A sunny seawall stroll

Seymour seen on a sunny stroll along the city seawall

Something in my head told me today was Saturday and therefore it was time to post another Instagram photo. So I posted the photo above taken this afternoon along the False Creek seawall. I only just realized that it was still Friday and had to edit my original caption! Oops.

Initially I thought I would have preferred a longer lens for this shot but I still like the fact that I was able to get both the curve of the seawall on the right and the curved tower on the left of the frame. I could have cropped a bit more I suppose, to really emphasize Mt Seymour as the main point of focus, but overall I’m quite happy with it as it is even if it is a little busy. If nothing else, it’s a record of what we saw on our travels today, and it was a good day to be outside.

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A quartet of coltsfoot

A quartet of coltsfoot, another early bloomer that’s easy to overlook as it looks kinda weedy from a distance and grows in wet marshy ground. But get close up and it shows off its lovely florets, not to mention its pretty good golf ball impression. Enough to make anyone smile 🙂

It was only last year that I truly appreciated the flowers of palmate coltsfoot for the first time. I’d taken photos of it before and generally thought it was a straggly-looking plant without much in the way of interesting flowers. After being put firmly right I decided that this year I would endeavour to take some photos that showed just how nice a flower it really is. My favourite photo is probably the first one, showing the florets as they begin to flower.

From a distance, the florets don’t look like much – just some dots on the end of green stems. Then there’s the fact it grows in wet places which likely puts off most people from getting anywhere near it in the first place. The second photo is my attempt to show this with the muddy stream I had to jump across and NW Marine Drive in the background. See what I mean? Why would anyone stop to take a closer look at these flowers? I’m sure I got a few strange looks from passing cyclists and car occupants as I stooped and crouched to get the angles I wanted.

The most obvious feature of coltsfoot when it’s in bloom is its golf-ball-like head of florets on a cabbage-green stalk, surrounded by a handful of leaves. This year I was pleased to find a really lovely golf-ball impression with the third photo. OK so it doesn’t look quite as much like a golf ball when viewed close up, but from a distance it’s quite convincing. I really like how the florets look a bit like birds’ nests complete with eggs in this photo.

Finally, like a floral firework, the florets open out to produce a veritable feast for pollinators with dozens of tiny flowers to visit. The fourth photo caught my eye as it looks a bit like a smiley face. Doesn’t it? 🙂

So there you go – a quick tour of an under-appreciated wildflower. Maybe it’ll tempt you to check it out for yourself?

VanCity Views IV

1. Snowline. The North Shore mountains looking pretty this morning.

The morning after a chilly rainy night shows up the lovely snowline across the flanks of Crown and Grouse Mountains. I took this photo from the roof of the Mountain Equipment Coop building on Broadway. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I really like how the snowline angles upwards as it gets nearer to the water, perhaps the air stayed cooler in the Capilano valley?

2. Winter sunset

I love seeing this boundary between night and day: the sun has set on the city but the mountain tops are still bathed in lovely warm light. Such a contrast compared with the previous photo! I’d rather be up in the mountains in this light – watching the snow change colour is amazing – but I’ll settle for a view over the water and the city.

Here, along the foreshore just west of Kits Pool, is one of my favourite spots to catch the sunset in the winter with its unobstructed view across English Bay and the peaks of Crown and Grouse Mountains, Mt Fromme, and the ridgeline of Mt Seymour beyond.

3. Morning view on day 3 of my Walk To Work Week 🙂

At the time I took this photo I was working about 4.5 km from home. While it was an easy bike ride, I’m not a fan of riding in the winter, so I thought I’d try walking it. To my surprise I found myself really enjoying the walk (on dry days) and could make it door-to-door in about 45 minutes. There’s a tiny park along the way called Choklit Park – and yes, the name is associated with chocolate – with a nice view over towards the high-rises of Yaletown and the mountains beyond. Now if only I had the Photoshop skills to remove that straggly little branch in the top right corner…

4. I’m not a morning person but I love mornings – good morning from a frosty Kits Beach

I remember taking a photo of Kits Beach covered in frost way back in 2009 and wanted to repeat that shot. It took until early 2016 for that to happen! Things I like about this photo include the shape of the beach, which is close to a classic “S” curve, the strip of sand forming a pathway between the silvery-blue water and frost, and the mist behind the city high-rises. It’s a chillier-looking photo than my earlier attempt – I guess I must have sooner after sunrise than in 2009 which had some nice early-morning sunshine lighting up the frost.

