The year in pictures: days 1 — 365

It’s been a year, folks. It’s been a good year. Let’s look back on it with a selection of my favourite photos.

New Year’s Day

In 2016, some friends were doing a photo-a-day challenge, and I tried to do it too. However, I couldn’t keep up the discipline. Part of it was that I’d never done this kind of thing before; in the past most of my photography had been in surges: taking a lot of photos at a time for special events, posting them, then waiting for the next big thing. Also, I think I was making it too hard for myself: my first plan was to post it to both this blog, and Flickr at the same time. But posting a photo to WordPress just takes too many steps, and the Flickr app’s UI is horrible. I needed something simple and quick.

So I decided to dust off my Instagram account, which I’d had for a while but never used. On New Year’s Day, after waking up in my brother’s apartment in Montreal, I took a picture of the street outside and posted it. Based on my history I didn’t think I’d continue, but I figured I should give it one more shot.

And here we are. One step at a time, one day at a time.

A trinket on Nelson Street, March 28

Looking back, this is the first photo I feel really happy with. Before, I was just sort of feeling my way—and yes, kept trying and got some good photos, but no great ones. None them really spoke to me.

This one did, though, and still does. The framing, the colours, the mystery of how it came to be there, it’s all a perfect package.

PS: the trinket was still there the next day, so I took it home.

Cherry blossoms, April 10

I got off the bus at Denman & Georgia and took a lot of photos waiting a while for the setting sun to hit the trees just right. I didn’t know what “just right” would look like, but I hoped I’d know when it happened. I’d say it was worth the wait.

Flying to Amsterdam, May 7

My first trip out of the country in decades! It was a big step and I was nervous, even though intellectually I knew I had no reason to be. It all turned out fine, and my family and I had a lovely time in Belgium and Amsterdam.

During those two weeks I took way more than one photo a day, of course. Here are just a few of my very favourites:

Top of the Bruges belfry, May 8

That was a fun trek (also, good cardio) and the photos were well worth the effort. Bruges is a gorgeous town, from ground level or high up.

Antwerp Cathedral, May 12

What’s unique about this cathedral was the white or very pale stone, coupled with windows whose glass largely wasn’t stained but clear, adding up to a space positively drenched in natural light. It looks like the altar received even more light from directly above.

Amsterdam’s Golden Bend, May 13

First day in Amsterdam, and I was already in love with the city. We had a few hours to kill after arriving, so we took a canal tour of Amsterdam right after checking in at the hotel. Everything was gorgeous, from the houses to the boathouses to the churches to the little pedestrian bridges. I don’t remember exactly where I took this photo, so it might not have been the actual Golden Bend. Still, this looks like a super-expensive house, so we were probably pretty close.

Zaanse Schans and Volendam, May 15

We took a day trip to visit some heritage sites north of Amsterdam: Zaanse Schans with its windmills, Edam with its cheeses, and the quaint little fishing village of Volendam. That was a lovely day. The Dutch countryside is beautiful, and I’m amazed that such a densely populated country still has so much open green space. But that’s because (a) there’s none (or almost none) of the car-centred suburban sprawl we take for granted in North America, and (b) the Netherlands have very strict rules about development and preserving green & heritage spaces like these. As they should.

Banquet at the Crossbowmen’s Guild in Celebration of the Treaty of Münster (1648) and Portrait of Marie Jeanette de Lange (1900), May 18

On our last full day in Amsterdam, we visited the Rijksmuseum. Oh, the Rijksmuseum! Full of so many amazing works of art, and not just the Golden Age masters. I took many, many pictures, most of them closeups of artwork.

Here are just two: one commemorates a treaty marking the end to the 80 Years War with Spain, as well as official international recognition of the Dutch Republic as a sovereign country. I cannot get enough of this exquisitely detailed, almost photorealistic, work. The second is a portrait of an early feminist activist, done in dots of lovely bright colours.

