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Days in Pictures

I guess I’m a birder now maybe? days 1241 — 1270

Birds, amirite? They are an awesome subject to get into because they’re gorgeous and funny and weird and diverse and there’s always so much to learn and uncover in your neighbourhood. Recognising songs, plumage, behaviour, territories, and how all of that changes according to age or time of day or season or, I don’t know, the phases of the moon?

I’ve mainly relied on the excellent Merlin ID app, though I’ve used Google and some better-informed human folks to fill in the gaps. And at some point in the last few weeks I started wondering if I should call myself a “birder” now. It’s weird that I should question that, but part of me thinks it means “expert” or at least “super obsessed about feathery critters” which probably says more about my perceptions than reality.

I mean, I know a few things? Some of those things I got from Google and some were guesses that turned out to be wrong, but I’ve at least got enough correct things in my head to confidently answer a few bird-related trivia questions at work, and briefly chat about weird heron behaviour the other day. Two guys came up to me as I was shooting a heron on Lost Lagoon to ask if it was actually a heron, because it was hanging its wings in a weird way, down by its legs to look almost like a cape, and from far away it didn’t look much like a heron. I said yep, that’s what it was, and no, I’d never seen any heron do that before, so I was as confused as them.

But they thanked me about filling them in, and that felt nice. Maybe it’s not about being a quote-unquote expert, but keeping your eyes and ears open, learning as much as you can, and sharing the things you know.

So here are some of the things I’ve seen and learned in the last month, split by species:

Anna’s hummingbirds

Yeah, we’ve got hummingbirds in these parts. Here’s what has to be a very immature Anna’s hummingbird. It’s got a bit of green on the back, but that’s it, and otherwise looks really unfinished.

I wonder if it’s the same guy as this male, who looks to just be getting his adult colours. I don’t know if two weeks is enough time for a hummingbird to mature that much, but apparently these guys leave the nest after three weeks, so who knows?

Spotted towhees

I don’t actually know anything about this species, and I think I only got the name from my app. My first encounter with them was around Burnaby Lake way back in March. Then, by Lost Lagoon a few weeks ago.

And then just a week ago: an adult near Burnaby Lake, and apparently a juvenile in Sapperton. So that’s interesting, and I should have trusted Merlin ID when it labeled that juvenile as a towhee. We live and learn.

Starlings

Starlings are super common, sure, but super pretty in the right light. Also, females and males look very similar. What I shot on the seawall, hanging around with an adult, was a juvenile.

Rule of thumb: if I’ve never seen them before this summer, it’s probably a juvenile.

House finches

We’ve got a few downtown, and here’s one putting his thick beak to good use. They’ve got lovely voices, too. One morning I was taking a walk and stopped by a tree that had such gorgeous music coming out of it. After some careful listening I finally found the source. It doesn’t always pay off since a lot of singing birds rudely hide in foliage, but if you stop and listen for just a minute, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Northern flickers

I’ve seen one of these critters before, three years ago. That looks like a female (or juvenile), since it didn’t have those stripes on the sides of its throat. But here’s a beautiful male digging into the soil by the seawall. And here’s… the same one for all I know, in the same spot.

And I learned that northern flickers come in two subspecies! This is a red-shafted northern flicker, which you’ll find mainly west of the Rockies. Red or dark underwing, red throat stripes and grey head with brown cap are the main markers. Hybrids exist, and will mix and match traits of both subspecies. Neat stuff!

Actually, I’m wondering if this individual is a bit of a hybrid, because he has a very faint darker crescent on the back of his head, which I understand is typical of yellow-shafted flickers.

Robins

Apparently they eat worms. Who knew?

Wood ducks

The bebbies, so adorbs. I also realised mallard ducklings have similar light/dark patterns on their faces, but mallards are yellow-golden, while wood ducklings are plain brown and off-white.

A male teen giving me the eye. The head colours are mostly there, though the green still needs some work, and the body is still scruffy and brown. Here’s a still younger male just starting on his white neck & head patterns. It looks like they get their red eyes pretty early too.

Just to switch things up here’s an adult female calmly swimming along. I love the white domino mask effect around her eyes, the only concession to her brothers’ loud colours.

Bushtits

So tiny! So cute. I’ve seen them before around the seawall but they are just so damn hard to photograph since they hardly ever sit still. I was lucky to capture this one!

Tree swallows

They’re who those bird boxes in Lost Lagoon are for. Sometimes they sit and pose, but most of the time they’re zipping around near the surface of the water picking out little bugs. I tried getting action shots, but they’re too fast and too far away and I don’t have the gear or the skill for them yet.

Miscellaneous sparrows

Here’s a song sparrow by Lost Lagoon. Here’s maybe another one on the other side, looking all derpy and lost even though it had a parent on the other side of the trail responding to its calls.

This scraggly little thing might be a white-crowned sparrow (judging by the darker stripes on its head) but I can’t be sure. I spent a while standing around and listening, and it paid off! Feeling thankful for my telephoto lens, plus the fact that my camera screen can swivel up and down so I could line up my shot.

Speaking of, last but not least:

White-crowned sparrows

These birbs are so incredibly photogenic, and I swear I’ll never get over how I didn’t know they were a thing before this very spring. Still, it’s never too late, right? Here’s one serenading me near Second Beach. And here’s another posing all pretty in that little bit of David Lam Park near the ferry dock.

