Highlights of a grey day

Today in Vancouver could not have been described as a nice day. And yet, looking back I realized there were still a number of moments that really stand out as worth noting. There are many who extol the virtue of expressing gratitude daily; I haven’t got to that point yet, but perhaps this is a good start. It’s just nice to remember the good things that happen, and the good things you’ve seen.

The first moment was just after sunrise: despite heavy cloud, the sun found the smallest of gaps to shine through and for just a minute or two, lit up a couple of small cotton-wool clouds in pink. As that faded, a partial rainbow appeared. Soon that too had faded away and the fullness of the grey took over.

The second was meeting and stopping to chat with a couple of friends at the Vancouver Farmers’ Market, always a good thing. Once we were back home the rain returned and we watched the mountains play peek-a-boo with the passing showers. It may have been grey, but it was a soft, pale shade, almost like a mist ebbing and flowing. A gentle rain, not like the downpour to come later.

In the afternoon we braved the rain and went for a walk along the beach between Spanish Banks and Jericho. As we passed in front of the Jericho Sailing Centre, the sea had a lovely hint of green as it washed up onto the wave-smoothed sand. Even the grey mountains looked a fine sight across the water, its surface dotted with goldeneye and roughed slightly by an easterly breeze.

Now for the standout highlight. As we walked back to the car, a pair of bald eagles flew overhead, scattering the beached seagulls into flight before flying out of sight and landing in a distant tree. As it happened, that tree was close to our car, which we’d parked next to Spanish Banks Creek. We were about to drive off when the pair dropped out of the tree and over the water in front of us, wheeling around and chasing one another. I ran down to the water’s edge where they were more or less overhead at times. A second pair joined in for a moment, though the two didn’t interact, as if they were separated by an invisible line that neither pair would cross. Perhaps the creek marked a territorial boundary. Perhaps there were salmon in the creek awaiting their talons (though we saw none). In any case I stood in awe watching these giant birds soar and swoop above me, the smaller male calling all the while. Our guess is that they were a courting pair, or at least reaffirming their partnership since they mate for life. Whatever it was, it was a joy to watch.

Eagle sightings are something I will always notice, especially as they form the backbone of what I call “BC Moments”, those times that really seem to sum up living here in BC most appropriately. The picture below wasn’t taken today (it’s from our Cape Scott backpacking trip in 2016), but I really felt like showing an eagle photo.

Experiment Bight, 6 Aug 2016

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From the beginning

Today is a Throwback-Thursday and, seeing as I didn’t start blogging my Instagram posts until I’d posted nearly 100, I thought it’d a fun way to fill in the gaps with some Throwbacks and Flashbacks. I might not post one every week, and looking back I will group together photos from a single trip or with a theme (as long as they were posted close together) so I don’t have to write another 90+ individual blog posts!

Be warned: all of my early posts originated on my phone. Indeed that was the whole point of getting an Instagram account in the first place, to give me a place to put casual phone pics, often processed in ways that I wouldn’t dream of with photos from our real cameras. Some (like the two below) work quite well as black-and-white, while others made use of either Instagram filters or the processing options in Google Photos that were available at the time as attempts to mask or at least draw attention away from the poor image quality. Was I successful? Sometimes…

I took these on one of the extreme low tides we get in the summer where we were able to walk out on Spanish Banks almost to the steep drop-off into the deeper waters of Burrard Inlet. Bright sunny days, with their high mid-day contrast, can often work well for black and white photos. And that’s exactly what I did for these two.

1. Low tide in Vancouver.

Low tide in Vancouver #lowtide #beach #spanishbanks #vancouver

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

The first is unusual for me in that it’s almost street photography – I don’t normally put people in my photos, especially strangers. But I liked the fact the three people in the group were all looking the same direction – out to sea – as well as the curve of the breaking waves leading towards the high-rises of downtown Vancouver. As far as street-style photos go, it’s one of my favourites. If I want to get picky, I should be held the camera higher to avoid merging the heads and the background ship, but then, try seeing that detail on a phone screen on a sunny day…

2. Go no further.

Go no further #lowtide #blackandwhite #beach #spanishbanks #vancouver

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

The second was simply a record of where we were, looking over to the North Shore, with the sentry-like structure guarding the transition to deep water as if to say that we should indeed go no further. I like the simplicity and the fluffy clouds over the mountains. That’s it really.

Quiet

The beach is quieter at this time of year.

This is a photo from my phone and it doesn’t look as terrible as I imagined it would. I guess the light was good. I really like the scene with the empty beach, a line of logs echoed by a line of bulk carriers, the water and the mountains beyond.

After yesterday’s migraine, I wanted to be somewhere peaceful. Despite the number of people, it really did feel quite peaceful walking alongside the beach, the beach itself was mostly empty (save for a few die-hard volleyball players and picnickers). So here we are, in the middle (well, at the edge) of a big city, and we have this wonderful feeling of space, and peace. Works for me.

Flow

Not a waterfall but flowing water nonetheless – some soft wave action from a glorious couple of minutes at sunset a few weeks ago.

This photo was taken the same night as this one when the sun broke through the clouds only moments before sunset. I was captivated by the gentle wash of the waves and the reflection of the pink light on the wet sand, which gave me the idea of taking a photo with a long-enough exposure to blur the waves and give the viewer a sense of that motion. It took many attempts as I did not have a tripod, plus I had to wait for the right combination of waves and wet sand. But eventually I got one that was more or less exactly what I had in mind (indeed, this was one of those rare photographs that I actually envisioned before I took it). To top it off, the contrast between the blue water and the pink reflection is just lovely to my eye.

A moment of colour

Last night’s sunset when the sun peeked under the clouds for a few short minutes before dropping below the horizon.

I’m sure I’ve commented on this before, but it seems to happen quite often in Vancouver that a grey day ends with a brief spell of intense sunset colour. We were walking back towards the car after a wander from Jericho to Locarno Beach when we noticed the sun had dipped under the cloud layer, lighting up everything around us a dusky pink. We walked down to the water’s edge, the tide just beginning to recede after peaking an hour earlier, and watched the waves lap against the shore, the white foamy tips of each breaking wave casting a fleeting mountain-like shadow on the wet sand which reflected the deep coloured sunlight, the underside of the cloud deck now lit up a fiery pink. So pretty.

I took a couple of dozen shots hoping to capture the right wave, but none really worked. In the end I liked this composition – though this version is cropped for the Instagram format, which weakens the line of the water that I had carefully placed across the image (in the full image the water’s edge extends to the bottom right of the frame)… Oh well. The original will go up on Flickr at some point!

Toppled

A toppled fly agaric mushroom gives a great view of its gills

I’ve tried several times to get a good shot of these mushrooms (or toadstools as we’d call them back in the UK). They’re sprouting up all over the city at the moment in greater numbers than I remember seeing before, which I’m guessing is due to the excessively rainy October we just had. Alas, getting the right angle and getting the camera to focus on the right part of the fungus has proved annoyingly difficult so far. So I was actually quite pleased to find a pair of mushrooms that had been toppled over (or perhaps had fallen on their own) with their gills all lit up in the afternoon sunshine. No issues with depth of field, no issues with the camera focussing somewhere else – just perfect!

A Very Vancouver Evening

A very Vancouver evening

A sunny evening, low tide at the beach, and the city skyline – pretty much sums up summer evenings in Vancouver, even when it’s not yet summer 🙂 I really liked the reflection of the rocks in the pools and I found myself wondering how those rocks got there – were they glacial erratics? Could be…