Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wanderlust

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Sydney Harbour Bridge

The challenge this week opens with “Have you traveled anywhere exciting lately?” Well yes and I have been posting pictures of Cuba for a while now. That was our most recent trip. In October 2015 we were much further from home. This photo was taken as our cruise ship arrived in Sydney in the early hours of the morning. We did not see any kangaroos in our trip, but this landmark is about as iconic as it gets.

Sydney Opera House

Unless you count the Opera House of course, just opposite the bridge and the cruise ship terminal – and in much better light.

The great advantage of taking a ship is that when you arrive in a city on the other side of the planet, there is no jet lag, and you get to enjoy your visit straight away. On that cruise we also visited Honolulu, Fiji and some of the smaller islands of the South Pacific, which for a lad from East Ham was about as exotic as I have ever experienced.

Living now in Beautiful British Columbia we are spoiled for wonderful destinations on own doorstep. Even a short trip to the nearest beach produces breathtaking views. And some of my wanderlust has been tempered simply by the increasing harassment travellers experience just trying to get on a plane to somewhere else. Or even to drive over the border. We are not planning to travel anywhere very much in the immediate future, just to avoid these hassles.

Sydney wildlife

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April 26, 2017 at 2:11 pm

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

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When I first saw the challenge for this week I was thinking of looking for one of my gigantic panoramas. But then as I was scrolling through Photos on my MacBook I saw this little snapshot. We were walking around the Cleveland Dam and Capilano park, when I saw this skunk cabbage emerging from the earth. That does look like a particularly fecund bit of ground – lots of naturally composting plants and detritus from the forest. And that fern is really artistic, don’t you think?

We have had almost continuous rain here for months – and the chance to get outside during the brief dry spells is eagerly grasped. Spring has been late, but all around things are emerging and blooming as the warmth returns – if not much actual direct sunshine.

We need to keep in mind how much we depend on earth. The fact that we have anything to eat at all depends on a few inches of topsoil and dependable rain. But humans seem to be very bad at understanding that this is very fragile and easily broken. There might be water on a moon of Saturn, but that does not give us any realistic alternative to taking better care of the Earth we inherited and are so lucky to have survived our ill treatment thus far.

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April 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge “Surprise”

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IMG_1828via Photo Challenge: Surprise

The little white dots of foam that you see on the surface of the spaghetti squash are where I carefully pierced the skin with a large fork to allow the steam to escape. I have done this many times when cooking it in the microwave. Probably the easiest way to deal with this vegetable. This time, there were not enough holes, apparently, as there was a loud bang. Surprise!

Fortunately this was toward the end of the cooking time, and the mess was fairly limited. It was very tasty: served with a meat sauce, of which there were leftovers, which I have just finished for lunch today – with real spaghetti – not another squash or any surprises.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 12, 2017 at 2:02 pm

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Security

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Policia Especializada Cuba Comandancia

I did a but of searching to try and find out what the Specialised Police might do. But it seems likely that security concerns prevent that information from being released. Wikipedia had some generalised information about policing – but does not give much information. And some maps identify the location as The Old City Police station. It is clearly some ancient fortification – one of several around the entrance to the port. Which, at one time, needed protection especially from British privateers – the original Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course modern weaponry made such fortifications obsolete and in most places they become museums and tourist attractions. Cuba, of course, is different. Castles – like the Tower of London – have always done double duty as places of confinement – again usually in the name of “security”. One of those splendidly flexible and ill defined terms, and deliberately kept that way. All kinds of things are done in its name including deliberately overstepping all the formal controls most countries place on the power of the state to spy, detain and maltreat those it feels might be threatening it. Security of the state trumps security of the person not just in places like Cuba – for 50 years condemned by the United States for its supposed excesses in limiting the freedom of its citizens and supposed threats to its far bigger, more powerful neighbour – but also the location of the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay and site of some of the US’s most egregious (and illegal) excesses in the name of security. It doesn’t look anything like this, of course.

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April 5, 2017 at 11:53 am

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Dense

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Vancouver Aerial

This is a photograph of Vancouver’s downtown, which in recent years has become – in terms of urban development – one of the densest parts of the region. This was the result of a set of inter-related planning decisions, to allow for towers, closely spaced, and mainly for residential use. This was a departure from the way other places kept downtowns for other, non-residential uses. This has allowed for much greater choices in terms of how people get to and from work – and other activities. In most modern cities, built since World War II, the plan has been to allow for most use of cars, which has created large swathes of low density suburbs. Traditionally, prior to motorised transport, cities were designed to allow for most trips to be completed by walking. Railways and streetcars allowed things to be spaced out a bit more, but the greatest impact was the use of the personal automobile. Most North American cities are now turning away from this pattern of development and rediscovering the benefits of urbanity. (Most European cities made that choice much sooner – to retain the amenities and cultural significance of their central areas. ) Not just better energy efficiency, and cleaner air – though both are worthwhile improvements – but in greater interaction between people. More sociability, greater opportunities to meet other people – more culture, more entertainment, more choices of where to go and what to do.  Indeed the pursuit of higher densities remains a central plank of urban and regional planning – the subject matter of most of this blog – made possible by increasing the choices of transport open to residents. More trips that can be made without needing a car, by walking, cycling and public transport. That produces happier, healthier places. It doesn’t just protect the environment it increases economic activity.

Note too that one important lesson of developing a dense urban core is that green spaces – that’s Stanley Park in the foreground – can be successfully protected and made available for many more people to enjoy, rather than the large areas that get fenced off to keep people out in low density suburbs and exurbs.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2017 at 9:26 pm

WPC: It IS Easy Being Green

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via Photo Challenge: It IS Easy Being Green!

Parque Josone, Varadero
Parque Josone in Varadero, Cuba where even the water in the boating lake is green.

 

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March 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

Atop the clouds

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via Photo Challenge: Atop

Atop the clouds

Heading home from Varadero it was already dark by the time we left the airport, but once we got atop the clouds there was still some afterglow from the sunset. And since the view here is westwards perhaps someone can help with the identification of that star.

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March 15, 2017 at 1:04 pm