So with that I think I’m caught up on my backlog of miscellaneous Vancouver shots for now. I wonder what next week’s Throwback Thursday has in store?

Spring colour

My Instagram feed seems to have taken on a monochrome look lately, so here’s some springtime colour for wildflower Wednesday

Flower roll-call:

  1. Pretty shooting stars – rare near Vancouver as they prefer drier conditions
  2. Skunk cabbage, also known as the swamp lantern – great name!
  3. Western trillium – barely blooming, I normally expect these to bloom before the fawn lilies
  4. Fawn lily buds – like glacier lilies, it’s not uncommon for them to produce a couple of flowers per stem
  5. White fawn lilies in bud and bloom – yay! The show is just beginning!

I start to get itchy photographic fingers about this time of year ever since I found my first fawn lilies at the very end of my photo-a-day project back in 2012. While Lighthouse Park is my favourite place to go look for them, I found a small patch growing in the Rainforest Garden at the UBC Botanical Garden a couple of years ago and – since I can get in for free – figured that it’d be worth checking out. And that’s exactly what I did last Sunday afternoon.

But it’s not just about the fawn lilies: the gardens have a little patch of Garry Oak ecosystem where other flowers bloom. Among the first out are the gorgeous pink shooting stars, and so perfectly named. In a few weeks it looks like the main flowers there will be nodding onion, but I’m hoping to find others too.

Of course, after a decade of hiking in BC, I now look forward to the sight (and, yes, smell) of the fresh skunk cabbage, their cheery yellow “lanterns” pushing up through marshy ground. And I always love seeing trillium – it doesn’t grow in abundance like it does in Ontario so it’s always a treat to find it growing. Again while Lighthouse Park has been my go-to spot for the longest time, I found many more blooming in Campbell Valley Regional Park last year.

On my travels that day I found a few more early flowers too, which I’ll save for another post. All in all, a pretty good afternoon, and it’s got me really in the mood for spring.

Ominous

Ominous clouds to the west

Today was one of those spring days where the weather gives us all four seasons in a day. We had sun while other parts of the area had hail and/or snow. Towards sunset, the clouds gathered and threatened a downpour. It never came – at least for us – but the clouds looks dark and foreboding as the weather system tracked north along the Salish Sea and up towards Howe Sound.

I looked out of our west-facing window to see the dark rain clouds. Thinking there must be a picture in there somewhere I stepped out onto the balcony and sized up a few photos. As I looked through them on the computer I found I just hadn’t been able to capture the feel of the weather. Until I got to this photo: the full 3×2 frame was just of the cloud formations, and I took it because it looked kinda interesting. However, when I first saw it on the screen I passed over it because it looked, well, boring and dull. It was only as I went through a second time with a more critical eye – having processed a couple of others and not feeling they conveyed anything – that somehow I instantly saw a square crop, the frame neatly divided into light and dark, with some really interesting cloud shapes along the boundary. I loaded it into DxO PhotoLab, desaturated the colours (after setting the white balance to “shade” to make it nearly grey) and applied some contrast to emphasize the extremes.

I set out to capture the dark clouds over the city and instead ended up with a more abstract cloudscape that actually captured the mood far better. I’m really happy with it.

VanCity Views III

Welcome to part III of my city sights for Throwback Thursday.

