This is a section of the Arthur Erickson designed Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. To be clear, I didn’t know about the architect until just now when I looked him up. But if you’re like me, you’ll recognize his work in other major cities. He even has a blog on Tumblr. Say what?
This makes me realize there are so many things I don’t know. It’s a revelation to learn that things I’ve regularly seen have something in common. Each one is so unusual that I’ve wondered about it, only to become aware of the threads when pointed out.
It makes me wonder how many other things have unseen associations. Intuitively I feel this must be the case on many levels; there are more associations in life than we will ever consciously know. For me, one of the little pleasures in life is the revelation that comes with seeing the bigger picture.
This view of Vancouver is from the convention center. The photo is a composite with the stars added to the sky for effect. I’ve taken this same shot a number of times, so I decided to get a little creative. This view is not possible in the real world.
Photos of stars get overpowered by light pollution from cities. Even though I don’t live in a large city, I run into the same problem back home. Almost everywhere people live, light from the ground interferes with starlight. Fortunately, with image processing tools we can clean up most of it. But there’s no substitute for going somewhere remote and seeing bright stars at night.
Most of the pictures that the astronauts take from the ISS are pointed back at Earth. Personally, I wonder what it is like looking in the other direction. My guess/hope is that there are more stars than can be seen on earth and that the galactic core of the Milky Way is easily visible. I guess the only way to know for sure is to ask an astronaut or, book a flight and see for myself. I’m adding that to the list now.
Walking to the train one morning in Vancouver I noticed this cruise ship at dock. It arrived a few hours earlier and was preparing for another voyage to Alaska. A common site in the summer but nonetheless it looked awesome in the morning light so I took a few photos; this is what I saw in my mind. Let me explain…
I spent a lot of time on this photo to make it look like what you see here. The original photo didn’t look so pretty. It had a lot of distractions, including other boats and a parking lot in the lower right. So I manipulated it to make it look like what I thought I saw. What we perceive is usually different than what we see. In other words, we perceive what we want to see and have a tendency to screen the rest; so this image is now closer to what I thought I saw.
At the time I only noticed the boat, it stood out because it wasn’t there the day before. I also noticed the soft light of the morning sun reflecting on the side. I thought to myself that it was an awesome scene, but when I looked at the image later there were other things I didn’t remember seeing, like the parking lot for instance. Rather than get disappointed and throw it away, it became a challenge for me to see if I could replicate my initial impression.
To my way of thinking the practice of photography is an expression of art. If I just want to record an event I snap a photo with my phone. But “photography” can be more than that. That doesn’t mean it should always be manipulated, but it should tell a story. In this case I did indeed manipulate it so that I could convey the story what I perceived in my mind on that summer morning in Vancouver.
This is another view of Burnaby BC that I took from about ten miles away in downtown Vancouver. I think they refer to it as a bedroom community but that sounds strange; Burnaby is anything but sleepy. There is a lot of construction going on and it seems every time I come back the skyline has changed.
Speaking of skylines, what looks like a hill to the right of the buildings is Central Park, something I posted about recently. It’s not really a hill, what you see is the contour of the tall cedars against the skyline.
This type of view is what I call my rule of tenths. In photography there is a “rule of thirds” which recommends segmenting the composition into thirds. I use that a lot but sometimes I feel that the sky deserves more than just a third, in cases like this I give it about nine-tenths.
The reason I do that is my own sense of perspective. I have a habit of drawing back from a subject, be it in photography or life, and trying to see things in relation to how it fits in. With something as big and complex as a city, it helps to get a little distance. At least that’s my theory; it works for me, …usually.
This is a multi-exposure composite of downtown Vancouver. I took this while staying on a high floor at the Marriott Delta Vancouver. My Marriott profile indicates a preference for a high floor. About half of the time, depending on availability, I end up with an amazing view like this.
To get this I setup the camera on a tripod next to the window and left it there for about twelve hours. I took exposures in the afternoon, evening and then upon waking in the morning. I also used a lens skirt so that there wouldn’t be any reflections on the window coming from my room. Later I blended them all together to form this composite image.
The technique is my attempt to counteract my indecision. Often, the images I post are just one of many that I took of the same thing. I suppose I could post them all but that would get boring, so I pick just one. That’s where indecision comes in. I’m left with ten or twenty images of the exact same thing, but in different light.
A composite allows me to pick and choose my favorite aspects of each photo and combine then into one image. It’s a little like seafood gumbo; it can be tasty if all the ingredients are nicely blended. And for desert, I get to have my cake and eat it too.
The last photo I posted was from Central Park in New York City. I’m a little amused because I just realized that this is from a different Central Park; this one was taken in Canada. This is from a Central Park in Burnaby BC, near Vancouver.
Like it’s New York namesake, the Canadian version is in the heart of a sprawling urban setting with towering buildings and residences on all sides. However this park is densely populated with tall spruce trees. As soon as you walk a few meters, the sounds of the city are shut out by the thickness of the forest. Everything changes from one extreme to another.
