Vancouver is Completely Fogged

No I am not talking about the insanity of Vancouver’s real estate… the entire city was enveloped by fog for the past 3 days

I’ve been real lazy lately with photography/maintaining this website but I’ve literally waited an entire year for the fog to roll in (for a specific Vancouver skyline photograph).  I packed my camera gear, threw them in the trunk, and embarked on a journey to North Vancouver during rush hour for sunset photos in the fog.

Some readers may question my judgement of 1) willingly driving across bridges in Vancouver rush hour, and 2) you can’t see the sunset during foggy conditions.  I will reassure these readers that I am not a complete idiot because I can fully defend my photography rationale, but at the same time I am also a dimwit for driving during rush hour in Vancouver.  My grand photography idea was to drive up Cypress Mountain to the Cypress Bowl Lookout (in my opinion one of the best viewpoint of downtown Vancouver) where I would be above the fog… and hopefully the top of buildings/Lion’s Gate Bridge would protrude through the fog… basking in the golden sunset light.

“life is hard and full of disappointment” – Famous author John Green… would be an accurate assessment of my photography journey (P.S. I didn’t read any of John Green’s romantic novels but he is a hilarious personality on YouTube).  It was 3:30 PM when I left the house and what would normally be a 40-45 minute drive took an hour and twenty minutes (which really wasn’t too bad) and I missed the sunset by mere minutes… which didn’t matter because even though I was above the fog it was so thick that the entire downtown was engulfed and everything was just… white (like a really bad pneumonia on chest X-ray).

I waited for another 15 minutes at the lookout and once darkness started to set in Vancouver surprised me yet again.  Even though it was completely covered with fog Vancouver’s lights diffused through the thick fog with patches and streaks of colorful illumination… like watercolor across a blank white canvas.  It was like a static aurora borealis that sat beneath me!  As a bonus my cheap new-ish zoom lens was able to capture some tall buildings (maybe in Burnaby?) peaking through the fog in the distance!  I imagined a specific photograph in my mind and I left with a completely different capture… I guess that’s just life in general.  One day I will get that elusive photograph the way I envisioned perfectly… I hope.

P.S. #1  It took me 2 hours to get back home which was stupid, I showed up to my rec league playoff match at half time!

P.S. #2  I love North Vancouver as many of my photographs/hikes are from there (Lighthouse Park, St. Mark’s Summit, Stawamus Chief, etc)… I even pondered about moving to North Vancouver but that idea was quickly squashed due to these traffic nightmares!

P.S. #3  We won our playoff match and we advanced to the finals!  (I did my usual contribution to the team’s success… which was minimal lol)


Classy, Clean, Charismatic Chicago

Step aside New York City and San Francisco… Chicago is the best well-rounded metropolis in the USA!

There are 3 metropolises that I’ve always wanted to visit in the US: New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago… and finally I’ve visited all three!  It is important to note that while Chicago is my favorite city of the big 3 (and I love NYC & San Fran too), my opinions are derived from limited exposure of each cities as a tourist/photographer.

Long time readers of this blog know that I generally travel at a more leisurely pace compared to most tourists (partly because I enjoy photography and photography takes time & patience), but we were downright LETHARGIC in terms of pacing throughout this adventure!  The main objective of this trip was to get some much needed R & R and we also had our 15 month old daughter in tow (thanks mom & dad for babysitting our 3 year old back at home!!)… The truth be told we probably visited in 4 days what normal visitors could cover in a day and a half!… thus… instead of sharing my detailed itinerary I will simply offer my photographs (to the right) and random impressions of Chicago below:

