I was out in the Vancouver, BC area, and saw that I could get on a ” sunset cruise”, on a day that was absolutely beautiful outside. I didn’t know what a sunset cruise was about, exactly, but if it was anything like the name implied, then it was going to definitely be something worth experiencing. I had already been to the waterfront, and I didn’t really think that it was all that exciting, but someone told me that a cruise like that would be the ultimate relaxer, you would ride off into the sunset, on a boat. The interesting part was that people told me the harbor comes to life under that sunset. I grabbed my camera in excitement, but more importantly, I REALLY needed to relax my body, and I wasn’t sure I’d be up for taking any damn photos, at the point either. I had just walked FOREVER in Vancouver, didn’t even bother to catch a cab, and got one hell of a workout, so the body needed to chill for an hour or two. It was now time to wind down, relax, and this idea of a Sunset Cruise was something definitely worth doing. I checked the weather, which normally never complies with my desires when I travel, but this time it did. I had not yet meditated, for the day, so it was definitely a good opportunity to do that, above deck, as I was starting to think that the cruise was a little boring. I meditated and by accident, fell asleep, which is rare for me to do, but I was beat, after 14 non-stop-limited-sleeping days crossing Canada. I was hoping that the cruise wasn’t so boring that people mistook being bored to sleep, fore actually being relaxed. lol The cruise has great live music below, and excellent food, so that set the mood of calm for me, but that scenery wasn’t doing it for me, just yet. I kept returning to the deck because I started to see some possible interesting scenery about the harbour, here and there. That sun looked really promising though, here and there, because it was KILLING my eyes, being too damn bright for so late in the day.
I saw the famous Brockton Point lighthouse, which is over 100 years old, but that was so small, that surely wasn’t going to be a good scene in the sunset. So I looked around hard for scenery I hoped I could get to POP when the sunset comes around, and although the skies were clear and the sun was going strong, everything looked so bland around. Then I realized, wait, I am on a BOAT! It’s wobbling and rocking all of the time, it was getting a little tricky to get exactly what I wanted to frame with all of that motion. I love a photo challenge, but I also had to consider that I didn’t control the boat nor the landscape so something I wanted to see in the future sunset might not be as I imagined, mainly by not being in the position I want to see it when the boat came back to that area. The other thing was I was glad that I was basically born to be on boats, because doing what I was doing was making some of my partners with me, a bit sick from motion sickness. So they quit early on in the cruise. The other possible problem was that motion on the boat was going to be a challenge if the light wasn’t going to plentiful enough at some point. How could I get clear shots of something way off in the distance, without ample lighting, and on top of that, I’m constantly moving??! Uhhh I didn’t know how good I could perform with that low light, with the lens I had (Sony SEL 18-200m, 3.5-6.3F), but we would find out very soon, and either be incredibly pissed at myself, or proud of the task at hand. 7 times out of 10, I’m happy with what I took, which is good considering that I don’t plan a damn thing in photography, and move entirely on however I feel at the time I have a camera in hand. So I thought I’d have a bad day photographically, but relaxation wise, I was just getting in the mood.
I just closed my eyes again for a while, took in that breeze because the harbour wasn’t showing life yet, then I wondered whether or not I just got robbed of my money, and the possibility of being cheated out of this sunset beauty stuff everyone played up to me so much, prior. I had a few more drinks, the fellas went below deck after giving up, but I stayed on the hunt, while the sky remained pretty clear and perfectly blue,… still, everything remained MEH.. By now, the sun was directly in my face, yet there seemed to not be any life in the harbor still, colors weren’t popping out around me yet, and it was getting pretty cold suddenly. I was still determined though, I started to look around for possible things to keep a mental marker on, when the light changed up. In minutes, some light clouds came over the sky, on 1 side of the harbour, dulling the blue skies just beyond them. So now there really wasn’t anything interesting about anything. I dozed off again and woke up to people screaming about a damn bridge. I looked up and it was the Lion’s Gate Bridge! I finally got to see it up close and personal! It also didn’t pop much, given that it was green on a blue/blue-green backdrop of water and sky. It’s not like the Golden Gate Bridge’s red color, which sticks out in any weather condition. Still, it was nice to see and if we could make it back to this area during sunset (1 hour more). Now looking at the bridge, I figured that it could possibly look interesting if I end up back in this area, by the time this sunset was to be over the harbor. The bridge looked so thin from where I was at, I wondered if I would even see it in a sunset or if it would be drowned out by a silhouette of the background hills, should they be too dark, during the sunset. Within a few minutes, the sky changed again, the sun dipped more, the cityscape opened up to me, when we were further enough, on the other side of the harbor. It looked promising for something later, if I could get some of that orange in the sky to come off of the shiny buildings, or maybe some of the blue from the blue hour. I noticed that a fat ocean-liner was circling the area, they obviously were also trying to get in on the sunset that day.
