Yellowknife: The Aurora Borealis in Autumn

For as long as I can remember, the Aurora Borealis has always been something I’ve dreamt of seeing. It was always my impression that I would need to go far up North in the middle of winter in a Scandinavian country just to see it though, making it a little difficult to do.

In researching where to best see it though, I came across several places touting how Yellowknife, Northwest Territories is in fact one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. You mean I don’t even have to travel out of my home country? Sold!

The Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife in August reflects on the lake surface.

Why Yellowknife?

With flat lands, no mountains, nor salt water surroundings, the resulting dry climate creates an ideal condition for seeing the Aurora Borealis, making it scientifically one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Yellowknife also sits directly under what is known as the Aurora Oval. This allows us to see the Northern Lights every which way, including directly above you—which is such a surreal experience.

When geomagnetic activity is high, this oval can stretch further south—sometimes as far south as Northern Ontario. In these cases, if you drive far enough to a place with little light pollution, you can often see a hint of green along the horizon facing North.

The unmistakable green colour of the Aurora Borealis seen north of Toronto.

In Yellowknife however, the Aurora Borealis is literally dancing right in front of your eyes, making the show that much more spectacular.

The Aurora Borealis at Tibbitt Point—at the very end of the Ingraham Trail.

The next question I asked myself was: when is the best time to see the Aurora Borealis?

In the Spring of 2016, I happened to meet someone filming a documentary on why the Japanese have a love affair with the Aurora Borealis. He told me a little known secret: go see the Aurora Borealis in the Autumn season. You get to see the lights without having to endure the cold winter weather. He explained the Aurora Borealis never really stops during the summer months. You just can’t see them then because the night doesn’t get dark enough. Once darkness starts to roll in again at night in mid-August, the Aurora Borealis viewing season begins.

And that’s how I found myself in the Northwest Territories in late August of 2016.

*The film he was making is currently scheduled to be released in early 2019! Titled Aurora Love, you can head to their website for more details.

The Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife can be quite spectacular.

The Advantages of Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Autumn

There are a number of advantages of seeing the Aurora Borealis during the Autumn season. If you think I may have missed a reason, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.

  1. Temperature. One of the most obvious reasons is the temperature. Mid August to early September offers a cooler but still manageable Autumn temperature in Yellowknife. With an average of about 13C, you won’t have to endure the cold temperatures of the Northwest Territories in the winter. This lets you stay out for a longer period of time without having to go indoors to warm up.
  2. Travelling. Travelling by foot or by car in Autumn is much easier than in the winter months. Without the snow-covered roads, you’ll be able to drive to wherever you want to see the Aurora Borealis.
  3. Reflections. The rivers and lakes have yet to freeze over during the Autumn months in Yellowknife, which means if you go by a body of water to see the Aurora Borealis, you’ll get to see the reflection of the Northern Lights, which also makes for spectacular images.
  4. Photography. Using your camera outside in the Autumn months poses very few problems. If you’re out by a lake, you may get some foggy lenses at most when the humidity increases, but other than that, you won’t have to worry about the laundry list of items you’ll want to do when you photograph in the winter time.
  5. Blue Hour. Daylight hours are still somewhat long in August with sunset being around 9pm in late August. This means you’ll have chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis during blue hour when it isn’t pitch black. This is great for wonderful blue hour images with the Northern Lights that you don’t see too often.
The Aurora Borealis during blue hour can be quite stunning to see as well.

The photo above was taken at Tibbitt Point, which is about 60km northeast of Yellowknife. I drove about an hour to get to the end of the Ingraham Trail, which offered a great view of the Northern Lights. With the reflection seen in the water, I was able to capture this in the blue glow of the evening. This was taken shortly after 11pm.

This particular photo covers most of my points. I had to drive far to get here, you can see the reflection, and you can see the blue glow of the evening.

The Disadvantages of Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Autumn

While there may be some disadvantages of seeing the Northern Lights in Autumn, I don’t believe they are significant enough to not see them during this time.

