Shark Goose by Arthur Hsu

Street photography is fun for me partly because I really don't know if I would even come home with one decent picture each day I head out.  The long periods of boredom while wandering around the city could come to an abrupt end when the stars align and something brilliant happens in front of you.  When you start to see the shot come together in front of you, your get an incredible nerdy adrenaline rush!  I can only imagine the sensation being similar to finding that solution to the pesky math problem or when someone lands on your Monopoly property that would result in their untimely bankruptcy.  That single "decisive moment" in photography doesn't always happen on every single outting.  Sometimes what captures my imagination happens over a number of shots. 

As I relish in the intermittent sunshine on my outting, I witness a scene unfolding in front of me that reminds of the movie Jaws or the TV show When Animals Attack.  Before we get to the pictures, I want you to imagine being in a serene city scene like the one you see above.  Now, I want you to play the theme song to the movie Jaws in your head....  Start slow at first...

 

 

 

DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN dun... 

 

 

 

 

DUUUUUN dun...... 

 

 

 

 

 

Dun dun... dun dun... dun dun... dun dun..... 

 

 

 

 

 

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

The sneaky Canada Shark Goose prowls the downtown landscape for its next victim, and when I came upon the hunt of the goose, it was as if I was watching a predator movie.   The Shark Goose glided silently through the depth of the city using its scale-y webbed feet.  Wobbling step-by-step towards the victims like an inebriated waterfowl pirate stuck on first gear.  I was surprised how long it took the people to notice its advances.  When I finally warned them of the approaching monster, they sat there posing for pictures.  Then... BAM!  Shark Goose strikes.  By "strike", I mean... idling in your personal space hoping you would give it some grubs.  After having a good laugh, I walked away from Shark Goose wondering why it was all alone.  Was it so hungry that it had no choice but to sneak up so closely to people?  I worried that the hunter Shark Goose might become the hunted if it approached the wrong person... like a BBQ goose chef.  To prevent Shark Goose's potential murder, I had no choice but to buy some granola chunks from London Drugs, so Shark Goose wouldn't have to sneak up to other people for the next little while. 

As I returned from the store, I thought Shark Goose may have fled the scene.  I was relieved to see it lounging around the area without a care in the world.  I wanted to tell that silly goose that it should never stick around the scene of attack, yet I was glad that the finest bag of granola would not go to waste.  Shark Goose waddle over and started chowing down right away.  A few chunks got under my shoes when I dumped part of the bag on the ground, and Shark Goose had no problem pecking right under my shoes.  It's lack of inhibition makes me worried for its survival, yet I definitely wasn't helping by feeding Shark Goose.  At one point, the sun poked through the clouds for a brief moment, Shark Goose stopped eating and looked up at the sun directly like how a person might look up at the glorious sunshine in appreciation.  We spent a long while sharing the food that afternoon.

Ever wonder about if geese will eat until they explode?  Wonder no more!  Shark Goose and I destroyed that bag of granola.  I think I ate more, but don't judge me!  I am so much bigger and thus require more nutrient!  Eventually, Shark Goose walked a few steps away from me and sat its fat ass down on the ground while facing me.  It eyeballed me for a while and it went to sleep.  How rude!!!

As I looked at Shark Goose's closed white eye lid, I felt a sense of responsibility to stand on guard while Shark Goose slept.  I thought that was what a good goose buddy would do.  I sat there surfing the internet on my phone while the fatty snoozed.  Eventually, a couple walked by and caused enough of a raucous to wake the slumbering beast.  It started waddling over towards them slowly, and I knew my job was done.  It was a wonderful afternoon.    

An Imperfect Best Friend by Arthur Hsu

Almost eight years ago, I went out on a limb and took a chance on making a new friend.  It was a blind meet up.  I could still remember the sense of excitement as I drove out to Langley, BC for the rendezvous.  It was an experience unlike any others.  I walked up to the wooden gate after arriving at the breeder's house, and as the gate swung open, this fat little fur ball was barreling down towards me at full speed. It wasn't exactly a classy or well-composed first meeting of my new friend, but it was totally understandable.  After all, we couldn't possible be sipping afternoon tea together and chatting about the state of North Korea because those silly paws weren't exactly teacup friendly.  Little did I know, his obnoxious and klutzy moves on our introduction were only the beginning.

Up Top!

Up Top!

Fast forward to today, as I stare at the much, much bigger fur ball, I noticed the white stubbles on his face.  It's a strange feeling to watch a life that you helped nurture age so quickly in front of you.  It was hard not to feel a little sad with those big orange eyes looking at you.  This little heartache motivated me to write a little ode of sorts about my friendship with my littlest hobo friend, Kuma.  This heart-felt moment was quickly interrupted by Kuma's barking request to retrieve his ball from under the TV stand.  I obliged.  The only way I could shut him up.  

My bud's name, Kuma, means "bear" in Japanese.  His name was chosen partly because my childhood dog was also named Bear, and I thought I would just make it a tradition and name all my dogs "bear" in a variety of languages.  His name was also chosen due to his shiny and brown bear-like fur coat.  Now, his name has taken on a new meaning as he barges around the house like a drunken bear that is high on PCP.  It appears that he never learned to stop going balls-to-the-wall.  He continues to bumble his way through all obstacles in front of him regardless of their monetary value.  Kuma has only 2 modes of operation: hibernation or fucking-nuclear.  

Kuma is a smart little bugger.  I discovered his brainy nature early on.  One day, as I stopped briefly in front of the door while searching for my keys before letting Kuma out.  Of course, Kuma was on "fucking-nuclear" mode, so he was losing his mind trying to figure out why I wasn't opening the door.  He was jumping... whining.... scratching at the door.   In his moment of annoyance and perhaps he was also wondering why I was so dumb, he bumped my hand with his nose and then bumped the door nob right after.  It was an odd moment as I realized that he was smart enough to pick up how I opened the door and able to communicate what he wanted me to do.  In this proud moment, I opened the door right away and created a doggy monster in the process.  

Kuma quickly learned that he could tell me to do things and he hasn't stopped since!  "Get me my ball!", "Open the door!", "Bring me my food!", "Wake up!", "Take me for a walk now!", and "Let's play fetch!", are a few of his favourites, but sometimes I just can't understand what he wants.  I suspect that he doesn't really know that himself, but he probably just wants to see the confused look on my face.  I would probably find that entertaining as well, if I were him.  Kuma knows exactly what he has to do to get what he wants, and he is rather vocal about how everything is supposed to be done... like yesterday!  

Looking back, I wonder if his demanding nature has anything to do with him being the last pick of the litter; however, I quickly realized that I spoiled him from the beginning.  This lack of boundary allowed him to develop into a quirky little guy with a lot of character not unlike an unreasonable 5 year old running around on all fours.  I have learned a great deal from Kuma and I's relationship, and I would certainly do a fews differently with Kuma if I could go back to the beginning.  As crazy as it sounds, my experiences would help greatly with raising a non-furry child!  After all, you only have to switch the dog food for steamed carrots right!?  ;) 

As Kuma's 8th birthday approaches, I am filled with nostalgia of our journey together so far.  I remembered the thousands and thousands of times that he lost his mind with happiness just because I came home from work.  Heck, I was baffled by the fact that he was even happy when I accidentally caused him pain a couple of times... his yelp was immediately followed by tail wagging and a lot of love!  At the end of the day, Kuma only wishes for four things in life: ball, food, walks, and the company of me or my family.  It's hard to argue with such unconditional love from anyone.  Kuma is far from perfect, but that is pretty much everything in life.  His imperfections are as much him as all the cool things about him.  Sometimes I think that once fate brings two beings together under the right circumstances, the rest is but one's choice to love, with imperfections and all.  That could apply to the love of your life perhaps, or an imperfect canine best friend like Kuma.  

