Alone on the Toronto Islands

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.

Palettes line the grounds on Ward’s Island as large sand bags line the shores.

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.

Sand bags line both sides of the pathway.

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.

What is normally a busy field is left completely empty.

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 level by the beach extended far past the lifeguard’s chair, which is normally on the sandy beach.

The water spilled from the marina over the grass to the road, forcing the city to line the edges with sand bags.

More sand bags protecting the road from flooding.

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.

Kayaking through the island was quite popular 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?

A generator pumps water from the pathway back to Lake Ontario.

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.

Sand bags line the shores of Algonquin Island.

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.

A grassy patch of land is now flooded with water. With water levels subsiding a little, we now see dead carp laying on the grass.

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.

The road was closed for a good reason. The water levels were so high on the road in some areas that my pants above my rubber boots even got wet.

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 playing field is completely submerged in water, making for some very clear reflections.

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.

With a minimum of 3/4 of a foot of water above the road, you’d be hard pressed to find any dry pavement looking down.

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.

The pond continues as I made my way on the road to this popular viewing spot of the Toronto skyline.

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.

The water level on top of the road wasn’t as bad as it was off the road in some areas.

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.

A great vantage point of the Toronto skyline is now a great place for reflections.

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.

These sand bags were not enough to keep all that water away from the road.

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.

This city of Toronto truck that came by made such a big wave that it caught me by surprise and soaked my pants.

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.

The high water level just kept going as I walked further and further west.

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.

Another field that would normally be filled with families is now completely empty.

The bicycle rental was closed, with no sign of life anywhere during the middle of the day on a weekend.

No lineup at the bicycle rental.

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.

Empty tables and no lineups at the Beach House by the entrance to the Centre Island Pier.

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.

The Centre Island Pier is normally crowded with people walking up and down, but today, I had it all to myself.

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!

Looking straight down the Avenue of the Island, there isn’t a single person in sight.

This Maple Leaf cart has seen better days.

This Maple Leaf cart seems like it hasn’t had any sales in a while.

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.

A group of kayakers making their way through the island.

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.

A kayaker pulls himself through the flooded bleachers.

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.

This is the first sight I saw as I stepped foot on to Olympic Island.

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!

A cyclist rides by as I was taking photos.

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.

I shared this view with a kayaker that I met, but she didn’t seem to be as enthusiastic about it as I was.

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.

There must have been about 2/3 of a foot of water here.

Well, at least this little guy was making good use of the picnic table.

At least someone/something is enjoying the picnic tables.

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.

The picnic tables were flooded with water, much like how most of Olympic Island was.

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!

A seagull feasts on a carp on the pathway on Olympic Island.

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.

Olympic Island seems to have had it quite bad.

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.

The rides, which should have been filled with children having fun, were still and the silence deafening without the screaming and laughter.

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.

The beautiful peacock with its iridescent blue plumage came right up to me as I was taking photos of the theme park.

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.

The water by the farm was filthy with bird feathers, waste, and grass.

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.

Most other animals in the farm were transported off the island.

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.

The Mighty Duck?

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.

This peacock, apparently not afraid of humans, followed me around the farm.

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.

“Do not walk over bridge.” Bridge? What bridge?

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.

Sand bags lined the beach.

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.

Grassland flooded with water.

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 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!

2015 Year in Review – Nikon Photography

As 2015 has come to a close, I’m left with the impression that it’s gone by way too quickly. I’ve no doubt taken a lot of photos this past year, with some new favourites created along the way. And, as part of my Toronto Sunrise Series, this past year more than ever I took it upon myself to create even more sunrise photos than in 2014. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos I’ve posted here on my blog and on my various social media feeds. In this post, I’ll recap some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken in 2015, sunrise or otherwise.

2015 Year in Review: Nikon Photography

Swan spanning its wings during sunrise.

Swan spanning its wings during sunrise.

This swan lake photo was very popular amongst my social media feed, and it earned a lot of reposts throughout various Instagram hubs. At the time I took the photo, I really didn’t think it would be so popular. I remember, however, how I was happy to have caught this moment as it had been one of the items I had on my list of things to capture. Being conscious of keeping the CN Tower in the background, I followed this swan with my 70-200mm lens as it moved along the lake. When the swan decided to spread its wings, I was ready for the shot, keeping it in focus with the CN Tower placed just off to its side.