  1. Scenery. If you love winter scenery, then seeing the Aurora Borealis in winter might be the better option for you. With untouched snowscapes and those clear winter nights, it can be a great time to experience the Northern Lights.
  2. Travelling. While it might be easier to travel in Autumn, you’re restricted in travelling on only the roads. In the winter, with frozen lakes, you are gifted with different vantage points that you wouldn’t normally get in Autumn.
  3. Humidity. While humidity is generally not too much of a concern, there may be chances where your lenses can fog up through a night by the lake. If this ever happens, you’ll need to take proper care of your camera gear.
I love a good winter scenery so seeing the Aurora Borealis in winter was something quite special for me.

Seeing the Aurora Borealis for the first time in my life was breathtaking. Reminding us how small we are in this world, the Northern Light puts on a show that you will never forget. And that’s precisely the reason why I believe everyone should see the Aurora Borealis with their own eyes at least once in their lifetime. It is that special a moment.


Taku Kumabe currently has openings for his 2019 Aurora Borealis Photography Workshop at Blachford Lake Lodge in the Northwest Territories. Click the photo below, or the link above, to find out more about this workshop, and to register!

Autumn in the Northwest Territories

Autumn has always been my favourite season for photography. With an explosion of colours, Mother Nature reminds us her beauty is unmatched. With all the changing colours and that cool crisp air making its way back, it’s a nature-lover’s paradise. Couple this with an arctic backdrop and you have yourself a photographer’s paradise.

Autumn colours of the Northwest Territories in late August.

In August of 2016, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Northwest Territories to see what it had to offer. Being further North than my hometown of Toronto, the Autumn season in the Northwest Territories starts around mid-August. The days slowly start to get shorter and darkness starts to fall at night, allowing us to see the Aurora Borealis again.

If you’ve ever wondered what the Northwest Territories are like, follow along as I take you through my journey through the southern portion of this beautiful territory.

My trip started in Yellowknife (flying from Toronto to Calgary to Yellowknife via Air Canada). We rented a Jeep to explore various areas of the territory, camping along the way. We had no set itinerary; we just drove where we wanted to go. With breathtaking scenery at every turn from waterfalls to remote towns and of course, the Aurora Borealis, it was an inspiring trip to say the least.

Outlined below are the major stopping points that we took during our four-night, five-day road trip through the southern portion of the Northwest Territories.

Ingraham Trail

The Ingraham Trail spans more than 60km from Yellowknife and makes its way to Tibbitt Point where it ends. In the winter time, this area is the starting point to an ice road that leads trucks to several mining sites.

Yellowknife to Tibbitt Point

Tibbit Point

Other than a small parking lot, there’s not much else to Tibbit Point. However, we were tipped off by another photographer saying it’s a great place to see the night sky. Upon arrival, we saw small rocky shores along the lake, where you can spend your nights gazing at the Aurora Borealis. That’s exactly what we did one evening, witnessing a spectacular display of the Northern Lights.

Along the Ingraham Trail there are several Territorial Parks, camping sites, and areas that offer spectacular lakefront views for the Aurora Borealis. Not too far from Tibbit Point was Cameron Falls, which we went to visit during the daytime.

Cameron Falls Trail

We made a stop at the Cameron Falls Trail, which is part of the Hidden Lake Territorial Park.

Map from Yellowknife to Cameron Falls

The waterfall is roughly around a 30min. hike on a well-marked trail from the parking lot, which seems to be open year-round (along with a nearby outhouse). The water cascades down the rocks and makes for a great place for photos. There is a lookout with a bench that offers this view, as well as the view down the river.

Cameron Falls Trail is located within Hidden Lake Territorial Park, about 47km into the Ingraham Trail.

A little further down the Ingraham Trail is where you can find the Cameron River Ramparts Waterfalls, which are smaller than these ones here. I didn’t make it out there so I have no photos of it, but the two are connected through an eight to nine kilometre hike along the river.

Looking down the river that Cameron Falls opens to.

While we couldn’t make it out here during the evening, we went to another spot that was also suggested to us by another photographer. Cassidy Point, we were told, is not too far from Yellowknife, and has a great lakefront view of the Northern Lights.