Tulips in front of the Rijksmuseum, May 18

Three photos from the same day? Sure, why not? This being my last #dailypic in Europe, I wanted to make it special. The tulips weren’t my first choice, but my elaborate plan to shoot the statue of Mercury at sunset fell through. Still, I’m not mad. This both screams “Holland” and commemorates one of my favourite days in the city.

Flower core, June 3

Don’t just look at the petals, folks.

According to Google this must be some kind of poppy. They all have a similar star-like structure in their centre.

Mole Hill rose, June 19

On my way to work I spied some pretty-looking roses in front of the Mole Hill houses on Bute Street; after many tries I found the perfect angle.

Summer evening, June 23

This summer I decided to quit running the Sunday afternoon dropin at Sunset Beach. Part of me felt a little bit guilty, but (a) I wasn’t on the board anymore and (b) I’d been doing it for years, so why not let somebody take over? Turns out, with VGVA also running beach vball there weren’t enough people to make it worthwhile. However, a few players owned nets and set them up in the evenings. So in addition to regular league play, I got to enjoy late evening vball several times a week.

When I took that picture I hadn’t started my new job, but already I was marveling at the amount of free time I could have, and what I could do with it. Being more social and physically active and less stressed? Bring it on.

WordPress ladybug, June 26

I was just headed to work in my WordCamp Vancouver 2015 t-shirt, minding my own business, when a ladybug landed on me. I managed to quietly turn my phone around and take a picture. A random little fun thing to brighten my day.

Gossamer Threads, July 4

The other big step this year: a new job, beginning July 4. Between being contacted by the recruiter and signing the contract, things happened very suddenly in just a few weeks. My head was still spinning at that point, and I was equal parts terrified (of this massive change and new challenges) and elated (at this massive change and new challenges).

Pride bling, August 5

The Storm Crow–both locations–are hella neat people, super-inclusive and queer-friendly. When some friends and I had lunch at the Tavern on Commercial after the Dyke March, they handed out a couple of these big square Pride buttons to each patron: classic 6-colour rainbow, trans, ace, genderqueer, and a few others. I was surprised to see the new Philadelphia Pride colours, with the additional black and brown stripes, but quite happy to wear it that weekend.

Not the trans one, though. That didn’t feel right to me. I’ve still got it, though, so maybe I could regift it?

Pride parade, August 6

Every year I wonder if maybe I wouldn’t have more fun just watching the parade—preferably somewhere in the shade with a cool drink. But every year, I march. There’s a rush that only comes from being in the parade, from being the centre of attention—yes, little introvert moi—and, dammit, call me stupid idealistic, but I believe Pride means something, commercialised and sanitised though it be, and I want to be part of it. I think it’ll mean a bit more next year when uniformed cops are banned, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Dirty tattoo, August 13

I don’t think I’m ready for a full shirtless selfie, so for now this is all you get.

Before this summer I hadn’t played beach vball in many years. I had a hard time getting used to it again—the sand was way hot, and too hard in most places. That day though, everything came together perfectly: it had rained a bit the night before, so even though the sun was out, the sand was nice and cool. So for the first time this summer I had fun diving and rolling and getting dirty.

Solar eclipse, August 21

I honestly don’t remember ever witnessing a solar eclipse before. They must have happened, right? Just maybe not where I lived? Anyway, we got a 90% or so total solar eclipse in Vancouver that day, and most of the office went up to see it, with all the rigs you’re supposed to have to avoid watching it directly. The science is absolutely fascinating, but the actual experience was a little underwhelming. It did get somewhat dimmer and cooler, but less than I expected for 90% totality. The distorted shadows were hella neat though.

Sunset on English Bay, September 21

My god this city is beautiful.

Downtown from Granville Bridge, October 4

The perfect, magical, time of day where it’s light enough for my camera to get details, but late enough that everything is a bit mysterious and golden.

Mellow yellow, October 17

Since I’ve got cherry blossoms I can’t ignore autumn, can I?

