Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Perfect Postcard

Vancouver has gone through considerable and at times very dramatic changes over the past 25 years. Ask any of the old timers and they will peg Expo 86 as the seminal moment in our history that moved Vancouver onto the world stage and let slip the winds of change.

Perhaps the most dramatic change has been to the architectural look and feel of the city itself. Slowly Vancouver has morphed a unique skyline that it can claim as its own. What was once frumpy and pretentious pre-post-modern '60s shtick has, thankfully, been updated into one of the most stunning profiles in Canadiana.

I arrived in Vancouver 5 years after the close of Expo and already the downtown skyline had begun a radical transformation. The change has been most dramatic in what was once the grounds of Expo itself. For most of the decade following Expo the area on the north east corner of False Creek (an inlet in the south east corner of the city) was nothing more than a huge empty lot. 20 years after Expo however this region has been almost completely transformed and now includes one of the coolest mixes of 21st century urban architecture on the planet. Cool enough in fact that Vancouver and what has become known as Yaletown often acts as a stand-in for movie studios looking for a backdrop that gives a nice near-future look to their films.

Given the architectural splendor all around me I'm needless to say searching for the perfect postcard shot of my home town. And, being a bit of slacker, I've decided to replicate what worked in the past before I branch out and do something new.

After all, 'derivative' takes less work right?

Well, not always. As it's turning out even though I have the image I want to replicate finding the angle where it was shot from has turned out to be bit of a struggle.

Here's the image that, as close as I can guess, was taken a few years following Expo-86. My hunch is that it was taken during the spring of 1988 or 1989. My goal then is to find this location and replicate the shot as it is today.

I had this image in my mind's eye four weeks back when I drove over to the middle south part of False Creek. My goal then was to find the matching angle and get the image needed to do one of those funky That Was Then This Is Now comparisons for this blog.

However, after a few hours of roaming the west and mid south shore of False Creek and finding some great and non-derivative angles of downtown Vancouver I had gathered loads of postcard material but not the exact image I had charged myself with finding.

My quest has just begun then and once the weather gets back to it's "regular programming (read civilized) I'm taking a hard copy of this picture and heading out to what I'm pretty sure is the spot it was taken from. The south east corner of False Creek is my guess.

Stay tuned. My guess is the Before and After images are going to be just this side of Night and Day.

Global Warming?

For the past two weeks Vancouver has been treated to some of the most extreme weather the city has seen in years. First it was the November winds and rains that at their peak turned much of the North Shore mountains into muck.

Newton was right in that muck tends to travel downhill.

A gravitationally unfortunate scenario for 900,000 Vancouverites - myself included. What was 'downhill' in this case was our main water shed. What was normally crystal clear and sparkling mountain fed tap water turned into a brown murky soup that came bundled with a boil water advisory that lasted a week and a half. To be honest I've used bottled water since the day I moved into the West-End but the cats prefer the tap water (cats, go figure) and forget having a warm comforting bath when the water looks like someone decided to .... well, you get the idea. Yellow - mellow. Brown - flush it down. Shudder.

Last Sunday, the day before the boil water advisory was finally lifted (Woot! Welcome back to the first world!), the south west coast of British Columbia experienced a "Perfect Storm". Frozen air from the Arctic that had been creeping down the valleys of the BC interior for several days met up with what we affectionately call the Pineapple Express. The two systems had a nice meteorological group hug and blanketed 2,5 million in snow. The Pineapple Express is this torrent of moist, warm southerly air that roars in off the Pacific and gives Vancouver and Seattle much of our winter rain. By itself the Pineapple is a weather phenomena that's all well and good. In particular it's the source of the majority of our drinking water. ... Which is a good thing. ... All that it asks is that you get used to 4 months or so of a near constant drizzle.

When the Pineapple Express bumps into an air mass that's 10' C below zero however ....

Always the optimist I've naturally found the photo opportunities the past few days many and varied.

The first photo in this post is one taken of nearly the identical spot used in the second photo included in my last blog entry. The only difference between then and now being the radical shift from a hazy and lazy fall climate to one that I travelled far and long to get away from.

To the right is one of my favorite apartment window angles and was one that created a shot I took just under two years ago that I've since used for one of my Christmas cards this year. This recent image was a 25 second exposure of the same angle with the orange lights of the city at night giving the composition a nice warm/cold "what the hell's wrong with this picture?" dichotomy.

Brrrr .... Making things even more exciting for us wet coast - winter wimps has been the arrival of sub-zero temperatures and enough of a wind to create a -15'C to -20'C wind chill, ... during the day.

Undaunted by suddenly finding myself flashing back to living in an Ontario winter I ventured out to the Burrard St. bridge this morning to capture some down-town Vancouver images. Here's a post card view of Sunset Beach, the West-End skyline and the North Shore mountains snuggled in the frozen water particulate that most Canadians refer to as snow. We however usually, and laughingly to be honest, refer to it as someone else's problem. :)

As always if you'd like to see a larger view of the image just click on it.

From the forecast ahead it sounds like I'll have at least another week of winter photo ops which, as ironic as it might sound, is actually a very good thing for British Columbia.

A critical problem that global warming has caused for us here in BC is that for the past decade our winters have been mild enough to let the indigenous pine beetle survive the winter chill. Normally the freezing cold winters would kill enough of the beetle larvae (over-wintering in the skin of pine trees) to keep them in check. However, the warm winters of the past decade have let these pests run rampant and as a result an area the size of Prince Edward Island has been decimated. It's a monumental tragedy made all the more apocalyptic if you fly across the coastal mountains. Seeing large swaths of dead forest from 25,000 feet up makes hordes of locusts almost seem like a good idea. Hopefully this Arctic freeze will kill enough of the pests to make a difference in their advance next spring.