Music and song

Another long-overdue Throwback-Thursday post, this time with the theme of music and song. I grew up in an era when taking photographs at concerts was forbidden, so it felt odd to take out my phone and try and capture parts of a performance. It helps that my phone camera is too awful to make it worth my while to even try – except occasionally I can’t resist trying 🙂

1. Rush playing Losing It with Ben Mink. Fantastic show!

I’ve been a fan for over 35 years (!) and I hadn’t really appreciated that the R40 tour was going to be their last major tour until after I’d bought last-minute tickets. I was so glad that I did buy them as it was a superb show, though I wish I’d remembered ear plugs! Perhaps the highlight was the song “Losing It” from the Signals album, a song that almost always brings a lump to my throat anyway. But to hear it played live, with Ben Mink playing the violin as he does on the album… Well, I almost lost it!

2. I’ve wanted to take this picture for ages…

I've wanted to take this picture for ages… #rush #rushtheband #r40yvr

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Any Rush fan will instantly understand this photo. I remember noticing this number on my first ever visit to Vancouver back in 2004 and I’ve wanted an excuse to photograph every since. I even thought I’d incorporate it into my photo-a-day project back in 2011, but I always found something else to photograph instead. Part of me has the idea of going round the city and photographing all of the street numbers equal to 2112. Part of me thinks that would be a silly waste of my time. And yet, that idea still keeps coming back to me…

3. An appointment with Mr Moore.

An appointment with Mr Moore #kebmo #vogue #voguetheatre #blues #Vancouver

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This photo was taken the night we went to see one of our favourite blues artists, Keb’ Mo’. This concert was a bit of a let-down by comparison – it felt a little too laid back, almost to the point of feeling like the artists weren’t really trying hard enough. I dunno – maybe he was having an off night. Or maybe it was me.

4. Until tomorrow night – empty chairs after a great performance of Oliver.

When I realized just how bad my phone camera was I thought I’d be inspired to be more selective in composing photographs and that I’d try out more black and white where the awful colour rendition wouldn’t be noticed. That never really happened, but occasionally I see something that I think would work. The pleasing geometry of rows of white chairs on a dark night seemed to suit that quite well, and I like this shot. The black-and-white conversion has the added advantage of masking the general grubbiness of the chairs.

I’m not a fan of musicals, but this version of Oliver was excellent. Oh and we were told in no uncertain terms that photography was indeed forbidden for this performance, so I waited until the end to get my shot.

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At last, a sunset!

It takes a good sunset to entice me to take its picture these days – or maybe it was just the novelty of actually seeing a sunset? Either way, I love the patterns on the underside of the clouds highlighted in pink.

I almost didn’t bother. I’ve been a bit out of sorts with photography lately, and just haven’t felt like picking up the camera or even looking through past photos (the gloomy weather may have had something to do with that). Yesterday we had a foggy walk along the seawall in English Bay and Stanley Park and I took the camera for the first time in a while; I even got a few photos I like (the highlight was the otter sighting). Earlier today I was doing some camera shopping in the hope of finding an upgrade to the DSLR I’ve been carrying since 2009. Perhaps between the two it gave me a bit more inspiration to look for photographs again. In any case I figured I had nothing to lose by taking this photo, so why not?

As I sized it up I immediately envisaged it working as a square crop which meant only one thing: after nearly a month, I finally felt like posting something on Instagram! I like the way the view is divided into four sections – the black horizon, the sunset glow, the lit clouds, and the blue sky above – even though they’re not equal, as well as the pattern of pink on the clouds. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have another sunset photo like this one, so I’m quite happy with it.

About town

A few random-ish photos taken out and about in Vancouver for this week’s Flashback-Friday post. (I missed Throwback Thursday this week…)

1. Sometimes two U-locks are not enough

Sometimes two U-locks are not enough #bike #bicycle #oops #theft

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Bike theft is very common in Vancouver. Not just whole bikes, though, but pretty much whatever can be taken away (a friend had their bell stolen – just the bell, for some reason…). Unfortunately, not every bike owner is aware of how make best use of their lock(s): locking the frame to the bike rack isn’t enough as it leaves the wheels exposed. What mystifies me about this bike is the second lock that is just locked around the frame – it’s not doing a thing to help prevent any part of the bike being stolen. I’ve seen lots of cases where a wheel has gone missing because the lock didn’t pass through it, which is why I often carry two locks: one to lock the frame and one wheel to the rack, the other to lock the second wheel to the frame. It’s not foolproof, and it’s a pain carrying two U-locks, but if it makes my bike look like too much hassle to pinch then it’s fine by me.

