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

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.

Immortalised: days 671 — 680

Half and half

Sometimes the stars just align, you know? As I headed to work along Thurlow Street one morning, the air was crisp and the sun was bright. It had rained the night before, so things were extra shiny. Behold: a little stream of water in Jepson-Young Lane off Thurlow. Incidentally:

  1. this is another one of those shots that look nice but no more, but somehow get a lot of likes. At this point I figure I’ve been doing this long enough and I need to trust my Inner Photographer to know what he’s doing. A lot of the magic of photography does not work on a conscious level.
  2. On the other hand, I can consciously make the magic happen, and I’m learning more about that all the time. For example, it’s only last weekend I learned my phone’s camera has a Golden Ratio grid setting, and I’m also learning about what that means.
  3. The West End is full of lanes, which I think might have been full streets back in the day. They remained nameless until a month or two ago, when they all got named for local activists and notables. For example, Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, a.k.a. Dr. Peter. Fittingly, it’s right behind the Dr. Peter Centre.

History aside, you just can’t beat fall foliage in this weather. True, those leaves are kind of brown and crackly now, but brown leaves in the morning sun is still all kinds of neat.

Exhibit B: the following Sunday I tried to drop in the Competitive division, and didn’t make it. Having a couple hours to kill before trying again for Advanced, I decided to take a little stroll in Jericho Park. The last time I did that, a year and a half ago, the weather was grey and dull. This time? Duckies and crows and herons and geese and more crows and the mountains and it was amazing.

But hey, life isn’t all about natural beauty. Sometimes you have to enjoy the artificial beauty of drag queens. I hadn’t gone to a drag show in a while, and this was hella fun. Plus, as awesome as the queens on Drag Race are, we need to support our local talent! 

And then, the Monday after gay church, going to a real church. Or at least walking across the street from it. It’s funny, I’ve taken a couple photos of St. Andrew’s-Wesley from the side, but never in front. I guess because during the day the shot would be too full of people and cars. But it’s beautiful, isn’t it? The stained glass, the light around the doors, the trees beside the doors which, though off-centre, do frame them quite nicely with their branches.

Friday I saw some weird thing on the way to work. It’s still there, no matter what the sign says. And it’s time for some real talk, kids:

I don’t think it works. 

I really struggled with this one. I wanted to capture the ice cream thing and the words, but also balance it out with a bit of the neighbourhood. But after discussing it with my Taiji teacher (who’s also a graphic artist), the problem is that it’s exactly balanced, and that’s not good. There’s nothing here that really draws the eye, not even the ice cream thing. It’s two incomplete halves that don’t add up to a whole.

Meh, I can’t get too torn up about it. They can’t all be winners. I’ll take what I’ve learned here and move on to better photos.

Six Six Six: days 666 — 670

The Tournament of the Beast

Homoween, VGVA’s annual Halloween-themed tournament, was last weekend. And as chance would have it, it fell exactly on day 666 of my challenge! How on the nose is that? Of course, this being gay volleyball, the costumes leaned less spooky and more silly or sexy. And practical, because you were supposed to be able to play in them. 

Following that fun and exhausting day, we present a whole week of sad wet leaves—still clinging to their tree or on the ground. In its way, though, the last one is breathtakingly beautiful. There’s a whole spectrum of colours here, from deep red to green, and every leaf is unique in how it’s positioned, how its bits are rotting, how it’s holding rainwater… it’s weird and gorgeous and a bit disturbing, and it’s totally going in my Year 2 retrospective, which is now less than 60 days away. Time flies!

More classically beautiful: a few maple leaves gracefully resting on a patch of… clover, I think?… by a tree on Nelson Street. I shouldn’t be shocked at seeing green, this is Vancouver after all. But I was shocked at seeing bright new green. It’s a great reminder that, even in this season, life keeps sprouting and growing.

Trees and the things that grow on them: days 661 — 665

Leaves. Some are still on their trees, but quite a lot are falling, or fallen. Fallen leaves everywhere.

Here’s something interesting I only just noticed this week: there are a bunch of oak trees in New Westminster, specifically around the Sapperton neighbourhood, but I don’t remember seeing any in the West End. Maybe they’re there, but nobody’s leaving great big piles of leaves lying around? I mean, thank you City of Vancouver and landlords for keeping the sidewalks clear, but maybe I need to look up more.

But then the day after writing the above paragraph, I did see some oaky-looking leaves on the ground in the West End. Funny how minds work, isn’t it? I had oaks on my mind, and there they were. I’m not sure they’re actually oak leaves, though. The lobes are pointier and further apart, but I don’t know what other tree looks like that.

But that’s not nearly as interesting and funny as what I noticed last Tuesday, on a maple tree just up the street. It’s mostly bare now, exposing these weird little growths. They must be some kind of parasite, but the internet was no help, and all I could get out of my botanically-minded friend is that it’s definitely not mistletoe.

They’re pretty, though. I wonder how long they’ve been growing there, and I just haven’t noticed. How much nature is around me even in the heart of the city, just waiting for me to discover it?

Paved with gold: days 651 — 660

Magic light

Seems I’ve been focusing more on sunsets than fall foliage lately. Could have something to do with (a) leaving work late, and (b) an unusual—for October—stretch of clear weather.

Let’s start with WordCamp Vancouver 2018. Throughout the day I learned about Gutenberg—never played around with it before that day, and it’s super cool. There are still bugs and accessibility issues, but I can see Gutenberg’s massive potential… and how it could have made at least one recent WordPress project a lot easier. Oh well, here’s looking to the future.

Speaking of future: it’s not all deep dives into code here at WordCamp. Ryan Chmura just talked about his journey as a mostly self-taught web developer: things learned, mistakes made, dissatisfaction with his current job, everything. Good stuff, and super refreshing and humanising for those who think WordCamp speakers are born with expert knowledge and flawless public speaking skills. 

I haven’t thought that in a long time, especially since my own (succesful) stab at presenting in a WordPress meetup last June. So, who knows? This is absolutely something I can do again. Maybe WordCamp 2019…? Hey, I better start preparing now!

On the way home I walked past Nelson Park at just the right time of day, when the light set the very air and trees on fire. Guaranteed no filter!

My trek to the Storm Crow on Wednesday took place at around the same time. No fall foliage, but a lot of towers painted gold by the setting sun, reflecting the light back at me. When I blogged about this photo from last month I said I’d include it in my year 2 retrospective… but now I’m not so sure. I think it’s been replaced.

Mind you, it’s not just the setting sun that can work magic—shorter days also means a later sunrise, and longer shadows in the morning. Fall means a lower sun and a bit more fog in the air. Put those together and what do you get? Gorgeous Jesus lights in Blue Mountain Park.

Don’t know how long I’ll be able to shoot these. I’ve been lucky so far, weather-wise, but it looks like things are turning wetter and colder. I’m not wild about that, but I’ll do my best to find the beauty in all those shades of grey.