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FullSizeRender.jpg

Pillow Fight: A Bird's Worst Nightmare by Arthur Hsu

There was a buzz in the air today, and it wasn't the mysterious buzz plaguing the City of Windsor, nor was it a transformer waiting to blow up.  The energy was merely the result of the glowing sun shining down on the poor Vancouver populace.  The sight and smell of a freshly manicured garden means that the spring is here, but that doesn't mean people have been frolicking around town until today.  The record breaking rain fall meant that much of the city were grounded indoors.  Other than those people who were under court-ordered house arrests, the rain was quite inconvenient for everyone else!

I took the chance to wander around town with my camera today.  The streets seemed fuller with the brilliant weather.  I was wondering what the city had in store for me today when I came upon what appeared to be a geese massacre.  I heard the commotion from afar and all I saw was a gang of people waving some sort of blunt instrument around in the air following by big puffs of white feather going all over the place.  It appeared that the crowd was bludgeoning a flock of geese to death with the very inefficient weapon of pillows.  

Okay, it wasn't a geese murdering party.  Instead, it was some sort of organized pillow fight party For a large segment of our society, mainly of the male persuasion, pillow fight means only one thing to them.  Pillow fight is simply a byproduct of a female sleepover.  Legend has it, pillow fight is basically scheduled into all female sleepovers.  There is apparently some sort of secret female constitution in existence.  The Second Amendment of that constitution is the right to bear pillows.  Maybe I made that up.  Sadly, I would never be able to find out the truth for myself without some very expensive surgeries.  All joking aside, it was fun to see all the people lovingly pummelling each other with down pillows under the spring sun.  As I look to the sky, all the feather floating in the air appeared like spring snowfall under a clear sky.  It also reminded me of Forest Gump's little feather floating around in the movie.  A pillow fight would have totally ruined the beautiful feather scene as Mr. Gump tried to figure out which feather belonged to him.

After the passion or the aggression settled, most people scattered and only a handful of people stuck around for the clean up.  As I watched the incredible amount of feather left on the ground, I began to wonder if down pillows are the best tool for the job.  The cost aside, down feather is hard to clean up due to its ADHD nature of wanting to fly all over the place.  It was hard not to feel bad for all the geese or ducks that had to suffer to make those pillows puffy, so we can feel like sleeping on a bag of clouds.  If those birds, with their featherless bodies, were to witness the pillow fight firsthand and seeing the wasted feather on the ground, it would indeed be their worst nightmares.

The cleanup crew

The cleanup crew

First the geese had to suffer for the pillows... then the poor leopard had to suffer for the pants.

First the geese had to suffer for the pillows... then the poor leopard had to suffer for the pants.

Oh Canada

Oh Canada

Trump Hotel by Arthur Hsu

I had some free time on Tuesday before meeting up with someone downtown. I thought I would put that time to good use and drop by the new Trump Hotel and see all the going-on's on its grand opening day.  I was greeted with an orderly crowd and I didn't personally witness any evil shenanigans.  There were a lot of creative signs and people were vocal but mostly in good spirits. 

There were about 10-15 Trump supporters around and no one antagonized them and they didn't push their views on others except for two outbursts.

I don't consider myself to be a protestor. If it weren't for my free time and desire to capture the moments, I would be unlikely to show up at Trump Hotel. The atmosphere was orderly and peaceful.  I left feeling good that people were able to assemble without smashing store windows or getting in each other's faces.  What was the most surprising to me was my co-worker's reaction when he heard I was at the hotel. He thought anyone who went was an idiot.  He believes that the idea of making your voice heard by protesting is pointless because you would change nothing. I can't help but to think that if everyone feels the same, indeed nothing would change. 

The man directly under the sign was eager to get his point across.  He shouted "Trump has done more for women and black people than anyone else.  Hail Trump! Hail Trump!"  No one shouted back at him. They simply stood in front of him. 

The man directly under the sign was eager to get his point across.  He shouted "Trump has done more for women and black people than anyone else.  Hail Trump! Hail Trump!"  No one shouted back at him. They simply stood in front of him. 

"Who is Trump and why can't I have some snacks?"  

"Who is Trump and why can't I have some snacks?"  

The tired protester. Not sure why it's even there. 
The tired protester. Not sure why it's even there. 

Tagging in the Alley by Arthur Hsu

Ever sat in your car at a train crossing and wondered how those colourful graffiti on the train carts were made as they zoom past you?  I have certainly been amazed by the scale and skills required to undertake such a rogue art.  I never came across any "legit" graffiti artists other than a couple of kids with sharpies writing on a mailbox.  I wouldn't even know what a legit graffiti artist is like, but I recently came across someone much further along in his craft than those remedial sharpie taggers.  

I have been wandering into alleys around town lately.  I am not trying to get pricked by needles.  Instead, I am trying to capture a set of pictures that I think I could find in those dark corners. As I walked into this alley during broad daylight, I saw a red tuque bobbing around in the distance.  I did a double take, then I realized someone was leaving his none-urinary mark on a wall already covered graffiti.

I walked up and decided to become a witness to how a higher level of tagging is done.  The tagger was near the beginning of his creation process.  The man, covered with piercings and tattoos, was quite open to chat with me.  He ran around picking up different colour spray cans and deliberately waving his arm in front of the wall.  Along with the hiss, vibrant colours magically appear on the already colourful canvas.  Mr. Red Tuque has a sketch book that he carries around with him.  This tagging business is not some random willy nilly doodling... at least not for Mr. Red Tuque.  He had a clear idea and a sketch to go by before he even sprayed his first line.  On a simple design like you see in the pictures, he does not need to refer back to the sketch book again.  

Mr. Red Tuque is a born-again graffiti artist after years of absence.  He was quite excited about the advances in modern spray paint.  He spoke about spray paint much like I would speak about cameras, and donuts.  Eating donuts is an art form as far as I am concerned.  How do you avoid getting jelly filling or powder sugar on yourself especially when you wear a blue shirt all the time.  It's tougher than you think!  I was curious about his motivation for tagging.  He had a simple answer.  He said: "My back is always up against the wall, so I just turn around and paint it". He said that tagging helps him relax and get his mind off of other things in life. 

Mr. Red Tuque made quick works of his graffiti and took care to put the finishing touches by over certain spots with paint once again.  Soon, a man walked up to the Tuquester to let him know that he would require permission to paint on that specific wall.  There is apparently a different section where he could paint without being hassled.  Soon, someone else came by in a truck about the same thing.  This deserted alley was buzzing with activities.  Next thing you know, a security guard appeared in the distance and I think Red Tuque knew he screwed up.  He vanished pretty quickly but not before admiring his own work and snapping a couple of pictures.  

I stuck around to take a few more pictures and chatted with the people who came by to stop Red Tuque.  The forbidden section of the wall was painted once before as a part of a graffiti contest with a prize of $8,000.  There will be another contest taking place this summer.  I started to wonder about the cannibalistic nature of graffiti.  Unless you are working with a clean and legal canvas, you are destroying someone else's work or property.  Perhaps that's part of the fun for the taggers.  Interestingly enough, I returned to the same alley next week to find Red Tuque's work painted over.  Even more interesting, it was painted over with the exact same graffiti that was there before Red Tuque started painting.  I think Red Toque referred to the graffiti that he painted over as some sort of tasteless graffiti "bomb".  This begs the question about the existence of a mythical graffiti patrol that roams around to inspect their own work around town, and in the event that someone paints over their work, they scramble to restore their own tag...with an identical one at that.  This graffiti cannibalism reminded me of another graffiti that I saw in Rotterdam.  This is perhaps the ultimate mind-fu*k graffiti.  I will let you see it for yourself at the very bottom of the page.  

Poor Vincent van Gogh is relegated to sniffing the dumpster all day and night, but he had a pizza party not long ago.  

Poor Vincent van Gogh is relegated to sniffing the dumpster all day and night, but he had a pizza party not long ago.  