That spot looks to be home to a bunch of them and their families. I’ve been seeing some juveniles there lately; at first I thought they were pregnant females because they looked really round, didn’t move around much, and tore down little plants so I assumed they were building nests. Plus I’d only caught quick glimpses of females before and figured I was due. But I hear they really are juveniles, which would make more sense because it’s late in the season and every other bird out there is making babies. I’m a bit frustrated at how much I don’t know even this one species of bird, but then I’ve only been at it for a couple months so maybe I could be easier on myself? That’s what an expert does too.

In conclusion: they’re perfect and I love them.

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Days in Pictures

24 x 24: days 1239 — 1240

Two weeks ago on May 24 UTC (ie: May 23 5:00PM — May 24 5:00PM in my time zone) I took part in the 24×24 Photo Marathon. It was my very first photo marathon, and in fact the very first time I’d tried themes in my photography. Overall I enjoyed the new challenge! Frustrating in parts, but that’s what challenges do, I guess. It taught me to look a little more deeply into what’s in front of me and imagine how I could capture it, something which I’ll definitely carry forward.

Let’s go over each of my 24 photos: themes, outcome, and behind-the-scenes dirt.

Theme 01, “A very good idea” : Sign of the times, right? Plan B would have been a screenshot of the marathon itself.

Theme 02, “Black mirror” : thought about shooting myself reflected in a black car, but that would be weird. Fortunately the lighting at my desk was just right!

Theme 03, “Connection” : the only thing I don’t like about this view is that goddamn eyesore chandelier under Granville Bridge. Didn’t even notice that was there until after I posted the photo. Sigh. Maybe I should have gone with my first idea of shooting Burrard Bridge, whether from the ground or from Granville Bridge.

Theme 04, “Cat and mouse” : here we move indoors, since night has fallen. Good thing I remembered those cheesy socks I got one Xmas!

Theme 05, “Inside out” : easy-peasy silly.

Theme 06, “Solidarity” : I religiously (heh) follow Chris Steadman on the socials, and I really need to finish his book.

Theme 07, “To the left” : probably the leftiest thing I own, a copy of Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation (© 1972 by Karla Jay and Allen Young), a collection of revolutionary articles and essays from the very early days of the gay liberation movement. Bought second-hand at Little Sister’s many years ago.

Theme 08, “Dinner club” : good thing that Ace of Wands looks like a club, because I didn’t have any other ideas.

Theme 09, “Burst” : morning again! I went hunting for flowers, since I figured there wouldn’t be many fireworks available.

Theme 10, “Towards the light” : solar power FTW! My other idea was sunflowers, but we don’t have any around here. I also thought about shooting from a shaded location towards the light, but none of those photos looked good and it was too on the nose anyway.

Theme 11, “Key ingredient” : I think I kind of lost the plot here. The “key ingredient” was supposed to be light, but in hindsight I don’t think that came through.

Theme 12, “LOUD!” : HONKHONKHONK

Theme 13, “Transit(ion)” : The most interesting transit place was the (not yet reopened) ferry dock down the way. I decided to shoot its new, longer, ramp and the way it descends back and forth to the dock itself.

Theme 14, “Roomy” : as roomy as it gets around here!

Theme 15, “Thin red line” : turns out there aren’t many red things in the city, let alone thin red lines. I thought about the line of cones on Beach, but that’s orange. I did take a couple pictures, just to see what it felt like, and good thing this is not a traditional photo marathon!

Theme 16, “Pretty ugly” : formerly pretty pretty, now wilting-pretty. Kinda works? Maybe I could have zoomed in more, I dunno.

Theme 17, “Secret garden” : I don’t have a garden of my own, so I did the best I could.

Theme 18, “Comfort” : yes come through with the comfort food!

Theme 19, “Normal people” : to be fair I don’t know if these people are normal, but they were doing a normal thing so here we go.

Theme 20, “The favo(u)rite“: ugh I’m not happy with how this photo turned out.

Theme 21, “Rough” : Simple, straightforward. Done and done.

Theme 22, “Self portrait” : I’d already done a selfie for theme 6, so I had to kick it up a notch.

Theme 23, “Order” : I don’t remember what prompted this exactly. Maybe it’s just that the pencil case was sitting on my desk and I was all “why not?”

Theme 24, “Give meaning” : ehh, I lost it again, and then wasted time, and then panicked because it was almost 5:00. So here you go I guess?

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Days in Pictures

That’s how the light gets in: days 1211–1238

I have up days and down days. I get anxious, lonely, antsy or unproductive. But: I’m always grateful for living in this place, grateful I get the chance to go for a walk, breathe the air, and capture what I can of this beautiful place through my little lenses. This is what gets me going, even when I kind of don’t feel like going.

Part of it is the self-improvement and skill development: working out lighting, composition, my camera’s many settings, and switching lenses as efficiently as possible. Part of it is the validation, the Likes and the comments I get on the socials, and coworkers telling me my photos really brighten up the social Slack channel. Part of it is the walking. I really like walking! Part of it is the learning. We’ll get to that.

