In the still of night, there’s something moving down on the docks by the Mamquam Blind Channel.
Armed with a Sony AX7 camera, Darryl Schwanke explores the area’s secretive side — river otters foraging along the banks at dusk, clouds of jellyfish flowing in with the tide and various birds that sleepily settle among the boats as the marina’s activities draw to a halt.
Schwanke loves documenting life around the channel, he said while sitting aboard his power boat docked at the Squamish Yacht Club’s marina. Just down the berth, he captured shoots of the wayward brown pelican that stopped in Squamish in November 2012. On the deck of his boat, Schwanke photographed his little friend Thumper, a northern saw-wet owl. No bigger than a pop can, the bird kept flying into the vessel’s windows, hence the name Thumper.
What started with a $300 point-and-shoot camera has turned into a full-fledged passion. But more than simply a hobby, Schwanke’s fervour for photography is helping him recover from medical setbacks.
Three years ago, Schwanke fell, breaking the small scaphoid bone in his left wrist. After undergoing surgery, Schwanke wore a cast for two months. The bone is dying, he said, pointing to a lump below the thumb. Schwanke is losing feeling in the bottom portion of his hand. He can’t grip a door knob, play his guitar or carry anything heavy. Yet he can hold a camera.
The small movements required to focus, make proper settings and snap the shot help Schwanke with his fingers’ and thumb’s mobility.
Besides his wrist, Schwanke is also dealing with an inverted intestine. Every four to five months, medical complications put him in the hospital. The stays mess with his sleeping patterns, Schwanke said. As a result, he’s out with his camera as early as 2 a.m.
Schwanke doesn’t mind. Night is his favourite time period to shoot. The pastime has helped keep his spirits up, Schwanke noted, pointing out the natural beauty just beyond his boat’s windows.
In 2012, the editors of Pacific Yachting Magazine noticed his work. Schwanke took the top prize in the publication’s photo contest.
There’s a lot to see along the Blind Channel, Schwanke said, whether it’s the wildlife or comings and goings of the waterway’s recreational and liveaboard community.
“I’m the caretaker of the channel,” Schwanke joked, while scrolling through years’ worth of photographic documentation captured by this camera.