Feeding Flying Rats by Arthur Hsu

Someone told me that pigeons are like rats with wings.  I tend to believe that rats are pretty smart, so maybe it was meant to be a compliment.  Either way, I can't help but to notice all the pigeons loitering around town, especially when there is a crowd of people or food source nearby.  The little buggers like to beg for food when you are standing near them.  They hop in front of you and look you right in the eye.  Perhaps they are unaware of their lack of telepathic communication ability to tell you they would like some grub.  I often wonder about their survival ability in harsh weather conditions.  They must be doing alright since they are always roaming around.  Perhaps the pigeons are able to survive due to the food they receive from people.  I find the feeding phenomenon to be rather interesting.  I am sure you can already picture their little beaks pecking at the food scraps like an avian jackhammer.  What I find more intriguing is the people who are feeding these pigeons.  I observed many people feeding the birds and some even appeared to be homeless.  It made me wonder why these people, a number of them are in dire need of help themselves, decide to feed these pigeons that other people would consider to be a complete nuisance.  

One day, I was simply checking the time on my watch when a couple of pigeons landed on my arm.  I was surprised to say the least, and I wondered why they would even do such a thing!  It all made sense later when I saw a couple of people feeding the birds out of their pockets and allowed them to eat off their hands.  One of the men gently spoke to the pigeons to encourage order and to remind them to peck the food instead of his hands.  The soft-spoken man tries to feed the pigeons once a month.  He had a name for most of the more unique looking pigeons and he fondly told me the pigeons' individual characters.  Sometimes one of the pigeons would land on top of his head, and he would quietly remind the pigeon that his head is a no-go zone.  The pigeons were particularly fond of the bird feed that the gentleman purchased in the US for this specific purpose.  

A soft-spoken man who named some of the more easily identifiable pigeons

Another man scattered his food evenly on the ground for the pigeons.  Chinese food appeared to be his feed of choice when I saw him.  As he returned to his bike to retrieve more food, three seagulls swoop down and pushed the pigeons aside as they devoured the large pieces of tofu.  The gentleman rushed back into the middle of the seagul food robbery and chased them dick birds away.  After the departure of the robbers, he dumped more food on the ground and did something surprising to me.  He methodically crushed/teared all the large chunks of Chinese food on the ground into tiny, pigeon bitesize pieces with his feet.  Once he was satisfied that the food could be consumed easily by the pigeons, he rode away on his bike.  During his pigeon feeding, he was talking and yelling aloud about random and imperceptible things the whole time.  Witnessing this raggedly dressed man, with a Jesus salvation/doomsday message plastered on his bike and clothing, piqued my curiosity regarding his motivation, especially when he appeared to be in need himself.  Over the coming weeks, I saw him around town on a number of occasions, but I was never able to have a conversation with him until recently.  

It was easy for me to have preconceived ideas about this man before speaking to him.  A man so different from everyone else around him, a snap judgement could easily be made.  He appeared to have his worldly possession stored on his bike, and he was constantly rambling and talking to himself out loud.  The tightly written message on his bike, hat, and jacket are difficult to read without any actual effort and they might as well be invisible to all the passerby on the street.  If I were to use one word to describe him, it would simply be "crazy".  As I tried to look for an opportunity to speak to the man, I wondered if he would be open to speaking to a stranger.  Would he understand me or would he simply behave unpredictably?  I think everyone has their opinions or beliefs about a man like this, and their opinions are often plainly visible as they walk by him in the street.  I did my best to suspend my preconceived opinions as I approached him on Granville Street on a sunny, winter day.  

Jacob was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk and talking aloud when I approached him.  He turned around when I greeted him. and I saw a man with some hard years behind him; it was finely written in every wrinkle on his face.  A tired smile appeared on his face when I asked to take his picture and he happily obliged.  Much to my surprise, Jacob told me that he saw me taking a picture of the sign on his bike earlier.  I thought I was stealthier but maybe my squeaky clown shoes gave me away.  Jacob was happy to talk to me and he was very receptive to my prying questions.  Jacob, in his own words, is about 70 Earth-years-old.  He believed strongly in afterlife and scoffed at all the lies surrounding the modern society.  In his mind, everything around us is a constructed lie or illusion that is ultimately inconsequential.  Jacob thinks that people build up their materialistic possessions in this life because they are unable see past their current existence.  He was displeased with all the land developments which resulted in "cutting down the trees".  Jacob told me that he that he scavenged for his meals everyday from the garbage bins around the city, and he saw no need to buy food when he could survive on the wasted food.  I was quite interested in finding out his reasonsing for feeding the pigeons especially when he could use the food himself.  Jacob said that he wanted to feed the pigeons because they "don't know any better", so he felt like it was the right thing to help them.  I asked him why he was spreading the message written on his hat, jacket and bike.  Jacob said that, much like everyone else, he was living a lie.  He had two near-death experiences that made him abandoned his old lifestyle and drove him to spread his message.  I asked him how people treat him on the street, and he was quick to say that received a lot of abuse.  Since he saw this world as a human-construct, I asked what he thought of the man-made rules, like the law, that he is subjected to in his daily life.  I was wondering why he doesn't break the rules to make his life easier.  He discounted the idea of breaking the law and prefer to simply follow them and suffer through them if needed.  Jacob said he was tired and weary of this life, and he believes true freedom comes after you leave this world and he was not afraid.  For now, he will continue and take on whatever comes along his way.   

Jacob

Jacob and I spoke at great lengths that day. I made the mistake of not taking notes as we spoke to better capture his world view.  It's clear that his ideas are largely driven by religion, but I still feel like they are valuable life lessons.  It is certainly easy for me to attach a label to just about anyone, including Jacob, without any actual first-hand knowledge of the person.  By simply believing that someone is acting "crazy", it would be much easier for me to ignore the person.  It is much harder to make an effort to understand and humanize someone.  What I will take away from Jacob is his resiliency under hardship.  Not once did he blame anyone for his misfortune; furthermore, even with nothing to lose, he saw no reason to break the rules to benefit himself.  He did not believe in splurging on himself, even with food; instead, he would rather help those animals who can't help themselves.  It would be easy to discount the existence of the likes of Jacob, who are surviving on the fringes of our society, but they are far from futile.  What Jacomb has to offer is something that is priceless and often lacking in the world.  I saw a man with nothing to give but love... lucky for those flying rats.  

Another man feeding the pigeons next to Vancouver City Centre station

Timeless in Vancouver by Arthur Hsu

I think by now, everyone knows my routine.  It was a beautiful day, so I decided to grab my camera and head to town for a quick stroll to see what I can capture.  Normally, I would take my rangefinder camera, but I had recently sent a couple of them in for service.  Much like a mechanical watch, the rangefinder cameras could last beyond a lifetime, but it does need servicing now and then.  I decided I would take my Nikon F3 film SLR with me.  All the shots you see here were taken by the F3 with Voigtlander 58mm F1.4 lens.  I shot with some cheap Fujifilm Superia 400 that I bought from London Drugs after I ran out of film last time.  “Cheap” as in cheap when compared to some other film, but still ball-bustlingly expensive when compared to digital.  

I quickly came across a small crowd gathered around a filmset right in front of the art gallery on Robson Street.  I overheard someone saying that they were filming for a TV series called “Timeless”.  It was a scene out of the 50’s and the shutterbug in me started dodging heads to get a good shot.  I thought it was rather ironic that I was capturing the filmset, depicting a time when film was king, with a film camera... but all in the year 2017.  It could be my bias, but I find the rendering of film to be rather fitting of the scene.  I think it certainly added a level of romanticism with the film’s less than razor-sharp rendering you would otherwise find in modern digital cameras.  