2. Crows

Crows #birds #crows #Vancouver

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One of the notable features of Vancouver is its crow population. Every dusk they can be seen streaming east to a roost in Burnaby where hundreds if not thousands gather to spend the night. It’s quite the sight. Occasionally they fly right over our apartment, and I was glad to be able to get so many in the frame at once. It’s even more remarkable that the phone focussed on the moving birds…

3. Sun halo

Sun halo #sun #halo #atmosphericoptics

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I always look up. Maybe it’s my training as an astronomer. Or maybe I became an astronomer because I always look up… On sunny days I always check to see if there’s a halo or a sun-dog near the sun. A good way to view a halo is to block out the sun using the corner of a building. In this case I was fortunate enough to have a small corner along an otherwise featureless edge of this building. The dark building and uniform blue sky actually make a nice abstract picture in themselves, but the corner jutting out into the frame really forced me to look for a way to make it into a feature. Tilting the camera (well, phone) gave me this interesting angle. Simple lines and plain colours. Works for me.

4. Vancouver on a sunny day

Vancouver on a sunny day #Vancouver #mountains #bluesky

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Back in 2015, I was working in the Mt Pleasant area of the city and could just see Crown Mountain from my office. I can never resist a photo-op with Crown, and I walked up the steps of one building to catch this view over the flat-topped roofs across the road. With blue sky and lovely wispy clouds, the Google Photos HDR processing actually worked to make this phone pic worth posting.

The long way round

There are two main approaches to the Lions. The most popular route starts in Lions Bay and climbs up 1300 vertical metres to reach the base of the West Lion. Alternatively, follow the Howe Sound Crest Trail from Cypress Bowl, over St Mark’s Summit and the well-named Unnecessary Mountain. It’s more scenic, but nearly half as long again. On this occasion back in June 2015, we decided to combine the two: hike in from Cypress Bowl, and then descend to Lions Bay where we’d left one of our cars earlier in the day.

The hike can be broken into three: Cypress Bowl to St Mark’s, St Mark’s to the Lions, then the Lions down to Lions Bay. The first section is a hike we’ve done many times, and obviously the third leg is just the descent of the route from Lions Bay. The middle part is what we were most looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint, treating us to some of most enjoyable hiking near Vancouver.

1. Howe Sound views from St Mark’s Summit.

Howe Sound views from St Mark's Summit #hsct #hiking #explorebc #howesound #stmarks

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This is the classic view of the rocky outcrop by St Mark’s, one of the most common hiking photos of the Lower Mainland on Instagram. For many years, the trail to St Mark’s was a truly awful mess of roots and rocks. Upgrades began a few years ago, but they weren’t done yet so we had to endure a little bit of old-time misery. Eventually we made it to the viewpoint and admired the sheer drop down towards Howe Sound, while trying to ignore the scampering chipmunks and swooping whisky jacks on the hunt for unattended food.

2. Vancouver from the Lions.

#Vancouver from the Lions #hsct #thelions #hiking #cypressprovincialpark

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The Lions are a distinctive landmark and visible from many parts of Vancouver. So it makes a nice change to be able to admire the reverse view, looking down the Capilano River valley towards the city and to the Fraser delta beyond.

3. The Lions from Unnecessary Mountain. Classic.

The Lions from Unnecessary Mountain. Classic. #hsct #thelions #hiking #explorebc

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OK I’ve saved the best for last. As I mentioned above, the section of the trail over Unnecessary Mountain to the base of the Lions is some of the best hiking in the area. Gorgeous open subalpine rambling through a green-and-grey landscape. This was our favourite part of the trip and had the best views, such as this one. The route ahead is clearly visible along the ridge top.

We could have sat at the top of Unnecessary Mountain and stared at this view all day.

Would we do this hike again? Not sure – it ended up being one of our longest days on the trail at nearly 11 hours. Somehow we just need to get to that magic middle section…

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

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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

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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.

Aurora

The aurora came to visit last night. Not as intense as I’d hoped but always a treat to see it. If nothing else, spending an hour on the beach on a calm, peaceful night was very relaxing, though not conducive to a productive day of work….

This photo so nearly didn’t happen. I knew there was a chance of seeing the Northern Lights last night, but when the time came to think about going somewhere to get photos, I was seriously considering just crawling into bed instead. But these chances don’t come around that often so off we went down to the beach again, to the same spot where we watched them back in May. The water was just as calm again, allowing for great reflections.

But ultimately I’m disappointed in the photos. The lights from the city were just too bright and show up so strongly in the photos, the brightest of them resulting in halos or showing up internal reflections in the lens. Plus I feel like I shot too wide – the aurora just looks like a little green line near the bottom of the frame. And I’m not convinced I’ve got my processing right either. However, I’ve since explored more processing options and found a way to make the photo more pleasing to my eye – that version is on Flickr as Instagram doesn’t support replacements (and I’m not going to simply repost a different version of the same image).

Aurora, 28 Sep 2017

So here’s to the next time we get chance to see the aurora in Vancouver, and perhaps I’ll be in a position to drive out of town to admire it!

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.