A Picture Says a Thousand Words
Preface: A sincere Thank You for making it this far. This is my first attempt at creative writing since graduating from high school. About 90% of it has been for business and technical forms. The common saying is that “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,” my challenge now is to take a photo and write a thousand words. Like my photography, I hope to make improvements with the help of this blog. Please excuse any grammatical errors.
It’s April 26th, 2020 and humanity is in the midst of a global pandemic. With work, play, and social gatherings banned by governments, my only sense of freedom was photography. With days seemingly long and boring, on this day I was out exploring new areas to photograph and to get some fresh air. At the same time to practice my photography skills with my new Sony A7R camera. The light was not ideal as it was past midday, but somehow, I ended up at Shady Island in Richmond, BC. Standing at the shoreline, I looked across the man-made rock jetty and noticed several herons feeding along the muddy beach. Judging by the height of the rocks, I figured the tide had been out for some time.
In the distance, a few people appeared to be making their way back toward the parking lot. After mulling it over for a few minutes, I gave in to my curiosity and slowly walked across the rocks. About halfway along, I stopped to snap a few shots of the herons feeding. Then I came upon a man who was returning from the other side of the island and decided to ask him how far it was to the other side of the island. The person replied, “It’s just a 5 minute hike.” Great! I thought and proceeded on my way.
Human Curiosity Is a Strange Thing
The photo above was taken around 2:10 pm. The following Google Map shows the location of the island.
The dirt trail leading to the other side of the island was lined with many different types of bushes, including wild blueberries. While strolling, I mentally calculated when the tide generally returned around these waters. I figured I was good for another hour or two.
It didn’t very long to cross to the other side of the island. Once through the bush, the view gave way to overgrown grass, many washed-up logs, and an open sandy beach that stretched for several miles. I got excited about my journey as this area has very few visitors due to its remote location, and set out to explore the surroundings. There were signs of overnight campers, as a fire pit was situated amongst an opening in the small wooded area by the beach. As well, there lay an old wooden boat that was decomposing over the many years of being washed ashore. This was a very tranquil and beautiful place, I thought to myself as I jumped from location to location snapping away the camera. I had my tripod with me and was experimenting with a couple of filters and settings.
This was my first glimpse of Shady Island that majority of people never see (above). An old ship wreck sits on the beach as nature weathers it away (below).
Welcome but Be Mindful
While fully absorbed in my new surroundings, several people passed by me on their trip back to the shore. I didn’t pay too much attention as it had only been about 10 minutes since my arrival on the secluded beach.
In particular, a father and his young son, who was no more than 5 or 6 years old, walked by slowly. I was too busy in my own little photographic world to see the foreshadowing unfolding before my eyes. The boy said something to his father that almost pierced my thoughts but didn’t quite register with my subconscious mind. The young adventurer said to his father in a child’s tone, yet very well articulated, So dad, you were saying that when the water becomes murky, it means the tide is coming in. That is correct son, the father answered as they disappeared down the beach.
Meanwhile, I merrily carried on with my shooting. About 10 minutes later, a young couple holding hands passed by me. I greeted them with a quick hello, and they gestured with a slight nod and kept walking.
About a dozen minutes had elapsed when suddenly that young boy’s voice came to my forethoughts. However, this time it was amplified and loud enough to startle me as if the child was standing next to me. I looked into the distance to see if anyone else was present on the beach. Unfortunately, it was all void of people, and I was the only one left on this side of the island. I turned my gaze towards the water, and sure enough, it had become choppy and murky, just like the young boy had stated to his father earlier. “One more shot, and then I will head back,” I said to myself like an idiot. But then I felt a gust of air on my neck, and I muttered aloud, “Let’s get the heck out of here, now!”
Time to Run
Without warning the wind suddenly picked up, and I had this eerie feeling that something wasn’t right. Then I grabbed the camera, quickly threw into the bag, and slugged it over my shoulder. Then proceeded to walk briskly back towards the trail while folding away the tripod. The strange sense of urgency got stronger, and my inner sense told me to run. I had difficulty keeping my balance, as I had to cross over many logs that lay in front of me, and instead thought it was easier to run on top of them. However, I needed a walking stick for improved balance and to use it against any unforeseen challenges that I may encounter ahead. While running, I picked up a piece of stick that was just the right size. With it in my hand, I hopped onto the beach logs at almost full speed, and then across the sandy beach, and made it to the trail entrance fairly quickly. Without stopping, I sprinted back to the other side of the island in no time.
However, when I reached the edge of the land, my mouth dropped as I stared in shock at the parking lot and the distance that separated me. The entire rock jetty and where I stood now was underwater. An occasional rock was sticking up here and there. My life as an easy-going photographer, out and about trying to capture a memory on this day, seemed so far away from the new reality that stood before me.
Didn’t Use All of My Senses, Especially Common Sense
“Oh crap!” I thought and “What am I going to do now?”. Several scenarios ran through my mind, including waiting for a boat rescue, calling for help, or forging ahead on my own. I looked across again and noticed the couple, who had passed me about 20 minutes earlier, were only about halfway to the other side.
I told myself that while the situation was quite dangerous, there was no time to panic. The best action was to cross the rock jetty quickly and safely. I will use the stick for balance, and as I glanced across the open water, I ascertained the width of the pathway. The odd large rock sticking above the water gave me a sense of direction to travel and an approximate width of the overall jetty.
The next split-second decision was to keep my shoes and clothing on. I would need to make sure that I did not slip and fall. For one, I could drift into the open body of water and be in an even more dangerous situation, and maybe, two – my camera could get wet. With one deep breath, I lunged forward and used my walking stick to feel the rocks underneath. I walked with a sense of urgency, as I could see the water flow was changing rapidly.
This is a view of what used to be the rock jetty. The photo was taken about 7-10 minutes after making it to the shore. My guess is that it took no more than 30 minutes from the time I crossed the visible rocky jetty to visit the island and to this state as shown in the picture above. It’s incredible how fast the tide came in.
Almost Safe, Almost Home
With a few more quick steps, and several long leaps I was able to make it to shore. What a relief, I was safe. I then looked back and noticed a female spectator enter the water. When she saw me staring at her with a surprised look, she mentioned that people got stuck here all the time and that she lives across the street. She waited to assist the other couple to get to shore eventually.
In the meantime, I walked to my car and found an old towel to dry myself off. Then decided to check up on the couple to see how they were doing, and asked if they wanted to use the towel to clean themselves up. With a quick wave and thanks, we parted ways.
While driving home, the adrenalin dissipated quickly, and my heart was suddenly racing. The reality of what could have happened settled in. It was a strange feeling, nothing that I had felt before, a true fight or flight sensation. As I got closer to my home, I thought about what I would tell my wife – I settled for not saying anything immediately. That is until I had showered, and we were both in the car heading out to a pre-planned dinner at a restaurant. I told her the story. Of course, she was very upset, and rightly so.
Our mind is a strange thing, I replayed the entire journey for many hours that night, like a broken record.
Shady Island, and others like it, have a history of sad endings. I realized later just how dangerous my actions were. As a photographer, if you want to continue to take pictures in your life, please take care and assess the situation around you first. If unsure, then the photograph may not be worth it.
Another suggestion for staying safe around water is to use mobile apps such as My Tide Times or similar.
I welcome your comments. Do you have a story of your own to share?
EDIT: I forgot to mention that the city has signs posted warning of the danger. However, the area I had parked my car and the route I took while surveying the area for photographing was many yards away from the signage.