Scene on the beach

Beach scenes are the theme for this week’s Throwback Thursday. Time after time I appreciate having such a long stretch of accessible shoreline in Vancouver, and if ever we need a quick fix of outdoor time, a walk on the beach will almost always be enough.

1. Public furniture | urban trees, Vancouver biennale sculpture on the beach at Spanish Banks

Vancouver beaches have an array of logs for sitting or leaning on, but it’s always nice to have something different. As part of the biennale public art project, a few well-shaped log carvings have been placed on the beach near Spanish Banks. Usually the biennale art is temporary but a few are popular enough to keep around for longer, like this installation. I’ve tried a few photos of the carvings in the past with little success – this is about the only one I think has any presence. Maybe it’s time to try another? Only if there’s no one sitting on it!

2. Christmassy Crown Mountain, with a bald eagle for company 🙂

We like to get out for a short walk on Christmas Day if the weather cooperates. The morning is spent catching up with family which gives us a couple of hours to get some fresh air before we spend the evening with friends. One year we even snowshoed on the beach! This year (2015) we were fortunate enough to have had the clouds clear for a while, allowing the mountains to be showcased in their full fresh winter flory. Then an eagle flew by. Perfect!

(Actually it’s rare to be down the beach and not see one of the local bald eagles… I saw three last weekend.)

3. Okanagan reflections

Of course, it’s not all about Vancouver’s beaches; lakes can have nice beaches too and Okanagan Lake has a few. The resort where we were staying has a pretty section of sandy beach-front and it’s a great spot to sit by the often-calm water. The sandy cliffs catch the afternoon light, and the turning leaves of the cottonwoods, birches, and aspens add extra colour. Late September or early October is a good time to visit the Okanagan as it often holds on to summer for that little bit longer than the coast. Sitting back on a mellow day with a glass or two of local wine or beer is wonderfully relaxing

Advertisements

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 I

I looked through my remaining un-blogged Instagram photos and found that I have enough to create a whole series of Vancouver-based posts. So for the next four or five weeks, the Throwback Thursday theme will be VanCity Views.

1. An evening seaside stroll, Vancouver lit by the last light of the day

Normally I like my photos to look realistic, which usually means a slightly lower contrast than what the majority of digital cameras produce by default. If I’d taken this photo with the SLR I would have lightened the beach and reduced the brightness of the city to stop it clipping the highlights so much. With the phone I had neither of those options, and yet I really like how the city shines out so clearly. For once, the dark foreground doesn’t distract and in fact only serves to highlight the bright reflection from the highrises. The logs on the beach add structure so that it’s not just a blank area. Evening colour helps keep things nice and warm, while the sea reflects the silvery sky above.

2. The scenic route on this morning’s commute

Riding the False Creek seawall is a great way to get to work in the morning. Throw in blue skies and reflections in the calm water and it’s an instant classic Vancouver postcard.

3. It’s bike-to-work week here in #Vancouver! A grey Monday with a colourful ending 🙂

I was cycling home along the 10th Ave corridor and noticed that the clouds had cleared, the late afternoon sun lighting up the buildings near Vancouver General Hospital. I crossed to the other side of the street and paused long enough to snap this view.

4. A new view of #Vancouver, at least for me. Day 2 of bike-to-work week.

I seem to get bored of cycle routes quite quickly. If it’s not dealing with other cyclists or pedestrians, it’s having to worry about inattentive or aggressive car drivers. Or it’s a hill that catches me out and makes me work harder than I want to. Or it’s simply the irritation of having to stop at an intersection every block or two. Vancouver really needs bike routes without those kinds of interruptions, which is why the seawall is popular, which brings me back to my first point…

But I digress. I chose a different route home this night and stumbled upon a view over False Creek from up on Lameys Mill Road. For some reason I’d never even seen this little overlook before, and stopped to admire this new angle, even though it was barely 30 m from the usual seawall route. I liked the red trees in the foreground (echoed by the same type of tree across the water on Granville Island), and once again there was enough warm evening light and calm water to render the scene peaceful.

5. A splash of colour

The weather returned to normal later in the week, and I was tempted to just take a shot of the greyish highrises above greyish water against a grey sky. But then this little Aquabus puttered into the frame and added a lovely intense burst of colour. Perfect for such a dull day!

That’s it for this week – there’ll be another set of VanCity views next week!

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

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.