  • Chicago is the cleanest metropolitan I’ve ever been to.  From the moment we arrived at O’Hare International Airport… the train… the city… even its back alleys… are garbage free.  This is a high praise coming from a Vancouverite…. For some reason I expected the city to be more rugged and its cleanliness really surprised me.
  • DEEP DISH PIZZA!!!! (especially from Lou Malnati’s)
  • Both NYC and Chicago have an amazing metro system (the trains even look similar!) and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that they are both charismatic but they cannot be further apart:  NYC’s metro system is charismatic in a sense that it is rugged/no BS/all business; while Chicago’s elevated metro system is elegant/well-maintained/industrial.  The elevated trains are more than just a mode of transport in this town… It is part of Chicago’s architecture/urban landscape.
  • All the tourist attractions (even parks) are closed at 11 PM and it makes night photography difficult
  • Unlike Vancouver where all buildings look similar (floor-to-ceiling glass), Chicago’s skyline is infinitely more appealing due to its diversity and variations.
  • There seems to be an additional tax for everything in Chicago… sweetened beverage tax? Seriously?
  • Every fourth car on the street is either an Uber or a Lyft
  • Homelessness:  I am sure homelessness is an issue for most metropolitan cities but Chicago seems to have a higher-than-most panhandler population (they are mostly friendly and not intrusive)
  • Chicagoans are a bunch of friendly people!  We’ve had locals stop and ask whether we would like a family picture taken at the Riverwalk, or locals giving us directions when Google Maps/GPS went wonky, etc.
  • Chicago is nicknamed the Windy City for a reason… pack a windbreaker!

Stanley Park and Waterfront After Dark

Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s major tourist attraction… so what does it look like when all the hustling & bustling dies down?

There were lots of interest generated when I posted “False Creek After Dark” so I thought I would make it a series called “Vancouver after Dark”!  This photography project required a little bit more work but it is awesome to undertake challenges outside my comfort zone once in a while.  I focused my efforts around Stanley Park and its surroundings on this outing.

My wife + kids were visiting family on Vancouver Island for 3 days (and I was scheduled to work all 3 days) = perfect opportunity to progress my photography project.  I packed my photography gears in the trunk and I went off to locations straight after my 12-hour work shifts.  I didn’t get home until 1 AM on both nights which effectively meant I worked from 7AM-7PM + 7PM-1AM = 18 hours days… but I enjoyed every moment of it!

On the first evening I wanted to capture the entire Vancouver skyline and the Lion’s Gate Bridge at night so Stanley Park was the natural destination.  Traffic congestion forced me to adjust my plans a little because I didn’t want to waste the beautiful sunset sitting inside my car…  so I got out of my car slightly before Stanley Park and I photographed Coal Harbor instead.  The Coal Harbor Marina during sunset allowed for some tremendous photo-op that I stumbled upon serendipitously!  I spent the next 4 hours (blue hour to midnight) on the eastern seawall in Stanley Park and it reminded me why I love Vancouver so much… despite its traffic congestion, housing crisis, and a plethora of other issues.  (P.S. Mosquitoes were vicious that night!!! I think I can literally say that I poured my blood and sweat into making these photographs haha…)

On the second evening I had significantly less energy compared to the first night so I decided to be less ambitious with my photography locations: False Creek during sunset and Canada Place/Convention Center late into the evening.

I had way more locations for night photography planned initially… I guess we’ll have to wait for part 3 sometime!  If you like my photos feel free to share it with your friends and help my photo blog grow by clicking that Facebook like button 😛

False Creek after Dark

False Creek remains one of the favorites amongst locals and visitors alike… so what does it look like when all the hustling & bustling dies down?

False Creek is widely considered one of the most picturesque locations in Vancouver and thus it is usually busy from dusk until well past dawn (especially on a non-rainy day)… So what does it look like after midnight when most people are asleep?

As I’ve said many times in the past I enjoy photography because I find it therapeutic to an otherwise fast-paced life (even more so now with two little munchkins).  There is an indescribable sense of serenity when my mind is solely focused on creating beautiful compositions via combinations of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  I actually make it a priority to have an after-midnight photography session wherever I travel (and stay tuned to my photography project: “Cities after Dark”!) but for some reason I’ve never attempted it in the city I live in!

A golden opportunity presented itself yesterday: My wife and kids were out of town for two days + no work = Immediately made plans with my buddies (who happen to live around False Creek) to chill-lax over playoff hockey.  I left their place shortly before midnight and basically photographed Science World & Granville Island to my heart’s content.  On a side note I came across a couple interesting personalities during my photo shoot on the seawall… it was surprising how a few words of encouragement and compassion can impact someone who fell on hard times.  In general the stretch of seawall between Granville Island to Science World is extremely safe after dark… but for the photographers out there I would think twice before going to the Stanley Park seawall after dark



Perseid meteor shower

Perseid Meteor Shower 2016

Perseid meteor shower

Meteor near the horizon!

