If there was ever a place that straddled the line between urban metropolis and ungroomed wilderness, that would be Vancouver. Situated in the backyard of the Rockies, Vancouver is the starting point of Canada’s infamous Sea-to-Sky highway, a breathtaking route that boasts panoramic ocean vistas and dramatic mountain landscapes. Despite its reputation as a hotbed for outdoor activities, Vancouver is also known for being a vibrant urban center and an incubator for streetwear culture, giving rise to brands like wings + horns, Reigning Champ and Livestock. It has also earned the nickname “City of Glass” in recent years, thanks to the modernist steel-and-glass architecture sprouting up downtown.
Instagrammer Andrew Lau (@thendrw) has been documenting Vancity’s changing skyline since he started taking photos in 2014. Lau was an avid sneakerhead who started out taking photos of his kicks, but his pursuit for creative sneaker shots led him to urban exploration. His shots feature the latest sneakers set against impossibly picturesque backdrops, dangling off the edge of skyscrapers — his feats include taking his beloved Jordan 1 Fragments on a helicopter. Here, Lau takes us on a tour through Vancouver’s most photogenic spots. Read on for the best places to get snapping.
Outfit: A hat if I plan on going up on to rooftops, because I’m not trying to look good for the security cameras.
Photography Gear: Canon 5D MK3 with a Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens.
Favorite Instagrammers: @jayscale, @insighting, @alenpalander and @mellowedhigh
Lions Gate Bridge
On a stroll along Vancouver’s Stanley Park Seawall, the Lions Gate Bridge is the most conspicuous landmark in sight, its looming suspension towers rising from the waters of the Burrard Inlet. Since its inception in 1938, the bridge has been an artery leading from downtown Vancouver to the North Shore. For many Vancouverites, it’s a historic symbol of the city. “I wanted to capture the bridge since it’s one of the city’s staples. We got there at 5am in the morning to shoot in the middle of the almost-empty bridge,” said Lau. “The Lions Gate Bridge is actually notorious for its traffic jams — being able to capture a shot in the middle of the empty bridge was just satisfying.”
Set alight for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the Olympic Cauldron is a majestic monument situated at the heart of Vancouver’s Convention Center. The cauldron is crafted from more than 500 pieces of textured glass that make it look like it’s encased in ice, making for an impressive sight for Vancouverites passing by on their daily commutes. “The reason I chose this location was because of the structure. I would normally never shoot at this spot, but for some reason I just felt it might look dope for an editorial,” said Lau. “It’s a cliche location for people who live in the city, but it’s interesting to show off to others.”
As Vancouver’s most historic district, Gastown started off as a single tavern back in 1867. The area has since grown from its humble beginnings to encompass a vibrant fashion, art and culinary scene, all the while retaining its Victorian-style buildings and vintage flair. “Gastown was one of the spots I knew I definitely wanted to include because of the glass hallway,” said Lau. “Any type of product or model shoot would look good here, because of the lighting and the reflections off of the glass windows.”
As its name suggests, Blood Alley has a rather grisly history. The street, located in the historic Gastown neighborhood, used to be the site of both butcher shops and public executions. The current name allegedly comes from the blood that was left on the street after the butchers washed it from their stores. Today, Blood Alley has rid itself of its macabre past – in lieu of butcher shops, it’s surrounded by up-and-coming restaurants, cafés and bars. It’s also a place to capture great shots of iconic Vancouver landmarks. “We found ourselves in Blood Alley because I knew that if I shot it at a certain angle, I’ll be able to capture the Harbour Centre building (another Vancouver staple) in the background,” said Andrew Lau.