Cassidy Point Park

Cassidy Point Park is accessed by the Cassidy Point road, which is the entryway to the famous Aurora Village. Rather than turning on Aurora Village Road, you simply continue on Cassidy Point until you see a small opening to your left. The park is a small beached area with a dock, and boats perched alongside it. The lake here freezes over in the winter, making an unofficial ice road to go to the other side. During Autumn, however, it provides for a great backdrop to the Northern Lights.

Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary

The Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary (just northeast of Fort Providence) is a protected area bordered on the west side by Highway 3—otherwise known as the Frontier Highway—and by Great Slave Lake on the east side. There is no road within the sanctuary, but imagine driving down a highway and seeing groups of bison roaming around the side—sometimes even crossing the highway. That’s what it was like driving down Highway 3 from Yellowknife. They are majestic in their own ways, silently roaming around and minding their own business even when they see you.

A herd of bison roaming along the side of the Frontier Highway—otherwise known as the Yellowknife Highway, or Highway #3.

Kakisa

The drive from Yellowknife to Kakisa passes by the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, bordered by Highway 3.

Driving further South, we reached the small town of Kakisa. It seemed almost abandoned as we didn’t see a single person there while we drove around during the day. I later found out this is a traditional Dene settlement with a population of just 45. It is in fact the smallest community in the Northwest Territories. Located just by the Kakisa river, we did notice that it offered a great view that would only be accentuated by a showing of the Northern Lights.

So naturally, we went back that night to be confronted with a brilliant showing of the Aurora Borealis.

This Aurora Borealis showing in Kakisa was intense, bursting with flare everywhere we looked.
The many different colours of the Aurora Borealis showed its presence that night.
Beautiful curves of the Aurora Borealis in Kakisa.

Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park

Having a craving for waterfalls, we continued further south along Highway 1 (Mackenzie Highway) to the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park. This park comprises of Alexandra Falls—the third highest in the Northwest Territories—and Louise Falls, which is the smaller of the two.

Kakisa to Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls

Both waterfalls are beautiful in their own way. The sheer power of Alexandra Falls is mesmerizing, especially when you’re able to sit right on the edge of the rocks, listening to the power of the water rush by you.

The larger of the two waterfalls that comprise the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park.
Alexandra Falls is where the Hay River plunges into a deep limestone canyon.
Louise Falls—the smaller of the two waterfalls—is a few kilometres further south of Alexandra Falls in the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park.
Seeing the raw power of Louise Falls is exhilarating up close.

Alexandra Falls was so memorable to me I remember I really wanted to come down there during the night to see this landscape with the Aurora Borealis. Seeing the waterfall plummet to the river down below with the rocky gorge surrounding it, I imagined a scene of utter beauty.

It wasn’t until we arrived there at night that I realized this wasn’t going to happen. Walking along rocky shorelines and steep passes in pitch black wasn’t the smartest choice. I reluctantly stayed in the car by the side of the road, hoping to see any glimpse of the Aurora Borealis that evening.

It wasn’t until about 1:20am that we saw some lights appear. It was, however, short-lived.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a very active night for the lights, so we slowly made our way back to the campsite feeling a little empty inside.

Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park

Driving all the way back west on Mackenzie Highway, making several pitstops along the way, we finally made it to what would be the final stop of our camping tour: Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park. With its raw power, this waterfall was fantastic to see up close.

The scenic drive from Alexandra Falls to Sambaa Deh Falls on the Mackenzie Highway (Highway 1).
Peering over the ledge overlooking the waterfall.
The river on the north side of Highway 1.
The raging river on the south side of Highway 1.

Since we weren’t able to see a lot of the Northern Lights the night prior, we were really hoping to see it again this night. The only problem? Clouds were coming in quickly. By nightfall it was pouring rain, and it didn’t seem like it was going to let up anytime soon.

The tent we were in was so fragile that the strength of the pounding rain nearly toppled it over. Rather than sleep in it, we opted to sleep in the Jeep, where at the very least we knew we would be kept dry overnight.

Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep that night.

As much as I would have loved to continue exploring the Northwest Territories—we were only a couple hours away from Fort Simpson after all—we had a schedule to keep that day, so we made our way back to Yellowknife, ending a fantastic five days of driving and exploring around the southern side of the Northwest Territories.


