Just how crowded are B.C. beaches? Pictures highlight how perspectives can mislead
VANCOUVER -- Pictures of people flocking to parks and beaches during the COVID-19 crisis have caused waves of frustration on social media, but sometimes there's more to seemingly outrageous crowd photos than meets the eye.
That's the point Vancouver landscape architect Jeff Cutler set out to prove late Sunday afternoon when he headed down to Kitsilano Beach with a number of different camera lenses and a drone.
"There can be a lot of people on the beach and it can look quite crowded," said Cutler. "It's not until you get into the air and look down that you can really start to get a true picture of how people are behaving."
Cutler took pictures of the beach using a 35 mm lens, a 70 mm lens and a 200 mm telephoto lens – the latter capable of compressing a scene and making faraway objects appear closer than they are – and compared the results.
The shorter the lens, Cutler noted, the more spaced out beachgoers looked.
"A 35 mm is closer to the human eye, and that's a much wider angle view. When you look at that, you can start to see spaces between people a little bit more," he explained.
But the starkest contrast came when Cutler captured the beach from the skies using his drone. The image shows people by and large maintaining a safe physical distance.
Of course, not everyone was following the rules diligently. While British Columbians were supposed wait until the Victoria Day weekend to begin increasing their social interactions and meeting a select few friends or extended family members for physically distanced picnics, there were some large groups congregating in Vancouver on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The park board said rangers handed out nearly 2,000 warnings to people who weren't keeping their distance over the weekend, which led officials to reverse their decision to reopen parking lots.
But provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she believes most people were following her recommendations.
"The vast majority of people are doing the right thing and taking this to heart, and I thank them because that's how we're going to get through this," Henry said during her daily virus briefing on Monday.
"I think we can sometimes get caught up with the small minority of people who are maybe having too much fun and are disturbing those of us who are trying to keep a little bit separate."
California decided to close some of its beaches after images surfaced showing huge crowds of people out enjoying the sunshine. Cutler, who designs parks and other public spaces for a living at space2place, said part of the reason he shared his images was to avoid an outcome like that in B.C.
"It's of particular interest to me, and I've just watched during the pandemic how valuable public spaces are," he said. "If they were closed I think that would be really difficult on people."