But mostly, it’s the joy of seeing what’s there. Big moments and little moments that pull me out of my own head and remind me why I do this. From the beginning of this photo challenge I was afraid I’d run out of cool stuff to capture. Occasionally I still am. I don’t feel those sparkling moments every day. But, enough days. This city I’ve already seen a million times can still enchant me, and that is a real gift.

Sunsets and mornings, skylines and even more skylines, herons both regal and scraggly, bumblebees with bursting pollen sacs and otters and the occasional bald eagle, and when the weather just isn’t cooperating? Flowers is where it’s at. But the real stars of this show are the birbs. I’ve seen chickadees a few times in leafy West End streets, a couple hummingbirds around Stanley Park, as well as finches.

Best of all, though? All the sparrows. Did you know there are dozens of sparrow species in the Americas, and over 100 in the Old World? I’ve personally seen and photographed four: house sparrows; song sparrows (one of the first photos I took with my telephoto lens); white-crowned sparrows (which I first shot just on April 1st, and is turning out to be pretty common around downtown, at least in the spring / summer); and finally, a magnificent white-throated sparrow, which I’ve only seen once near Burnaby Lake.

I know there’s at least a fifth in these parts: the golden-crowned sparrow, which looks like a white-crowned sparrow except its white stripes are yellow. I haven’t seen it around downtown, but an Instagrammer I follow shot one around Richmond.

What else have I been overlooking? What treasures will I discover? We will see, all I need is to keep my eyes open.

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Days in Pictures

Like water off a duck’s back: days 1135 — 1210

I’ll just say it: the COVID-19 pandemic is treating me pretty well. It’s a scary, uncertain and challenging time, definitely, but also a time for new opportunities. I’ve been working from home for the last few weeks, and I’m grateful to still have a job, but comes with its own challenges—the need for focus, separating personal and work spaces, that sort of thing, plus no more daily commutes along the seawall and no more gym. No more volleyball, either. The Queen Vicki tournament was the first casualty, but then the rest of the indoor season got canceled, and who can even say if we’ll have a summer season?

And I won’t get to travel to Paris with my parents next month. We’ve been looking forward to it for most of a year, had a whole itinerary planned, and now it’s up in the air. Talking about October and crossing our fingers. Talking about Berlin, too, since it seems Germany may get its act together faster than France. But again: everything up in the air.

Still, I’m lucky. The silver lining about these many changes in my routine is that it’s giving me the chance to reconsider some stuff. How I can make friendships work virtually—harder in some ways, easier in others. How my workout regimen didn’t seem to be working much and I can explore different approaches. My relationship with my own living space. I’m a creature of habit, I know this, and I think it’s time to ask if some of those habits need breaking.

One habit I’m sticking with, though, is my photography. I’ve been pretty much limiting myself to around downtown, except for one trek to Burnaby Lake; it doesn’t actually feel limiting, though, especially with the new telephoto zoom lens I bought in early March before all this went down. It was originally intended for Paris, and that will happen someday, but in the meantime I’m getting really close and personal with wildlife, cityscapes and whatnot. The wildlife, especially, I get to see in ways I never have before. I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a place like Vancouver. Let’s look at some highlights of the last two months!

There’s this cormorant and this song sparrow. Taken on the same morning commute, and I was still experimenting with the zoom.

(That reminds me, I need swing by Brush With Illumination one of these days, and see how these guys are doing.)

And then: the moon! I am seriously agog at how well this turned out. The colour is perfect, the details are exquisite, just this one photo makes the zoom lens absolutely worth it.

This Vancouver duck eating breakfast. And these Burnaby ducks just swimming around.

This morning canyon and this evening skyline.

This white-crowned sparrow. I didn’t know white-crowned sparrows were a thing until I looked it up. That makes three sparrow species in this neck of the woods that I have personally photographed, and I wonder how many more I can find? Wikipedia tells me there are almost 200 species of Old World and American sparrows worldwide.

This heron watching the sunset, and this crow which I thought for a minute was a raven because it looked so majestic.

This shot of Lost Lagoon and this other sunset.

So things are weird and uncertain and I don’t know when things will go back to “normal” but in the meantime I’m learning about sparrow diversity and marveling at how I just have to travel 10 or so kilometers to find whole new species of ducks with oddly-coloured heads, and maybe this is me trying to make lemonade out of a buttload of lemons or practising mindful gratitude but… right now this doesn’t suck so much for me.

I know this too shall pass, and I hope we don’t get back to normal, because “normal” wasn’t working for a lot of people. Hopefully something better will come in this pandemic’s wake.

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Days in Pictures

RTFM: days 1096 — 1134

Twenty twenty started out much like previous years, in Montreal; and I kicked off the fourth year of my photo challenge with a squinty selfie because why not.

The following day, back in Ottawa, I went out to buy a new, real camera: specifically, a Sony α-7iii, which reviews tell me is the best all-around camera for my budget. And also to reminisce… It’s true, time does move on, and I guess some memories will never get a permanent monument. And, realistically, I’m sure Ottawa’s LGBTQ community is better served a quarter-century later. But still…

More reminiscing, more touristing: Parliament Hill, wandering into the Market, then a bit north, then hey why not walk to Hull? Didn’t walk the whole way but I did get a nice view of both sides of the bridge.