1. Very Vancouver

I love this view. The line of towers that tapers off in the distance just looks so pleasing, Science World adds a contrasting shape and texture and on a clear, calm day the reflections are lovely. I’ve photographed this view many times but more often than not have found myself not liking the results so I’m especially pleased with this one. Some of those I’ve taken have had a foreground of perfectly calm water, which can look two-dimensional and kinda boring. This is where the Aquabus comes in: perhaps counter-intuitively, the fact that the Aquabus disturbs the water in the foreground actually improves the photo no end. The straight line of the wake interrupts the foreground in a way that I think attracts enough attention to be interesting but not too much to be distracting. However, it’s the lines and curves of the waves that really make the foreground, curving round to point right at the Aquabus and drawing the eye into the scene.

At least, that’s how I see it. Of course, everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a pleasing photograph!

2. City of glass

In contrast to the photo above, I think this one works just fine as a simple reflection shot due to the symmetry and the uniformity. There are no distracting lines leading into or out of the photo, but just enough of a ripple on the surface of the water to lend some depth. The towers all look roughly the same colour in the warm light, giving the photo a two-tone appearance against the blue of the sky, both colours reflected nicely in the water below.

3. Raining in the sunlight

Raining in the sunlight #rain #rainbow #morninglight #vancouver #iloveithere

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

A passing morning shower at sunrise catches the first rays of light. Often in winter there’s a small gap in the clouds to the south that allows the sun to shine through as it first rises, bathing everything in a glorious warm glow. Within a few minutes the sun has risen enough that the clouds now block its light and everything returns to grey. But for a few moments there is magical light, and sometimes it coincides with a rain shower. I really like how the visible portion of the rainbow mimics the streaks of rain.

4. The Lions peek through a gap in the high rises

I was walking (or biking?) along the False Creek seawall when I happened to look up and see the Lions through a gap in the high-rises, peeking out above the flank of Hollyburn. The little boat cruising into the frame is just perfect (and, purely by chance, it’s flying the Union flag). But even without that, it’s the asymmetry of this photo that I like: the tall, imposing tower dominating the left half of the frame, apparently dwarfing the mountain peaks beyond, adding a touch of irony to the scene. In contrast to the tidiness of the left side of the picture, the right hand side is a jumble of different buildings of varying heights, adding a further contrast. Again, that’s what I see…

5. Sunrise on snowfall

I see the sunrise most often in winter because it occurs at or just after the time I get up. Winter sunrises also produce the best pictures of the North Shore mountains because of the snow and the fact they are illuminated from the south-east. By contrast in the summer, the sun rises over the mountains (further east than these peaks) and shines right into our bedroom so there’s really nothing to photograph. I photographed the sunrise a lot when we first moved into our apartment; these days not so much but occasionally the sheer simplicity and calm associated with a view such as this prompts me to wield the camera.

Light on Brunswick

Light on Brunswick – the view from the sunny summit of Black Mountain.

We’d spent a good while basking in the sunshine on the rocks at Eagle Bluffs and on our return opted for the quick detour up and over the south summit of Black Mountain. To our amazement, the summit was silent. I was expecting at least one group of people to be there, but it was vacant. Not even a whisky jack or raven to be seen. The view towards the Lions and other nearby peaks isn’t that great from here (the view from the north summit is better) but it was good enough and we had some superb dappled light hitting Brunswick and the East Lion. Having just posted a whole series of photos of the Lions, I figured today should be about Brunswick Mountain!

I grabbed a couple of shots, ensuring I didn’t blow out the highlights (thinking back to Sean Tucker’s excellent recent video called Protect your highlights) which is still quite easy to do on the little Sony RX100II. This meant that the shadows fell really dark, but I felt that was the point of a photo like this one. With the dramatic dark cloud behind the peaks, my idea was to produce something “moody”, maybe a little ominous, in contrast with my photo of the Lions from Hollyburn a couple of weeks ago which had a more ethereal feel to it. I’m not sure I entirely succeeded with the processing I went with – perhaps I should have increased the contrast even more, especially in the mid-tones. I may re-edit the photo for the Flickr version.

Still, I like the way the clouds rise up over the summit of Brunswick, keeping their distance as if giving it some respect, and the gleaming white snow does look good against the dark background. And every time I look at Brunswick, I’m transported to the wonderful day we had up there.