Continue on my Autumn adventures in the Northwest Territories with my blog post on my first visit to Blachford Lake Lodge.


Taku Kumabe is currently offering a photography workshop in Yellowknife this August to photograph the Northern Lights! Click this link for more details or click on the image below.

A Winter Wonderland at Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge, located about 100km southeast of Yellowknife, is an eco-friendly lodge located high above the rocky shores of Blachford Lake. It is so remote, it can only be accessed by a 25min. float plane ride from Yellowknife.

Flying over the Northwest Territories on a float plane.

My first visit to Blachford Lake Lodge was in August of 2016. This blog post recounts my experience then. Three years later I found myself back at the lodge with nothing but great moments to recount. This time, yearning to experience a true Canadian winter experience, I took the challenge to go up to the lodge with -40 degrees Celsius temperatures in a snowy winter wonderland of a setting, and have absolutely no regrets.

Yellowknife in the wintertime is drastically different than in autumn. The landscape changes and you are reminded that cold doesn’t necessarily have to mean you stay inside. At Blachford Lake Lodge, that’s probably the last thing I had in mind.

A winter wonderland scenery at Blachford Lake Lodge.

The Arrival

The float plane now lands on the frozen Blachford Lake. Being completely frozen over, it’s safe to go on top, allowing you to experience the lodge from even more vantage points than when I was last here. The disembarking of guests sure looks great with the hazy sun in the background.

Disembarking from the float plane at Blachford Lake Lodge.

Lodge Rooms

Blachford Lake Lodge has several cabins scattered all over their property, each providing ample views of Mother Nature at her finest. My last stay had me at the Eagle’s Nest cabin so this time I opted to stay inside the lodge. Sunrise 1 was the room, and it came with two double-sized beds and one single bed, with windows galore, providing a spectacular view of the sunrise each morning.

The Sunrise I lodge room at Blachford Lake Lodge.

Being in the lodge means direct access to the showers and common areas, which in hindsight helped since putting on/off our winter gear every time was quite the chore. Also, who can resist waking up to the smell of bacon wafting onto the second floor? No worries for those non-bacon lovers as the smell won’t penetrate through closed doors.

Activities

I was happy to see that the inside of the lodge itself still retained its rustic yet homy feel to it. With the sun-lit common areas, it’s a perfect place to relax and soak up the atmosphere. Indoor activities hosted by the lodge include a speaker coming in to tell you about the traditional Dene culture (sadly she could not make it to our session), salve making, and dream catcher making.

If you’d prefer to be more active, not to worry as they have you covered there too. From fat-biking to cross-country skiing, skating, hiking, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and igloo-making, the staff and volunteers at the lodge do what they can to keep you busy. And busy I was, as I tried to cram in everything I could during my four-night, five-day stay there. I succeeded!

Paths are pre-made for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, so it’s a straightforward affair. Travelling across the frozen Blachford Lake and looping around islands that you would normally have had to kayak or canoe to in the summer, was fun times.

Possible lynx tracks sighting on one of the frozen lakes we snowmobiled on.

Snowmobiling

When I found out they were offering snowmobile rides (extra fee applies), I was game; it would be my first time on a snowmobile, and now that I’ve been on one, it certainly won’t be my last time.

Snowmobiling at Blachford Lake Lodge

Isaac, our guide (pictured below), was very knowledgable about the trail system, the wilderness that are scurrying around, and the surrounding paths. He would stop and explain behaviours of various animals once he saw their tracks in the fresh snow. This 2.5 hour tour ended up being almost 3.5 hours, as he took us over frozen lakes, through an abandoned mine, and to a part of Great Slave Lake where we were able to see a pressure ridge passing through the entire width of the lake. It was beautiful and incredible to see the raw power of Mother Nature first hand.

Isaac, our snowmobile guide explains to us his findings of wildlife markings in the snow.