And look: my first picture with the new camera. Not too bad, right? Softer contrast (which is one thing that annoys me about my OnePlus’s camera) + a proper optical zoom (70mm, baby) + highest possible resolution = a great shot of a squirrel in our backyard.

Mind you, that’s when I started running into problems. Problem #1 being how to get photos from the camera to my phone so I can post to IG. It is possible to do it through the magic of wireless—that was one of my requirements—but the connection is… finicky. I’ve got the hang of it now, though, you just have to know the trick.

More generally, I haven’t used a real camera in over ten years, and I’d forgotten how many settings the damn things have—this model more than most, apparently. The reviews all said there would be a learning curve, but also that it would be worth it. They were right, but it took me a while! My first real foray with the new toy was disappointing in some ways. Some pics were kind of overexposed, some with slightly wrong focus (and a bit too dark). I was able to put the zoom to good use, though! And at least the blue / golden hours were white-balanced correctly.

The learning process is letting me do cool things, though. Like this shot of geese on the water, that I didn’t mean to expose and saturate like that; like the m-fing Moon (a few more times, actually); like this closeup of a pretty seagull; and other shots that I’ve always wanted to be able to do, like the lights of downtown from Granville Bridge or the foot of Davie Street from Cambie Bridge. The 70mm lens lets me get much closer to the local wildlife than ever before, too: sparrows, robins, crows, cormorants, ducks. Maybe that’s going to be my thing?

Or at least a thing. I haven’t forgotten architecture! After a PuSh Festival show and before stumbling on the moon rising above the cranes I wandered around for a bit and found these words on this old hotel. Awesome. It is super cool to uncover a bit of Vancouver’s architecture history.

Haven’t forgotten my phone, either. My camera doesn’t do macros nearly as well, and it’s more awkward to handle, so you get little experimental photos like this one or this one.

I’m still exploring, still sort of tooling around with it, going through the online manual. It’s pretty frustrating sometimes, because I feel like I’m doing the same stuff I’ve done over the last three years when I should be taking advantage of this new hardware and doing completely new things. I just don’t know what they could be. That’s okay, though! Everything is a learning process. Now that I’ve got a feel for this thing I’ll probably want to get some more versatile lenses to supplement by basic one before my Paris trip. That’ll get my creative juices going

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Days in Pictures

Selfie of the artist: days 1029 — 1095

So a funny thing happened on October 30 (day 1033): I snapped a couple of excellent photos in and then… figured I had enough and I could stop for the day. I was tired, and I could save any more potential shots for later, because they’d still be there.

And sure, they would. But was that enough reason to wait? No it was not. So I gave that grumpy ‘tude the elbow and set out to grab a few more shots—a nice one of downtown across the water and, for the first time, a video! I like it, though I’m not sure where to go from here. I tried to take another video a couple days later, of the SkyTrain from the Georgia Viaduct, as it swoops and banks out of Main Street Station, but I messed up and only recorded a couple seconds. Did better the next day, though.

At the time, I asked myself if this was something I wanted to keep doing. Was this “the next level” I’ve been going on about since hitting day 1,000, and which some of my friends even suggested? It was definitely new, but the fact that I haven’t done any more videos kind of answers that question.

It’s okay, though, because I think I learned my lesson: seize the day. There is an infinite number of photos for the taking, and I don’t need to ration them. And also, I don’t need to listen to the little voice (yes, I have one) inside wondering if people get turned off when I post too many photos. Whatever “too many” means. I do what I want and it’s stupid and it can’t tell me what to do. Of course, it’s okay to get tired and uninspired, but that negative self-talk doesn’t need reinforcing.

Speaking of voices: while on the Culture Crawl I got to chatting with one of the artists at 1000 Parker Street, and mentioned my IG. It felt like bragging, and like something I shouldn’t do with a real artist, and I had to fight the urge to use self-deprecating language like “Oh, I just do photography”.

Also—and probably related—I felt all awkward and babbly. Mind you, she probably appreciated the human interaction, babbly or not. But you know what she told me, that I think was the thing I needed to hear?

That she considered me an artist too.

So many times I’ve gone to the Crawl, honestly enjoying the art and creativity around me, but underneath it there were undercurrents of hunger for both inspiration and direction, and feelings of inadequacy. I wanted to create something like what I was seeing, yet didn’t know how or if that was possible. But 1,000 straight days of photography will change you; maybe what I really wanted now is validation. That the things I create, have worth. That they are special and interesting. And that they have a future.

Still haven’t figured out what that future is, though. But… I know it’s there.

Took a couple selfies too, in the month of December, which is still a semi-big deal for me. One while taking a sunset walk on Sunset Beach, and one volunteering for the VMC, as is my wont. Both were kind of planned. I’ve arlready done the selfie-in-church-in-nice-clothes thing last year, but this is the only time I ever wear a bowtie, so I should make the most of it. And for Sunset Beach, I just had a hankering, y’know? Can’t explain it, but I went with it. It’s nice to put my face out there… after like a dozen tries to get the angle and the smile just right, of course.

And as we close off the decade, I got a new phone after 2 years with my old Pixel! Night shots are sublime, macro zooms are excellent, I can do still lives and full moon shots better than ever. Colour balance on the OnePlus 7T sometimes needs manual correction, especially in twilight hours (morning or evening), which is annoying, but overall it really does take excellent photos. Like this lost bunny on Cambie Bridge, Sunset Beach with the half-finished new dock, Yaletown towers in the rising sun, False Creek at night and tiny wet berries.

BUT: partly because of these aforementioned flaws, and partly because I feel I’m growing as a photographer and smartphones aren’t cutting it anymore, I’m planning to get a real camera again. Got the make and model already figured out. I’ll be heading into 2020 with brand new tools to share my visions!

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Days in Pictures

The year in pictures: days 731 — 1095

This has been a fantastic year for photography, and in the last few months I feel I’ve finally hit my groove. Maybe it’s the long seawall walks, and the lovely scenery I got exposed to? Or maybe it’s the cardio?

Morning commuters — January 9

My first morning photo of Burrard Bridge, I think? Already trying out new things just days into the new year. Nice job, me.

Fiery sunrise — January 28

Perfect magnificence!

Inukshuk and setting sun — March 28

Simple and already done, but when the shot’s right there you have to take it!

Dramatic sky over Yaletown — April 7

This might have been my first walk along the south seawall from Cambie Bridge to Granville Island, scoping out good vantage points for my eventual walking commutes. I found one.

Goðafoss — May 12

My first Icelandic waterfall, and it’s a lovely one!

Dettifoss — May 12

My second Icelandic waterfall, a bit harder to get to, but well worth the effort.

Resilience — May 12

Take a moment to appreciate the humble little things around you.

A lot of birds — May 16

Gorgeous and noisy.

Kirkjufell — May 16

Kirkjufell (“Church Mountain”) is a hella pretty mountain, dramatically standing there by itself. Interestingly, it looks very different from different points of view.

Orange and blue — May 17

A silly little photo I took on a whim, but I really like it!

I did an art — July 13

Just a one-time thing so far but hey, I’m not just about photography!

Davie & Denman — July 21

All about the golden hour with bonus rainbow flags!

Bumblebee — August 22

Overcame my twitchiness about stinging insects, with a phone that wasn’t particularly made for close-up shots.

The fuzziest caterpillar — September 5

LOOK AT THE FUZZ. Though apparently you don’t want to touch it. That fuzz is called “setae”, and they can break off in your skin if you touch them, cause allergic reactions or even contain stinging chemicals. BUT JUST LOOK AT IT

Speaker — September 28

Not my best selfie but a great milestone for me, being my first time presenting at a WordCamp.

Golden towers — October 8

I love this photo’s geometry: the stark angles of towers and shadows, the mosaic of lit and dark windows — and the soft soft clouds in the background.

Impression, morning — October 14

It feels like an impressionist painting, doesn’t it? The delicate textures of clouds and light rippling on the water, like brushstrokes. LOve it

Impression, dusk — October 17

It feels like another painting, with the moody clouds pierced by little bright spots of colour.

Frosted leaves — October 27

Chill out!

Geese flying low — October 30

There’s tons of life around False Creek, and here we see a flock of geese commuting to their hangout in Charleson Park.

Cambie Bridge lights — November 19

A bit of darkness lets you see more light.

Drizzly twilight — November 23

Yet another painting-like photo. This one feels perfect: balanced, harmonious, relaxing. I could drink it in all day.

Boats and birbs — November 24

I can’t get enough of this view.

As above so below — November 28

Just goes to show, sometimes all you need is to be in the right place at the right time. And also to look behind you sometimes.

Trout Lake — November 30

I was on my way back from Taichi class, driving along Broadway, when I saw the sky and made an impulse decision. I found my way to Trout Lake and found (a) a good vantage point, and (b) that the lake was frozen. Unexpected, but it didn’t hurt the view!

More golden towers — December 9

I love the contrast of grey and gold here, and how ground level is still in shadow.

Ferry dock — December 14

A little call-back to when I took photos of Sunset Beach every morning… except now it’s dusk, and there’s a new thing in town.

Science World and BC Place — December 20

I couldn’t make both these landmarks fit in one 16:9 shot, though I may try again from a different vantage point.

Surface tension — December 21

Not my first macro shot, and it’s a bit blurrier than I’d have liked, but look at the cute little twinned berries! Look at the surface reflection! Look at the surrounding berries reflected in the droplets!

(downtown + boats + bridges) × 2 — December 22

This view never gets old

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Days in Pictures Thoughts about Things

Orange is the coolest colour: days 1002 — 1028

A lot of nice mornings this month! The days are definitely getting shorter, and that lets me see some new sights: Canada Geese flying low, a remarkably chill seagull greeting the rising sun, and crows also enjoying the sun. I wonder if they do, though? I am pretty sure they enjoy low tides, which I believe was the case in that last photo. Why, you ask? Because that’s when gulls and crows get all the shellfish living in the intertidal zone. Grabbing and pecking if the shells are delicate enough, dropping on rocks or pavement otherwise.

As much as I like to think I notice urban wildlife behaviour more lately, it did take me a couple days to twig to the fact that a lot of crows seemed to be gathering along the seawall, and being very noisy about it. So there you go, it’s all about that seafood.

