daily Sunset Beach photo thing for real. It’s been a great experience in all respects: I get some gorgeous photos, plus accountability with a solid record of my photo times. In the last 2 weeks I’ve knocked about 15 minutes off my shooting time. Who would have thought I could take one thing in my life and use it to improve another thing? What a crazy world we live in!

It hasn’t been 100% smooth, though. For one, I need to go to bed earlier. For another, I need to not dawdle so much in the morning. But after literally years of fighting against bad habits and never making lasting progress, I feel I’m on my way!

I’m reading a book recommended to me, Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path To Truly Growing up. It’s good stuff, talking about various Buddhist virtues that even atheists like me can put in practice in their everyday life. One of those virtues is persistence: putting in the work every day, walking the path step by step, focusing on the journey and holding no expectations about the end result. I realise now this is what I’ve been doing for the last two years with my photography. Day by day I polished my skills but I didn’t try to plan anything—I definitely didn’t plan on taking daily Sunset Beach photos again, but there you go. Still, it’s all paying off now.

All these photos are absolutely fascinating. Tides match lunar days, right? And lunar days are a bit longer than solar days, which is why on January 23rd that little spit of rocks at the end of the closest chunk of beach was aaaaaalmost completely submerged at 7:39, while a day later more of it was visible, with highest tides coming apparently at 8:30.

The other thing that gets me about these photos? How much positive feedback they’ve gotten on Instagram. Most of them received at least one comment—a thumbs up or a bunch of heart emojis or something—and that’s new and frankly bewildering. I get that it’s a gorgeous vista, that’s why I chose it, but is that the whole story? Or maybe I should just hush my little overanalysing brain and self-doubts and enjoy this ride while it lasts?

Yes, I think that’s what I will do.

It’s not just Sunset Beach, though. Feast your eyes on a cyberpunk street downtown! A really grainy super wolf blood moon! Chairs in the rain! And a closer look at the king tides which… is still totally Sunset Beach. Ehh, whatever. I like the place.

Morning light: days 738 — 743

Greeting the sun

I got up earlier on Monday, taking this lovely shot of Sunset Beach before heading out to the gym, and then decided to keep it up for at least a week.

Tuesday, it was Beach Avenue. Wednesday I switched to the east side of the bridge and took a fantastic shot of traffic in the rain. Thursday I captured the seawall and the other side of Beach Avenue. Then more of the skyline on Friday.

Saturday the weather cleared up, so I took the time to look up when the sun rises at this time of year (shortly after 8:00AM FYI) and headed out to shoot the sunrise. It was fucking gorgeous! I took tons of photos and posted five… but in hindsight I think I would only have posted this one, taken at 8:06. It shows the wibbly blob of the soon-to-be-visible sun, and it’s got more skyline, which is nice. I need to edit! A small number of photos can have a greater impact than a large number of too-similar photos. Well, live and learn.

And on Sunday, another gorgeous sunrise, followed by a gorgeous foggy sunset.

So there we are. Verdict? I like it, and I want to keep it up! Taking photos in the early morning means less pressure on me to find something else later. Not to mention, it’s getting me out of the apartment earlier. Who knew it could work that way? All I needed was to find the right motivator.

Ten years ago, shortly after moving downtown, I started taking a bunch of photos of Sunset Beach at around the same time, from around the same vantage point. It was pretty irregular, and I kept it up on and off over the next 2 years. It was a really interesting exercise in seeing how this bit of Vancouver changed day by day: the tides, the foliage, the weather, the snow, all of it. I loved it. I’d like to start it up again, though I know it won’t work the same on Instagram. Maybe I could have a special hashtag? Or put them in stories, which I’ve never used before? And if I take a photo of Sunset Beach every morning, will I be less likely to seek out other photos the rest of the day? Will my feed skew too hard to Sunset Beach?

Or maybe I’m overthinking this. All I know is, I’ll be up early tomorrow to snap a picture from the same vantage point as tonight. After that, we’ll take it day by day.

Leveling up: days 731 — 737

Where’s my spice weasel?

The year started out normally: after a party in Montreal with my brother and his friends, I take the bus back to Ottawa. And as also seems to be the norm, I go on the 17 instead of the 417. More direct on paper, but it’s a smaller highway and goes through more small towns so it ends up being a bit slower.

Very picturesque towns, as you can see. I took a few photos of the same trip last year, but didn’t get a window seat until Hawkesbury. And I was on the left (south-facing) side, so there was a bit of sun in my eye, and I didn’t get to see the pretty little churches, scenic shots of the Ottawa River, and assorted abstract-ish shots of blue sky and snow or blue sky, ice and concrete.