My fascination with the scene was somewhat dampened by a security guard approaching me to ask me to stop taking pictures.  I was standing outside of the cordoned off area along with other spectators.  The security guard informed me that he was asked by someone to come and stop me because I had a “professional” camera.  I chuckled and had a calm and frank discussion with him regarding the logic.  I also offered to speak to the cop doing security less than 10 steps away from us.  He declined.  I stopped taking pictures after he approached me because I didn’t want him to get in trouble for not stopping me.  It still amazes me the logic behind their request.  If they didn’t want pictures taken, they should fence off the area completely.  My camera was far from professional.  In fact, most camera phones there would probably be able to take higher resolution photos than my old-school setup.  A for-profit film company is using an area of public land, but they would also like to control the area and the people adjacent to filming location.  I am not quite sure why I would be subjected to their company rules on a city street.  Once again, if a police officer is making an arrest, everyone and their dogs grab their phones to film the incident.  They certainly have the right to do so.  If there is filming going on, you are now teleported to some sort of dictatorship.  That’s probably just as fascinating as the 50’s filmset.  

Umbrella by Arthur Hsu

"It was a rainy day in Vancouver" may not be an expected start to most crime dramas, but it would be a critical factor to the one I witnessed.  

It was a rainy day in Vancouver.  It was not unlike any other winter day before it as I sat on the Canada Line train connecting between Downtown Vancouver and Richmond, BC.  My train of thought while on the Canada Line generally consists of few different topics.  It usually starts on my amazement on how Translink could underestimate the ridership so much which resulted in some random strangers rubbing up against me due to overcrowding or other unknown reasons.  I tend to move to the thought of glorious sleep at some point on my train ride.  All aspects of sleep tend to be pleasing to me.  It could be the thought of a warm bed or the pleasure of sleeping in late.  Next thing you know, my eyelids get kind of heavy and I start to nod my head.  My initial head nod is not unlike the head nod that one would use to acknowledge an acquaintance walking past you in a hallway.  It's gentle and dignified with a small dip of the chin.  As my mind grows cloudy and inch towards a narcoleptic wonderland, my head nod gets ever so violent.  It is not unlike a headbanger at a Led Zeppelin concert supercharged on Redbulls.  None of those things happened on this specific train ride because I was captivated by an umbrella.

The umbrella had a bright red handle that can't be missed.  The curved, glossy ruby handle is leaned up against the dreary, off-white train wall.  The colours were in such contrast, the handle almost appeared  playful and full of energy.  There was no one in the immediate vicinity of the umbrella.  Someone had tragically left it behind on the train.  I was pitying the person who had to trudge through the sticky rain to get home without his/her umbrella.  The thought was fleeting as I started to imagine what a picture of this umbrella would look like.  

I was visualizing an empty train with this solitary yet vibrant red umbrella.  A scene of rows of vacant seats with the playful yet lonesome umbrella left behind.  I could almost imagine the feeling of emptiness when I saw the picture in my head, yet the colour of the umbrella was anything but empty.  As I looked forward to the terminus station where people would leave the train and perhaps grant me a quick moment for a picture, a girl sat down next to the umbrella that I should refer to as "Ella".  

The girl looked like she was in her early 20's, and she was travelling with another girl.  They were both standing next to the train doors before the taller girl sat down next to the Ella.  The shorter girl remained standing as they carried on a conversation in a foreign language.  Lanky, who was sitting down, soon noticed Ella leaning against the wall.  I could only assume that Ella's beauty also captured her attention.  Lanky looked at the Ella and looked away before looking back at Ella once again.  I could almost see the lightbulb light up next to her head as she turned to her friend to say something while pointing at Ella rudely.  I may not understood their language, but I could see that Lanky was captivated by Ella and couldn't take her eyes of her.  I could see Lanky's gerbil kick into high gear in her head as she was heading towards a life of a criminal mastermind.  

Lanky reached over and swoop Ella off her single foot and started to examine her from top to bottom.  By now, I was screaming inside and some low volume murmuring even escaped my mouth.  I was in panic mode knowing that Ella could be kidnapped.  Much to my surprise, after some careful examination, prodding and poking, Lanky put Ella back down.  I could still see Lanky's imaginary gerbil, now wearing a balaclava and gloves, planning a heist of the hour on this train.  Lanky started talking to her friend while gesturing to the umbrella a couple of times.  Her friend shrugged her shoulder a few times.  I would assumed the same conversation took place again as Lanky gestured towards Ella and Lanky's friend shrugged her shoulders repeatedly.  To be fair, there was a chance that Lanky could be asking her friend what they should work on at the gym that night and her friend was clearly excited about doing some shoulder exercises.  Who doesn't want gains on their traps right?  Then again, I highly doubted that as I continue to see Lanky's gerbil in a full sprint.  

The train was pulling into the terminus station and I noticed Lanky taking off her backpack and securing her other umbrella in an outside pocket.  Check. Mate.  She reached over and grabbed Ella with a level of conviction that I had not seen since Jean Chretien grabbed his favourite protestor's neck.  My heart sank as my picture opportunity started to walk out of the train door with Lanky.  I swore under my breath and existed the train as I took the picture below. 

Interestingly enough, as Lanky walked on the platform towards the exit, I saw her gently and meticulously roll up the Ella's fabric and clipped her in so she was not flapping around all over the place.  Lanky took such care, it was as if Ella had been by her side for years.  I guess I didn't have any expectation of how someone may handle their loot, and I wasn't expecting this level of love for Ella.  As quickly as she rolled the umbrella up, Lanky opened her up when she was greeted with rain outside of the station.  

As we all entered the mall to avoid the rain, I saw Lanky roll up Ella with care for the last time as I made a turn towards my next destination.  Lanky and Ella continued on with their journey down the hallway.  I wished Ella good luck and a life of fulfilling service.  I hope Lanky will retire from her life as an outlaw gang member.  

As I walked away from Lanky and Ella, I witnessed the grisly death of Ella's relative, Dumpy.  His body was on display for all to see.  Not a pretty way to go.   

Christmas Time in Vancouver by Arthur Hsu

I was greeted by a sea of people when I existed the City Centre Canada Line Station a while back.  I wasn't  sure of the number of people required to make it a "sea" instead of a puddle or pond of people.  I digress.  The streets were closed to vehicle traffic and the people were simply milling about.  The crowd alone was a fairly intriguing sight especially when I wasn't aware of the event in town that day.  After a few more steps, I saw the characters from Alice in Wonderland wandering the streets and taking pictures with people.  They were fully in character the whole time.  It felt like they escaped to our world through a magic portal, and they decided they wanted to simply help the masses indulge in their selfie pleasure.  It turned out that I had just missed the local Santa Claus Parade.  I have a tendency to miss out on the main event in town since I am never Downtown early enough.  Nonetheless, I was happy to see the crowds around, so I could try my luck on some candid street shots.  

Those who made the event possible.  Vancouver Traffic Authority.

Napoleon taking a break from the Christmas festivities

It would simply be too tiring flying everywhere

I took some colour shots with Kodak Portrait 400 at box speed developed in a fresh batch of C-41 chemistry.  I could see a noticeable difference when compared to my old, depleted C-41 that I was using until recently.  There are so many variables in film photography, so it's hard to really nail down a specific factor that contributes or detracts from the quality of the negatives.  For me to know for certain, I will have to do a more controlled test.  Regardless, here are the colour shots below!

Yes.  A winter day with sun = t-shirt time in Vancouver! 

I always get the vibe that each Christmas does not have the same atmosphere as the one before regardless of the increasing crowd. Perhaps I was simply hanging out around the wrong area. I will make a trip to the Christmas Market next year to soak up the vibe and snap some shots.  Maybe that will change my mind about the Christmas spirit around Vancouver.

One Picture by Arthur Hsu

What does one single picture say?  

Is taking pictures a waste of time or time well wasted? Sometimes I re-evaluate my drive to capture the moments around me.  These seemingly innocent slices of time that flash before my lens while transforming the film negative in a way that imitates life in that moment.  Regardless of the likeness of the photograph, the time has slipped away silently.  The grasp of time through my camera appears to be a futile exercise; however, my obsession of capturing the moments through photography is not always on the forefront of my mind as I wander around the streets.  Inevitably, the quietest moments in the loudest of places reminds me of  the reasons for my search of that illusive feeling with my camera.  This very feeling which is constructed by the pixels or grains to make up one single picture.

