This series of blog posts will cover some of the parks that I frequent for my Toronto Sunrise Series. Providing you with all the locations that I enjoy taking photos in within the park, I hope to showcase the space from a photographer’s point of view. These parks are fantastic green spaces in the city and I encourage everyone to take advantage of them—they are literally a breath of fresh air, and offer a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
First opened by the city of Toronto in 1996, Colonel Sam Smith Park is named in honour of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Smith, who had purchased this land in the 1800s. Back then, it was a weekend getaway for Victorian Torontonians. Now, thanks to its development from the 1970s, it’s a beautiful park with hiking trails, a wetland, an ice skating trail in the winter, and sits beside a nearby marina and Humber College (Lakeshore Campus).
Colonel Sam Smith Park is a designated Toronto Bird Sanctuary, and with over 100 species of birds making this park their home, there is no shortage of things to see for those casual strollers, early morning joggers, and dog walkers that frequent the park. As a photographer though, this park provides me with the opportunity to photograph with various backdrops and subjects: Rocky beaches and rocky shores offer dramatic foreground elements, while its sweeping shorelines can offer a unique leading line element. The Toronto skyline, albeit quite far from the park, can be seen directly across the lake. With a telephoto lens of around 200mm, you’ll have no problems catching the fine details of buildings and the CN Tower in the glory of the morning sun.
Colonel Sam Smith Park is located just south of Lakeshore Boulevard at Kipling Ave., in Etobicoke. Follow Colonel Sam Smith Park Drive south from Lakeshore Boulevard, past Humber College (Lakeshore Campus), and you’ll eventually see the parking lot right before the road ends.
Before reaching the parking lot though, take a look to your right, and you’ll see the pathway leading to the marina and Yacht club, surrounded by bird feeders . I came upon here one very foggy morning, and it was a sight you just had to see for yourself to appreciate!
From this parking lot, you’ll have a choice of taking two pathways into the park. The closest one to the parking lot will lead you to the lookout overlooking the wetland area of the park.
Often times you’ll see a swan’s nest, with the mother protecting her eggs from passing ducks while the father roams around the pond, protecting their claimed space. During the sunrise hours, this body of water is so still it just sits there acting like nature’s mirror . The bushes and trees make for great foreground elements in a photo while the bridge in the background act as another form of focal point when included in a photo.
Once you head out from the lookout, turn left and follow the pathway that opens right up to an inlet. During a sunrise, it’s a spectacular feeling to walk right up to sunlight beaming across the open lake, with colours dancing across the vast sky . In the winter, you can time it perfectly so that the sun rises right in the middle of the pathway.
The open shores of Lake Ontario can be quite the scene during a brilliant sunrise or even during an overcast morning .
From here, you can turn left and continue to the direction of Humber College, where you’ll be able to grab a glimpse of the wetland from the other side. During a quiet morning, the mirror-like water can take your breath away .
Walk a little further and there’s a small canal where the wetland connects to Lake Ontario. This place, with land on either side, offers a great vantage point for a sunrise, especially when you time it right in the winter, and you get the sun rising right in the middle of the opening .
Heading back into the park, the main pathway splits off, directing us to a rocky shoreline, or another lookout area that offers a fantastic view of the Toronto skyline . The trees in the summertime offer a great opportunity for silhouette photography too.
Standing where you see the two people in the above photo, you can get a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline . With a 200mm lens, you can even get some detail in the buildings as well.
This rocky shoreline is one of my favourite places to shoot in the park . It not only offers an unobstructed view of the skyline, but offers a unique view of the rocky shores that lead up to the lookout area mentioned above . In the right conditions, you’ll be able to catch a beautiful sunrise and waves crashing over these rocks. Angle yourself a little and you can include the Toronto skyline for that perfect landscape photo.
And looking in the opposite direction , you’ll find an equally pleasing photo opportunity:
There’s actually two separate rocky shores to enjoy here. The one above, and the one with what I like to call, the Wanaka Tree (in New Zealand) of Toronto . It may not be like this right now, but when we had high water levels last summer, the base of this tree was actually submerged under water. I found this moment to be quite beautiful even though the flood itself was causing so much damage elsewhere.
And if you visit the area in Autumn, you’ll see a wide variety of wild flowers along the hillside, which make for some great foreground elements .
We’re now getting closer to Whimbrel Point , which—marked with a pole—is where bird watcher come to see whimbrels flying across Lake Ontario during their Spring migration period (mid to late May).
Heading further West in the park will bring you around the marina—it faces west so is an ideal location for sunset photography, as seen in the photo below .
Continue into the park and you’ll come across rocky shores that are also great places for photography, especially during windy days . It’s just personal preference, but I prefer to stay on the east side since I have a sweeping view of the shoreline, and the Toronto skyline should I wish to include that in the photo as well.
Colonel Sam Smith Park—with plenty of hiking trails and spectacular views—is just one of many parks that I like to go to for my sunrise photography. If you’re ever in the park and see me taking photos here, feel free to say hello! 🙂