The morning sun, whether shining bright or filtered through clouds, paints the city in beautiful ways I feel privileged to capture as far as I’m able. Like the stark geometries of Yaletown towers, breaking up the sky while themselves broken up by golden light. Like a dappled grey-on-grey sky reflected in ripply waters, looking totally like some monochrome Impressionist painting.

Now, I love Impressionist art. Is that what I’m doing? Well, no… Obviousy I don’t use paint, but I do like taking pictures of the city and the modern world in all its angles. So, I can’t help thinking about how my photos fit in…

Content-wise, would this trio here, of False Creek at sunset look out of place in Impressionist galleries? Or how about this forest of masts near Granville Island? Or this moody shot of Cambie Bridge under a leaden sky? Maybe it’s a bit silly to imagine being in the same space as historic artists, but hey, why not? Nothing wrong with tooting my own horn. Art isn’t something magic, something reserved for the elite in museums, art is something regular nerds like me can make. And make, and make, and make, over four-digit days and still going strong.

October is also the month Vancouver’s saved its best shows for: yellow and gold and red and super red and orange and more orange.

Speaking of orange, we had a federal election here in Canada. I got involved pretty late, only after seeing a debate on LGBTQ issues at The Junction, and being very impressed with the NDP candidate. It really wasn’t much of a leap, since I’ve been an NDP supporter for a long time, but I’d been dithering between NDP and Green. Not that my vote would make a difference either way in this Liberal-safe riding, but I had to think about it.

So I walked in the office a couple days later, started with some data entry, then moved on to canvassing, then the next Sunday a larger group of us waving signs and connecting with residents. Out of the downtown core, which was nice. Breen and the campaign manager did most of the talking, and the other volunteers and I basically added background colour. We hit Science World, Victory Square at the border of Vancouver East, and Emery Barnes Park in Yaletown. It was a good outing, and pushed my personal envelope pretty hard. I’d never done this in 2015!

Election Day (or “e-day” as we say in the campaigning biz) was my biggest test yet. I went out on my own for a last-minute canvassing blitz; on e-day that really means putting flyers in people’s mailboxes, but this being the West End, that means getting into buildings and slipping it under their doors.

Which, as a campaign rep, I have the right to do. But concierges and residents don’t always see it that way. So the goal is to find an NDP supporter (I have a list) who’s (a) home, (b) believes I’m who I say I am, and (c) is willing to open the door for me. Some did. Most didn’t. Together with the cold and the rain, it made for an exhausting and disheartening morning. The afternoon passed more pleasantly in the office, with data entry and organisation. And then I headed out to do inside scrutineering at Coal Harbour Community Centre.

When I returned to the office it was past 10PM, I’d been on my feet for half of the last 14 hours, and this was no victory party. Breen did come in a very distant second, so that was something. And disappointing as results have been, this isn’t the end: the team has decided to stay together, lay the groundwork for the next campaign, whether that happens in four years or four months. And I’m going to be a part of it.

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Days in Pictures

The Thousand And One Days: days 968 — 1001

So. This milestone.

I’d figured out a while ago that Day 1000 would end up in late September, but I wasn’t really planning anything for it. Mostly, I think, I just wanted to not miss a day. I’d made it this far, after all, it would look damn stupid to drop the ball right at the finish line.

(Not that this is a finish line.)

But I made it to my milestone: exactly 3,100 photos in 1,000 days (plus 2 as of day 1,001). Damn, am I going to have to remember to add those comma separators now that I’m in the 4-digit range? Small price to pay, I guess.

I feel I should do something special to celebrate. Not dinner, but push my creativity in different directions. I started blogging again on day 100; I should at least take that up more consistently, right? But what else? Some wits suggested vlogging, as though I weren’t too shy and awkward to go in front of a camera and say stuff.

Then again, didn’t I do exactly that today? My talk on WP-CLI was recorded; and as awkward and nervous as I felt inside, the audience was receptive and engaged, laughed at the places I wanted them to laugh, asked plenty of questions and sent me lots of LinkedIn invites afterwards. So hey, thumbs up? I’ll be honest, part of me is still not quite ready to believe it, but I can’t ignore the evidence.

And I need to remember all this going forward into the next thousand days.

What have I been up to, photo-wise, in the last five weeks? Nothing super out of the ordinary: mostly, a lot of walking on the seawall. The weather is still mostly good, so I’m counting my blessings there. I’ve seen herons, gulls and… is that a cormorant?, a different seagull, duckies, pirates, AND THE FUZZIEST CATERPILLAR IN THE WORLD OH EM GEE.

Some gorgeous mornings featuring towers, more towers, Jesus lights, Granville Bridge, the Granville Island Giants, boats, more boats, and parks. Some gorgeous evenings featuring Cambie Bridge, Granville Bridge (again), boats on English Bay, a little red boat, and a shot from near Science World.

As the days shorten, I expect to see a lot more sunsets and sunrises. Prepare accordingly.

There was something special early in the month, though: my brother and sis-in-law came to Vancouver for a week. Her first visit here, and only his second (after my Master’s graduation, waaaaay back in ’99). I couldn’t take the whole week off, but we took the ferry to Victoria on Sunday, going by Hatley Castle and Esquimalt Lagoon. Wednesday we went on a walking tour of Stanley Park, with stories of lurid murders and displaced Indigenous settlements, and then capped it off with a delish dinner at the Teahouse.