Peyto Lake Sunset

Peyto Lake Sunset

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to travel to the Canadian Rockies, where I was in awe of Mother Nature and her beauty. Yearning to capture a priceless moment, I was out every sunrise and sunset, even if I had no idea where to go. While most of my sunrise and sunset shoots were clouded over, I still captured what I hope represented the priceless moment in front of me with this one, taken in Peyto Lake.

90-second exposure sunrise with the Lee Big Stopper

90-second exposure sunrise with the Lee Big Stopper

In the latter half of the year—or more precisely, in December—I bought myself the Big Stopper, 10-stop ND filter from Lee Filters. I managed to do a couple test runs with the filter, producing this shot that I thought captured the moment well with the clouds.

Toronto skyline from the Thompson Hotel rooftop lounge.

Toronto skyline from the Thompson Hotel rooftop lounge.

While I may be more partial to landscape photography, I did manage to grab a few pictures of the city that I really liked as well. This one comes from the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel in Toronto, where they hosted an Instagram meetup in the early fall. The sunset brought out some great texture in the clouds, bringing an even more dynamic scene to this already great vantage point.

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec., f/13, ISO100, 70mm

The most striking sunrise shoot of 2015.

This sunrise moment may have been the most striking sunrise shoots I’ve been on in 2015. The moment passed by so quickly that I didn’t have time to even think it would be anything special. I just knew that the combination of low-lying clouds and the colours really made this a stand-out sunrise for me. And by the looks of things, my social media feed definitely agreed with me as well.

Violent sunrise from one of the windiest mornings of 2015.

Violent sunrise from one of the windiest mornings of 2015.

What was one of the windiest sunrises of 2015 yielded some of the best photographs as well. It was a cold October morning with the winds whipping around violently across Lake Ontario. Initially I wasn’t too careful by the shorelines and got my equipment and self wet from the splashes from the rocks. It was that violent. So standing further away from the shoreline, using my 70-200mm, I caught this moment, with some of the most colourful skies in the background.

Bow Lake Sunrise

Bow Lake Sunrise

Bow Lake was a surprise to me as I wasn’t expecting much from it. But even though it was overcast during the sunrise hours, the calm lake and mountains made for a striking image that can’t be forgotten. This bridge acted as a great lead-in for the eye and in turn produced one of my favourite images from my trip to Alberta.

Lake Louise boathouse in the calm, early morning hours.

Lake Louise boathouse in the calm, early morning hours.

This picture of the Lake Louise boathouse turned out much better than I had expected. Wanting to get a unique vantage point from this often-photographed icon of Lake Louise, I opted for a long exposure during the sunrise hours that I was there. Normally seen against the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, I also opted to crop this image right at the tree line to minimize any distractions. This put all the focus on to the boathouse, yielding in a photo that I absolutely love.

There are many more photos that I took in 2015 that I loved, but I can only choose a handful for this summary. I hope you like these as much as I do, and that you have enjoyed seeing them on my social media feeds. Truth be told, some of these may be new to you as I may not have even posted them online until this post!

Any one of these photos would look great in print, don’t you think? Stay tuned, as that’s my next project for 2016. Let me know in the comments below if you’d be interested in a print of one of my photography.

Coming up in my next post is my 2015 year in review for iPhone photography!

Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List…Twice

Before I delve into the details, let me clarify by writing that this post isn’t about promoting my Instagram account, nor about boasting about what happened to my account. I’m writing this post to be an informative one for those wondering what exactly happens when a user gets on Instagram’s Suggested Users list. The Suggested Users list is a list of users on Instagram that are recommended to be followed, and is presented to every new account upon creation. For those of you who are wondering how one gets on the Suggested Users list on Instagram, don’t hold your breath—nobody really knows how one gets on the Suggested Users list, so I will merely give my thoughts below, on how this can be done. Now, let’s get to the details.

Thoughts on being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Thoughts on being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List the First Time

This section will explain what happened to my account when I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list the first time. I don’t have any screen captures of this event, so this will be a recollection of what I remember. On May 29, 2014, at 12:29pm, I received a Direct Mail from Instagram congratulating me for being put on their Suggested Users List. That DM looks a little like this:

Direct Message from Instagram

Direct Message from Instagram

To see if they actually respond to their DMs, I decided to write back to them and thank them for putting me on. This dialog went a little like this:

Response from Instagram.