Not to mention the urban shots: railroads (one of the several suburban lines) and hella constructions and some moody… thing which makes a statement—though don’t ask me exactly what statement— and the very first photo of the year: a brokenly symmetrical view of the Langelier station exit. The first photo has to make an impression, right? And I’m very, very happy with it. In fact, I love all the photos I took that day, from the Metro to my brother’s cat. The year’s off to a good start.

And kept on being good at YOW airport… the flight was not so great, though. Well, those ten turbulence-free minutes between Regina and Calgary were okay.

I’ve missed Vancouver, I really have. Ottawa just doesn’t feel right anymore. Downtown is kind of claustrophobic… but then I’m not being fair. I was just in the business / Parliament section that day. If I’d visited, say, Rideau Street, or the Market, it would have looked a lot more like Gastown or Library Square. I mean, Ottawa isn’t all civil servants.

And then… changing things up: making a better space for creativity in my bedroom / office, which involves getting rid of my old desk and getting a new one, on which I’m typing this. It’s nice, I get to gaze out the window and let the view inspire me. The view is mostly the building across the street, but there are still a couple trees, so there you go.

Changing more things up: I got up a bit earlier than usual on Monday and took a photo of Sunset Beach from Burrard Bridge. I’ve seen this before, of course, but in the pre-dawn light? Maybe not. It’s different. It’s new. And that’s what I need right now.

Because don’t get me wrong: 2 years and change of daily photos is a great accomplishment. I am super proud of myself for that. But now I want to take it to the next level. 638 days I started blogging again, and it’s been a great experience. What else can I do? How can I build on what I have?

I don’t have answers, just a nagging frustration. And a nagging fear that whatever I still have in store I either won’t be up for it or I’ve missed my chance. But that’s the thing about the future: two years ago I never dreamed I’d be blogging again at a nice standing desk, still doing this photo challenge, and 18 months into a really awesome job.

You never know, and that’s the joy of it.

The year in pictures: days 366 — 730

Year 2 represent

Did I actually manage to keep my streak for two whole years? I sure did!

Blogging: up 62% (47 posts in 2018 vs 29 in 2017); confidence in my photographic skills: up 577.4% and I have a much better feel for what makes a good photo. Let’s check out my favourites from this year!

Burrard sunrise, January 15

HDR, baby! I really need to take more morning pictures.

Perspective Street, January 31

This was just one of several pics I took on the way to a dinner in Yaletown, and at first I didn’t really get why people loved it so much. I think I do now, though: single point perspective makes the photo perfectly balanced and harmonious, not to mention the colours are killer.

Shattered selfie, February 4

I stumbled upon this in an alley just around the corner from my place. How could I resist?

West of Denman, February 18

From the Inukshuk I spied this view: fluffy clouds and snow-covered beach, a perfect mirror image of each other.

Lost Lagoon sunset, March 6

The evening sky looked beautiful, so after work I trekked all the way to Lost Lagoon to catch the sunset. I’d say it was worth the trip!

Cooper’s Park and Yaletown, March 11

I’d planned to shoot from Cambie Bridge for a while. Though the east side was a disappointment, with no really good views of the towers or Science World, the west side offered me this gorgeous 21st century cityscape.

Two towers, May 10

Here’s a throwback to a picture I took in 2005, on Pride weekend. Don’t remember what I was doing exactly though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t anything social. Quite the suburban hermit, I was then, severely disconnected from the gay community except for playing volleyball.

Fast forward thirteen years: the exact same shot except with better resolution, better light, better atmosphere… and me in a way better place. It does get better.

Day 500, May 15

When I started this challenge 2 years ago, I honestly didn’t believe I’d last. 10 days in a row would be nice. A month would be amazing. Five hundred days? Inconceivable!

Davie Street sunset, May 28

I’ll always associate this gorgeous view with the super-challenging volleyball clinic I took at the Roundhouse in May.

Dramatic sky, June 14

The clouds matched my mood that week. I was struggling with social exhaustion and various self-doubts I let ballon in my head… doubts that turned out to be molehills after all. The sky cleared up overnight, too. Symbolism!

Underbrella, June 18

This city has lots of excellent public art, and this is just one piece. Is it actually a Pride thing? Don’t really care.

The city and the city, July 8

The last photo I took after a walk along the Seawall, and I was lucky to get it too since my phone battery was almost dead.

Fireworks, August 4

I am still gagging over how amazing my Pixel 2 is for night shots.

