Friday, May 1, 2009

Ottawa: Ouest à l'est

Sherry and I completed the four hundred and ninety mile drive from Long Island to Ottawa in exactly eight hours, pulling in to the driveway of the Marriott on Queen Street at six PM Sunday night. We had a room on the 21st floor, the northeast corner of the building. Being on the corner, it was one of the only four rooms on that floor with a balcony, affording us this panoramic view:

(Click to enlarge)

The Ottawa River stretches and curves in the midground, from the du Portage Bridge on the left, behind the gray granite of the Supreme Court building, with the spire of St. Andrew's Church on Wellington Street in the foreground. The copper-roofed edifice on the right of the spire is the Justice Building, currently housing offices of MP's.

All of the square roofs in the foreground from the center of the picture to the right are buildings lining the Sparks Street Mall. Though not apparent here, they're all glass-faced, and, depending on the quality of light, are interesting subjects on their own. But that's for another post.

Moving along west to east, the nearer of the two bridges in the center-right, closest to the viewer is the Interprovincial Bridge, with the MacDonald-Cartier Bridge behind it. The next tall copper tower is the
Confederation Building, with more government offices. Moving along to the right, that small tower is the top of the dome of the Library of Parliament.

Next we have a bit of an optical illusion, due to our angle of view. While these might look like twin towers, the West Block, on the left, and the Peace Tower, on the right, with the flag, are several hundred meters apart, and different heights.

Center Block and Peace Tower

There had been a series of demonstrations the previous week, Sri Lankan-Canadians were pressing the Canadian government to intervene in their home country's political struggle. The marches came to a climax Tuesday afternoon on the lawn of Parliament Hill. It was a wet, gray, day, and I planned on carrying only my Infrared camera with me. I only wanted one camera, partly as a self-assignment and partly because I was walking to the National Gallery, and I didn't want a lot of extraneous stuff.

There wasn't a lot going on early in the morning, when I first went by. The police were keeping the marchers in the street, although they weren't actively keeping people off the hill. I was able to walk along in front of the West Block and almost up the drive to the Center Block, but there were barricades set up keeping people out from the roadway behind the buildings to the Library. Which also meant I couldn't get to the cat condos, either, which was disappointing.

When I finished with the museum a few hours later, the rally was in full swing. There were what looked to me to be a few thousand people gathered on the lawn, an area about the size of a polo field. I didn't stop then for any pictures, since I still only had the infrared camera with me. That and two and a half hours pounding the hardwood and granite floors of the gallery had left my feet and legs weary.

But at the hotel the TV told me this was an historic occasion, with fifteen thousand people assembled on the Hill. A live report came on, and I opened the door to the balcony, which faced directly at Parliament Hill.

The chants and cheers coming from behind the onscreen reporter were just a split second behind the cheers I heard live from four blocks away. This was beginning to look interesting, and my inner photo journalist started pecking away. I had several hours before I had to get Sherry, so...

After a quick shower and cup of coffee, I loaded a fresh battery and card into the 5D. I agonized for a few moments between the 17-40mm and the 24-105mm lenses before choosing the latter. I wanted the reach of the 105mm, and the 24 was wide enough. I put an extra card in my pocket and headed out.

I still don't think there were 15,000 people there; I've been part of huge crowds before, I've marched on Washington, I've been to the Thanksgiving Day Parade, I was at most of the major concerts in Central Park. This was a big crowd, and surely the largest group of Sri Lankans I've ever seen in one place. Mostly naturalized citizens, from what I read in the papers, mainly settling here over the last thirty years, but not so far removed from their homeland that the pain of the current affairs there haven't moved them to act.

And still, they're Canadians. Which means that for all the people that were there, there wasn't a bit of litter on the grounds, and everyone leaving dropped their signs in a single pile at the gate, where the pickets were already being removed for future use.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Beautiful! and very informative. I especially like the last two: the primary colors in the one and the odd-subjects juxtaposition in the other.
Warning: when you click to enlarge, you can't go back.