While the first park in this photographic guide series was further west in the city (A Photographic Guide to Colonel Sam Smith Park), this next guide is of one of the larger parks along lakeshore, Humber Bay Park, and is likely more accessible for those living in the downtown area.
Created with over 5 million cubic metres of lakefill, Humber Bay Park opened in the summer of 1984. It consists of two different parks, divided by the mouth of Mimico Creek, located in the west end of Toronto. Both parks—Humber Bay Park East and Humber Bay Park West—are fantastic green spaces in the city, located right on the edge of Lake Ontario. With fishing available year-round, the Etobicoke Yacht Club and Mimico Cruising Club nearby, washroom facilities, and not to mention a fantastic view of the Toronto skyline from both parks, it’s a favourite amongst many Torontonians. Those that live right along the shores also have the Humber Bay Shores Park at their disposal, which runs along Lake Ontario just east of Humber Bay Park East.
The park is easily accessible by transit (501 Long Branch Streetcar) or by car (exit the QEW at Park Lawn and head south), and has plenty of parking spaces in both parks. Note that the 501 streetcar in the west end will begin operation again in June 2018.
Humber Bay and its surroundings span a large area, so I’ve split this photographic guide into four parts to make things a little easier:
Humber Bay Park West
At 300 acres, Humber Bay Park West is the larger of the two parks. It includes the Etobicoke Yacht Club, Mimico Cruising Club, and the Eastern Gap Lighthouse. Although the park spans a large area, there are only a handful of places that I like to go to for sunrise photography. Let’s take a look at the map.
If you park closest to the entrance, you’ll be able to walk up to the arch bridge that crosses over Mimico creek. Constructed in 1997, the bridge was the first of its kind in North America. It offers a great view looking down to the mouth of the creek , and with the water so still in the morning, it offers a great mirror-like reflection of its surroundings.The CN Tower can be seen peaking out from above the tree line here . Heading further into the park, we come across one of my favourite vantage points in the park . The view is great from this one particular clearing amongst the trees, where people often mistaken it as being from the Toronto Islands. There’s a small parking area nearby for park maintenances vehicles, which is where I usually park and then walk to this spot. You’ll be able to see the Toronto skyline centred perfectly between the peninsulas ahead, making it a great spot for photos. You get a great combination of nature, the skyline, and the brilliant colours of the sunrise, all from this one area. If you have a 200mm lens or longer, this will work best here since the shores are a fair distance away . Sometimes I opt for a wide angle lens to showcase the expanse of this bay, which will in turn create a smaller skyline . Take your pick! If I’m not at this location, then you’ll likely find me over by the beach area of Humber Bay Park West , just a little further into the park. This area gives you a clear, unobstructed southeast view, offering you a fantastic view in the winter when the sun rises above Lake Ontario . Head over to the lookout point nearby on the peninsula, and you’ll get a clear view of the Toronto skyline too . As we move further into the park, you’ll encounter two additional areas that jut out from the main park. These offer some great views allowing you to incorporate some foreground beach elements in your photos too.
The last area, which has the most limited number of parking spots, at just around 5 cars, has the light beacon, and picnic table  that can be of interest too. All of these elements allow for some great creative photography, so don’t discount these areas!You’ll find this spot to be more popular in the summer, where people can roam around the area and enjoy the green space directly across the yacht club. I encountered some sunrise seekers here in the fall.
Humber Bay Park East
The smaller of the two parks, Humber Bay Park East, is just 47 acres but to me, offers more areas to photograph from as it is situated closer to the Toronto skyline.
There are two pathways from the main parking lot, leading to two very different parts of Humber Bay Park East. On the west end of the parking lot, you’ll walk towards the end of the park, before walking by the closed pond that freezes over in the winter. This makes for a great skating area, if you had your own skates! Walk further into the park and you’ll eventually reach a bridge. Walking west at this point will lead you to the end of the park that gives you a great view of the east shoreline of the park. Walking off the beaten path just by this bridge, you’ll get a unique view of the Toronto skyline . Walk over the bridge and you’ll come to a rocky shoreline. My favourite part of this area? Being at water-level. With so many rocks jutting out from the lake, taking photos at water-level can be very rewarding, and is the best part of this little area in the park . Long exposure photography can work pretty well here. Let’s walk further east into the park now. This path will eventually merge with the path that you would have taken from the other end of the parking lot. Let’s stop here and enjoy the view for a little bit. Put yourself in just the right place and with a longer focal length, you’ll be able to capture the CN Tower with the shoreline as a foreground element. It’s a refreshing view in my opinion . This path splits in many ways throughout the park. What I like to do is walk around and always keep an eye out for possible photo opportunities—there are lots. When you go in different seasons, you’ll notice things changing all over the place, making something that was not as photogenic before, something of interest now. That’s the best part of coming to the same park over and over again.
During one brilliantly coloured sunrise, I used the trees and bushes surrounding the path to create a silhouette selfie of myself with the coloured sky as the backdrop .It was a while before I noticed these trees, but I love how exotic they look. With its smooth and spiralling trunk, it’s a great place for portraits and landscapes alike . Below, I photographed Cookie, a pug who was kind enough to pose for me during this photo shoot. The southeastern shoreline of Humber Bay Park East offers unobstructed views of the Toronto skyline . Since it’s so close to the city, you’ll be able to get all the details of the buildings. And with a longer focal length, you’ll really by able to get close to the buildings and CN Tower . If you look the other direction along the eastern shores, there’s a whole field of wildflowers, where I’ve recently started to practice my macro photography. Catching the morning dew on the flowers while they are still closed offers some wonderful moments for photos.
