Friday, February 1, 2013

Lessons for Friday Skywatch

A road map of branches, a high-rise and a crane formed a delicate ensemble against patches of blue and grey Vancouver sky a week or so ago.    

The next day, a yellow sign on the Cambie Bridge caught a small shaft of late afternoon light, reflecting a golden path across False Creek that climbed up the mossy stones.
That evening and the following one as well, the sky in front of my apartment..
put on a surprise watercolour show..

at the end of days.. 

when the sun had remained hidden behind a solid mask of grey.
Henry Tsang's Welcome to the Land of Light came back to my attention after someone saw one of my old posts and asked permission to use a photo from it.  I love the work, have blogged about it on at least one other occasion and was happy for any excuse to reexamine it.  It occurs to me that the words Mr. Tsang chose could apply to the interaction of Vancouver cultures in a past or present time.  The electric eye, heart, mind, talk and sound could represent the vibrant hum of new arrivals by the shore, with different cultures meeting, showing their wares, and figuring out how to communicate for lucrative trade deals.  

You have same like electric eye and heart mind and talk sound. 
("Maika mitlite kahkwa elektlik eye pe elektlik tumtum pe elektlik wawa latlah")
You live fast like light. ("Maika mitlite hyak kahkwa towagh")
See talk be here there and everywhere at one time. 
("Nanitch wawa mitlite yukwa yawa pe conaway ka kopa ikt laly")

I thought my original photo was poor and offered to try to get some better quality ones.  At first, I thought I would wait for a sunny day, but the fog persisted for so long, I gave up on that idea and took the new pictures with my camera protected by a rain cover.  It was a pleasant surprise to see that the words stood out quite nicely against the grey background.  Some of my favourite thoughts are expressed below.  
"Us make this community good indeed.  You not afraid here."
(Newaika momook okoke town kloshe wawitka.  Maika hao kwass yukwa)

I didn't know where Henry Tsang found those Chinook words.  I knew some had come into common usage (like "skookum") but I wondered if there is anyone alive today who remembers this jargon enough to carry on a conversation, or whether it has been recorded or documented by researchers.  This article says:
"Used to facilitate communication between multiple indigenous cultures, the Chinook Jargon was used in the 19th century in Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska.  It was made up of various spoken languages used by inhabitants of the region (today’s False Creek) and eventually evolved to incorporating French, English and Asian words."   
Finally, I had the idea to write Henry Tsang, and just a couple of hours ago, received this very kind response to my question: "The original text I wrote keeping in mind the (then) upcoming development and master-planning of False Creek North/Concord Pacific Place and their joint venture with Telus to build what they were marketing as "Canada's First Fibre-Optic Community." Then I had my writing translated by Duane Pasco, an artist in Washington State who used to publish a Chinook Jargon newsletter, into the pidgin, and then literally translated back into English. So what you see on the seawall handrail is the second hand versions of the original texts that I wrote."  Well, how exciting to be able to communicate with the artist and to receive such a prompt answer.  Thank you ever so much, Henry Tsang!
I like to think that the words, "Land future it be now" indicate that the people of that time understood the need to take care of the land, although I know False Creek was very polluted for a long time.  Or, perhaps, those words hint of a "power of now" philosophy. 

The words in the photo below refer to the artist's use of a fibre optic cable light under the letters to give them a colourful glow after dark.  
"Greetings. Good you arrive here where light be under land."
My plan is to go back one evening to try and capture that, although I did read in this article that maintaining public art is not easy.  Apparently, even some years ago, corrosion and failing bulbs had caused many of the lights to flicker and fade. 

If success of an art piece can be measured by the extent and quality of thought it has stimulated or pleasure it has provided, then Henry Tsang's "Welcome to the Land of Light" is, to me, a wonderful achievement.
There was only one day in the past ten that could truly be described as sunny.  Black Jack and I took the False Creek Ferry to Granville island. From there we walked to Vanier Park where we hung out for a while before retracing our steps.  The shot below was taken through the doorway of the ferry and between the high-rises as we moved along at a good speed.  That bit of turquoise at the centre is a mural on a dilapidated building at the Granville Bridge exit.  it is amazing to me that the camera gathered together so many sights in one image. 