Friday, we went up Grouse Mountain. Not the Grind, that would be silly, even though there were people doing it on that cool drizzly day, but to check out:

As I said, I’m going to blog more. I’ve got more time now that I’m not preparing for WordCamp, and I have to make time for it anyway because it’s not just for fun, it’s a mindfulness exercise. And it’ll help me figure out how to take things to the next level, starting with what that even means.

Categories
Days in Pictures Thoughts about Things

The 2019 Vancouver Queer Film Festival: days 948 — 967

Song Lang

An absolutely gorgeous film, weaving lush tragic dramas of mythical kings and princesses against the gritty reality of 1980’s socialist Saigon. Is it a bit heavy-handed with the symbolism and metaphors? Sure, though that’s to be expected in a story that’s half tear-jerking opera. Did it work? Hell yeah.

It’s not an explicitly gay movie, though, which I found interesting; however, if you use Cải Lương—a modern form of Vietnamese folk opera—as code for “gay” then it all comes together: rough and tough Dung “Thunderbolt” has a girlfriend, but he doesn’t seem to like her much, and should be read as closeted because his parents were Cải Lương performers and he loved watching from behind the scenes; the rather feyer Linh is completely committed to the theatre life, gets assaulted by some macho asshole in a diner because he’s an actor and some people don’t like them or something.

Even given that symbolic layer, I’d say the movie is not about sex, and not really about romantic love either. It’s about emotional connections, about two diametrically opposed people making each other better, and about a lost soul given a chance at redemption. Beautiful, dreamy and quite magical, this is a great start to the festival.

Queer Fear

Queerness and horror, two great tastes that taste great together! I’m not a huge horror fan so some of these shorts left me a bit cold, but I have to give a nod to Nite Ride and its badass quartet of queer Indigenous monster hunter ladies; also Pop Ritual, the Brazilian dialog-less story of a demon-hunting priest and his gay goth vampire prisoner / lover. Catholics, amirite?

The Gospel of Eureka

Welcome to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Population 2K and change, home of the biggest Jesus statue in North America as well as an annual Passion Play originally started by some white supremacist preacher in the 60s.

But also: home to a surprisingly queer- and trans-friendly population, a “Diversity Weekend” full of rainbows and dancing, a gay bar where drag queens lipsync to hymns and You Can’t Pray The Gay Away. Christians who see no contradiction between loving Jesus and being proudly gay or trans.

True, not all of them. But at least enough to pass and then uphold an anti-discrimination city ordinance in 2015, in defiance of yapping bigots, and apparently their own state government.

This small-town 21st century Christianity isn’t all sweetness and light—the narrative mentions the ghosts of lynchings and gay bashings, and how those ghosts might come to life again at any time—but it’s definitely not what us progressive big-city folks usually imagine when we think of places like this. The world is changing, even in Eureka Springs.

Coming Into Our Own: Youth Shorts

Shorts showcasing the trials and tribulations of queer / trans youth; some good, some great. My faves were First Day: the story of Hannah, an eleven-year-old trans girl at a new school (played by an actual trans actress, apparently); and Anemone, where a nonbinary teen comes out to their community in a very colourful way.

Night Comes On

Hoo boy, that was a hard one. Philly is not a pleasant place when seen through the eyes of a young black lesbian just out of juvie, with no one in her corner except her sassy little sister, and nothing to look forward to except revenge.

Heartbreaking, superbly acted, harsh in its look at an unfair and unforgiving system, I’m glad I got to experience it.

Transmission / Transfinite

This was not quite what I expected. The first short, Transmission, is the most straightforwardly sci-fi, with ideas of parallel timelines and revolutionary hacker groups, but still draws heavily from mythology—specifically Armenian myth, with references to the sea & storm goddess Tsovinar—and the need for the future to reclaim and reconnect with the past.

(These last bits are from the creator Q&A)

The movie feels incomplete, just the first chapter of a larger story, but it’s okay because that’s exactly what it is.

Transfinite leans far more on the “fantasy” side of things. It’s a half dozen or so loosely connected vignettes of pretty grounded magical realism where politics, gender, mythology, poetry and magic meet in a weird… stew… thing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, maybe because part of me is trying to label it, and failing. Most of the protagonists are people of colour, so it’s kind of like Afrofuturism? And also kind of like a film version of Starhawk’s first novel The Fifth Sacred Thing; which like Transfinite has the core message that gender / sexual liberation, anti-racism, environmental justice, indigenous justice, dance, magic, science, myth, are all part of the same thing. And also incidentally takes place mostly in the Bay Area.

I reread T5ST last week, for the first time in ages, and you know what? It holds up pretty well after 25 years. As earnest and anvilicious as I remember, and the mystical pseudoscience still makes me twitch, but the politics are still relevant today, so maybe those anvils need to be dropped.

Queer and…

Two medium-long shorts about what it’s like to be queer and something else:

Showcasing Vancouver’s own inimitable Maiden China and her drag + biological families, Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny explores difficult and messy questions of making space for queer Asian people, what it means to be “too Asian” or “not Asian enough”, and what traditions mean going forward into the future. Great stuff, and well deserving the Gerry Brunet Memorial Award.