Response from Instagram.

With two emojis, this conversation ended before it actually began.

My Instagram account at this time was strictly photos taken with my iPhone, or my iPhoneography. Before being put on the list, my follower count was approximately 1100. I didn’t know what would happen so I decided to just enjoy the ride to see where this took me. Within minutes I started getting followers. My activity list was just a list of messages stating xxx started following you. At one point, I was receiving more than 1000 new followers per 12 hours. This barrage of new followers continued steadily for the next 14 days.

By the end of the 14 days on the Suggested Users list, my total followers count was somewhere in the upper 20,000s. What’s one to do with all these followers? Not to worry because as weeks went by that number started to diminish little by little. There’s a number of reasons why you may start to lose followers:

  1. People who initially followed you no longer had an interest in your account.
  2. Spam accounts who automatically follow people on the Suggested Users list may unfollow you just as quickly.

In fact, I remember even months after being put on the Suggested Users list, I was still losing a small number of followers. It wasn’t until months down the road where my total followers finally settled down to the low 20,000. Fast forward a few months later when Instagram decided to purge inactive accounts or those that they found to be spam, and I found myself with even fewer followers afterwards. My total follower count after this purge settled to be around 18,600. From then on, my follower count fluctuated somewhat but was always around the 18,500-18,600 mark.

Here’s a summary of the roller coaster ride my follower count went through the first time on Instagram’s Suggested Users list on May 29, 2014.

Number of followers while being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Number of followers while being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

Who Are These Followers?

Now that’s a good question. The Suggested Users list is shown to all new users who create an account for the first time. You can also get to the list through your settings pages. And more recently, when you follow an account, a list of three other similar accounts will be suggested for you at that time as well. Whether the people on this list come from the Suggested Users list though, I do not know for certain.

I would gather that many of these followers are people who created an account out of interest and curiosity. These people may not necessarily continue to use the app and therefore will likely never engage with you on your account. So although you may have a large number of followers, those who actually engage with you may only be a fraction of those followers.

Instagram Followers

Instagram Followers

It’s important to note that just because they don’t engage with you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t see your photos. I’ll talk a little more on this below.

So How Did You Get Put On The Suggested Users List?

There are a number of sites out there that will tell you how to get on the Suggested Users list. While these techniques may be valid, there really is nothing proving that they work. The first time I was put on though, I was consciously following those very tips:

  1. Post regularly good quality photos.
  2. Engage with your followers by replying back to their comments on your photos.
  3. Visit your followers stream and engage with them on their photos.
  4. Visit other non-follower’s photos and like and comment on them.

So, is that what I should be doing with my account?

The whole point of social media platforms is to connect with other like-minded individuals. If your goal is to meet new people and connect with them, then yes, doing the above will likely get you further than if you were to simply ignore those steps. Don’t forget, joining contests and doing collaborations will also get you noticed by other members, increasing your chances of gaining new loyal followers.

Being On The Suggested Users List The Second Time

The second time I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list, it happened a little differently so this intrigued me quite a bit. On October 19, 2015 at 2:31pm, this time I received an email from Instagram congratulating me for being on the Suggested Users list. That email looked a little like this:

Mail from Instagram.

Mail from Instagram.

This took me by surprise though, since this came at a time where I was only sporadically posting at best. There were times where I wasn’t even posting, commenting, or liking, for five- or six-day stretches. I was certainly not following any of the four points mentioned above. My followers count was roughly 18,500 on that day. And this time, Instagram put me on their Suggested Users List for three weeks.

I decided to do things a little differently with my account this time. For the longest time I prided myself in uploading only my iPhone photos on my Instagram account. This time, however, I decided to now include my Nikon photos to my account. The difference in quality is still very much noticeable and so I decided to up my account to the next level along with my follower count.

So how was I put on the Suggested Users list the second time?

If you look at the email above, they gave you a link to click to suggest other users. If someone else was put on the Suggested Users list and got this same email, perhaps they remembered my account and decided to suggest me at that point, regardless of how often I was posting, commenting, or liking.

This would show that Instagram does listen to what other users are saying by taking their suggestions. It’s just a wonder why I was never presented with this option the first time around.

So what does this mean?