Smoke Lagoon, August 22

This is the new normal, I guess. I wanted to see how Lost Lagoon was doing since the smoke was a lot worse than previous years. I love this shot: the symmetry, the muted colours… I just hate what it means.

Coming in for a landing, September 1

Here’s the real kicker: this photo’s exposure time was 1 / 3906 sec, leaving the bee’s wings only a little bit blurry — according to Wikipedia, a bee’s wings beat 230 times / sec, so I captured less than 6% of a cycle.

A vegetarian spider, October 2

Shut up, I think she’s beautiful.

Towers of gold, October 17

The perfect time of day to light it all up.

A case of the Mondays, October 29

Beauty comes in all shapes and colours. Case in point: this carpet of wet rotting leaves on Thurlow Street.

Ducks and crows and a heron, November 4

That whole morning strolling through Jericho Park was magical. Beautiful sunshine, great views, crunchy orange leaves underfoot… and lots of friendly wildlife. Then I went back to the gym and managed to drop in Advanced volleyball! A nice cap to a fun photo outing.

Frosty garden, December 7

This is as cold as it’s gotten so far—we probably won’t see snow downtown this year. I don’t mind though, frost is just as pretty.

Big Island, December 21

Yet another throwback photo, this time to the last time I flew out east in the summer. From my window seat I shot lakes and rivers and little towns and loved every minute of it. This time most of the country was overcast but I did get another beautiful shot of Big Island. If I could have, that’s the one I would have picked!

Sparks StreetWellington Street and the Centennial Flame, December 28

I was meeting some friends for dinner downtown, got there early, and decided to go on a photo spree. So hey, more single-point perspective! Also a bit of tourist fun in my home town, some nice holiday colours and foggy mystery, and an homage to the province I now call home.

The traditional Christmas sushi: days 721 — 730

Some things you just gotta do

I’m home for the holidays, so that means a bunch of things:

  • spending my second day wimping out and taking a picture of our front yard from inside. Well, just standing outside the front door.
  • Seeing some nerdy movie with the fam. Nothing Star Wars this year, so we picked Into the Spider-Verse, which is amazing. Seriously, the music, the visuals, the story, the characters, the humour, the action, everything is on point. It is magical. It is as damn near perfection as you can get in this world of Platonic shadows.
  • Going out for Japanese food.
  • And presents, naturellement. Mostly for the nephew now, really. This year we even got out the old red sack from waaaay back when we believed in Santa. Which the nephew still does at age 5, although he’s apparently been asking awkward questions about how Santa can get to so many households in one night, the aerodynamics of reindeer, whether they need to eat and poop high up in the air, that sort of thing. He’s a smart kid, I’m sure he’ll figure it out by next year.
  • Enjoying traditions. We don’t really have a lot of those anymore. Used to be, we went to Midnight Mass and then opened presents. But only the parents go to church now, and even then I hear it’s more like 8PM Mass. Wouldn’t have quite the same magic, I feel. There’s still the tree and the creche. That creche has been in our family since forever, and it feels… nice, y’know? No matter how threadbare it looks these days.
  • Finally getting off my ass and taking a walk in the hood. It hasn’t changed much since I was around—a few new houses, but that’s it. Maybe a few new stores on Wellington Street? I don’t even remember what used to be there. Regardless, big chunks of the neighbourhood feel… alien? Different from what we get in Vancouver. It’s the style of the houses, I think: small, set quite a distance apart from each other, usually dark red brick, little walk-up stairs, optionally a patio. Even houses that have been converted to stores. And now I’m a bit curious about how old they are, how common this design is… According to this site most houses were built between 1900 and 1950, and most of those after 1935. Since we’re close to Little Italy and Chinatown, I’m guessing this whole area has been working-class-maybe-lower-middle-class residential since its beginning, when houses were way smaller. Interesting.
  • Taking a walk along Carling Avenue. I first tried to go on that pedestrian overpass at the end of Kenilworth St (which is apparently called the Harmer Footbridge), to get a nice shot of the Queensway and the setting sun… but that’s been closed for a while and nobody told me! Bah. I got some nice sunset views, but I feel this is familiar territory, y’know? Oh well, it’s the holidays. I’ll push the envelope when I get back.
  • Going downtown. I’ve blogged a few times about how I feel like a tourist in my hometown, and how it’s not a bad thing. I went to have dinner with some friends and got there early, and then figured, hey, let’s make this a photo outing too! From a foggy, snowy Sparks Street to Parliament Hill itself, right next door, I got to make with the camera like some rube from the provinces. And I am from the provinces, too: BC is my home, has been for a long time.
  • Going to Montreal to spend New Year’s Eve with my brother.