When I think of the picture dearest to me, it takes me somewhere.  I believe an image can transcends boundaries if you allow it to do so.  The picture may tell a story of a thousand words, or it my just give you an emotion.  An emotion that defies time and space.  That slice of time maybe long gone, but if I look closely enough, the moment comes alive.  The picture did not merely capture their looks, but it captured their essence.  The superstitious belief of the soul-stealing photographs is perhaps not as ridiculous as it might seem.  Maybe that belief is simply a reflection of the power of an image.  The power of beauty, grace, love, and immortality.  

What does a single picture say?  Everything.

A candid moment of a young couple while waiting for the lighting of the Christmas tree in Vancouver.

Under Dark Skies with Film by Arthur Hsu

"Lord of Light! Come to us in our darkness. We offer you these false gods. Take them and cast your light upon us. For the night is dark and full of terrors."

Melisandre prays to R'hllor[src]

I got you, Bro.

Fans of Game of Thrones should feel right at home after reading the quote above. Taking pictures at night has always been an area of interest for me, especially in black and white.  So many great shots showing incredible atmosphere were taken at night.  So far, I have mostly explored astrophotgraphy under the night sky, but I would like to venture into night cityscapes and street photography to capture a different side of the city.  In general, photography could be viewed as the physics of capturing light, and the darkness of the night is understandably an impediment for taking pictures.  I have spent the last little while taking the night shots that you see in this blog entry.  It's definitely an easy transition into night photography as the winter day shortens.  The rainfall record certainly made things more difficult as you move around town while dodging rain drops.  Even with the risk of melting, I was determined to get some night shots.  As I press forward into the dark of night, I started to realize that perhaps the night was indeed full of terrors for a film photographer.  

Public Calendar

Film is more limited in its light sensitivity when compared to modern digital sensors.  Sensor or film light sensitivity is generally assigned an "ISO" number (although film sensitivity was referred to as ASA originally).  The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the film or sensor is to light.  With a higher light sensitivity, you would have more leadway in your shutter speed or aperture adjustment for the desired result.  A roll of film is usually (but not required to be) used under a single ISO sensitivity for all the exposures, whereas digital camera is able to change its ISO on every single shot if you wish to do so.  This is a rather simplistic way of explaining digital sensor ISO.  In reality, digital sensor has only one native ISO sensitivity, but the camera is able to boost or push sensor sensitivity on your command.  This boost does come with the penalty of digital noise on higher ISO shots, and this noise is unlike the consistent film grain one would expect with higher ISO film.  Digital noise could add all sort of undesirable and inconsistent artifacts to your images.  Although not all sensors are created equal, on average, most modern digital sensors are able to handle high ISO shots admirably.  I can shoot at ISO 3200 to 6400 on my (now sold) digital camera without worrying about the final result at all, and in a pinch, 12800 could be manageable.  

When I am required to use a higher film sensitivity due to low light, I generally push process my film.  I normally shoot my film at its box speed of ISO 400 during daylight.  When needed, I would shoot the exact same film at ISO 1600 or 3200.  I will simply process the film differently, which generally involves longer processing time.  Pushing film does create its own visual characteristics.  Your shots would be more grainy, and they will also have more contrast.  The darker part will be darker and the lighter part will be lighter.  You may lose details in your shots as a result of push processing.  It's a trade off that you will have to consider before pushing your shots. All shots in this post were pushed to ISO 1600 or 3200 from their box speed of ISO 400.

Ultimately, I believe that digital camera is much more flexible under most circumstances.  Overall, prosumer digital cameras produce sharper results with more recoverable dynamic range when compared to the hybrid film workflow (of shooting film with digital scan and inkjet printer) that I use.  While film photography is experiencing a bit of renaissance lately, all those interested in film should consider all the pro's and con's of each medium.  While I firmly believe that meaningful images are not dependent on equipment, if you solely shoot at night, there are potentially better choices than shooting film due to ambient light restrictions.  Choosing film photography is not simply choosing choosing the analogue film appearance, but rather the film development process/cost as well as the medium itself.  After making the informed decision, you are able to march out into the night confidently even if the night is dark and full of terrors.  

Street Art

As it stands currently, I am unsure of the direction of my night photography.  I believe that I pushed my film workflow to the limit of my ability.  I foresee the technical difficulties that I experienced so far to repeat itself in the future.  There was simply not enough light without using flash or tripod in some circumstances at night.  I would much prefer to do without strobes or tripod.  I have been pushing my black and white film up to 3 stops and color film up to 2 stops.  Any further push would degrade the image too much for my liking.  I would have to move to different types of film that would allow push process with a higher native ISO than 400.  From the little information I gathered, pushing color film is a bit of a question mark.  Many people believe that the trade off of pushing color film is not worth the extra speed you gain.  I will either have to continue moving forward with a color film process at its limit for night street photography or considering moving to the "dirty D" process!  Do I trade my soul for better night photography in a digital world?  All kidding aside, this is something that I would definitely need to consider since I have been losing a lot of shots lately while doing night street photography.  I would much prefer to get the shot regardless of my attachment to analogue photography.  It does make me wonder about how photographers undertake nighttime, color street photography in the past, or perhaps it wasn't even a thing back then.

Me Want 

Robson Square

Jelly Fish

Christ Church Cathedral

I Do

Peaceful Street Meat

Special Purse with Legs

Alternative Transportation

White Rabbit Light

RIP

I am a Prada Outlaw by Arthur Hsu

This picture started my shiny balls obsession for the last few days

I knew this day would come sooner or later.  I didn't think it would be today.  I guess that's what everyone says...  "I didn't see it coming!"  "I didn't think it would happen to me!"  As a photographer, you are prepared for this eventuality.  This eventuality for me was a Prada security guard stopping me from taking pictures of their product display from the sidewalk.  Hopefully, by the end of this blog, you are able to agree that Prada's logic is as sound as bringing sand to the beach.  

More shiny ball goodness!  

My walk around town today was an exciting one because it was SUNNY!  You may not think it was a big deal, but when the rain had drenched your city every single day for the last 2 months, the sun felt like winning the Stanley Cup Finals.  Wait, I take it back.  I wouldn't know what it feels like winning the Stanley Cup being a Canucks fan.  I visited a few locations before walking by the Prada store in Downtown Vancouver.  The glass display facing the sidewalk had some shiny balls in it, and I was all about shiny balls in the last few days.  You think I am joking!  Please see the photos in this post as proof of my shiny ball obsession.  Back to the Prada display, the security guard was standing next to the display with only the left half of his body showing.  It was as if the edge of the display had perfectly sliced him in half.  Combining my shiny balls obsession with this sliced, half-a-man, I was giddy with anticipation of the shot.  I raised my camera and adjusted the focus and exposure.  Within this time frame, the security guard must had sensed my palpable excitement, he tured around and looked right into my lens' hole.  The look on his face was filled with such horror, I wondered if someone was killed right behind me.  It was then I realized that I had violated the most sacred rule of photography...  "You are not allowed to take pictures of anything in public".  I saw him double time out of the door to intercept me.  I was still pitying the missed opportunity, and I was sure that the single shot I took wouldn't turn out.   Trying to quickly snap a shot, I was quite a hulk and smashed hard on the shutter hoping to catch the security guard before he became whole again.  I didn't run away after; instead, I waited  at the spot where the violation occurred for the security guard and his impending judgement.  

Different colour balls!

"You are not allowed to take pictures!" said the security guard.  I said "Why not? I can take pictures of you if I want because I am in public".  The security guard again told me that I am not allowed to take any pictures because Prada does not allow it.  I simply told him to call the police and I will stay and wait for the cops to get here.  *Crickets* and a stunned look on his face.  He did not reach for his cellphone to call the police.  He just stood there.  I went on to tell him that he shouldn't ask people to do things when he knew he had no authority to do so.  "I didn't tell you what to do!" said the security guard.  His statement took me by surprise because I didn't think he would have such a bad short-term memory.  I told him to leave me alone and stop doing things when he knew it was wrong.  I saw him walk inside to talk to  a couple of the staffs inside.  They didn't come out to talk to me, nor did they contact the police.  I stayed long enough to silently mouthed "COME ON!!" to the employees inside to protest my displeasure before walking away.   