Hiking

Blachford Lake Lodge has several hiking trails to suit anyone’s comfort level. The 2km, 4km, and 6km loop trails are well marked, and paths are carved into the deep snow, letting you enjoy the hike with ease. We were blessed with beautiful blue-sky days so we enjoyed hiking all three trails. No need to bring a thermos with you because if you get thirsty, just grab a mouthful of snow from a branch and eat away. For real! There’s nothing like eating fresh northern snow—so much cleaner tasting than eating snow in Toronto…not that I do a whole lot of that.

Beautiful sunset colours at Carldrey Lookout point.

You’ll pass by fields of untouched snow with pristine winter scenery one turn after another. And while you’re in the middle of the trail system, stop and listen. You will witness absolute silence, which may sound strange, but is a good reminder of how remote a location this place really is. You may come across fox and lynx trails, or ptarmigans flying about—the peculiar looking birds of the north—and if Lady Luck is by your side, you may even see them in front of you.

Food

With all these activities at the lodge, you’re bound to get hungry. Not to worry though, as I’ve had nothing but great experiences with meals at Blachford Lake Lodge. Their chefs know what they’re doing, and take care to serve a variety of dishes to keep things exciting for everyone. As luck would have it, the chef in charge while I stayed loved to bake. How does eating a different type of freshly baked bread for lunch and dinner sound? It’s music to my ears that’s for sure.

The buffet table at Blachford Lake Lodge is always filled with a hearty meal. Dessert is waiting nearby on the counter.

Meals are buffet style, where you take what you can eat, from the main table. But remember to leave room for dessert, because there’s always something sweet waiting for you after lunch and dinner.

You’ll notice I don’t have a lot of photos of food from this trip. That’s because I couldn’t wait to dive in at each meal and forgot to take them.

The Aurora Borealis

If it’s the Aurora Borealis that enticed you to come to Blachford Lake Lodge, you’re in luck. With no light pollution around, the only thing lighting your way at night are the night stars and the moon. The lodge lights are on, but don’t take away from the viewing experience. They’ve also installed minimal lighting along pathways to cabins to guide you throughout the property.

The Aurora Borealis at Blachford Lake Lodge.

If you love your sleep and don’t want to stay awake all night long, you’ll be glad to know they also provide wireless buzzers to each guest. With a night staff always available in the lodge, they will be your eyes while you are asleep in your bed. If a showing of the Northern Lights are visible, the buzzer will ring, vibrate, and light up, letting you know it’s time to wake up. The night staff will also knock on each door to ensure you are awake—unless you’d rather sleep that is.

The expanse of the Northwest Territories with the Northern Lights.

It’s a system that seems to work fine—although for me, I found myself awake anyway as that’s part of my enjoyment staying at Blachford Lake Lodge.

The Tipi

If you want to gaze at the night sky but want to quickly warm up, you can have the staff set up the tipi for you. They will light the fire and even provide all the goods to make some s’mores—just to make sure you don’t go to sleep!

The tipi backed by a fantastic showing of the Aurora Borealis.

My time in Yellowknife and Blachford Lake Lodge in the winter couldn’t have been any better. It was truly a Canadian winter experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was cold, but still manageable—if you dress appropriately, you’ll be just fine.

Have you ever been to Yellowknife before, or seen the Northern Lights? Let me know below in the comments.


If you’re interested in seeing the Aurora Borealis, I will be hosting a photography workshop at this lodge in August 2019. Please head over to this page for all details and to book your spot. Feel free to let me know should you have any questions.

Lunenburg

My previous post took you through the wonders of Peggy’s Cove in the early morning light. This post will take you through another must-see area of the Southern coastal area of Nova Scotia: Lunenburg.

A drive around the southern coastal region of Nova Scotia wouldn’t be complete without going to Lunenburg—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—so we decided to make this our destination for that evening’s ride. A direct drive from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg should take about an hour and a half, but when I’m in a new place with camera in hand, that time stretches to more than double.

Driving along the Lighthouse Route (Route 333), I took several detours to all the coves that lined the shores. Every road we drove on would lead to breathtaking scenery that we would have loved to have ourselves on a daily basis.

Our driving route from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg, hugging the shoreline as we went.