This means, you’re still better off cultivating a loyal base of followers by connecting with them through comments and likes. The more top-of-mind you are to other people, the more you’ll likely be suggested by another user to be on the Suggested Users list.

Here’s a graph of my follower’s numbers from the time I was put on, on October 19, 2015, to the time I was put off the list, exactly three weeks later.

Number of followers while being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Number of followers while being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

The increase in followers this time was incredible. At one point I was getting almost 700 new followers an hour. November 6 had an increase of about 7,000 new followers over the course of only 12 hours as well. I really don’t know where all these people are coming from!

At the end of being on the Suggested Users List, my follower count was roughly 153,600, an increase of 830 percent!

Engagements, Follower Count, and Likes Oh My!

With such an increase in number of followers, you hope you will get an increase in engagement as well. My likes and comments have increased a lot, but my posting dSLR photos have definitely made a difference in this as well. My engagement and like levels may not have increased by the same amount as my follower count had, but I have noticed more interaction from my users.

Seconds after posting a photo.

Seconds after posting a photo.

You can see here that seconds after I posted a photo to my account, people will immediately start to like it.

Seconds after posting a photo.

Seconds after posting a photo.

While being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List, I would still be getting followers while people would be liking my photo that I just uploaded seconds ago. Notice how there aren’t any comments though? Liking only requires a double-tap while commenting requires more effort and time.

With a large amount of followers, how come engagement isn’t as high?

There could be a number of reasons for this. I mentioned above that many of these followers may be new to Instagram and therefore may not use the app on a regular basis. These people may not engage with you as much as someone who loves photography and goes on the app several times a day. I believe this reason alone yields in an imbalance between follower count and engagement.

What about impressions?

Impressions are a metric for marketers to measure the success of a social media post. For example, YouTube views can be equivalent to its impression figure. The number of open e-blasts may also be used as an impression.

Instagram can be a little different though since you never really know who may or may not have seen your image. For example, if your follower count is 100,000, then your potential impressions may be 100,000 as well—although this is likely never the case. People who don’t necessarily like or comment on your photos may still see your photo, which will count as an impression because down the road, those people may still very well remember your photo.

The takeaway to this is your photos may still get a large impression because of your follower count, but your engagement may not be as large because of their decision to not like and/or comment on your photo.

Does Any Of This Matter?

This is a question you’ll have to ask yourself. To some people, these are just silly numbers. To others, they mean more potential for partnerships and collaborations with brands. Whether this matters, depends on what you want out of your Instagram account. I welcome new experiences and opportunities so I’ll see where this takes me—if anywhere. If I continue to post high quality photos and be inviting to my followers, I hope to cultivate a loyal following where people will want to come back to my stream for more of my photos.

Personally I am very thankful for being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list twice, as I enjoy engaging with new people around the world. If I am able to show my photography to more people, I will be more motivated to continue and learn the craft to better myself as a photographer, all the while making friendships around the world.

Have you been put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list? Do you even care about any of this? Let me know in the comments below as I would love to hear what you think about all of this.

Muskoka Lakes


Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 20mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 20mm

Lake Muskoka is a great little getaway for those in the Greater Toronto Area. It’s just a short two hour drive from the city and offers a great nature getaway for the nature-lover in you. This is just one of the beaches of Lake Muskoka—it was the first one we saw on our drive there, so this is where we stopped and ate our lunch. It’s hard to believe that just a couple hours before, this beach was filled with cottage-goers enjoying the water and sun.

The storm that was quickly approaching when I was up by the lookout (in my previous post) brought about some menacing looking clouds as you can see. The formation was really interesting and offered a great opportunity for pictures.

I took this photo on my way back as I noticed the clouds were getting darker and darker. It was this that I wanted to highlight. The framing of this photo with the trees on either side was intentional and offers a good “border” for the picture, allowing us to focus more on the clouds.

Luminato Festival 2015 Wrapup

Inside the festival tent.

Inside the festival tent.

It’s just over a month since the Luminato Festival ended in June but the events are still vividly clear in my mind. Looking over these photos, this year’s festival was another big success with such a variety of events for the public to enjoy. The 10 days of the festival went by very quickly, and while I was taking photos for most of those days, it’s hard to believe that there are so many other events that I wasn’t able to see. The variety of events is what always attracts me to the Luminato Festival.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square.

The grounds at David Pecaut Square were always packed, and that’s a nice thing to see. The added artificial turf was a nice touch this year!