I must have sounded super annoyed and I am not proud of that; however, I do not understand Prada's logic of not allowing people to take pictures of the display.  First, I was not in their store and I was standing on the sidewalk.  They really had no legal authority to stop me but that didn't prevent them from trying.  Once they knew they couldn't convince me that I had committed a Prada offence, they did nothing further.  I even offered them to contact the police.  Why go through the trouble when they knew they couldn't enforce their own illegal rules?  I wonder how the security guard would react if I told him that he was not allowed to make eye contact with me on the sidewalk and he had to address me as Mr. Batman.  It was hard not to think that they were only enforcing their rule because they could bully most people who are unaware of the laws.  

Next up in the Prada world of counter-logic is the hours between closing time and opening time for their store.  I had in fact walked by the store after hours, and their store display was not taped shut at night, and nor did they have a "no pictures allowed" sign hanging out front when all the employees went home.  If I really wish to do so, I could simply come back later on to take all the pictures I want.  Maybe they didn't really mean no pictures allowed.  Perhaps, they only meant no pictures allowed in public during regular business hours.  Either way, it's an illegal and a confusing mess!  Between Gucci and Prada, I am Gucci all the way!  I had taken many pictures of the Gucci display without a single employee or security guard trying to make up some ridiculous Gucci rules on me.  

The logic and the basis of Prada's rule escapes me, but that did not stop the company from implementing and enforcing the rule.  This ultimately places the security guard in a terrible position.  The security guard, who was undoubtedly underpaid and under-appreciated, by enforcing the rule, is taking on a part of the liability of the potential fallout.  My cynical self highly doubt that Prada would stand behind the security guard when something goes wrong.  For all the extra scrutiny that law enforcement officers are placed under for enforcing the REAL law and simply doing their jobs, it seems unbelievable that a private company is attempting to enforce an illegal rule without any accountability.  A rule that is likely to put the security guard and the photographer in contempt of one another when such contempt should be directed solely at Prada.  

THE Picture that got me in trouble

Film used in this blog post:

  • B&W Ilford HP5 Plus 400 pushed to 3200 developed in Ilford DD-X
  • Kodak Portra 400 pushed to 1600 developed in C-41

 

Death of a Rat (Graphic Content?) by Arthur Hsu

The world went on just fine a few days ago.  The sun rose and set just the same as any other day.  A little heart stopped beating and no one cared and some people would argue that no one should care at all.  How should this even deserve to enter your consciousness?  This is a story about a much hated specie; moreover, this is a story about giving mercy.

As you might have guessed, the day started with a quick trip to Downtown Vancouver to see what I could find with my trusty camera.  I was eagerly anticipating the parting of clouds for some good lighting.  The life of a photographer is not all that far from the life of a weather network geek.  That little yellow ball showing up on the weather forecast would perk me right up!  I was on my way to a spot that I've been trying to photograph for the last 2-3 weeks, but the stars never aligned for that perfect shot.  I was hoping this would be the day, but I had no such luck.  Instead, I saw a live rat.  On any other day, the story probably would have ended there, but this rat was a troubled one.    

I knew something was wrong when I saw the rat out in daylight in such a heavily pedestrial area.  I may not be a rat rocket scientist, but I do know rats like to lurk around in the dark instead.  Perhaps it is the rats' propensity to operate in darkness to thief and destroy prized human possessions, their name earned a special place as an adjutive in the English vocabulary.  As I paid more attention to this little hated creature, it was literally running around in circles.  It was breathing fast and heavily (or at least what I would normally consider to be fast and heavy).  After running around in circles for a while, it fell over.  It struggled to get back up.  Eventually, it got up.  It stayed relatively still for the next little while.  It was not a leap to believe that the rat had ingested some rat poison and it was about to die.

I noticed a man in an electric wheelchair to my right, and I looked over to him said without much thinking: "There is a rat there, and I think it's about to die".  I had seen the man in the wheelchair on a few different occasions while wandering around, but I never talked to him until today.  Gary looked like he was in his late 40's or early 50's.  He was a heavier set man, and he was wearing a baseball cap and a rain poncho.  Gary didn't appear to have the full function of his hands, but he was able to move his arms.  Gary looked at the rat and agreed that it was about to die.  He said right away: "It's suffering".  As weird as this might sound to people, the rat's pain was very apparent.  Gary told me to "go step on its head".  I looked at him with a blank look.  He said: "It's suffering.  Go help him out."  It was very clear that it wouldn't survive much longer, but I hesitated as I ran through the act of stepping on the rat's head in my mind.  Gary spoke of how much pain the rat must be feeling, and moved his electric wheelchair forward.  He asked me to "guide him" towards the rat.  There we were, in a populous downtown area, as I said to him "Move the other way... move a little towards me.... now if you just keep going straight you would get it."  I think you get the idea of what happens next.

While most people wouldn't care about a suffering rat, Gary was a different cat.  Gary spoke of the days of him looking out of his window at the passerbys while suffering from his own unspeakable pain. He wished that he could be the pedestrians walking outside instead of himself.  He only wished for the pain to stop.  As much as Gary gave mercy to the rat, perhaps he gave mercy to himself that day.  As I stood there talking to Gary, most people walked right by the rat without even noticing its existence. Those who noticed the rat inexplicably gave the look of disgust and horror.  I suppose that the grossed out reactions of seeing a rodent is useful to human survival since rats are known to be disease carriers and caused massive epidemics in the past. Being an odd ball, my mind began to wander.  There is a constant battle between humans and those animals we deem to be an inconvenience to human existence and rodents are certainly at the forefront of that battle.  We would like to wipe out the pesky rats and walk off into sunset so we don't have to worry about the wiskered lurkers stealing our ratatouille.  

Perhaps the fate of humans and rats are in parallel of one another.  While the spread of rats are considered to be a menace to humans, the spread of humans are arguablely a threat to Earth and ultimately our own existence.  The prosperity of humans and rats are not inversely related to one another.  I recently came across a research looking into rats' migration across the world.  It appeared that the most likely scenario was that rats travelled across the ocean to Americas at one point, but they certainly didn't swim across the ocean.  The spread of rats from Europe and Asia did not precede human activities.  Rats are territorial and stay close to home, and those adventurous rats with the desire to explore the frontiers of Americas did so only with human assistance.  Another research into New York rats' lives showed constant signs of battle between different population of rats.  Rats in New York are adorned with battle wounds of missing eyes, broken tails, and so on.  Due to the increase in international trade, local rat populations are constant being "visited" by other rats from around the world, but their genetic makeup do not show the level of diversity typical of mixing rat breeds.  Researchers believe that the first wave of rat immigrants arrived and populated New York.  New rat visitors were rebuffed by the original gangster rats if you will.  Interestingly enough, it is unlikely that a lot of new diseases are going to be entering New York by "rats waking into the local rat population".  The article concludes that "as much as we dislike brown rat, they maybe our staunchest defenders".  

Humans and rats may appear to be mortal enemies, but our connections are beyond trivial.  All species have one thing in common and that is our struggle for survival in our own ways.  In this common struggle, I hope humans can show mercy for all animals, even if it's for a street rat.  

Your Rights by Arthur Hsu

On my recent jaunt around town, I came across a crowd gathering near the art gallery.  It was a peaceful rally about Islam, and more specifically about Imam Hussain as you can see in the picture above.  We are very fortunate to live in a democratic society with rights that most Canadians would consider to be inalienable to us.  That got me thinking about our rights in general. 

