A Photographic Guide to Colonel Sam Smith Park

This series of blog posts will cover some of the parks that I frequent for my Toronto Sunrise Series. Providing you with all the locations that I enjoy taking photos in within the park, I hope to showcase the space from a photographer’s point of view. These parks are fantastic green spaces in the city and I encourage everyone to take advantage of them—they are literally a breath of fresh air, and offer a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

First opened by the city of Toronto in 1996, Colonel Sam Smith Park is named in honour of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Smith, who had purchased this land in the 1800s. Back then, it was a weekend getaway for Victorian Torontonians. Now, thanks to its development from the 1970s, it’s a beautiful park with hiking trails, a wetland, an ice skating trail in the winter, and sits beside a nearby marina and Humber College (Lakeshore Campus).

Colonel Sam Smith Park is a designated Toronto Bird Sanctuary, and with over 100 species of birds making this park their home, there is no shortage of things to see for those casual strollers, early morning joggers, and dog walkers that frequent the park. As a photographer though, this park provides me with the opportunity to photograph with various backdrops and subjects: Rocky beaches and rocky shores offer dramatic foreground elements, while its sweeping shorelines can offer a unique leading line element. The Toronto skyline, albeit quite far from the park, can be seen directly across the lake. With a telephoto lens of around 200mm, you’ll have no problems catching the fine details of buildings and the CN Tower in the glory of the morning sun.

The Toronto skyline seen with a 200mm focal length. This image is part of the First Light exhibit.

Colonel Sam Smith Park is located just south of Lakeshore Boulevard at Kipling Ave., in Etobicoke. Follow Colonel Sam Smith Park Drive south from Lakeshore Boulevard, past Humber College (Lakeshore Campus), and you’ll eventually see the parking lot right before the road ends.

Map of a portion of Colonel Sam Smith Park.

Before reaching the parking lot though, take a look to your right, and you’ll see the pathway leading to the marina and Yacht club, surrounded by bird feeders [1]. I came upon here one very foggy morning, and it was a sight you just had to see for yourself to appreciate!

[1] Bird feeders near the entrance of the park.

From this parking lot, you’ll have a choice of taking two pathways into the park. The closest one to the parking lot will lead you to the lookout overlooking the wetland area of the park.

The entrance to the wetland lookout.

Often times you’ll see a swan’s nest, with the mother protecting her eggs from passing ducks while the father roams around the pond, protecting their claimed space. During the sunrise hours, this body of water is so still it just sits there acting like nature’s mirror [2]. The bushes and trees make for great foreground elements in a photo while the bridge in the background act as another form of focal point when included in a photo.

[2] Wetland during sunrise.

[2] The bridge by the wetland.

Once you head out from the lookout, turn left and follow the pathway that opens right up to an inlet. During a sunrise, it’s a spectacular feeling to walk right up to sunlight beaming across the open lake, with colours dancing across the vast sky [3]. In the winter, you can time it perfectly so that the sun rises right in the middle of the pathway.

[3] Walking into the open shores, the moon is visible above.

The open shores of Lake Ontario can be quite the scene during a brilliant sunrise or even during an overcast morning [6].

[6] A view of the open waters.

From here, you can turn left and continue to the direction of Humber College, where you’ll be able to grab a glimpse of the wetland from the other side. During a quiet morning, the mirror-like water can take your breath away [4].

[4] The wetland looking toward the lookout visible to the far left.

Walk a little further and there’s a small canal where the wetland connects to Lake Ontario. This place, with land on either side, offers a great vantage point for a sunrise, especially when you time it right in the winter, and you get the sun rising right in the middle of the opening [5].

[5] View looking down the canal with the sun rising in the middle.

Heading back into the park, the main pathway splits off, directing us to a rocky shoreline, or another lookout area that offers a fantastic view of the Toronto skyline [7]. The trees in the summertime offer a great opportunity for silhouette photography too.

[7] View looking Eastbound during sunrise.

Standing where you see the two people in the above photo, you can get a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline [8]. With a 200mm lens, you can even get some detail in the buildings as well.

[8] The Toronto skyline seen with a 200mm focal length.

Map of a portion of Colonel Sam Smith Park.

This rocky shoreline is one of my favourite places to shoot in the park [9]. It not only offers an unobstructed view of the skyline, but offers a unique view of the rocky shores that lead up to the lookout area mentioned above [8]. In the right conditions, you’ll be able to catch a beautiful sunrise and waves crashing over these rocks. Angle yourself a little and you can include the Toronto skyline for that perfect landscape photo.

[9] Sweeping views of the shores during a sunrise.

And looking in the opposite direction [10], you’ll find an equally pleasing photo opportunity:

[10] Views of the shoreline in the opposite direction.

There’s actually two separate rocky shores to enjoy here. The one above, and the one with what I like to call, the Wanaka Tree (in New Zealand) of Toronto [11]. It may not be like this right now, but when we had high water levels last summer, the base of this tree was actually submerged under water. I found this moment to be quite beautiful even though the flood itself was causing so much damage elsewhere.

[11] Flooded shoreline. This tree is normally not submerged in water. This image is part of the First Light exhibit.

And if you visit the area in Autumn, you’ll see a wide variety of wild flowers along the hillside, which make for some great foreground elements [12].

[12] Autumn flowers at sunrise.

We’re now getting closer to Whimbrel Point [13], which—marked with a pole—is where bird watcher come to see whimbrels flying across Lake Ontario during their Spring migration period (mid to late May).

[13] Looking South toward Whimbrel Point, with seagulls flying by.

Heading further West in the park will bring you around the marina—it faces west so is an ideal location for sunset photography, as seen in the photo below [14].

[14] Views of the marina by the yacht club.

Continue into the park and you’ll come across rocky shores that are also great places for photography, especially during windy days [15]. It’s just personal preference, but I prefer to stay on the east side since I have a sweeping view of the shoreline, and the Toronto skyline should I wish to include that in the photo as well.

[15] Walkway looking Westward.

Colonel Sam Smith Park—with plenty of hiking trails and spectacular views—is just one of many parks that I like to go to for my sunrise photography. If you’re ever in the park and see me taking photos here, feel free to say hello! 🙂


Have you been to this park before? Let me know which area of the park you like the most! Stay tuned for another photographic guide on another one of the parks that I like to frequent for my sunrise photography.

4 replies
  1. M. A Ryviani ZK
    M. A Ryviani ZK says:

    Oh my.. For a moment it felt like i can not breathe.. Each picture that Taku Kumabe capture looks like so real.. Like i can feel the wind breeze over me.. Like i can hear the sound of waves pass through me.. Your art always amaze me, It’s great to be able to relax and inspire by your gorgeous landscape photographs. You made me feel grateful to God. Thank you for being awesome. Regards, Angelina Ryvi, from Indonesia.

  2. Taku Kumabe
    Taku Kumabe says:

    Thank you so much Angelina. I’m so happy to hear you are inspired and relaxed from my photography. I appreciate you commenting and letting me know, especially when you live so far away! I have seen many great photos from Indonesia and would love to visit it one day myself. Thanks again!

  3. Jacquie
    Jacquie says:

    Fantastic post as usual Smaku. It always amazes me how generous you are with your information an tips. You’re not just a wonderful photographer, but a wonderful person as well

  4. Taku Kumabe
    Taku Kumabe says:

    Thank you Jacquie for your very kind words and for always supporting me in my photography! I am a self-taught photographer, so everything that I have learned has always been from others who have done just the same. I hope that others will be able to learn from my photos too—this is just one small way of being able to give back to the community that has embraced my photos! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply