VanCity Views II

Part II of a variety of Vancouver views and vistas.

1. Vancouver on a beautiful, chilly November morning

How can you resist taking such a photo? So calm, so still. So just take the photo and get on to work!

2. It’s all a matter of perspective

I’m a big fan of perspective in photographs (and art in general) and I liked this view underneath the Cambie Street Bridge looking over towards Cooper’s Park in Yaletown. It’s not the most exciting photo but I thought the light was good enough to capture the scene. I would have liked the tide to have been higher to cover up some more of the untidy rocks and bridge the reflections on the pillars closer together. I think that would have been more effective. Maybe someday I’ll repeat it.

3. Vancity. Nuff said.

Another day cycling in to work. I was stopped at the traffic lights at 10th and Cambie and just liked the scene to my left: the Vancity sign and mountains on the horizon. I’ve just noticed that this photo is not level. Oops – that’s going to bug me for eternity…

4. Stoned

Stoned #vancouver #englishbay #westend #seawall

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A bit of a silly shot: I spotted this kinda spaced-out looking face on the rock as we were walking the seawall between English Bay and Stanley Park. I was never happy with the colour cast in this photo, though I think I posted it before I had tried out Instagram’s own editing features. It’s also not the kind of photo I normally take but then that’s partly why I started my Instagram account in the first place as somewhere to post odds and ends kind of photos. It’s since evolved way beyond that and I probably take it far too seriously now!

5. After the rain. Next up, the cold…

I remember the days leading up to this photo when it absolutely poured with rain. Cold, cold mid-winter rain. Even the short walk from the bus stop to the office was enough to get me soaked. But then the skies cleared and the temperature dropped further. I longed for a zoom lens for this shot, but in the end I quite like the overhanging tree acting as a frame for the main subject – the snowy mountains of course!


Lions Week

A brief encounter of the nebulous and mountainous kind last Saturday inspired a week’s worth of photos of the Lions, a distinctive pair of peaks visible from downtown Vancouver and many places around. Originally named the Twin Sisters by local First Nations people, westerners re-named them the Lions, because – and even Chief Joe Capilano admitted – they looked like the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London.

Getting to them requires a tough hike in from a couple of directions – both of which we’ve tried now, first in 2005 at the end of our first real summer of hiking in BC. Attaining the summit of the West Lion is possible, though requires a head for heights and scrambling experience; the East Lion is in the Capilano watershed and officially off limits to the public.

However the best view is from other nearby peaks instead, or from further afield. Here I give 7 examples of the various views of the Lions from different vantage points on the North Shore and beyond that I hope capture some of the essence of these iconic mountains.

  1. A fleeting glimpse of the West Lion through the clouds to the north, Harvey and Brunswick barely visible if you know where to look. Behind us lay blue sky and sunshine but this was the view that held our attention.

    The photo that got me thinking; we’d just plodded our way up to the top of Hollyburn in glorious sunshine but could see the thick grey clouds to the north. I thought that we’d have no view at all so I was really pleased to see that the Lions were playing peek-a-boo with the clouds. Our camera/lens played up for some of the photos where the peaks were more clearly visible, but at least this one turned out well. The very tip of the East Lion is barely visible through the clouds.

  2. After posting yesterday’s photo I found myself browsing our collection of Lions photos. I enjoyed rediscovering them so much that I decided to make this week an impromptu Lions week 🏔 Here’s the view from the Cleveland dam taken a few winters ago. From this angle it’s easy to see how they were given their original name of the Twin Sisters.

    After I wrote the caption for this photo, I also realized that it’s easy to understand why early western visitors saw them as lions, particularly for the West Lion with its back and haunches pointing to the left in this view. The story of how they were originally called the Twin Sisters is described in Pauline Johnson’s book, “Legends of Vancouver” which is well worth reading by all residents on the area. Also worth reading are some of the early expeditions to climb the peaks. One such article from the 1920s (I think) describes a multi-day trip to those peaks, following Capilano River and then Sisters Creek. Hard to believe what an effort it once was to reach such nearby mountains!

  3. After yesterday’s classic view of the Lions from Vancouver, I thought it’d be fun to see the view from a totally different angle. This photo was taken near Seed Peak in Pinecone-Burke provincial park, about 33 km northwest of the Lions, the distinctive twin summits clearly recognizable, despite Mt Harvey’s attempts to confuse matters!

    This view was a complete surprise: we were on our way up (or down – can’t remember now) Seed Peak at the northern end of Pinecone-Burke provincial park when, as I often do, I scanned the mountain vista in search of familiar peaks. The twin peaks caught my eye like a pair of distant bunny ears. At first the similar-looking peak to the right puzzled me, but then I realized it was Mt Harvey, which does look a bit like one of the Lions from this – and the opposite – angle.

  4. Mt Seymour is a great hike/snowshoe and gives a unique side-on view of the Lions – they’re almost unrecognizable from this angle and it takes a moment or two of looking to realize what you’re seeing.

