Your journey may not involve travelling the world or an excursion across Russia. you might see your journey to the post office every Monday as particularly relevant – or the journey from your bed to the kitchen in the morning. Note the journeys you go on regularly and reflect upon them.
Now photograph them. Remember to aim for consistency in your pictures.
My main journeys consist of travelling to and from work – approximately 16 kilometres each way, trips to the supermarket which is part of my daily commute route. I wasn’t too keen on photographing out of the car window for one of these trips as buses and other traffic usually obscure the views, so I decided to take a walk around the block that I live on and photograph the pathways leading up to the houses. I did not include the houses that did not have foot paths leading from the sidewalk or off their driveways. For consistency I stood at the centre of the pathway on the sidewalk, but for some of the houses where there pathway curved off from the driveway I stood so that the pathway would be centre to my frame, so that all the pathways are basically centred in my frames.
Its quite an eclectic block of houses. Most of the homes were built in the mid-60’s which classifies as a heritage house in Vancouver! But some development has taken place in the ten years that we have lived in this area and large new houses are gradually taking the place of the older houses and of course pushing up our house values (not to mention the property taxes!). Houses are built with wood here in Canada so are extremely easy to knock down. One can go to work in the morning and the house on the corner will still be standing. Upon return it will be nothing but a pile of rubble.
For this exercise we are to chose a view point and write down everything we see over the period of one hour.
I decided to go to the harbourside near the Auto Mall and do my observations there. The area has lawns in front of the beach with scattered built in picnic tables along the way. It overlooks the Vancouver Harbour and DownTown and also the Mosquito Marina boatyard. Its an area where commerce, industry and recreation all converge. There are also bike trails and dog walking parks so there is quite a bit of foot traffic that passes by. I landed up writing up four pages in my notebook but could have written more as I missed somethings while writing. I was quite amazed at the amount of activity that takes place there.
There are clearly lots of mini projects that one can pull out of this observation exercise. Because of the expanse of the harbour (it takes 15 minutes to cross by seabus), I would obviously zoom in on certain objects and have done so if one looks at the final photo of the cruise ship exiting the harbour. Getting closer is not really an option, unless I was to rent a boat and actually go around the harbour, but that is not in my budget at all. I photographed using my DSLR and had no problems.
Below is a bullet point summary of what I saw.
Immediately upon arrival I noticed a boxer dog come bounding up to some people sitting at the picnic table closest to us, with his own trying to catch up to him. He led her quite a merry dance and bounded over to another group sitting on the grass also having a picnic and ended up investigating their late lunch.
People sitting at picnic tables eating lunch
Two girls carrying strange beach bats that had a net surface.
Numerous people walking their dogs. Some were couples, some families, some looked like brothers, others were same-sex friends
A couple sitting on the rocks talking
Barges at anchor loaded with sand, gravel and containers
Cruise ship docked at Canada Place
Bayliners going out of the harbour
Couples walking (numerous)
One family, husband and wife walking, while their two boys rode their bright grass green bikes. The one child had huge training/balancing wheels on his bike and by observing his actions I think he may have been autistic or handicapped.
Flags on the boats and on the boat houses
The ocean current was quite fast flowing and the water was choppy
A boy kicking his ball with his mother
Seaplane landing (numerous times)
Seaplane flying overhead
Seabus coming into Lonsdale Quay harbour. The seabus turns straight around and heads back to DownTown, so there is a crossing from both directions every 15 minutes.
A grandmother kicking a ball to her grandson
Picnic tablecloths flapping in the wind
Long shadows from people and trees
Pleasure boats crossing the harbour (numerous times)
People packing up their picnic and leaving their space under the tree
Couples walking hand in hand (I was quite pleasantly surprised to observe that over the course of the hour there were probably more 50+ year olds walking hand in hand than there were of the younger generation). This could be a potential project.
Single people walking by (too numerous to mention).
New fast ferry enters the harbour. At $80 per crossing to the island its just too expensive to go for a jaunt.
Cormorant sitting on the log circle near the boathouses
People on bicycles of all kinds – mountain bikes, road bikes, retro bikes and even a unicyle went past.
