Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: on Howe Sound

on Howe Sound



A couple of days ago, on Monday, we went out to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, where there is a ferry terminal servicing the islands and the Sunshine Coast. One of our favourite seafood restaurants, where we had lunch (in honour of my birthday), overlooks the marina and the ferries going back and forth. The top photo is taken from my seat inside, showing the large Nanaimo ferry. The smaller ferry in the next image travels back and forth to nearby Bowen Island.



Looking back from the marina to the village, and up the mountainside to admire the fog lingering on the treetops.

Though it was cloudy but not raining, we made a spur of the moment decision to take a drive up Howe Sound as far as Porteau Cove. This was our first time on the new Sea-to-Sky highway that goes up to Whistler, all rebuilt for the Winter Olympics of 2010. Quite an engineering feat on these steep mountainsides overlooking the Sound and on up through the Coast Mountain range.


Silly me, I had forgotten to recharge my camera batteries beforehand so I was unable to take any more photos after H.B. Husband took a couple with his phone camera - above is the better one taken looking south from Porteau Cove. I wish you could have seen the numerous cormorants, seagulls and blue herons sitting in rows on the concrete walls by the pier.

I was struck by how very fresh the air was here, so unlike in the past when it was often foul from paper mills. Apparently the water is also much improved and a variety of sea life is returning. This is sacred territory to the Squamish First Nations, and so rich in their stories which we read about with great interest at an expansive storyboard next to a viewpoint over the Sound. We must get to Whistler one day to visit the stunning new Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre.

It was a heartwarming, magical and beautiful afternoon. We are so blessed to live in this gorgeous part of the world, and we hope it stays this way for future generations, not destroyed by the powerful oil interests currently fighting for increased access to our coast.

Marja-Leena | 13/02/2013 | 16 comments
themes: Being an Artist, Canada and BC, Environment


♪♫ Happy Birthday dearest Marja-Leena! Sounded and looked like a wonderful trip. The photos remind me of Sumi painting. And what are those lights off in the distance in the very first photo? At first I thought they might be stars.

Happy Friendship Day, too!

A silvery sunset is unusual. What seafood did you eat? Belated birthday greetings.

Rouchswalwe, thank you! Yes, I can see the Sumi effect with the mist and clouds and mountains and sea. Those lights are reflections on the window of the restaurant as I took the photo from inside. And see that smudge on the right? Happy Friendship Day to you too!

Joe, it was taken around 3:30 in the afternoon not sunset. The photos look darker than it really was because of the bright though cloudy sky. If I lighten the photos they appear too washed out.

Seafood chowder and salmon for him, halibut for me, all Pacific coast. Thanks for the greetings!

My daughter is skiing at Whistler this week. I've never been there. I'm glad to learn that nature is coming back in some of these overexploited places.

Hattie, Whistler is very popular even internationally. If I were in better shape, I'd like to go to the cross-country ski area. I haven't done downhill for a long time. But we have skiing right here in Vancouver too, and you can even go sail afterwards :-)

The pictures are gorgeous. The last time I saw Whistler it was still completely undeveloped. Even then it was a favorite of skiers who didn't mind the time it took to get there.

Susan, that is a long time ago, probably around the time we moved here in the early 70s. I remember some friends took us there for a look around. It has grown a lot since with many hotels and expensive homes.

I didn't know you ever failed to re-charge your camera batteries, thought it was more or less a given. Perhaps it was an entitlement for Birthday Girl. I assume it wasn't one of those that ends with a zero. When that next happens to me it will confirm my new status as "anchorite". Should you not know the meaning of that word why not spend a couple of minutes' of harmless fun trying to guess it without recourse to Google. There is a link but it's tenuous. Being aware of my irritability, unreliability, impatience, unseemly tendency to show off, etc, etc, might help.

However, let's talk about art. Some of your pictorial posts consist of controllable images: your hands, broken plates, shavings, string. The result is a composition, pure and simple, where the arrangement, the textures and the lighting are more important than any incidental detail. The spectator is allowed only a holistic reaction.

I was interested to read that the top pic here was taken from your seat in the restaurant. In that sense the subject was far less controllable; other than varying your stance slightly, twiddling the knobs on the camera, and judicious cropping afterwards you had to accept - more or less - that which was there. And some of it isn't exactly pretty. The boats attached to the longer part of the marina (in the middle distance) are something of a jumble, and the mooring piers of the nearer part of the marina are positively industrial. Quite different from those composed images: you've had to come to terms with raw visual information which is frequently served up willy-nilly.

It so happens marinas interest me and I spent some time looking at this one, simultaneously imagining you would have much preferred to have shot a scene consisting of billowing contours in a snow field with a single leafless tree and a line of fox-tracks in virgin snow. But then I drew back and started to notice the angles in and around the marina: the tops of the conifers descending to the left, the middle-distance part of the marina mercifully angled up (very slightly) from the horizontal, the foreground piers like fingers of a splayed hand. In an ideal world the ferry might have served you better an inch or two more to the left perhaps creating a widening angle between its water-line and the outer border of the marina but, hey, this is the uncontrollable world, one has to accept what one is given.

Oh and there is that framing yucca-ish plant on the left but we all know about that device don't we?