The sky introduced some yellow/orange tint to the extremely blue backdrop around, the sun moved again and now that yellow started making the orange of machinery on ships and docks start to pop a bit, plus started transforming the reds into orange and blues into green tints. Now it was ON! …problem was that the sky was changing way too damn fast, and not both sides of the harbour were affected equally, now. I had to stay alert or I’d miss the money shots. And just like that, the sky was changing according to the predictions, and out of nowhere, there were now a bunch of vessels, small ships, and what have you, on the water. Sunset was happening.
Here, I thought we were going to get rammed by a puddle-hopper plane, which cut right in front if us going in the same direction, then crossed right in front of us, as it began ascension. How rude! lol Those cranes from the docks were now glowing out there, reflecting that sun. Things were shaping up to be nice.
You think I kid when I say the harbour suddenly came alive in the sunset time. The people on the water were really excited, seriously. The Seaspan Hawk is a tugboat of the Vancouver Harbour, which can turn on a dime and they were showing some love to me when they saw me. It was so odd looking, looked like a hovercraft. I started to take a picture of it, the crew playfully honked the horn a few times for me, in acknowledgment (since I was the only person braving the cold weather above deck, on my boat). Then they quickly propelled forward, faster, suddenly hitting a trick SPIN, which rotated the whole vessel 360 degrees and kept going. That was pretty cool! I didn’t know any boats could do that. They came by a few times throughout the cruise.
Because I was in the harbour, everything is low, nothing is built high to restrict the view of the sunset, however, that also meant that the sunset was RIGHT in my face. I watched it eerily overtake the blue of the sky as we sailed towards it. The thing I waited to line up directly in the sunlight, were completely washed out. I threw a filter on the cam because otherwise, I’d get nothing at this point. I can say it was really relaxing to just float and watch things move about, all heading towards that sunset, looking like a movie scene. Truly beautiful. I just stared into it for a while, forgetting that I had the camera. The crew from the Seaspan Hawk, came back around 1 last time, and gave another set of toots, as they also floated calmly into that sunset. I
Now I saw a few other boats start to shuffle about one another, all heading west, towards the sunset. It started to get a little cloudy now, which amplified the orange tone of the sunset. I almost forgot that I should take pics of this, and was only reminded because I finally saw the rest of the passengers coming out of their holes below deck, to witness the sunset (which they were all about 20 minutes too late to fully appreciate). Everything in the harbour is pretty short, so there isn’t a lot to silhouette against unless you’re in the right spots, but I made the most of what I could see without completely overwashing the scenery with that sun, which was super bright.
The sky kept changing rapidly, the clouds picked up, and now the sun was almost gone from view, just a few degrees above the horizon, as it was about to disappear behind some mountains out in the distance. One of the ocean-liners traversed the harbour and lined up ahead of us. It just looked to me like a surreal vacation postcard reading “Peace at last!”
And now I could see the Lions Gate Bridge again, and just as I thought, it would be faint against a backdrop like that mountain that the sun disappeared behind, not to mention that the sun was the bulk of the light in that direction anyway, so that helped for greater silhouette features. I tried to get as much of that bride as possible with my 18-200mm. Not bad though, but that spaghetti thin bride barely came out.
Heading into a sunset is symbolic of the end of a beautiful day, and finding peace if you ever paid attention to movies or books referencing it. It certainly felt like that and was almost magical to experience first hand. I had photographed plenty of sunsets, but I have never moved TOWARDS the sunset myself, reflecting on how pretty it was, as I moved along with the scene and the scenery changed up. That’s truly something different. I zoned out for a while, assisted other people with the cameras so they could get their pics together, helped couples take romantic pics in this light, and then BAM we got closer to the Vancouver skyline citiscape shots I wanted to try to get. I wasn’t close enough to this scene to during sunset, but it was now twilight, so the second scenario I hoped for, a good “blue hour” opportunity, did present itself. It as hella-cold, the boat was wobbly, yeah the lens has image stabilization, but with the only light on the subject coming from the subject itself, and it, being way off in the distance, I knew this was going to be a very hard thing to do. Screwed up everything I shot in the initial 5 minutes trying to adjust to get the lens to act right since it wasn’t focusing well in the low light. After I finally got my act together, got the right pacing for the shot, breathing being limited, I was able to get shots in but they were 1/20 to 1/30 of a second and I was LUCKY to get the pics I got in the nautical twilight moments. Normally I would use HDR in these scenarios, but I was moving. DRO was on though, had to when trying to get these buildings in blue light. I got quite a few after I learned to tine the shots while the boat was wobbling hard. When I anticipated the boar was heading down, right before rocking back up, I took the shot. I liked how the clouds helped trap some of the light coming out of Vancouver, to make these pics. Man, if you get a chance to do a cruise like this, take it, but take it where you’re unobstructed on every side like I was, and definitely bring your top versatile lens. I was able to get a relaxing event in, and practice photography, I was happy. I’ve done this twice now, both times I’ve been to the Vancouver region. Awesome!
As always, the finished products can be found on the main site of www.drunkphotography.com.