While we admired the many views going north on Peggy’s Cove Rd., I enjoyed the loop around Hwy 329, off of Hwy 3. It does add a little more time to your drive to Lunenburg, but when you’re in Nova Scotia, I consider the drive as part of my experience there.

 

Lupin, Lupine, Lupinus

Whichever name you go by, there’s no doubt these flowers are very picturesque.

They grow wild all over the province and offer so much colour to any landscape. Pink, purple, light pink, and light purple, you’ll see patches of them as you drive along the highway, making driving so much more enjoyable there too.

Lupins along the shores at Blue Rocks. 

Apart from the Lupins, there were other flowers that made for great foreground elements.

Flowers along the shores of Blue Rocks.

 

Mahone Bay

The three churches in Mahone Bay is another popular stop en route to Lunenburg, and is quickly becoming one of Nova Scotia’s iconic views.

Picturesque Mahone Bay.

 

It’s a charming little costal town and a great place for a break. We arrived there shortly before 5pm, so we had to hurry in through the many quaint shops before they closed. A quick stop at Lahave Bakery for a delicious cup of cappuccino satisfied my coffee craving.

Inside Lahave Bakery in Mahone Bay.

Shortly thereafter though, we left to go to Lunenberg, since we wanted to eat dinner there before sunset.

 

Lunenburg

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lunenburg is a beautiful port town that is home to the world-famous Bluenose (now Bluenose II), Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador. I knew I wanted to spend some time here, just wandering around the narrow streets, and to admire the architecture and harbour.

Quaint sitting area found while walking in Lunenburg. Taken on my iPhone.

Hunger may have got the better of us though, as we walked from one seafood restaurant to the next, looking at their offerings. We opted for the Savvy Sailor Cafe because of the one dish.

The scallop sandwich, which was what we were looking for, was a hit. Both a unique offering (never had scallops on a bun before!) and tasty, it was a perfect match.

Scallop sandwich from the Savvy Sailor Cafe. Taken on my iPhone.

We had a great view of the port and Bluenose II, which happened to be in town that week.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset. Bluenose II is the second boat from the left with the tallest mast.

After dinner, we headed over to the other side of the bay area to the entrance to the golf course, where we were told by a few people that it offered one of the best views of the Lunenburg harbour. We stayed there for the sunset that evening just enjoying the moment. The sunset wasn’t anything spectacular but we did have a nice subtle showing of purples and deep blues in blue hour.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset with boaters.

Looking over to my right, I see some great golf-green lawn which contrasted nicely with the purple skies.

Golf course across the Lunenburg Harbour as seen at sunset.

Blue hour at Lunenburg looks the best when seen from the opposite side of the harbour, and when the lights at the harbour turn on.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset.

A wider angle shows the entire harbour at blue hour.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset.

And another one.

Lunenburg Harbour at sunset. The famed Bluenose II can be seen if you look closely!

 

Blue Rocks

I had the grand idea of going out that evening to do some astrophotography. Since we opted to stay in Blue Rocks—a 7min. drive from Lunenburg—we were in a prime location away from the village lights. After taking in the sunset, we went back to our Airbnb (which by the way, was very nice—see below), cleaned up, and then just instinctively got ready to retire for the evening. My astrophotography idea had just vanished into thin air as I was too exhausted from the full day’s events.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

Not catching the stars only means one thing though—we woke up around 4:30am to catch the sunrise at the point at Blue Rocks. As I peered out the window of my Airbnb after waking up, I saw the sky was a burning red. Excited to see this even more at the point, we hurried our way there. A short 4min. drive away, we came upon the most vibrant sunrise we had seen in our trip.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

The picturesque point painted with the beautiful sunrise offered the perfect subject for any photos, and I was happy to be there soaking everything in.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

Jumping from one spot to the next, it was brilliant wherever I looked…it was honestly hard to stay still!

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

The boats anchored in the bay, the fishing huts perched afar, the rock formations, and that vibrant sunrise all made for one exhilarating morning.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

The various stores dot the Point at Blue Rocks.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

I love the unique look of the fishing boats here with the taller bow (front) and shorter stern (back); it’s something you don’t see too often in Ontario.

