Landscape Photography by Taku.
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.
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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.
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. Read more
With the Toronto Islands officially reopening tomorrow (Monday, July 31), it’s an exciting time for Torontonians who have missed their dose of beautiful views, picnics under the tree, kayaking throughout the islands, and biking around its many paths.
The recent increase in water levels here in Toronto started from a constant rainfall that plummeted the ground with over 50mm in just three days. More rain thereafter over-saturated the grounds and left the city with local flooding in parks and inside people’s homes. More than 40 percent of the Toronto Islands was left under water forcing the city to shut down the island, cancelling two ferry routes and limiting the one operating ferry route to transport only residents and emergency staff.
For those that were fortunate enough to stay dry and carried on with their daily routines, it can be difficult to imagine the damage caused by Mother Nature, while on the other hand, those that were affected know all too well how much work it has been to recover from the flooding.
It’s for this very reason that I wanted to discover and document exactly what had happened on the islands. With a green light from the city, I took to the Toronto Islands on June 3 to document the aftermath. With these photos, I hope I’m able to shed some light as to how much water there was, and to what the city was doing to prevent even more flooding from occurring.
While I only had the chance to cover the eastern portion of the island, these pictures speak for themselves. Later, I was told that the western portion of the island had it even worse. As I made my way through the islands, it was as if I was alone, walking through an abandoned island of some sort. With the exception of the residents that I saw walking throughout, the staff pumping water out and fortifying the shorelines with sand bags, and the countless number of kayakers I encountered, it still left me with an empty feeling inside.
Getting off the ferry at Ward’s Island, I immediately noticed all the palettes on the ground, which helped carry all of the sand bags that lined the shoreline.
Walking through the residential area of the island, I encountered many pathways under water. Sand bags lined either sides, which prevented more water from coming in.
Making my way further west, the flood had left this field completely empty on a day that would normally see many families and children playing on it.
The water level was so high that it covered a good portion of the bottom of the lifeguard’s chair on Ward’s Island Beach.
The water spilled from the marina over the grass to the road, forcing the city to line the edges with sand bags.
This was the first of many kayakers that I saw that day. It was a beautiful and sunny day, which was perfect for kayaking through the island. I believe there were even kayak and boat tours passing through that day.
As I continued my journey to Algonquin Island, there were more generators pumping water out from the pathways back to Lake Ontario. Can you imagine living in front of these generators, having to hear them roaring all day and night?
What would normally be a fantastic view of the Toronto skyline, we now see a countless number of sand bags lined along the shores, protecting residents from more water coming in.
Water flooded from the lake onto the surrounding grass. I was told by a passerby that they saw carp swimming nearby not too long ago, which only means there was even more water than this before.
Walking further west, there was this “Road Closed” sign surrounded by water. The water levels were quite high on the road looking beyond the sign. Fortunately I was wearing rubber boots that went just a few inches short of my knees. Unfortunately with the waves created by me walking and the vehicles passing by, I had to really be careful to prevent water from coming into my boots. I found this out the hard way when a City of Toronto truck drove by me, creating excessive waves that caught me by surprise. There are also cases of reckless driving of semi trucks in the road. Fortunately, if a truck accident happens, chandlermcnulty.com has professional attorneys who offer legal help.
The Toronto Island Disc Golf Course was completely submerged in water. It’s hard to believe all of this water came from the lake which was on the other side of the road.
A look straight down the road reveals that there is absolutely no dry pavement in sight. The lake is to the right of the trees on the right side of the road, and what would normally be a field on the left side of the road is now a pond for ducks to swim through.
This is a popular spot for photographers as you can see the Toronto skyline and the CN Tower through a break in the island up ahead. The field—or pond—was so deep in some areas that it came pretty close to the top of my boots.
A check of the water level on the road was in order. As you can see, it wasn’t too bad an area where I was standing, but just a few feet away on the field, the water level was easily double this.
This area offers a great view of the Toronto skyline. However, seeing as the water levels were quite high, I couldn’t go any further than this. The water was just a few centimetres away from the top of my boots at this point, so unfortunately this was the closest I could get from the edge.
You may not be able to tell how deep the water level is from the picture above, but if you look at the photo below, you’ll see that the sand bags placed here were no match to the amount of water that came through. It may have been about 3/4 of a foot of water at the sand bags.
As I was taking these photos, a city of Toronto truck came driving past me. It slowed down just a little bit but the waves it produced after passing by were so big that my pants got soaked.
As I continued my journey westward—now with wet pants—it was hard to believe how much of the fields so far into the island were submerged. I wouldn’t be surprised if this part of the island was affected the most in the east end.
Making my way slowly to Centre Island, I saw another open field that would normally be filled with families. Without anybody around, it really did feel as if I had the whole island to myself.
The bicycle rental was closed, with no sign of life anywhere during the middle of the day on a weekend.
The Beach House was empty with no tables or chairs in sight. The food truck seems like it has been parked there for a while.
Walking on the Centre Island Pier I did see a couple making their way out, but afterwards there wasn’t a single person in sight.
Turning around to look down the Avenue of the Island, I was happy to see the lawn still well maintained with flower beds on either side of the pathway. Eventually I did pass by a few workers on golf carts driving around, transporting sand bags from one end of the island to the other. If you look hard enough, you’ll see one of these carts in the photo below. You can’t see them? Look right in the center of the photo!
This Maple Leaf cart has seen better days.
Walking into Centre Island I was greeted by a large group of kayakers. I’m not sure where they came from, but they followed me to my next destination, which was the grandstand and boat drop-off/loading area that you can see in the distance to the right in the photo above.
The grandstand is a great place to sit and watch the dragon boat races in the summer. That bottom level, however, is certainly no place to watch anything now. The water level was so high here I ended up soaking both my feet as the water overflowed into my boots. As I was drying my feet off, a kayaker came through and pulled himself through the bleachers. To the far right of this photo, you can see a number of boats that paddled their way here and took a break by the nearby field.
As I walked further into Centre Island, I came upon the bridge that opens up to Olympic Island. As soon as I walked over it, this is the view I saw. There was water everywhere! Apart from the one person I saw in the distance resting by the picnic tables, the area was empty and the water so still, it offered some spectacular reflections.
As I was taking some photos, this cyclist came down the path out of nowhere. I thought to myself how that could have been a more effective way to go through this island!
I think one of my favourite photos that I took through this entire trip was of this tree. It stood by its lonesome, but did so very powerfully. With water surrounding it, the tree reflected perfectly below it. It was striking to see and it instantly caught my attention.
Someone else I was talking to said these picnic tables must have been one of the most photographed picnic tables lately as they made for some great photos with the Toronto skyline and its reflection.
Well, at least this little guy was making good use of the picnic table.
Olympic Island is typically host to many outdoor concerts and activities, but with so much flooding, it’s hard to imagine anything happening on these grounds this summer.
This was the second dead carp I found that day—this one being devoured by the seagull who made every attempt to keep an eye on me in case I made any sudden movement. He wouldn’t even let his buddy seagull—just to the left of this photo—get anywhere near the carp!
You can see how much of the main field on Olympic Island is covered in water. And with more rainfall happening every week, it’s hard to believe the water level will go down here anytime soon.
Exiting Olympic Island, I came out to Centreville Theme Park. All the shop windows were boarded up, the walkways empty, and the rides yearning for riders to come and enjoy them. There wasn’t a person in sight.
That is, until I met this fellow, who startled me at first as he started following me around the park. I wondered why he was just roaming around aimlessly on a deserted island. He eventually went back to where he came from, the Far Enough Farm. Over there, I met up with fellow cyclists who were admiring a second peacock.
Following the peacock to the farm, I passed by this Duck Pond, which needed a little maintenance, to say the least. The pond was filled with feathers, leaves, and waste, with the smell from the farm not helping the situation either.
Empty cages and fenced areas were all I saw, with the exception of the peacocks and some of their friends. The rest of the animals from the farm had been transported off the island to be cared for just north of the city for the duration of the season.
As I was admiring the peacock from afar, I heard this loud crying noise; this curious duck came walking towards me, probably wondering what I was up to. At the same time not too far away, I heard voices coming from the barn. So in a bid to save myself from this annoyingly crying duck, I made my way to the voices.
As it turns out, the barn was filled with sheep and rabbits. A staff member was tending to them while explaining to some visitors about the animals. “She won’t acknowledge you because she’s angry right now,” says the worker about one of the rabbits, as we each shifted our attention to the other rabbits that did notice us. The sheep were very friendly, and made for some happy encounters for us at the farm. But at the end of the day, it was these peacocks that surprised us all with their strikingly rich plumage.
As I was walking back to Centre Island, I came across this sign that read, “Do not walk over bridge.” I looked around but didn’t see any bridges in sight. I did see these railway tracks leading into Duck Pond though, which just goes to show you exactly how much the water level had risen even in this pond.
At this point, I had been walking around the eastern portion of the island for about five hours and now had to make my way back to Ward’s Island to catch the return ferry. But before doing so I took a few more photos to illustrate the severity of this flood. These sand bags lined the shores of the beach by the Centre Island Pier, and stretched for as long as my eyes could see. I was told there were more than 40,000 sand bags placed all around and throughout the island so far (back in early June). That number has probably risen by now.
I was able to make my way back to Ward’s Island bypassing all the water-logged roads by walking along the Lakeshore Ave. boardwalk. But seeing sights like those below, just by the ferry dock, it reminds you of how much trouble the Toronto Islands and its residents have gone through and will continue to go through until the water level substantially subsides.
With all of the rain we had been getting the last few months, it’s been a continuous struggle with Mother Nature for staff and residents to deal with the excess water.
I hope these photos illustrate the severity of the flooding the Toronto Islands has had over the last few months, and that it is indeed a serious matter. From the last announcement that mayor John Tory made, the city will open part of the island for the month of August, with select areas with higher water levels still closed off until further notice.
Ferry tickets can now be purchased online at http://www.toronto.ca/ferry so I encourage everyone to go to the island this summer to support the local cafés and establishments, and to remember exactly how fun it is to lose yourself on the island for one glorious afternoon.
Will you be heading to the Toronto Islands this summer? Let me know what you plan on doing in the comments below!
What is your definition of abstract photography? Is it simply photographing something that we don’t recognize? Or perhaps does it need to be blurry for it to be considered abstract? Whatever your definition may be, it’s something that I have become interested in from about two years ago. I later found out though, that making an impactful abstract photograph is harder than it seems. Why? I’ll explain below.