So why all this blah-blah? You must be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Simply this. There is little I can say about those controlled images: they are patterns. I can like them or not, admire the various techniques, and that's that. I am far more interested in the way you have dealt with an agglomeration of intractable information and managed to impose some order on it. The end result isn't in any sense perfect but then you were handling elements where usefulness was the dominant quality, few opportunties for pretty-pretty. The important judgment is whether your comparatively minor shaping of this scene added to the information it contained. I think it did. But then I like nuts and bolts.

Roderick, wow, I think your comment is longer than my post. And what an interesting critique on my snapshots. Yes, that is what they are, not art photographs. Not much thought went into them, just quickly trying to capture a little of the scenery. And they have not been cropped or adjusted other than a little brightening, and making them much too small for the web.

I took a fair number of photos but it was hard to get the whole bay in one shot, and the marina does look a bit of a jumble from these angles. An aerial view would have been better, with the restaurant and the marina on the bottom left of the curve of the horseshoe and the ferry docks (the industrial area) next to the right curve, and the town behind, and the water beyond. I could see you in a plane above if you were to visit! It's quite a stunning scene in real life, and especially on a sunny day!

Oh. and I do forget to check the camera batteries often! As for 'anchorite', I did look it up in the online dictionary -- 'a religious recluse' -- I don't believe it.

Belated happy birthday! It sounds like one of those loveliest days when one simply stops to enjoy what is good around us. The birds sound delightful - I do love watching their extraordinary ability/instinct to form patterns wherever they pause.
Caught out like you too often, I now carry spare batteries around with me, even though it adds weight to my bag.

What a lovely, smoldery sky! A grand sky to celebrate a birth... And the water below looks like a bath of molten tin.

Unexpected outings are often the best, aren't they?

Love the shade of green in the water and trees as well, and how narrowed-down the major colors on the palette are in those scenes.

Olga, thanks for the wish, and yes, it is fun and inspiring to have a day to explore at whim. The thought of having spare batteries certainly occurred to me that afternoon! I remember wishing I'd had a spare camera card when we were in the British Museum in 2009 and discovered it was left almost full by our daughter back home in Canada just before we left.

Marly, yes, the unexpected and unplanned are fun - we need to do it more often! I'm glad you like these scenes as much as I did. There is beauty even on a cloudy day when there are sea and mountains and trees...

My husband is in Seattle and has wished I could be there with him--I immediately thought, yes, I could have darted up to see Marja-Leena and have lunch in Vancouver Chinatown!


So you ended up having a happy birthday. And I can imagine that outing in a place like what you have over there is certainly worth it!

Your friend Roderick happened to pound in the same nail, what I have been trying to pound by myself here often. The question actually revolves on a bigger question of all different forms of so called postmodernism in visual arts.

Someone was just calculating the amount of the photography in our modern art museum Kiasma in Helsinki. First: it looks like major artists of new art are women, second: it looks like many of them work on photography or video, third: there was a severe critique given on the bad quality of especially video works. The issue was fortunately not on feminist question.

I have seen most of the stuff, and also foreign stuff as it comes on our way relatively often these days. I don't quite know what to think.

I'm not talking about your photo's of today (on the road, no, on the boat!) which I think were great and would fall under category of nature photography. These were quite good. You also use photography on your art series's and there I see same high points what we have around here.

They fill their place, in my eyes. I would not need to argue on the behalf of drawing or painting (and: I know you can handle them too), because those images, like for instance the series's of hands, can only exist as in given moment, space and light. Still: those photo's refer to something behind, something which could be discussed in the present Western culture.

They have a point, and it is on the nature of things (intended pun). It is inevitable.

Some of our leading woman artist - I think it's an accident that they happened to be women this time - have much more broken view of things, imbalance, maybe, something desperate and desolate. Been a bit puzzled following the discussion and not knowing which way to turn.

But maybe you have similar discussion going on there? Artists are often more in direct contact with coming changes. They could have a message of warning, or present sometime almost documentaries of our world.

I hope I manage to make some sense. I am not an art critic, so this is just an impression of goings ons, of you there and we over here.

Marly, Marly, I wish you had come!! I hope another opportunity comes soon.

Marjatta, your comments like RR's are also usually very long, yes, and they are very thoughtful, for which I thank you. Thanks also for the positive words about my work, both the art and the casual non-art photography. I know you have some understanding of the art world being married to an artist, doing some art work yourself, and being a writer.

I'm not a critic either even though I'm an artist. Post-modernism is a challenging subject for me. I remind myself of the rapid changes that came with Impressionism and later, which were not readily accepted at the time. So it seems today as well.

Photography and video art is certainly big in the art world today. Kiasma, even when we last visited in 2002, seems to focus on a lot of that art form. I admit that I'm not generally too fond of videos, yet I understand the reason and the message. Our world is not in good shape socially, politically and environmentally and young artists are addressing those issues, which is good. I'm also happy to see women are more prominent.... Finland may well be leading there.

My prints, though photo-based even when I was making etchings, are not 'on the edge', compared to said video art but they are not traditional either. I'm not sure how my work would be categorized historically, but that's up to curators and art historians should they ever look at it seriously. I'd love to know...