When we got off the ferry, I was struck by the intricate patterns and lines in this rock at the edge of the water.

We walked along the seawall past the fishing boats to a little pond that we both enjoy.  I like to watch the ducks; Black Jack seems to love to sit on this cement seat overlooking the pond.  I think she was hoping for a treat in this photo, but she was also enjoying the sun's warmth. 

Mallards are so common, it always seems a bit sad that people barely notice them.  These two were enjoying a few minutes of peace until..

this Common Merganser couple swam by.

The drake rose up in anger and there was a bit of a kerfuffle that I mostly missed because my big lens was too close to the action.

It ended as quickly as it had started, and the female climbed up on this rock..

where she proceeded to do what ducks do.  Can you imagine scratching your face with one foot while standing on the other?

We walked on until we reached Vanier Park, where I watched the geese take off and land noisily.  There were gaggles and gaggles of them.  Can one say that?  They rarely spent more than a few minutes in one spot before announcing at the top of their lungs to all who would listen..

that they were going to move a few feet along the waterway.  Geese in Vancouver do not migrate, but it seems to me, their short distances traveled, often in V formation, are a kind of fake migration ingrained from a time of the past.  

This sculpture, titled "The Gate to the Northwest Passage" has been in Vanier Park since I've lived in Vancouver (coming up to 15 years).  Most of the time, I am barely aware of it, but when I do take a moment to look at it, I usually face straight through the opening.  But, on this sunny day, I thought it looked as though it were walking jauntily across the park.  I approached, read its title and took a photograph.

I appreciated it most one day in the summer of 2009 when I saw one of the juvenile Bald Eagles resting on top of it after one of his/her first flights.  Perhaps a different camera caused the metal to appear a rustier orange colour, or perhaps it has continued to weather since then.  As you can see, I gave most of my attention to the eagle.  

This morning, looking at my "walking"  sculpture, I decided to do a little bit of research.  I laughed a little, but also felt sorry for the artist, Alan Chung Hung, when I found this article.  I imagined his feelings must have been hurt when he read these words: 
"A five-member jury headed by former parks superintendent Stuart Lefeaux selected Chung Hung's proposal from a local competition and the Parks Board approved the choice. Gordon Smith, a member of the selection panel, said, "If people think Hung's sculpture is a poor catch, they should have seen the ones that got away."
I thought that Mr. Chung Hung may have long since accepted that the public's response to art is often emotional.  Many are unwilling or unable to take time to explore beyond the surface impressions of new art.  And, I thought that he did have the last laugh since his sculpture has lived on for 23 years, in spite of heavy criticism at the outset.  Then, in the way that googling adventures work, I ended up at Terry Power's flickr site, admiring a photograph that really brought out the best in the sculpture.  I hope you will take a moment to check out this link, as I cannot post it here without permission, and it is truly an example of the kind of photography I aspire to.  Terry Power's words also had quite a profound affect on me:  "I find that taking a photograph of public art can sometimes be a little tricky. Not that it can be tricky to actually take the photograph, or that security guards are going to chase you away, but I tend to feel that the photographer needs to add something to the frame (not literally, of course) to make an image that isn’t just a photo of ‘someone else’s art’." Why had I never thought of that myself? That thought led me to the idea that taking a photograph of someone's art requires a touch of reverence and more than a little awareness that one owes the artist at least the very best work one is capable of doing. Finally, that thought took me to the public art registry where I found that Alan Chung Hung is no longer living though he was only a year older than I am. My heart dropped as I learned that he had died of cancer while traveling back to Vancouver from Hong Kong. Most likely, he had wanted to see his place of birth one more time before he died. And, the final piece of the puzzle, I found these words that brought him back from the dead and into my life: "As I sit in the bush in the morning hours watching the buds grow, I become one of them - grow with them - from energy out of the earth. How strange our life is...we come from earth, return to earth but drawing life from death. I thrive on rule and order...appreciate definitions we make in our cultural history... love fairy tales...fantasies...and illusions flashing across my mind! I am of the earth but growing in a fiery search of myself in contraditions and will be reborn from the ashes of desire." 
Suffice to say that I will never look at "Gateway to a Northwest Passage the same way again, or, for that matter, any other works of art.  I have learned many lessons this morning and I thank my wonderful teachers.
As we walked back to Granville Island to catch the ferry home, I took some time to enjoy the reflections of fishing boats and the busy complexity of the scenes created by the..
Burrard Bridge pillars, the high-rises and the masts and poles extended every which way.