Fishing boat at sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

More boats seen with the brilliance of the sunrise.

Sunrise at The Point at Blue Rocks.

Taking a drive along the shores of Blue Rocks after the sun had risen was also a very refreshing way to start the day.

Shoreline at Blue Rocks.

Afterwards breakfast, we headed back out to Blue Rocks where we rented kayaks for a few hours and enjoyed the calm waters of Millers Pass.

Kayaking through Millers Pass in Blue Rocks.

The area is known to be one of the best places to kayak in Nova Scotia as its suited for everyone from the beginner to the experienced paddlers.

Kayaking through Millers Pass in Blue Rocks.

 

Airbnb

(https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/20538112)

The entrance to the airbnb.

So where did we stay? It was the perfect location for a quiet getaway with some of the best views to be had. I opted to stay away from the village of Lunenburg just to experience something new. Since Blue Rocks offered some great views, and was close to Pleasant Paddling, it was our ideal location—I wanted to go on a morning kayak trip so the proximity to the Point was ideal for us. I later found out that Blue Rocks is considered one of the best kayaking destinations in all of Nova Scotia, which is just icing on the cake!

The beautiful garden at the airbnb in Blue Rocks.

The airbnb is a small but charming place, and the owner—who also stays there—is a very welcoming and friendly individual. She had renovated the entire house herself, and tends to her beautifully decorated garden that is a great place to relax in as well. While you share the home with the owner, the guests get their own bathroom.

The beautiful garden at the airbnb in Blue Rocks.

Breakfast is included in this airbnb, and for us was some very tasty homemade granola and sweet potato muffins, with yogurt, fresh fruits, juice, and coffee. It was more than enough to get our morning started, not to mention very good. The only unfortunate part of breakfast was we ate too much of the granola that we didn’t leave space for the muffins.

The beautiful garden at the airbnb in Blue Rocks.

Without a doubt, I would recommend this airbnb for those looking to get away from the village, and connect with nature.


Have you ever been to Lunenburg and/or Blue Rocks? How was your experience? I would love to hear about them so please feel free to comment below and let me know what you did!

Peggy’s Cove

Peggy’s Cove, located just 40km south of Halifax is home to one of the world’s most iconic lighthouses. This community, nestled along the shores of St. Margarets Bay, has much more to offer though, including some of the freshest lobster you’ll eat and a myriad of great vistas in the village.

As a photographer, I was looking forward to taking photos of the lighthouse, but by the end of the day, I had come back with memories of great seafood that left me wanting more and vistas that rivalled my expectations of the lighthouse.

Read more

A Photographic Guide to Humber Bay Park and Area

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:

  1. Humber Bay Park West
  2. Humber Bay Park East
  3. Humber Bay Shores Park
  4. Humber Bay Arch Bridge and Area

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 [1], and with the water so still in the morning, it offers a great mirror-like reflection of its surroundings.

[1] Looking down Mimico Creek.

The CN Tower can be seen peaking out from above the tree line here [2].

[2] The CN Tower as seen from the pedestrian bridge crossing Mimico Creek.

Heading further into the park, we come across one of my favourite vantage points in the park [3]. 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.

[3] Icy bay at the Humber Bay Park West taken with at 70mm focal length.

If you have a 200mm lens or longer, this will work best here since the shores are a fair distance away [3].

[3] The Toronto skyline as seen with a 200mm focal length at Humber Bay Park West.

Sometimes I opt for a wide angle lens to showcase the expanse of this bay, which will in turn create a smaller skyline [3]. Take your pick!

[3] The mirror-like reflection at the bay in Humber Bay Park West, taken at 14mm.

If I’m not at this location, then you’ll likely find me over by the beach area of Humber Bay Park West [4], just a little further into the park.

[4] By the rocky beach in Humber Bay Park West.

This area gives you a clear, unobstructed southeast view, offering you a fantastic view in the winter when the sun rises above Lake Ontario [5].

[5] Watching the sunrise from Humber Bay Park West.

Head over to the lookout point nearby on the peninsula, and you’ll get a clear view of the Toronto skyline too [4].