Jörn Weisbrodt, Artistic Director of Luminato Festival, does karaoke with Toronto Mayer John Tory.

Jörn Weisbrodt, Artistic Director of Luminato Festival, does karaoke with Toronto Mayer John Tory.

Perhaps the mayor doing a karaoke song with the festival’s artistic director was the highlight of that day, as the crowd loved every second of it.

Having fun under the lights.

Having fun under the lights.

During the evening hours, the lights lit up the square making for an even grander festive mood that I saw many people enjoy.

Looking towards Metro Hall.

Looking towards Metro Hall.

These panels created by acclaimed Brazilian artists Regina Silveira added a very colourful touch all day and night long, and drew many people underneath it to rest and enjoy.

St. Vincent at Times Talks.

St. Vincent at Times Talks.

The multitude of events at Luminato Festival is always a crowd-pleaser: The New York Times‘ TimesTalks brought in Nelly Furtado, St. Vincent, and Charlotte Rampling; there was a cabaret series at the Festival Shed; David Collett’s Basement Revue was always a crowd-favourite; and then there were performances like Apocalypsis, bringing in 1000 performers, and David Byrne’s Contemporary Color, bringing color guards to the forefront.

No matter rain or shine, there would always be a crowd at David Pecaut Square, the hub of the festival. With free outdoor concerts, why wouldn’t there be?

Performer at Luminato Festival.

Performer at Luminato Festival.

The final weekend did bring in a lot of rain, but the Brazilian block party was still a lot of fun with bands and audience members soaking it all in under the festival tent.

The crowd in the rain at the Luminato Festival.

The crowd in the rain at the Luminato Festival.

Of course, the festival wouldn’t be complete without the help of volunteers! There were no shortages of volunteers to help you navigate this festival, and it’s always a pleasure to be able to photograph them in action as well. The Youth Volunteer Photography Program, which I also taught this year, had many of them think creatively to get some fun photos for the festival.

Youth Volunteer Photography Program members at Luminato Festival.

Youth Volunteer Photography Program members at Luminato Festival.

Volunteers at David Pecaut Square

Volunteers at David Pecaut Square

The festival brings many unique photo opportunities, which are always a good challenge, and that’s why I love coming back to this festival year after year. For those of you who would like more information on the Luminato Festival, you can check out their website at

As always, I leave you with one last photo, which is one of my favourite shots that I took within the 10-day extravaganza. This photo was taken within the Air Canada Centre at an angle that really makes the venue seem so grand. You can see the stage and performers including all the audience members enjoying the Contemporary Color performance.

Inside the Air Canada Centre for Contemporary Color.

Inside the Air Canada Centre for Contemporary Color.

For my post-festival wrapups from prior Luminato Festivals, you can check them out here: 2013, 2014.

Scaling back for more growth

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 60mm

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 60mm

This year I took it upon myself to regain some spark on my blog by posting something new every single day. I have been doing so since January 1, 2015, and I have had great feedback throughout the first six months, increasing my readership. Increasing my blog audience is important for me as I love the interaction I get from people reading my posts. The past few months were filled with varying posts including new reviews I’ve done for Social Print Studio’s photobook, my Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive camera bag, details on how to take sunrise and sunset photos, and even starting a new series on how I edit my iPhone photographs, in addition to some posts on the new Periscope app.

My recent posts have largely become more photography-oriented, with daily photos of trips that I have taken in the past, and more recently. However, with these daily posts, it’s becoming more and more time-consuming to be able to write something of value to my readers. I worry that a simple photo post is no longer enough to keep my readers from coming back to my blog on a daily basis. Originally I made it a point to at least write in my posts, why I took the photo, or what I liked about the photo, in hopes of enriching my audience’s experience on this blog so that they can take something away from each of my posts.

The Next Step

Now that half the year has gone by, I am ready to start something else, which is to further add value to each of my posts by posting more in-depth articles on my photos or experiences. These posts will aim to be a little more detailed than my usual daily photo posts, so that people can learn a little more about my thoughts and ideas as a photographer and designer. I’ll aim to do these posts at least once a week, with the remainder of the week being filled with more photos from my archive or recent travels. I’ll also be taking a little break from posting photos on weekends so that I can concentrate more on writing these in-depth posts.