    It’s easy to miss the Lions completely from the Mt Seymour trail as they are seen almost side-on and appear as a just another peak along the ridgeline of the Howe Sound peaks. At least in winter there is some contrast between the snow and the rock; in summer the peaks tend to merge with their surroundings. It took a fairly long telephoto lens to get this shot, I think equivalent to about 300 mm in 35-mm terms.

  5. Today’s view of the Lions (well, only the West Lion) comes from a New Year’s Eve snowshoe trip to Mt Strachan back in 2010. We reached the summit only a few minutes before sunset after a hard slog up Christmas gully. We’re glad we made it in time because the light was just beautiful. One of my all-time favourite mountain sunsets!

    Oh what a trip this was! We set off under bluebird skies just after lunch and slogged our way up the gully barely in time to catch sunset. And what a sunset it was: the snow around us turned from white to cream, to yellow, then orange, and finally pink before returning to white as the sun dropped below the horizon. It was a stunning sunset, and over all too soon. All the while we admired the surrounding peaks, though none more so than the Lions. Our descent in the twilight and then darkness was a lot of fun and a good exercise in navigation and reading the terrain.

  6. If you’ve been following my series on the Lions then today’s photo probably won’t come as a surprise. Continuing working my way around the Lions, this view is from the top of Brunswick Mountain looking south towards those well-known twin outlines, Vancouver lost in the haze beyond. But what a great day to be in that little floatplane!

    Out of the frame to the left in the previous photo is Brunswick Mountain, the tallest mountain in the immediate vicinity of Vancouver, approaching 1800 m in height. It’s a favourite of many hikers owing to its superlative summit experience involving some fun scrambling and exceptional views. The downside is the unending slog to get there.

    But those views… And this view of the Lions is particularly good, though the light is rarely good enough to get a decent photo. That would take camping out at or near the summit, which is something to bear in mind for a future trip. As we were enjoying the scene, we heard a floatplane and looked round to see one flying a couple of hundred metres below us, cruising the western slopes of the Howe Sound peaks. I immediately knew where it would most likely head next and trained the camera on the Lions. Sure enough, the plane flew right by them. That’s a flight I’ll have to take one of these days.

  7. Drawing my Lions week to a close is the view seen by many tourists in Vancouver from the seawall near Canada Place and the convention centre. And yes, I did wait until that floatplane flew into the frame 🙂

    Finally I come back to the city. Last Friday morning I was downtown for a conference and decided to take advantage of the gorgeous morning to walk around the convention centre. It’s been a while since I’ve walked there and was pleasantly surprised to see the subjects of this week’s series of photos staring me in the face, gleaming white against the blue morning sky.

    Naturally I felt compelled to capture them, though given their distance, how little of them is visible, and the fact that I had only a modest zoom on my camera meant I felt my initial photos were lacking. However, as I watched a floatplane take off and bank left past the Lions I realized how I could add a little more interest to my photo. The next plane lined up to take off and I waited for it to turn towards the west and fly past the Lions. Alas it flew much higher than the previous plane, but an obliging bird decided to fly past about mid-way between the aircraft and the Lions. It wasn’t quite the shot I had in mind, but it was definitely good enough for me.

And so concludes a week of photos of the Lions. It’s been fun for me to look back through some of our older photos to find these views, and it’s re-planted the idea back in my head of putting in a little more effort to capture them again. Given the number of photos we’ve amassed over the past decade and more, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a few more mountains that could be turned into a themed week of posts. Watch this space….!

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!

City sights on a sunny Sunday

City sights on a snowy sunny Sunday – mountains, birds, the sea, the city, snow, ice, and signs of spring. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe that I live here.

Winter came to the city last night, and to everyone’s surprise, the clouds parted and we were treated to a gorgeous sunny day. Maria and I wandered out for some fresh air, heading down to the beach before grabbing a hot chocolate and walking home for lunch. And a lovely picturesque walk it was too!

1) The beach between Tatlow Park and Trafalgar Street has a nice tidal shelf with a few little raised rocks. This seagull was perfectly placed with the Vancouver skyline behind it, with the peaks of Mt Seymour and the Fannin Range forming the horizon.

2) I love this view of Kits Beach, especially when the tide is out a little like today. The ripples of the incoming waves add some lovely foreground interest – spot the seagull down on the beach too!

3) A couple of the streets offer a great view of Crown Mountain. I liked this one showing the street scene with the mountain as an imposing backdrop. The original version of this image (in a vertical 3:2 ratio) looks much better though. The square crop loses too much for my liking, and I wouldn’t post it alone in this format, but it works well enough for a multi-photo post.

4) I found some witch hazel still in bloom! Yay! This tree is the same one I photographed last year, and it’s a lovely hybrid tree with a mixture of yellow and red “petals”. Most are just one colour of the other, but this one blends the two into its own little spectrum.

5) I was hoping to find a scene like this: a dot of last night’s snow perched on top of some flowers. And with the blue sky behind, how could I resist?

