Gastown Steamclock

Living in Vancouver, BC, we witness a lot of rain. A lot. A wanted to create a photo that would convey the wet winter we have along with the beauty and character of the city.

In the downtown district of Vancouver is the area of Gastown.  Small cobblestone streets aging back to the date of Canada itself, a mix of old and new architecture and in the heart of it all is the iconic Gastown Steamclock.  The Gastown Steamclock is the world’s first Steam Clock. Designed and built by clockmaker Raymond Saunders in 1977.  The clock is powered by steam from an underground system of pipes that supply steam to heat many downtown buildings.  Each 1/4 hour the clock sounds Westminster chimes on 5 brass steam whistlers. The 1875 replica movement is powered by a ‘falling ball’ drive; it has a cast bronze case and weighs over 2 tons.

I had a vision of getting a night photo of the wet cobblestones and the steamy clock, one of pre-meditative images.  So on a rainy evening I prepared myself to get out there and take my shot (brrrrrrrr). My first attempt was around 10 pm with a long exposure of about 13 seconds, I was lucky to catch a break in the rain and after coming home and inspecting the images, something just wasn’t
quite right (too many cars in the street, composition wasn’t pleasing etc).  I couldn’t fall asleep knowing I could do better, so a few hours later (you can see the time on the clock!) I was out there again, setting my tripod, this time with an umbrella, preparing for a long exposure of 13 seconds and got my shot. (did I mention that persistence in this profession is a must…)

To emphasise and dramatise the beauty of the Steamclock, I separated it from the background, converted the background to Back and White and kept the Steamclock in its original brass colours.  Today this image is one of my most popular Vancouver shots.  I guess I am not the only one that finds the wetness so characteristic to Vancouver .