I always welcome any feedback on my blog so feel free to comment below, or reach out to me on any of my social media feeds, linked on the right side of my blog. As always, thanks so much for joining me on my blog, and I look forward to an even better six months ahead.

The observation deck on top of Sulphur Mountain

The Banff Gondola is located just 5 min. from the town of Banff, and sits on the side of Sulphur Mountain. The 10-15 min. ride up the mountain gives you some of the best views of Banff National Park you can get. With vistas spanning for as far as the eye can see, the six mountain ranges in front of you are breathtaking.

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 120mm

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 120mm

At 2281m above sea level, you really can’t go wrong with this trip up the mountain. Once you’re at the top, the view gets even better with a 1km self-guided walk that brings you to an even higher elevation, letting you see a complete 360 degree view of the mountains. It’s truly breathtaking in every way.

I will have more photos of the view in a future post, but for today, I will leave you with a photo of the observation centre, which also houses a gift shop, restaurants, and an observation deck.

If you ever make it to Banff National Park and are wondering if it’s worth your while to go up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, make no mistake and go up the Banff Gondola ride. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, with beautiful views all over.

A walk in the mountains

This walk in the mountains in Banff National Park, just outside of Moraine Lake was through a beautiful trail that was only possible via a group larger than four people because of recent bear activity within the area. At the start of the trail, it was raining fairly hard and we weren’t sure if our guide was going to go through with this three-hour (round-trip) hike in the mountains.

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 70mm

Despite the rain and damp weather, our guide was adamant on going on, and I’m very glad that she did because no sooner than 30 minutes into our hike did the rain stop and the clouds started to open up somewhat. This photo was taken at the turning point in our hike, nearby a lake that we didn’t quite get to because we opted not to cross over the rocks.

I love the low-laying clouds that are starting to dissipate just above the tree line. The stream below is somewhat calm and the blue sky is just starting to peek out of the clouds. It was a feel-good moment standing there in the openness of nature, breathing in that fresh mountain-crisp air.

This was just another reminder that the weather in the mountains can change in an instant. Don’t let a little downpour of rain stop you from going on a planned hike. The weather will no doubt change (hopefully for the better), bearing great rewards throughout your journey!

4 reasons to travel during non-peak season

Here’s a little secret for when you travel. The next time you’re thinking of travelling somewhere, travel during non-peak season and you’ll likely get the most bang for your buck wherever you are heading. Here’s four reasons why I always like to travel when the roads are clear, the weather is just as nice, and the people are still as welcoming as ever.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 38mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 38mm

This is something my wife and I have done for the last several years now. When we book our getaways, we always try to coordinate it so we can go during the destination’s non-peak season. Why do we do this? There are several reasons:

  1. Transportation costs are much cheaper during non-peak season. Flights often have seat sales and other perks as they try and fill their planes during non-peak season so take advantage of this! There’s no sense in paying hundreds more for the same flight if you’re able to go just a few weeks prior to peak season.
  2. Hotels also have similar perks and sales during non-peak season as they try their best to fill their occupancy. Better yet, you’ll find that their services are much more pleasant as they aren’t stressed out from all the busyness of the peak season. During one of our stays at a resort, one of the staff members gave us a private snorkelling trip since it was so slow for them! Staff members can be much more accommodating to your requests, which makes your stay that much more exciting.
  3. No traffic! You have to love driving where there’s no traffic. In this photo above, there were absolutely no traffic in front or behind me. I stopped on the side of the road, got out of my car and crouched down in the middle of the road to take this picture! You won’t be able to do this during peak season, that’s for sure!
  4. Tourist spots are less crowded. If you’re big on doing all the touristy things in your travels, go during non-peak season and you’ll save yourself the hassle of lining up for hours, and you’ll get the best views around since you won’t have to fight for that golden spot.

If you travel right before peak season starts, you’ll likely get the best of both worlds since they will be gearing up for the peak season, ready to attend to your needs, yet the number of tourists will still be on the low side.

If it’s a particular season at a destination that you’re eyeing, then there’s not a whole lot you can do, and that’s just about the only disadvantage there is to travelling during non-peak season. If you can live without seeing the Spring days of the Rockie Mountains, and can forego the summer months of the Rockies where there’s more wildflowers, then why not? In my opinion, it’s worth being able to de-stress on your trip because after all, isn’t that why you’re on holidays to begin with?!