My favourite way to approach travel photography is as an act of discovery. Before landing in a new destination I have usually done some research about the location, but I like to arrive with no specific photos in mind. I find that I make better images when I have few preconceived ideas of what a place “is”. I am more likely to encounter an unexpected cultural or historical detail when I follow the light through a new environment. This enables me to create travel photos that are both artistic and authentic as I document an inspired experience of being there.
The drawback to this approach is that during shorter visits, the opportunities for good light are inherently more limited. What may be a dull scene on an overcast morning could be spectacular on a sunny afternoon, but by then my camera and I may be on to other sights. So it was especially nice on a recent short trip to Vancouver, Canada to have a couple of nights on Granville Island. This provided ample time to explore, walking to the market beneath dramatic views of the towering Vancouver cityscape.
This is ancestral land to the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and remains unceded territory. Prior to industrial development, the sandbars and shallows of the tidal environment were rich with food sources. Surrounded by distant mountains and alive with abundant biodviersity, this would have been an especially beautiful place.
The present-day Granville Island is man-made, built with material dredged from the nearby waterways. What was once an inter-tidal ecosystem is now a mix of industrial enterprises, performing arts venues, and arts and crafts studios. This urban environment lends itself to a different kind of travel photography, emphasizing the buildings and dense development of a very specific neighbourhood.
My visit in late winter meant that the sightseeing crowds had not yet arrived for the busy summer season. I enjoyed capturing a sense of calmness, even in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a city port and industrial neighbourhood. In particular, the early mornings spent wandering the quiet streets offered plenty of beautiful light and photographic inspiration.
Exploring the Vancouver cityscape from Granville Island
Granville Island is a great place to explore new angles for Vancouver travel photography. The surrounding views of the city are remarkable as the light changes throughout the day. Towering buildings reflect in the water below, while bridges and trees provide unique framed perspectives of the landscape beyond.
One Vancouver skyscraper in particular has a very interesting shape, narrowing at the bottom than at the top. I was able to photograph Vancouver House in both early morning and late afternoon light. I like how each composition gives the building a slightly different presence within the cityscape. There is subtle context provided by other elements in each composition. Meanwhile, the angle and futuristic form of the architecture remains similar in both photos.
The presence of such large buildings directly reflected in the water of False Creek is also quite striking. At sunset, the walls of glass and steel catch the sunset light. At sunrise, the light casts the Vancouver city skyline into shadow, as the angular buildings appear to extend to the distant horizon.
Visit apkphotography.com to see my full archive of Granville Island and Vancouver travel photography. Many of my travel photographs are available to license here, and select images have been released as fine art travel photo prints.