On the outer paths like this, morning commuters walk to and from the train stations on their way to work. Deeper inside there is a rich diversity of flora and fauna. One thing that strikes me is the boldness of the squirrels. They’ll stand before you on the path demanding food. It seems that people feed the creatures because it shows in their behavior. A local also told me that songbirds will land on your outstretched hand near one of the ponds here.
Most people think of mountains and the ocean when you mention British Columbia. But even in the heart of its biggest urban areas are settings like this that keep city dwellers connected to nature. I suppose you could say the same thing for the New York version.
This is a panorama of eastern Vancouver taken just after sunrise. It’s a perspective I had from the twenty-second floor of the Vancouver Delta Marriott. Actually I took this through windows next to the elevators. I was waiting for the elevator to go down to the lobby. When I saw this I decided not to get on, instead I went back to my room to grab a camera. Hopefully the people in the elevator didn’t mind too much.
If I’m not mistaken the big building in the foreground is called The W. If you zoom in you’ll see a big sign of the letter W to the right of it. Several years ago I went to the top with a friend of mine, Andrew Gerrard. Using his magic he got us access to the top where much to my surprise there was a W-shaped hot tub full of beautiful women. But of course I was only there for the scenery.
On the left side of this image is Gastown and one the right is Chinatown. And off in the distance are the towering apartment buildings of Burnaby. It seems every time I come back there are one or two new towers on the skyline.
This image is comprised of about six high-resolution photos so it contains an amazing amount of detail, especially a full resolution version that’s nearly seven feet wide. I love looking at the details in images like this; I can spend hours in a gallery exploring all of the interesting little facets. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we hung this on the wall of that elevator I walked away from? At least those people could have something pretty to look at when someone decides not to get on.
Pictures from big cities like this are a mini examination of society. The scale shrinks individuals and we are left with dwellings, their architecture and proximity. That allows us to examine like an archeologist, learning about a society by studying its pathways and structures.
I took this from Vancouver Lookout which is one of the must see attractions. Even though it’s mainly for tourists it didn’t deter me from spending a couple of hours here taking shots in all directions. This one in particular I took with a wide 12mm lens. It causes the buildings to appear splayed in different directions. It may not be realistic but it creates a sense of movement to the scene.
Examining these scenes teaches us about the inhabitants at a collective level. At a personal level they teach us nothing. We cannot know someone’s heart by which floor they exit the elevator. However we start to understand a person by looking into his or her eyes, the windows of the soul. Maybe there is a parallel in cityscape scenes; the windows of buildings act as portals into the soul of a city. A million windows lead to a million individuals that combined are the essence of a place.
I am drawing a long bow, but it’s an idea, that what makes a scene like this interesting is our invisible connection to the people behind the windows. I’m sure there’s more to it, but it’s an idea I have and for now and I might just take that with a cup of coffee and call it a day.
Manipulating scenes like this is a departure from normal, it’s not real so our minds are free to play a little; we each read into it something different.
When in Vancouver I will often pass through this station. I can never get enough photos in and around trains. Among other things they are studies in leading lines.
I sat at the end so I could look back as we pulled away.
I’ve created a mirror effect, which for me is a metaphor for a choice between two paths, one direction or the other. When we are children we have so much in common; as we mature we diverge in different ways depending on a million things.
We choose one path or another every single day, and often we spend time wondering if we made the right choice. Sometimes we make difficult choices and then wonder about them later. Life is setup in a way that forces us to make decisions; we have no choice but to make choices. Not choosing is still a choice. Maybe the lesson is not so much the decision but how we deal with it after the fact.
This image brings all that to mind, probably because I spend more time than I should thinking about decisions I’ve made. This is my metaphor for rushing through life’s stations, making choices, looking back yet trying not to look back.
This image is based on the Vancouver terminal, or YVR as its also known. Each time I travel here I am intrigued by the construction. The architects created an exoskeleton with which they hung the functional necessities of the terminal. The form and function are indistinguishable from one another. I’ve noticed this elsewhere and it represents an evolution in how we build.
In the software industry we employ patterns to do basic tasks. Patterns are the analogs of load-bearing structures used in construction. Software has always drawn parallels from construction, and soon I believe it will occur the other direction.
We are evolving into beings that live as much in software as brick and mortar. The trend is accelerating and the boundaries between virtual and physical are becoming more tenuous each day.
The Matrix struck a chord because it explored merging of physical and software realities. I believe we are on some of the same trajectories proposed in the movie. In another generation virtual reality will be as commonplace as a cell phones are now.
When I see physical structures I think of their corollaries in software. Likewise when I build software I borrow construction techniques and terminology. Now opposite is beginning to occur with construction rendering which is an offshoot of 3D printing. We have begun to build physical structures with software as seen on this YouTube. We are now on the verge of yet another revolution in combining software and construction. The merging between software, virtual reality and construction and manufacturing are all but disappearing before our eyes.