Father Figure is a captivating look at Rotterdam’s Voguing House of Angels, whose all-Black members can dance, be free, and escape from racism and homophobia for a little while. And goddamn can those boys dance.

Queer Diaspora

Several excellent shorts about the lives of queer immigrants and refugees. Though their lives in Canada / the US are materially better, we’re far from utopias: they’re still dealing with various degrees of not-fitting-in or outright racism from the queer and mainstream communities, the need to stay in the closet to family / community members, or the stress of staying in legal limbo for years as their paperwork gets processed.

The best of these is She’s Not A Boy, the true ongoing story of intersex refugee Tatenda Ngwaru. Having fled Zimbabwe and now living in New York, she is deeply disconnected from the rainbow-waving mainstream queer community (itself generally ignorant of intersex issues) and misses her home terribly, but can never return because her life would be in danger.

José

This is typical South American cinema: suuuuper slow paced, very low key, no obvious story beats you can dance to.

But if you’re patient with it, you’ll get a bittersweet tale of drudge and loneliness; where religion, social norms and the harsh realities of poverty mean that gay space is a dream, and gay love only exists in the shadows. Where you have to choose between eloping with your boyfriend and supporting your hard-working mother. A tale with no easy answers and few happy endings. Though in a world where tomorrow is never guaranteed, maybe you should grab what joy you can now.

The Coast is Queer

Ten shorts. Ten winners. All different but all brilliant and beautiful in their own way. Funny or silly or inspiring or heartwarming or heartbreaking or sometimes a whole bunch at once.

But if I had to pick a couple? Everything’s Great for being the perfect mix of sad, disturbing and delightfully loopy, and A Typical Fairy Tale both for its excellent production values and the lovely tale of the princess that was a prince all along.

all our relations: explorations of indigiqueer kinship

A bunch of shorts preceded by poetry readings showing all the ways Indigenous queer people connect with each other: whether that’s romantic or familial relationships, a youth learning their first words of Anishinaabemowin, dancing their first traditional dance, or connecting with their ancestors through the elaborate ceremonial costumes they create. As I expected, the whole show was an education and it’ll take me a while to digest it.

The T

Good stuff, certainly engaging but not my fave. Also not really a movie: it’s all 6 (currently) episodes of a web series that follows two friends / exes (one white trans woman, one black queer man) over three months or so as they navigate life, love and HIV diagnosis in Chicago. So it doesn’t have any beginning, middle or end as such, just a bunch of (excellent and moving) vignettes.

The Spark

Some excellent shorts, and some that left me a bit cold. My faves: Lesson #8 (the hookup with the accountant accordion player) and the super-sad My Loneliness Is Killing Me. Honourable mention goes to shy, overanalysing Darren in Engaged, to whom I totally don’t relate at all, no sir.

An Almost Ordinary Summer / Croce e delizia

Y’know, after some very challenging films it’s good to end with something light and frothy and sweet. Add some gorgeous scenery and loud Italian gesticulating? Yep, I’m down. I wouldn’t exactly call it memorable, but meh, I had fun, and you need to end the festival on a high note.

Summary

Number of shows seen: 13

Favourite feature film: The Gospel of Eureka. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s an education.

Favourite short film: Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny, hands down.

Movies I would have liked to see but didn’t: yeah, there’s always a few.

  • Troublemakers 4.0 and Black Divaz; missed because I had no time or energy on Sunday after my beach vball tournament
  • Vision Portraits
  • The Garden Left Behind and Fish Bones; mind you, if I hadn’t changed my mind at the last minute and gone to SFU GoldCorp I wouldn’t have found a lost wallet on Hastings Street and later returned it to its owner. Weird how life works sometimes, eh?

And now, the Days in Pictures part. It’s been three more weeks of walking to and work (mostly), and sometimes I still fret about routine and taking the same shots over and over. I’ve been through this before, and I know I’ll get through it again, but in the meantime it’s annoying. And hey, I’m still exploring, so I don’t know what my subconscious is even on about: we’ve got the underside of Burrard Bridge, some lovely views of Science World, the towers near David Lam Park, a sunset view from Burrard Bridge because we haven’t done those in a while, an amazing shot of Cambie Bridge

(seriously, that’s awesome)

Remember Khenko? It’s not just art, there really are herons hanging around False Creek, though so far I haven’t seen them east of Davie Street. Probably because they nest in Stanley Park? I’m not really sure. Here’s one. Here are two more. I assume there’s also fish and things to eat in False Creek?

And here’s a bumblebee at work. This one gets its own paragraph.

As does this action shot of the volleyball tournament on the 18th. I’m still not used to taking pictures of people, but with the right inspiration I guess I can make it work.

And here are some old (well, for Vancouver) buildings as I walked through Gastown on the way to the movies. I’ve always liked walking, and I like that I’m building my stamina and getting cardio. Bonus: I’ve noticed my weight has slowly but steadily been dropping! So now that the VQFF is over and I’ve got nowhere in particular to be most evenings, I can think about playing with my commute. Explore the south seawall, especially. Plan ahead for other things. In September I’ll mark Day 1000 of my photo challenge, and I need to celebrate that somehow. Career-related things will be happening around the same time, so we can celebrate and build on those two. And record it all as it happens.