Perseid Meteor Shower fail

Is this for real? We were in the cold for 1.5 hours for this????? What happened to the best meteor shower of the decade?

Although Perseid Meteor shower happens annually it was blasted all over my social media feeds about how 2016 is THE YEAR to watch it.  In 2013 I went to Porteau Cove (one of the best star-gazing spot within a reasonable drive from Vancouver) and it was spectacular… so when my buddy texted me to see if I wanted to go my response was an automatic YES!

We got to Porteau Cove shortly after midnight and to my surprise it was closed off due to the ridiculous amount of people there.  We drove along the sea-to-sky highway and finally settled for this random spot on the side of the highway.  Highway traffic would pass by periodically and their headlights made it almost impossible for our eyes to adjust to the starry sky (let alone any salvageable photographs).  I don’t know whether it was because my eyes didn’t adjust properly to the night sky but we saw very little meteors, and 1.5 hours later we’ve had enough and packed up….. next time we will head to Porteau Cove extra early… actually screw this maybe there will be no next time haha.

Parliament Building BC sunset

Victoria: the Quaint Picturesque Capital

Since having my second child I’ve put my hobbies on hold (thus this website still seem like a work in progress haha) and I’ve been MIA for the past 2 months or so.  My wife and I grew up in Victoria and most of our families still call Victoria home… On our most recent trip back home I was able to sneak out for an evening photo session with just me and my trusty D7000 (luckily the weather god was on my side too!).

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia while Vancouver is the biggest and most well known city (I worked in the tourism industry throughout high school and it seemed like a significant portion of tourists assume Vancouver as the capital of BC).  Victoria is not connected to the mainland of British Columbia so in order to get there one must travel 1) by sea (BC Ferries: Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay)  or 2) by air (Helijet or other float planes departing from downtown Vancouver).  Most commoners like myself choose option 1 and it takes around 3 hours to get from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria (check ferry schedule here).  I highly recommend taking your own vehicle as public transit in Victoria is… sub-optimal.

Most tourist attractions in Victoria are within walking distances from each other and they are clustered around “Inner Harbor” with the exception of a beautifully curated garden called “the Butchart Gardens” (where I spent an entire summer selling flower seeds from its gift shop so you probably won’t find me there anytime soon, or ever… but it is worth a visit IMHO).  Victoria is absolutely stunning visually anytime of the year but I would visit during spring/summer because that’s when its tourist charm is at its peak… don’t worry even at peak tourist season Victoria is still a small city and parking/traffic is still negligible when compared to any major cities.  At the end of the day if you have a couple days on your itinerary Victoria really is a must-visit (2 days 1 night should be sufficient as it is a small city after all)… but be forewarned, when the speed limit says 40 km/hr Victorians really drive below 40 km/hr.

Quick random thoughts: Consider visiting the Parliament Building, the Empress Hotel for its famous afternoon tea if that is your thing, and the Royal Museum nearby.  Also consider visiting the inner harbor during evenings (summer time only) for some truly talented street performers.  Take a casual stroll through Government Street and downtown nearby (for a quick cheap bite consider “Red Fish Blue Fish” for some tasty fish and chips/chowder by the water).  Visit Butchart Gardens either on the way to Victoria or on the way back to the ferries (2 hrs should be sufficient unless you are  a garden/flower aficionado).  Skip Undersea Gardens unless you really love the opportunity to maybe spot an ordinary octopus…

Granville Island HDR

Granville Island Sunset

Almost every metropolis has a tourist attraction similar to Granville Island in Vancouver (Pike Place Market in Seattle, St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, etc).  Granville Island Market contains many established specialty shops from seafood vendors, to butchers, to cheese shops, to coffee shops.  Granville Island Market is not a unique pseudo-farmer’s market in my opinion and even though I would highly recommend visitors to pay a visit to Granville Island, I think Granville Island Market is not THE attraction visitors should prioritize… (I will do a proper post highlighting Granville Island at a later date)

I have always wanted to take photos of the Granville Street Bridge.  I waited for golden hour with some nice clouds in the sky and quickly biked to Granville Island with my camera gear (and I was not disappointed! Look at the golden steel beams instead of its usual industrial grey!)