A royal love affair

“A poet never takes notes. You never take notes in a love affair.” – Robert Frost

A bridge in fog. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar
A bridge in fog. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

I’ve been a frequent viewer of Tenth to Fraser for some time now, looking over all the great articles focused around this town, which I have now lived in for over ten years. My partner’s family was born and raised here, in this city of heritage, this city of culture. It has always been in the back of mind that I was having an affair unlike many affairs. This was a strong, if not overpowering, love for a city that gets a bad reputation and is often overlooked.

The negative image of our beautiful city has begun to bubble up inside of me, inspiring me to put on display the inner beauty and character that the Royal City emanates from the century old buildings and remarkable landscapes. Of course, something this grand in scope cannot be completed in a single post, so I will bring this to you in segments. Each will look at a different aspect of New Westminster.

City By The River

The alarm didn’t go off. I rolled my head to the side and squinted at the clock. 7am. Why am I up at 7am? I began to stretch, my muscles screaming with rage, and walked over to the window. For a moment my brain tried to piece together what it saw, which was next to nothing. My usual crowded view of the SkyTrain bridge was obscured by thick fog tinged with a golden yellow from the emerging sun. My mind tried to rush the waking process, urgently telling the rest of my body that it needed to jump into action. I threw clothes on, grabbed my camera and rushed out the door. My first destination was the top of the Front Street parkade where I could get a better view. I anxiously waited for the elevator on the third floor of my building, thinking about how I would capture the fog. I descended to the basement and got in the car. I start the engine and slide into reverse, apologizing to the car as we rolled backwards. “I’m sorry girl, I know I should warm you up first.”

I was off down Royal Avenue on route to the parkade, mentally calculating plans of attack. Aperture and shutter speeds came to mind. Composition interrupted. It all had to be pushed aside. I was there, my car parked at an angle in the middle of the top level. I looked out the window in the direction of the bridges, which were covered in a thick formation of fog. My body shook with pure adrenaline. I jumped out of my seat, camera in hand, everything quickly dissolving from thought. I rushed to the edge of the parkade and looked down to see a tug pulling a hefty load of wood up the river towards the east. My head shook from side to side surveying the situation, looking for a new shooting location.

A tug hard at work on the Fraser. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar
A tug hard at work on the Fraser. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

As I looked below, the new pier project came to mind. My eyes scanned the scattered mess that has characterized the river side for many years and I smiled at the thought of change. Quickly jumping back into my car, I took off towards the rail bridge that crosses to the other side of the river. There I knew I would find a pair of tug companies where I could park and find a suitable shooting angle – hopefully before the boat reached my location.

I drove to my destination, heart racing and hands shaking with excitement. I felt like Speed Racer in the classic cartoon, with rays of light flashing past my eyes as I sped down the iconic Front Street – well known to any movie aficionado for its dreary back alley look that I love so much. It’s just another example of the character that pours out of every corner of this fair city.

Arriving in the boat company lot, shots and settings still running through my head, I left the car running and rushed out to begin sighting my shot. I looked through the viewfinder of my Rebel XSi at the eerie sky-train bridge emerging from a thick fog as if it were a highway to the heavens.

I snapped away, not content to wait for my ideal shot to arrive. Down the river I saw the tug making its way up to me. My lens bounced from perspective to perspective, grabbing every possible composition that I could think of on the fly. As the tug boat arrived, I repeated my process and got a plethora of angles. Soon the boat had disappeared from view, leaving me behind to look through the display screen at my success.

Fraser Cemetery. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar
Fraser Cemetery. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

I decided I had taken a decent number of photos and started the drive home, talking my girlfriend’s ear off about how much I love this city. Babbling like a gleeful little girl, I made my way down Richmond Street and looked to my left side. I couldn’t help but notice the fog blanketing Fraser Cemetery. Mid-conversation, I reared off to the side of the road with yet another target in mind. The thick cloud hugging the plots and head stones demonstrated the beauty that can still exist in a place meant for eternal rest. I had to be careful where I stepped, so as to avoid disrespecting the deceased, as I made my way through the cemetery, capturing one beautiful image after another.

I finished up and left behind the misty graveyard, no doubt any photographer’s bucket shot. As I made my way home I knew what I had to do. I had to share my love for a city forgotten.

3 Replies to “A royal love affair”

  1. Beautiful work Brad, and beautiful words.

    It also answers the question most of us rank-amateur photographers have: How come my pictures never look that good? The amount of knowledge, planning, and hard work required to capture these images makes them even more impressive.
    My recent post New West Doc Fest – Day 1

    1. Thank you Pat. I'm glad you enjoyed my piece and the imagery that accompanied it. I hope to have another piece with in the next couple weeks. Just trying to decide what I want to focus on next.
      My recent post Sneak Preview!

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