Man dressed in black sitting at picnic table with his bike – also black – propped up against the table.
Camp chair behind him.
Labrador running around on the grass, pauses to pee.
Elderly couple return to their car next to me. The gent hands her down off the pavement so thoughtfully. He is hunched over, wearing blue sweater.
Woman in brown frilly skirt with walking stick and female companion who is carrying a dog poop bag
A white motorbike parks next to me. The rider is wearing a white/black houndstooth check jacket with shiny black helmet. The rider is a young girl. She locks her bike with some difficulty and then walks onto the grass in front.
Young man with a cup of coffee walks by
Little boy explores the rocky embankment, while his grandmother stands watching him from the top.
The motorbike rider comes and sits on the pavement in front of her bike.
A mother and daughter (possibly – they looked related) walk by with their dog and a cup of coffee.
The motorbike rider removes her jacket to reveal a teal green/blue floral shirt underneath and puts it on again.
A man with a doberman with red collar and heavy chain lead walks by.
A cormorant swims in the ocean.
A woman with a retriever goes by
A man and woman on bikes fly past.
A man and woman, walk to the rocky embankment, look at the view and stroll slowly on.
Two women with a pekinese dog walk past. One is Asian, the other has red hair.
A couple and a dog sit under the palm tree.
A couple with an Alsatian dog that is soaking wet and off lead go past
Two boys and a girl carrying balls and water bottles go past.
A man on a bike with a baby trailer followed by his wife also on a bike ride past.
Man, woman and son walking two dogs – poodle and a pug.
Yellow cranes at Lonsdale Quay
White cranes for the new development next to the Quay
Man with red bottle like glasses and strange haircut strides past with a Walkman.
Seagulls fly past.
Cruise ship reverses from its mooring at Canada Place.
Man under the palm tree picks up a skateboard and starts shaking it at the girl with him. Looks like they are having an argument, throws his hands into the air. Whiffs of marijuana come from that direction.
Little boy belonging to the family that was picnicking in front of me is crying because he has stepped on a thorn. He sits down and then throws a tantrum when his mother tries to remove the thorn.
The wind has picked up some more and the swells are increasing on the water.
A rubber dinghy roars past the barge in front, turns and roars back to the boathouses.
The cruise ship has turned and is preparing to leave the harbour.
Where would you choose to do a project on this scale given the chance? What would you choose as your subject matter? What worlds would you like to create?
I have often thought of some of the photographic roads trips that I would like to do if I had time on my side and one would be a trip along the Fraser River Canyon in British Columbia, stopping at all the tiny towns and photographing buildings in their main street. I do remember stepping into an interesting bar that resembled something from the wild west, with its worn plank floors and swing doors. The old buildings that the beaver hunters used as trading posts would also be interesting.
Another trip that I would like to do is to go into the prairies and photograph the old grain towers and mills.
I am interested in old buildings, so as young as this country is (just turned 150 this July) I would try and document as much of that type of architecture or way of life because it is fast disappearing.
How often do you see people walking and reading their texts or on the train and reading their tablet rather than enjoying the view? What are we missing when we do that?
When I emigrated to Vancouver I was so astounded by people’s inattention to the fantastic view and scenery that surrounds this city and that was pre-smartphone or tablet days! The view is stupendous and going home on the bus every day I would marvel at the slight differences that were apparent. The view would never be the same two days in a row, yet my fellow commuters would be stuck with their heads in a book. When smartphones and readers arrived on the scene many years later, people stopped talking to each other on the bus. Before that you could still strike up a conversation with a stranger and enjoy an entertaining commute. Now everyone is too preoccupied with that small little device which now rules people’s lives.
What are we missing when we do that, the brief asks? Well we’re missing out on God’s creation for a start. We’re missing seeing the red sunset at night foretelling a glorious day for the following; we’re missing seeing the first snowfall of the season; we’re missing the snow turning pink at sunset, with the reflection in all the glass towers of Downtown. We’re missing the strange and comical interactions of our fellow man in the streets; the protests; the cherry blossoms … I could go on and on, but basically we are missing life as it passes us by. We are missing moments that we can never recapture.