Strathcona at night, November 17

One of the last photos I took with my old Galaxy S5. It looked a bit too dark at first, but I love it. It’s got a warm, homey feel, and a chiaroscuro kind of thing going on.

Gastown steam clock, November 28

I was still getting used to my new phone, so I could not believe how well this photo turned out. Of course I took care to shoot it right (many times), waiting for the steam to drift in the most photogenic way possible… but damn. That there is a gorgeous pic, I tell ya.

Morning on Nelson Street, December 11

Good morning to you too!

Sienna Blaze and Stephen Scaccia, December 14

I knew going in that I’d be posting pictures of the VGVA Xmas party, and I figured I probably wouldn’t post just one. Here are the evening’s main entertainers spreading some Christmas cheer. I’m not used to taking photos of people so I’m quite pleased how they turned out. Also pleased to have a proper camera in my phone because my old one would not have done these fine people justice.

New Year’s Eve

And the whole thing starts again next year…

Dreaming of a white Christmas: days 356 — 364

It’s a low-key kind of time, between Christmas and the New Year. I’m hanging out at my parents’ place; I’ve seen both my brothers (plus sister-in-law and nephew), and I’ll go to my twin brother’s place in Montreal for NYE, as per our custom. Christmas happened a bit late, because it wasn’t until yesterday that we all got together and exchanged gifts. We’re not huge on gift-giving, so it was mostly the nephew receiving stuff.

My last day of work for the year started out super dramatic, cloud-wise. I chose a shot including a bare tree, to remind myself this was also the day after the solstice, and the days would get longer and warmer from now on.

Speaking of work, can’t forget the office dogs: Donut (pug) and Spoof (Samoyed). They were the centre of attention, as pretty much every remaining employee was crowding around them taking pics or videos. I’ll miss them for sure. I could have used some of Spoof’s fur in Ottawa. As much as I love a white Christmas, I’m just not used to Ottawa winters anymore.

It was nice to see the old ‘hood again though, either taking as quick photo as we got home, or taking a walk in the wintery twilight.

And of course, this is the season to see movies with the family.

And go to a museum with the little one. Last year it was the Museum of Nature (you know, the one that looks like a big old castle) because what 3 year old boy doesn’t love dinosaurs? This year it was all about machines and stuff. I’d been there before, many times, but only once since I was a child. In my head I still picture the big locomotives as absolutely gigantic, 100 feet tall at least. Oh, the good old days, when I was tiny and everything towered over me.

Speaking of good old days, my parents have a bunch of really old books in the living room. I love reading L’Encyclopédie de la jeunesse. Yes, the stories are sanitised and bowdlerised and the whole thing is seriously racist, sexist, classist and overall 100 years behind the times, but… y’know, it’s fun to read how people thought. Or at least how people thought upper-middle-class French kids ought to think.

Plus it was still really cold and I didn’t feel up to going outside to take a photo.

Tomorrow: New Year’s Eve in Montreal.

new phone who dis: days 316 — 355

Happy solstice! I’m actually writing this on Christmas Eve, but I want to keep the retrospectives in multiples of 5 days. Gotta follow the rules! Even rules I made for myself months ago. 2018 will probably different. Still haven’t decided how.

We’re starting out with more night shots: some wet fallen leaves; some cool fountains I discovered while taking a walk; a lovely shot of Strathcona and an alley in Gastown while culture crawling. The Strathcona one’s among my favourites. It’s fairly dark, but it looks like something out of a postcard, all warm colours and welcoming windows. Strathcona’s a lovely neighbourhood, day or night.

And on November 19, I replaced my pokey, cracked old Samsung Galaxy S5 with a snazzy new Pixel 2. And oh my fecking gawd, the pictures that thing takes! Much better resolution, and amazing light sensitivity. Look at this photo, taken right outside Pacific Centre where I made my purchase. Look at this other photo taken the next day, of downtown from near Canada Place. Look at False Creek from Granville Bridge! Look at the Gastown steam clock!