6) Possibly the closest witch hazel tree to home, I hadn’t noticed this one before but it was a gorgeous pure yellow complete with a little icy hat!

Signs of autumn

Spring may be within sight, and I love the spring for the new growth. But I know many people favour autumn for its colour and feel. So this Thursday, let’s throw it back to a few autumnal shots from a couple of years ago.

1. Mushroom season is here – shaggy ink caps, I think.

Mushroom season is here – shaggy ink caps, I think #mushroom #fungi #Vancouver

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I had just left work and was heading to the bus stop when I spotted a couple of mushrooms poking up through the grass. Then another, and more, and then this group which stopped me in my tracks. I took the photo with my phone, and thought about repeating it with one of our SLRs. Alas, not two days later the city had been past with their mowers and cut down every single mushroom on the verge. Mushroom massacre! So I’m really glad I took that chance and grabbed the photo when I did.

2. A sunny thing happened on the way to the Kits Farmer’s Market

It’s always nice when the sun makes an appearance in Vancouver, and today the sun lit up the yellowing leaves on the catalpa trees beautifully. I don’t like catalpas as a rule; there’s something about the colour of the leaves, and the fact that they’re big and floppy just puts me off, plus they produce these sticky slippery bean-pods after the leaves drop. But there’s a short time when a bit of sun catches them just right and all is forgiven.

3. A big big-leaf maple leaf

A big big-leaf maple leaf

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By contrast, I love big-leaf maples! The size of their leaves is incredible and the trees grow all manner of moss and licorice ferns. When my parents visited Vancouver a few years ago, I found a large leaf and handed to my mum who took it home and put it in a frame on the wall 🙂

However, not everyone shares my appreciation of these trees. They’re not popular near buildings as they can rot from the inside and collapse or fall without warning. Water can collect in the boughs where it can cause large branches to rot and fall off. I’ve heard the term “widow-maker” in conversations about big-leaf maples… But without those constraints, I think they’re awesome trees. And the leaves can’t be beaten. I mean, just look at the size of that one!

4. A 21st century Halloween horror!

A 21st century Halloween horror! #halloween #pumpkin #jackolantern

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Aaaaaarrrrrggghhh!!!! What a nightmare, eh? I spotted this pumpkin on the doorstep of an apartment building in Mt Pleasant and couldn’t resist…

Kits Beach

Kits Beach is a 20-minute walk from our apartment. If ever we need a quick dose of outdoors, and don’t feel like taking the bus or driving anywhere, then we walk in the direction of the sea and usually end up by Kits Beach. It’s a great place to catch the low tide, and it’s been our go-to spot for photographing the aurora, at least for 2017 when we were treated to two great displays in May and September. I’ve already written a number of posts about photos taken at or near Kits Beach. What’s one more for Throwback Thursday?

1. Crescent moon at sunset.

Crescent moon at sunset #kitsbeach #moon #beautifulbritishcolumbia

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For a few years I was quite obsessed with taking photographs of the moon in all its phases. These days it takes something more than the moon itself to inspire me to take a photo, such as a colourful sky, or a colour gradient, which is perhaps more likely to catch my eye. I like how the moon is holding on to the blue sky while the sunset tinges the sky pink and orange below it.

2. Admiring the sunset.

We’ve seen quite a few sunsets at the beach over the years. I particularly like the colours in this one, reflected in the blissfully calm water, with Maria walking across the sand to stand and admire the view from the water’s edge.

3. Blustery day at Kits Beach.

In stark contrast to the photo above, a rare windy day whipped up some great waves, their white caps standing out against the bottle-green water. Dark clouds over the North Shore complete the picture. One of my favourite phone photos: not only did it turn out quite well (at least for viewing at Instagram size) but it was a clear example of the best camera for the job is the one you’re carrying.

Stormy (mountain) Monday Blues

Stormy (mountain) Monday blues – Crown Mountain reflected in the mudflats at the blue hour.

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago on Christmas Day as we walked along the sand on Locarno Beach. I was really pleased to get the top of Crown reflected in the still water ponded on the mudflats, something I’ve tried many times before without much success. It wasn’t until afterwards that I really noticed the low cloud hanging in the Capilano River valley, spilling out across the flanks of the enclosing mountains, and adding to the atmosphere of the scene. I had to work around the dust on the sensor of our RX100II, but I had a square crop in mind from the beginning so that was easy.

I came up with the title based on the weather forecast for the beginning of this week, which should surprise no Vancouverite: rain, rain, rain. And today is “Mountain Monday” on Instagram. The title is actually the name of an old blues tune, “Stormy Monday Blues”, of which we have a wonderful recording from 1948. The first couple of lines of the song are:

They call it Stormy Monday
But Tuesday's just as bad

which seemed fitting (given the weather forecast). Of course, with the photo being taken at the start of the so-called “blue hour”, the song naturally popped into my head.

As it happened, today wasn’t as wet as I expected, tomorrow’s forecast has improved, and I even got to see a barred owl chasing crows on the UBC campus. Not bad for a Monday.