Flying Solstice: days 691 — 720

Making the most of the sun

It’s December 21st and I’m writing this in my parents’ house in Ottawa, having spent most of the day flying in from YVR via YUL. The day shouldn’t be over, but it’s three hours later here and I’m tired. But it’s also a whole month since I last blogged, and the solstice seems like a good time to write something. Only ten days to go this year!

I did not expect to have a window seat, but Yes Gawd there it was on my boarding pass, and on the port side too, which meant I wouldn’t face the sun. Absolutely awesome. I haven’t taken real photos from a plane in ages!

A shot of Richmond as we swung around. Then a couple shots of the Fraser River. Then it got super overcast and I didn’t get a good view of anything until we crossed into Ontario… but what a view! I was greeted by Big Island, a place I knew quite well. Way back in 2009, the last time I flew back east in the summer, I snapped and snapped lakes and islands and tiny towns all over this fair country of mine but Big Island was the one that stood out.

Not as green now, and the water’s not as blue. But I’d recognise that weird scraggly east half and curiously round bays anywhere. Gorgeous.

After that the clouds came back and the sun went down; still, it was good. On the connecting flight from YUL to YOW, we were right above the clouds. I saw the fluffy peaks and valleys and I would have liked to capture them… but you know what? At that time I was happy just enjoying the view. It was relaxing, almost meditative, to imagine myself flying without a plane or propellers in this deep blue fluffy twilight.

And what else have I been up to in the last month? Pulling in long hours at work, but also enjoying the holidays. With VGVA, with the Vancouver Men’s Chorus, with my nerd friends at the Storm Crow, and with the UBC Thunderbirds for another of their Pride Nights. And enjoying holiday lights around town, like some fancy new tree at Robson Square, the Lights of Hope by St. Paul’s, and a bunch of West End apartments spreading holiday cheer.

That last one… it started out as a sadly all-too-typical photoless Sunday night, but the moment I saw this building down the lane, my spirits picked up and I knew I had my picture. Thanks, Christmassy strangers!

Now days will get longer. That’s good. And on a more metaphorical level, I’ll get to relax and regroup here, finish my last blog post of the year, and start 2019 with fresh new energy!

Inspiration Street: days 681 — 690

Searching for the paths

An alley off Davie (I think) as I was heading home sick (I think). A lovely vibrant morning on HarwoodA somewhat less lovely morning on Harwood.

But then the weather cleared up, as it does, and Robson gets sparkly this time of year.

Thurlow also looks nice. As does Howe—not from a cruise ship, but from under the big sail thingies at Canada Place. I had to step into one of the alcoves near lights, and do my best to align my shot with the street… which wasn’t fun, believe me, because my acrophobia was kicking up something fierce. For some reason when I take photos from a bridge, it manifests itself as fear that I’ll drop my phone. I wonder if a strap would help with that?

Anyway. I really like this shot, because it’s a visual reminder that Vancouver goes way down as well as up. And now I’m trying to remember what’s down there. Parking, I think? And the SkyTrain. Oh yeah, and this is an actual street, that runs along the waterfront and comes up past Burrard. I drove down it once during the summer, back when 1st Avenue was under construction, and I had to park downtown but not at my place, or I’d be late for a friend’s birthday shenanigans.

Ah, memories.

And now, let’s talk about the East Side Culture Crawl. I only took a quick stroll through 100 Parker Street and one other studio this year, but as usual it was a really good time. And I realise I’m approaching the Crawl very differently than how I used to. Five years ago I blogged about being “hungry for inspiration”, how I didn’t know where I was going, artistic-expression-wise, and kind of hoping being a productive artist was contagious or something. Whatever these artists had, back then I didn’t think I had it in me.

In hindsight, It’s pretty clear what the problem was: I was going down the wrong path, trying to nurture the wrong thing. I mean, drawing? Really? I suck at that, and I’d need actual serious classes to make me not suck! But that was all I felt I had. The other problem was, though I did take photos and blog every now and then, it was pretty infrequent—except for the VQFF, of course.

But look at me now: taking pictures every single day, for the last 694 days, and blogging steadily. This year at the Crawl it dawned on me that I finally have everything I need. Sure, I still enjoyed looking at all these art pieces, but it felt different. Not as hungry for something that won’t work for me anyway. I’ve found my path and I’m walking it one step at a time, one day at a time. That’s all the inspiration I need.