I know, it’s a poor player who blames their instrument, but this phone is a quantum leap forward for me. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: I’ve noticed a consistent increase in the number of likes and comments on my IG since I switched. Not huge, since it was never that big to begin with, but it’s there. It feels nice.

It’s not just night pics, though. I’ve taken foggy morning pics and sunny morning pics and delicious sushi. I’ve captured the partying at the VGVA Xmas party at Junction, complete with drag queen entertainment and live singing by our resident golden-voiced star.

(I guess the Junction counts as night shots too. The light’s dim enough, and I remember having a hell of a time with my old phone. I could never done Stephen or Miss Blaze justice five weeks ago. I liked the experience of putting people front and centre in my photos: shoutout to my vision board, it’s a rare mix of the Social and the Artistic.)

On December 21, the solstice, I popped over to Granville Island to do all my Christmas shopping in one go. The Kids’ Market closed at 6 (when everything else closed at 7) but I managed to get great presents for everyone, plus a delish salmon chowder pot pie + strawberry bubble tea for myself. Not slush, it’s strawberry + green tea. Wasn’t 100% sure, but it’s yummy.

Coming up soon: the rest of my daily 2017 photos, a selection of my faves (and why, in some cases), and a look back at the year. Haven’t done one of those in a while.

Whole wide world: days 291 — 315

The 300 day deadline came and went. The 305 day deadline came and went. It looks like I still need to work at this “blog every five days” challenge. I think the key is getting into a rhythm, a routine, but I’m not there yet. I take photos religiously every day, but I don’t think about what to write about until the deadline’s already passed, and then I kind of panic.

Let’s break it down. My first draft for this post covered 25 days, and we’ll stick to that for now. For a lot of those days it didn’t feel like I had much to write about. A lot of fall pictures, sure. A lot of nighttime city pictures, definitely—the latter because I’ve been getting out of work quite late lately, plus, well, it’s November. I do like this one I took outside the the Public Library. I don’t even know what it’s about, but it absolutely caught my eye on a night when nothing else did.

The real highlight was October 31st, Hallowe’en night, in which I celebrated a friend’s birthday by making a vision board. Well, part of one. All we had to work with was a single copy of Vogue—which didn’t really do the trick for me vision-wise, I guess I’m not the target demographic—so I figured I’d be a little more creative. I split my board up, and worked first on the corners. Each one represented a part of my life I needed to work on: career (web development, represented by stark monochrome geometric shapes); fitness and health, represented by a growing tree; friendship and romance, represented by this network of warm-coloured nodes; self-expression, represented by an explosive rainbow and a bunch of wavy lines. And then, I decided to make the main part a world map. My trip to Europe in May, the first in many many years, will not be the last. I’ve got a bucket list, folks.

The whole thing was rough, of course, but that was okay. The idea (in my head) was that I’d fill it in with inspirational stuff like a traditional vision board.

I still haven’t done that. But more worryingly I haven’t blogged about it till now, even though I loved it and got a real charge out of the process.

The question is, why? My first reaction was to blame myself. I’m still getting used to this new commitment. I’m still working on the discipline. I’m still working on being present and open to inspiration for more than the time it takes to scout out interesting photos.

And yes, that’s all true as far as it goes. I’ve got a ways to go, and it’s okay to stumble when trying new things. But also: did you miss the part about working late? Looking back, I think part of the problem was that my work / life balance was out of whack. Physically and emotionally I felt mostly all right: walking to and from work helped, and the project I was working on was super interesting, challenging and stressful in all the right ways. Yes, I did deal with the occasional bout of imposter syndrome, but I figured that was a good sign too. However, it looks like all this was still taking its toll: my inspiration dried up, and my brain got caught up in the job 24/7. That was not healthy.

That means I need to pay close attention to how all the things in my life are balanced: technical, physical, social and artistic. If I want to excel at all (or indeed, any) of them, I need to be constantly mindful of how all the different aspects of me interact, and how to nurture them properly. Still not sure how I’ll do that in practice. It’s a work in progress, of course. But then, aren’t we all?