[4] The Toronto skyline and peninsula at Humber Bay Park West.

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 [6] that can be of interest too. All of these elements allow for some great creative photography, so don’t discount these areas!

[6] A light beacon and crescent moon at Humber Bay Park West during a sunrise.

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.

[6] A picnic table overlooking the Toronto skyline at Humber Bay Park West.

I encountered some sunrise seekers here in the fall.

[6] The bench at Humber Bay Park West.

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! [1]

[1] Skating at Humber Bay Park East.

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 [2].

[2] Off the beaten path at Humber Bay Park East.

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 [3]. Long exposure photography can work pretty well here.

[3] The Toronto skyline as seen from the west end of Humber Bay Park East.

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 [4].

[4] The CN Tower as seen from Humber Bay Park East.

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 [5].

[5] A selfie silhouette at Humber Bay Park East.

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 [6]. Below, I photographed Cookie, a pug who was kind enough to pose for me during this photo shoot.

[6] Cookie inside a tree-covered path at Humber Bay Park East.

The southeastern shoreline of Humber Bay Park East offers unobstructed views of the Toronto skyline [7].

[7] A clear view of the skyline from Humber Bay Park East.

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 [8].

[8] The Toronto skyline as seen from Humber Bay Park East.

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.

Macro photography at Humber Bay Park East.

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 [9].

[9] Sunrise over a field of flowers at Humber Bay Park East.

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 [10].

[10] A portrait of Cookie and her owner at Humber Bay Park East.

A smaller beach area off to the side of the path offers a glimpse of the CN Tower and skyline [11].

[11] The Toronto skyline peaks from the peninsula as seen from the hidden beach.

It’s also a great spot to catch the warmth of the sun casting its rays on buildings and the Humber Bay Arch Bridge [12].

[12] The Humber Bay Arch Bridge from the hidden beach.

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.

[1] A sunrise from Humber Bay Shores Park. The Toronto skyline is on the left, with the Humber Bay Park East peninsula on the right.

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.

[2] View from the Humber Bay Shores Park.

One of my favourite location along the Humber Bay Shores Park is an area that is not so obvious to many people [3]. 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.

[3] One of my favourite views from Humber Bay Shores Park.

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.

[4] The flagpole and 150 driftwood sign at Humber Bay Shores Park.

In its place, the Toronto [heart] sign was erected in just five days [4]. 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!

[4] The Toronto [heart] sign at Humber Bay Shores Park.

I was fortunate enough to do a portrait session here before it got torn down [5].

[5] A portrait of a couple by the Toronto [heart] sign at sunrise.

The duo continued building installations with their latest creation, El Corazon (meaning “the heart” in Spanish) [6], which took them just over two weeks to complete, back in September 2017.

[6] El Corazon driftwood man at sunrise.

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.

[5] The Toronto [heart] sign damaged from high winds and waves.

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 [7]. 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.

[7] The view from Sheldon Lookout.

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.

[1] The belly of the Humber Bay Arch Bridge reflects the warmth from the sunrise.

The profile view of the bridge is one of my favourites [2]. 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.

[2] The Humber Bay Arch Bridge at night.

In the winter season, you can time it right so the sun rises just behind the bridge [2]. It makes for some great silhouette photography.

[2] The sun rises at the apex of the Humber Bay Arch Bridge.

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.

[2] Having a morning walk along the Humber Bay Arch Bridge. Taken at 200mm.

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 [3].

[3] The skeletal underbelly of the Humber Bay Arch Bridge.

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 [4].

[4] Just east of the Humber Bay Arch Bridge, geese sleep while the sun rises.

In the summer, you’ll see many people running on the boardwalk [5].

[5] An early morning jogger at sunrise along the boardwalk east of Humber Bay Arch Bridge.

But what I like to do is to capture the rowers in action with the sun behind them [5]. It’s a great feeling to be out there so early in the morning, as I’m sure these rowers can attest to.

[5] Rowers just east of Humber Bay Arch Bridge.

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.

[6] The sunrise just east of the Humber Bay Arch Bridge.

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.

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. Read more

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 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!

Abstract Vision

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.

Read more