Waiting for the False Creek Ferry to take us home, this seagull hung around at the terminal, sitting in silver-blue waves and reflections cast over the water..

by the little blue boats.

Just as bountiful in grey!
Visiting Boundary Bay for the second time did not yield the blue skies of an earlier trip (shown at the end of this post) but it was every bit as exciting.  I had planned to post most of the pictures in a Wild Bird Wednesday post but have missed yet another deadline.  Perhaps, they will go into tomorrow Camera Critters post.  There are way too many to add here, but i will put just one Snowy Owl with "lips" pursed and eyes half closed to give a taste of the day.

Bill, looking ruggedly handsome.. (I can say that..  right?) 
divided his time between keeping Black Jack happy (mission accomplished)..
and helping me scout out photo opportunities.  As always, I am enormously grateful to him for the day!  There are many more pictures to come of this eagle but for now, I just point out his/her very dark eyes.  So dark, I wondered if s/he had an eye problem, but perhaps, it was just a matter of stained feathers around the eyes.

I include three pictures..

to leave no doubt of Black Jack's..

wild enthusiasm..

and one picture of Henry Wong (on the right) of Broadway Camera fame.  He spends his two free days a week in the outdoors doing what he loves in both his work and play life.  He sold me my camera and I've never stopped being grateful for his expertise, deep enthusiasm for wildlife photography and genuine concern for his customers.  That camera (Nikon D90) has served me for at least four years and has taken thousands and thousands of pictures.  Wherever Henry goes with his camera, he meets friends.  He is truly well known in the Vancouver community.  Thank you, Henry!  
I'll leave you with this series of a heron..  

that floated by..

near the end of our Boundary Bay visit.

It clearly had a story to tell, and so, it seems, do I.  

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and thanks so much for dropping by my blog.  I am posting this to Skywatch Friday, since I at least have the day right :)  and there has been more than a little mention of skies here.  For other skies from around the world, I hope you will take a little time to drop by that most excellent blog meme.  Its extraordinary administrator, Sandy Carlson, is stepping down and the search is on for someone to take her place.  You can leave a comment on her blog if you are interested.  In the mean time, she is owed an enormous debt of thanks for her consistently first-rate work to keep the meme running smoothly.  Thank you, Sandy!!


  1. your skies are gorgeous! your reflections and silver water is like mercury! beautiful birds and ducks throughout. great job on the snowy! but the mallard drake is handsome, too!

  2. What a terrific collection of images. I love the sunset overlooking the city. Quite breathtaking. I love duck photos as well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I was struck by the truly insightful words by Terry Power. In fact, when he is talking about photographing art and says “the photographer needs to add something to the frame (not literally, of course) … ”, this could also easily apply to taking pictures of nature, people and buildings. The image taker as well as the image-maker each has a part to play in how things are perceived.

    Also, the words by artist Alan Chung Hung were moving … I empathize with his thought process. And after seeing your “walking” photo of his work, I can imagine the art not as stationary as it first seemed but rather representing a wonderful shifting gateway ... perhaps to some other realms. :)

  4. I love those orange skies and the Indian quotes! Thanks for your visit and comment

  5. Beautiful captures! It's interesting to read your writing. I loved the orange sky....

  6. What a fabulous series of photos. The colours of the sky are breathtaking. Love the bird photos too.

    Thanks for your visit and comment on my blog :)

  7. Great images of Vancouver. The skies were gorgeous for your camera.

  8. Thanks for this very beautiful post. Your images are gorgeous.

    Thanks for your support of Skywatch and for your kind words.

  9. Wow those shots of the sunset over your apartment are incredible...a very nice newsy post. I feel your blog is the most personal blog with lots of character. I think you love photography as much as I do!