A Bad Day With A Camera

A Stroll Downtown

A good sunrise is one of the best omens a photographer can have for a day of successful shooting. This morning’s sunrise as captured from the balcony of our Calgary Airbnb didn’t disappoint.

Sunrise, Downtown, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

That and a cup of coffee and I was in business. I have a TTArtisan 50mm f1.4 tilt lens I have been wanting to experiment with, so I thought I would do some test shots from the balcony before heading downtown with it.

That Lilliputian Look 01, Downtown, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
That Lilliputian Look 01, Downtown, Calgary,
Alberta, 2024-02-22
That Lilliputian Look 03, Downtown, Calgary,
Alberta, 2024-02-22

These were done at the largest aperture of f1.4 and the plane of focus is too narrow, but it was hard to see on the camera’s display. I will bump it up to f2.8 and higher next time.

Things that make you go hmmm, Downtown, Calgary,
Alberta, 2024-02-22
Not the tunnel of love, Downtown, Calgary,
Alberta, 2024-02-22

Our Airbnb was at the Nuera 1.0 tower at 13th Ave and 1st Street SE and we rather liked it. The neighbourhood around it is in the process of being gentrified, but not quickly enough in my opinion. I had to skirt around some aggressive homeless people as I made my toward 8th Avenue Mall on foot. A guy was shooting up in the 9th Avenue railway underpass as I walked back later. It’s a bit sketchy.

The Businessmen, 8th Avenue, Downtown, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

A lot has changed, but some things stay the same forever. This art installation – The Businessmen – was there on my first trip downtown when I was nine years old and it was still there today for me at age fifty-five. It is weathering the conditions well, too. It hasn’t changed noticeably other than it has more pigeon poop on it at some times than others. This statue is in front of the Hudson’s Bay Company building, which has changed as it is mostly not The Bay these days. The company has been made irrelevant by Amazon and most of the space is leased out to other businesses.

I watched movies at The Palace Theatre whenever I could afford to as a kid, which, sadly, wasn’t often. I usually went to the Saturday afternoon matinees which were cheap cheap cheap. A lot of good memories there. It is no longer in business as a movie theatre. For a while, it was a hockey-themed abomination called “Flames Central”, which pissed me off to no end as I figured such a grand establishment deserved … better. I view hockey as a national IQ test. If you like it, you’ve failed.

Other places that I loved as a kid that are gone now include the arcade, a wonderful games store that had all manner of D&D books and accessories, and a Sony Store where I would ogle the stereo components I would never own, although I did buy the occasional blank cassette there. I wish I could remember the name of the arcade, but I can’t. I can tell you it was the only arcade in Calgary I was aware of that had the wonderful Gottlieb Genie wide-body pinball machine with dual flippers at the bottom. I loved that game.

Tropicana, 8th Avenue, Downtown, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

I was sort of excited to see that Tropicana (est. 1979!) was still there. Tropicana is a head shop that sells stuff for metalheads, potheads, and anyone looking for something that will upset their parents. I have some nostalgia about the store, but I didn’t go in because I have somehow turned into that parent over the years.

Celebration, 8th Avenue, Downtown, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
The Pooper Scoopers, 8th Avenue, Downtown,
Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

There is a funky art installation around 4th Street and 8th Avenue that has no official name, but many locals refer to it as The Trees. Others call them The Pooper Scoopers, and that’s honestly what they look like to me. I hope the city didn’t pay a lot for oversized pooper scoopers, but they probably did. Some other artists bootlegged it by adding a bunch of ribbons to the first installation.

Banker’s Hall Mall, Downtown,
Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
8th Avenue Framed, Downtown,
Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

I entered Banker’s Hall, and, appropriately, the majority of shops there only cater to people wealthy enough that they are probably bankers, too. I just wanted to use the building to access the +15 Walkway system so I could cross to The Core, another large indoor mall in downtown Calgary. I got one last image of the Pooper Scooper framed by the architecture of Banker’s Hall as I crossed the elevated pedway.

4th Level, The Core, Landscape, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
Amareya, The Core, Calgary,
Alberta, 2024-02-22
4th Level, Portrait, The Core,
Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
Recharging Station, The Core,
Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
The Gap, The Core, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
That Salty Goodness, Downtown, Calgary,
Alberta, 2024-02-22
4th Level, Asymmetric Curves, The Core, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

The Core is a four-level shopping Mecca housed in the TD Bank buildings with an arched, windowed ceiling that blesses the area with an abundance of natural light. There is also a nice variety of merchants that make shopping there accessible to everyone, not just those on the wealthy end of the scale like the shops at Banker’s Hall.

It ain’t easy being green, Devonian Gardens, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
White something something, Devonian Gardens,
Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22
Snake Plants, Devonian Gardens,
Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

What used to be the main feature of the TD Building was the Devonian Gardens, a lush rooftop greenhouse filled with all kinds of green goodness. The gardens were made over and severely pruned back in my almost three-decade absence from downtown Calgary and I would estimate that perhaps less than a third of the original gardens are left. The rest have been turned into retail space, of course. God help us all if there isn’t a GAP outlet within a stone’s throw. I did find a couple of spots that still felt familiar, mainly the sloping gardens down the interior facade of the building.

Side Stairs. Devonian Gardens, Calgary,
Alberta, 2024-02-22
Pinwheel Statue, Devonian Gardens, Calgary,
Alberta, 2024-02-22

The stairs to the left not only looked familiar but were as beat up as I remembered them looking back when I was a teen and young adult. The purple pinwheel statue to the right is a more recent addition that I don’t recognize, but it is purple and I therefore approve of it.

Rosey red, Devonian Gardens, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

It saddens me that the Devonian Gardens were scaled back. They were a much-needed winter refuge on those blah days when exposure to living green things was the only balm for my SAD soul. The Gardens helped keep a lot of other Calgarians sane through the dead season as well and taking away so much of it is a crime.

I checked my watch and it was just past 2:30 pm, time to head back to the Airbnb as I would have to retrieve my wife from the Hyatt Regency downtown where she would be waiting for me. I started hoofing it back to home base when I happened on what was a curiosity, at least to me.

Hy’s, 8th Avenue, Downtown, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

Hy’s Restaurant and Steakhouse is not something I had realized was in Calgary and on 8th Avenue Mall, no less. The main and, well, only reason I know of this chain is that the one in Ottawa was somewhat infamous as a source of gossip and leaks for federal politics. Hy’s is not someplace I would eat, but it did remind me that my friend Ray and I used to run a political blog together in years past and we would occasionally comment on things that leaked out of the Ottawa Hy’s. Good times.

Tower of Power, Downtown, Calgary, Alberta, 2024-02-22

I unfortunately had not budgeted enough time for a trip up the Calgary Tower to play with my tilt lens and that would have to wait for another day. I made it back to our rented condo and made myself a coffee to celebrate another productive photo outing and also nearly 10,000 steps according to my fitness tracker. It’s always fun to revisit old stomping grounds with a camera and to see them in a new way.

Note: All images in this post were created with a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphone except for the three “Lilliputian” images that were made with my Canon EOS R5 and the TTArtisan 50mm f1.4 manual focus tilt lens for RF mount.

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© 2024 Sean D. McCormick

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