The best thing you can do around this area of the park is to just get out there, walk around, and look all around you. You’ll be surprised at what vantage points await you when you’re actually tuned to your surroundings. Framing the CN Tower in the middle of the trees is just a matter of walking a few steps in this field .There are bird feeders scattered around the field, and you will be able to see a number of butterflies in the summer and autumn months. With the sun rising above the horizon, and its warmth casting over the leaves of the tree, it was a perfect spot to capture Cookie and her owner . A smaller beach area off to the side of the path offers a glimpse of the CN Tower and skyline . It’s also a great spot to catch the warmth of the sun casting its rays on buildings and the Humber Bay Arch Bridge . When you’re walking around though, don’t forget to look back once in a while. Some of the best views are from directions that you never would have thought to look.
Humber Bay Shores Park
Humber Bay Shores Park runs along Marine Parade Dr., just south of Lakeshore Blvd. W. The Humber Bay Park East Trail connects the smaller arch bridge crossing over Mimico Creek to the Humber Bay Arch Bridge, which sits directly east of this park.
Just west of this park is the Butterfly Garden, where I have yet to explore during a sunrise. My instincts are always to explore further east of here, but one of these days I will make it a point to spend more time in this garden…perhaps in the Spring, when more butterflies are found in the area.
What I enjoy most about this park is that it offers a variety of backdrops to play with in my photos. From having the Humber Bay Park East trees in my photos, to an unobstructed view of the Toronto skyline, and more recently, some very picturesque driftwood art installations, there are no shortages of places to shoot from.I could probably spend hours just walking along the east trail during a beautiful sunrise. During the winter of 2017/2018, parts of the bay froze over, creating a wonderful winter landscape. One of my favourite location along the Humber Bay Shores Park is an area that is not so obvious to many people . Unless you’re looking for it, or happen to look through the trees while walking by it, you’ll easily miss it. It’s more obvious in the winter when the leaves aren’t covering the path to this hidden gem, but even still, people just walk right by it. Depending on which lens you use, you’ll have a lot of play here since you can decide to include the foreground rocks, or zoom right into the peninsula further ahead. Earlier in this section I mentioned the driftwood installations. These were made by two Toronto artists, Julie Ryan and Thelia Sanders-Shelton. Their first driftwood piece was the number 150, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. That was unfortunately vandalized and torn down within a week of its creation. In its place, the Toronto [heart] sign was erected in just five days . This proved to be a crowd-pleaser amongst the local community and beyond, as people visited the sign from all over, filling all of our Facebook and Instagram feeds. I’m guilty of it too! I was fortunate enough to do a portrait session here before it got torn down . The duo continued building installations with their latest creation, El Corazon (meaning “the heart” in Spanish) , which took them just over two weeks to complete, back in September 2017. Unfortunately, the Toronto [heart] sign was heavily damaged from strong wind and waves, forcing the artists to dismantle what was left of the sign, in mid December, 2017. El Corazon is still laying strong on the rocks, as of this writing.
One final spot that I like to visit is the Sheldon Lookout. It is situated with a walking path surrounding it, so it offers another interesting view with the Toronto skyline . The two lamps add a nice touch to this view, in my opinion. There are many ways to compose your image here too, with the pathway, lamps, rocks, and more.
Humber Bay Arch Bridge and Area
Constructed in 1994, the Humber Bay Arch Bridge crosses the Humber River at its mouth. The 139 metre pedestrian bridge is a landmark in the west end of the city, clearly visible from the Gardiner Expressway.
It not only serves as a bridge for pedestrian and cyclists, but is a great piece of architecture to photograph. If you look at it carefully, you’ll notice lots of attention went into this beauty.The profile view of the bridge is one of my favourites . I love how you can appreciate the curvature of the structure more from this perspective, and see the cables holding the walkway. When you see the lights reflecting on the lake beneath, it completes the experience. In the winter season, you can time it right so the sun rises just behind the bridge . It makes for some great silhouette photography. In the morning, there will almost always be someone walking their dog over the bridge, a runner running across, or others just enjoying an early morning stroll. While the bridge in its entirety may be interesting to many people, I enjoy focusing on select elements of the bridge in my photos. The skeletal spine seen under the bridge is so unique, yet so under-appreciated in my opinion. Let’s appreciate the fact that Montgomery Sisam Architects (the firm that built this bridge), paid careful attention to parts that many would probably not even notice . If we walk further east from this bridge, you’ll follow the Martin Goodman Trail that leads you all the way to Toronto’s harbourfront. I like to walk around the lakeshore to look for other unique perspectives. One morning I found the gaggle of geese sleeping on the ice, as the sun rose behind them . In the summer, you’ll see many people running on the boardwalk . But what I like to do is to capture the rowers in action with the sun behind them . It’s a great feeling to be out there so early in the morning, as I’m sure these rowers can attest to. You can keep walking along this path to the Toronto Harbourfront and continue taking great photos, but I will end this guide here. Hopefully this photographic guide to Humber Bay Park and Area has given you a good idea of where to go for photos, and why I like to go there. If you have any favourite spots in the Humber Bay area that you like to enjoy, please share with me and the other readers by commenting below.
Stay tuned for another photographic guide to a park, coming soon to this blog! If you would like to receive a notification on when I release my blogs, please consider joining my mailing list.