In theory, I would tend to think that our rights are unconditional of whether they are invoked or used, but in reality, I believe that your right would erode away if not utilized in some compacity.  "A right not exercised is a right lost".  For instance, if a group of workers do not elect to take their breaks in their work days over a long period of time, it's not a stretch to think that certain bosses would come to expect this to be the norm.  The workers might be given a hard time if they choose to take their legally entitled breaks down the road one day.  I can still remember someone giving me a tongue lashing for not taking my breaks in a previous job.  His logic was quite simple.  He said: "My grandfather took a bat to the head so we could get our breaks...".  Rights that I took for granted today were fought for by many men and women and some even made the ultimate sacrifice.  

I never meant for this blog to be so political.  I typed out my rant on one of those days and I debated not posting it.  I also didn't want to waste all that time on something that I just simply delete, so here it is!  My job requires me to state that my views are my own and do not represent my employer of course!  Now, let's get back to our regular scheduled programming of some photography!  Until next time!

As I wander around the alleys of downtown, a man pointed out the shoes hanging on the powerlines.  He said that it means there are gangs and bad people in the area.  I nodded in agreement to the symbolism before I robbed him.

I have arrived in the 20th Century... Sort of by Arthur Hsu

It was bound to happen.  Technological progress waits for no one.  I thought I would hitch a ride on the bandwagon and make my way into the 20th century in film technology.  I developed my very first roll of colour film!  This was a big milestone for me, as strange as that might sound to most people.  I can still remember a young, naive (and most definitely dumb) Arthur looking into the future of photography as he processed black and white film in school.  He thought to himself: "Wouldn't it be awesome if I can one day develop my own colour film?!?".  Here I am, after an undisclosed amount of years since high school, I finally did it.  

I shot a roll of Portra 400 film in September, but I hadn't had the motivation to develop the film.  It would require some brain power to sort out all the steps, but I often lacked that brain power after a day of work.  I had the last couple of days off unexpectedly, and I decided to put it to good use.  I have been weary to process colour film due to the very specific temperature requirement during development.  The film has to stay at a constant 102 degree Fahrenheit.  Black and white film does have a similar requirement, but it's at 20 degrees Celsius which is much easier to manage.  

Once I made the decision to go ahead, I gathered all the required equipment and materials.  The kitchen looked a bit like a meth lab.  No, I don't know what a meth lab looks like exactly, but I do watch Breaking Bad which automatically makes me a honorary meth cook.   I mixed all the chemicals according to instruction and began a delicate balance of doing the actual development and keeping the solutions at a manageable temperature for use when the time comes.  The result?  I screwed up.  I think the temperature was out of whack.  Some shots were rendered very oddly with weird colour casts; however, some shots actually worked out to my surprise.  

I am definitely not going to stop shooting black and white.  I love the way it renders light and breaks it down to its simple elements of variable shades.  There were certainly times when I wish I had colour film with me, and now I can get the best of both worlds and be able to finish the processing myself.  The young Arthur would be proud, but he would probably tell me to lose some weight at the same time.  One thing at a time, young Arthur!

My favourite shot from the roll.  I am glad it sort of turned out okay.  I am not sure why I like this picture so much.  Perhaps its the posture of the man and the way he leans back into the glass bus shelter.  He appears to be alone while being physically present in the middle of the city.  

The Calm Before the Storm by Arthur Hsu

The day began like any other October day in years past.  The air was crisp but the sun was shining and eager to warm up the cool easterly breeze.  The golden and crimson leaves, scattered along the sidewalks, were crunching below my feet with every step and it's as if they were shouting to remind everyone that "winter is coming".  The prophetic message appeared to fall on deaf ears as everyone scurried to stay on their headings.  As a Metro Vancouverite, it's my duty to sound the weather alarm bell!  It seems like that over reaction is the best policy when it comes to weather warnings.  It's probably the prudent thing to do, but I wonder how much lawyering is involved with The Weather Network.  In that sense, I would always report that the sky is falling just in case it does fall one day!  Be very glad that I am not your local forecaster.

By now, it appears that most of Vancouver escaped any significant damage.  East coasters will laugh at us.  We will remember this storm as the one that almost ended everything we loved about Vancouver.  Mainly the coffeeshops at every street corner.  My pictures could have been great works of art of the day before the great storm of 2016 by showcasing the calm before the storm, but now, they are just simply pictures of a slice of Vancouver.  Thanks destroying my shots, Mother Nature.  

I saw a lady inside a coffee shop just aggressively taking pictures of this vase and the plant inside it.  She was going to town on it with her digital camera.  I decided to stop and take a picture of the happening.  She looked up and saw me pointing my camera at her pointing her camera at the vase..  She immediately started killing herself laughing.  I started laughing.  We both laughed at the same time.  I waved and smiled before leaving with a picture that is not special in most artistic ways, but it somehow captured the laugher in not so many pixels on the computer screen and on my film negative.  

A little bit of everything from the trip by Arthur Hsu

The Hostel of Mosquitoes in Rotterdam

The Hostel of Mosquitoes in Rotterdam

Here are some pictures and writing that I did not publish initially while I was in Europe:

I woke up nice and early the day of my departure from Rotterdam.  From my last report, there were a ton of mosquitoes in the room, but I didn't kill all of them.  I felt somewhat safe since, a) I was thinking they might be the peaceful ones, b) they were all hanging out on the ceiling on the other side of the room.  Any mosquitoes that crosses the line into my side, met their untimely death by a smack of a free map...  they were not even worthy of a paid map. I consider myself an animal lover but I f-ing hate mosquitoes!!! 

Fast forward to next moving, I made a dash for the train station as soon as I was mobile!  I was counting my lucky stars for escaping all the mosquitoes since I would normally be there preferred meal under most circumstances.  Later on in the morning, I started noticing all the bumps and I was cursing those mosquitoes and wishing for their demise.  

Night shot of the market showing the inside in much better detail

Night shot of the market showing the inside in much better detail

Rotterdam Centraal Train station.  It reminds me of a giant paper airplane.   

Rotterdam Centraal Train station.  It reminds me of a giant paper airplane.   

With Rotterdam on the train tracks behind mind, and the high speed train poised to take off from the tracks, I was looking forward to what my destination, Paris, may bring for me.  There was a minor change in my accommodation since I was a freshly minted Airbnb user!  The path to this elite club of travelers couldn't came at a better time as I battled loud snores and killer mosquitoes in the last couple of hostels.  I was eager to see the differences, hopefully all positive.   

I rolled into Paris with no concrete plans, but first stop was my Airbnb sleepover location.  The process was really easy.  My host was super nice and easy going and the place was as advertised.  I got a key with a fuzzy fur ball attached to it.  It all seemed a little TOO easy, but I was quickly becoming a convert.  First outing took me to what many would consider to be synonymous with Paris isself, the Eiffel Tower.  I spent hours roaming around the area to take in the sights, and even more so, observing the scams going on around me.  I was facinated by all the crooks running about and taking advantaged of all the tourists.  

Most people know to never play the 3-Card Monte or its variation anywhere.  I briefly came across a travel show on TV talking about it, but I didn't really pay any attention to the details other than you will never win.  As I stood on the bridge in front of the tower, many 3-card Monte games were happening.  I parked myself near by and just watched.  There were always at least one lookout guy.  The game is constant because when you first see the game being played, EVERYONE but you is in on the scam.  All the money you see exchanging hands were all for show.  Initially I thought maybe 1 or 2 people out of the 8 people were real players, but once the lookout gave them the signal to move, all of them ran away as a group.  Their acting skills were superb.  One instance, they ran away right in front of their victim leaving him with a dumbfounded expression of disblief.  Some of the "confederate" or the other pretend players actually work to socialize and coach their victims to the "rules" of the game such as stepping on the cup that they believed contained the ball.  Once you step on the cup, you will hand your money over and then they will show you what's underneath which is almost certainly nothing.  They generally start playing amongst all the scammers, and they are looking for those people who were watching nearby.  One of the fake players would lose on a call, and the dealer would then turn and ask the nearby observer to chime in and even handing them money to entice them to play.  They had it down to a scamming science.  Crime teamwork does pay!

The pile of sand would definitely ease her suffering slightly in case of a fall

The pile of sand would definitely ease her suffering slightly in case of a fall

The people, who I believe to be mostly tourists, are desperate to hold onto a "tradition" of placing locks on the bridges in Paris.  One of the bridges had all the locks removed after a portion of the railing fell into the river below due to overloading.  After removing all the locks, it was reported that they weigh as much as 70 cars on the bridge!!!  I guess that was a testament to Napoleon era engineering.   

The people, who I believe to be mostly tourists, are desperate to hold onto a "tradition" of placing locks on the bridges in Paris.  One of the bridges had all the locks removed after a portion of the railing fell into the river below due to overloading.  After removing all the locks, it was reported that they weigh as much as 70 cars on the bridge!!!  I guess that was a testament to Napoleon era engineering.   

I also paid a visit to the Arc de Triomphe.  I saw the Arc from afar last time and I was looking forward to getting up close and personal this time.  Security was tight at every tourist attraction.  If you want to visit anywhere, they will search your bags before letting you through.  I managed to climb to the top of the Arc and spent about 30 mins there while enjoying the view from above; however, an evacuation order was given.  They used one of those loud bullhorn portable PA to tell everyone to GTFO.  I happily obliged for my own safety, BUT some tourists actually started asking about when they would reopen and still tried to go up top.  That's some next level sightseeing.  

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I appreciate a little "cringing" from people who walk into my shot and feel bad about it.   

I appreciate a little "cringing" from people who walk into my shot and feel bad about it.   

A little tongue slapping, butt grabbing, and some photography

A little tongue slapping, butt grabbing, and some photography

Runaway bride?  No.  Just a photo shoot assistant. 

Runaway bride?  No.  Just a photo shoot assistant. 

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This will forever be known as the bridge in the movie Inception

This will forever be known as the bridge in the movie Inception

For the Love of Art by Arthur Hsu

What is art?  See below.

Some people just like glowing lips

"What's up?".  "Not much, just hanging...".  

"Honey, you look stoned..." 

Recreation of pigment paint at the Rembrandt's old house

A Catch-22 by Arthur Hsu

I can still remember my first exposure to the phrase "catch 22'.  It was during my formative years in high school, and I was required to pick a book for a book report.  I really didn't want to do a book report, but I still had to do one regardless.  I guess you could say that I was in a bit of a catch-22 then.  I picked a book by Joseph Heller named... you guessed it...  Catch-22!  I didn't really take away any life-changing lessons other than the meaning of catch-22.  Catch-22 is defined as "a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent condition".  What does that have to do with photography? 

Here I am in Vancouver after a brief time away in Europe.  As I returned to the streets of Vancouver, I couldn't help but notice that my shots are down significantly.  I think that my time away from my stomping ground had spoiled me.  Now, I am no longer seeing the exotic buildings and scenery of Europe, perhaps Vancouver becomes a little bit stale in the process.  This is in huge contrast with my eagerness to run wild with my camera prior to my trip to Europe.  I would love to travel more in the near future, yet this could potentially hurt my desire to capture local images.  The thought of losing interest in the local photographic opportunities did not last long.  The initial concern was washed away when I spotted a compelling scene.  

Vancouver has its share of public pianos.  These pianos are left around the city at certain locations for anyone to enjoy.  I spotted a public grand piano in Vancouver Downtown Eastside.  I didn't quite "see" the piano as much as I heard the beautiful melody which pulled me in its direction.  I saw a young man playing next to a lady in wheelchair.  The lady was taken by the music and she was moving her hands over the keys as if she was making the music herself.  Occasionally, she would look at the young man.  I believe her eyes conveyed a sense of amazement of the music and an appreciation for his talent and effort.  Shortly after I came across the scene, someone came by to take the lady away.  I was glad that I could capture the moment with my camera allowing it to live on for much longer than the instant of my camera shutter.   

A thoughtful warning, but it feels a little aggressive.  Maybe it's because of the exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

On a different note, after using a digital camera exclusively for my Euro-trip, I wasn't sure if my feelings about shooting analogue/film would change.  Digital is so convenient with a much shorter workflow that allowed me to post pictures from just about anywhere (with a decent internet connection).  The digital images are so sharp and vibrant which is a huge draw for most people.  As I look at my film images, I realize that I still enjoy the analogue medium.  Film renders much differently and it looks more "soulful" to my eyes.  Digital feels somewhat sterile and clinical in its depiction of the world.  Digital imagery has a level of perfection that is unlike the world it attempts to capture.  You can of course use film simulation to make your digital image appear more like film, but I might as well just shoot film in that case if my time and wallet allow for this luxury.  As it stands now, my brief flirtation with my digital camera has not change my devotion to film photography.  Long live film photography!

  

London by Arthur Hsu

Scoop, my buddy away from home, standing heroically in front of Tate Modern

Being in London is like a homecoming away from home.  There is a sense of familiarity.  I coudln't quite figure out what else made me feel at home there.  Perhaps it was the people or the just the general vibe of the place.  I felt a sense of ease wandering the streets of London more so than other cities on this trip, but oddly enough, I was the least motivated to take pictures there.  Perhaps it was the sense of familiarity that reduced my desire to shoot.  Another potential reason for my lack of motivation could be what Bruce Gilden talked about in a YouTube video that I just showed someone again after seeing it a while back.  In the video Gilden talked about how everyone is starting to look the same on the street.  Let's be perfectly clear, I would probably fall into this "cookie cutter" look myself, but as a photographer, I can definitely see his point.  Eccentric characters grab my attention and those people are harder and harder to see anywhere.  When I see one in the wild, it's like seeing an purple unicorn, and I go a little ape sh*t.  I am sure London has its share of characters, but being around touristy areas probably didn't help my cause.  I will have to search in a different area next time! 

I did manage to get a picture the girls pictured above.  I always feel a sense of wonder and sadness when I take pictures of kids.  A sense of sadness comes from the fact that the world is a very cynical place and I always fear the need to explain why I am taking picture of someone else's kids.  By the time that you are asked for an explanation, I believe that the people have already made up their minds about your motivation.  I haven't had any trouble so far (*knock on wood) since I always try to take my pictures in proper "context".  The kids are generally doing something interesting that I believe anyone would want to capture the same moment which bring me to my sense of wonder.  Kids are such open books and that make them great subjects.  They express all their senses of bewilderment, joy, mischief, and etc in the open and without a care in the world.  Their world might be small, but their hearts shine through with such innocence that it becomes contagious.  

I will be wrapping up this unplanned, solo Euro-trip after London.  I learned quite a few things while roaming around Europe, and what stuck out the most, much like my last Euro-trip, was that European free internet is terrible and unreliable!  I was able to upload some of my pictures while in various coffeeshops from my iPad, but that was the result of uploading the same pictures 2 or 3 times!!!  I am glad to be returning to the internet haven that is Canada (minus the elevated cost of course).

This trip was last minute and badly planned.  I didn't have a must-see destination in mind and wanted to go with the flow.  The flow took me from Vancouver to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, and now London.  Amsterdam was the only decent deal that I could find with a direct flight.  This is quite a departure from my original plan of spending most of my time in Germany.  It just so happened that there were a couple of events in Germany during my trip.  First one being the Oktoberfest and second one being Photokina.  Those events made finding affordable accommodation a challenge.  These challenges are to be expected since it was a very last minute trip.  I did almost no planning whatsoever.  Dumb?  Absolutely!  I will definitely do more planning next time... maybe.   

I am looking forward to my next adventure.  I will certainly be scouring the internet much more often for cheap flights from now on.  My lack of responsibility has to be put to good use somehow, and I figure travelling is a good way to start.  Until next time!

The rod of Trafalgar...  Well, it's actually called the Nelson's Column, but the Rod sounds much more interesting.