160729 Niagara - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

The southern shore of Lake Ontario lies about 50km from Toronto. My favourite person and I spent a weekend in Niagara recently, which was a great way to get not too far away from the city. 

This was taken with a long lens, of course – at a 300mm equivalent focal length, which is the longest I can reach, as it happens to be my limit with three different cameras. While I could have almost taken this in a single frame, it's actually a panorama that's over 8000 pixels wide. Five shots, heavily overlapped, just so that I could crop it to taste and post it online. Yes, that's more work than it needs to be.

Incidentally, if anyone needs it, I have photographic proof that the earth is round.

Niagara-on-the-Lake hosted the boy scouts in 1955, as commemorated by this plaque. If I stood alone in the middle of the field it would have been the farthest away from another person I'd have been in my entire life.

City living. I didn't do it.

This also happens to be right by the start of the Issac Brock Side Trail, part of the Bruce Trail system; the side trail mostly overlaps the Niagara River Recreational Trail as well. We walked those for over 25km to the Via/GO train station in Niagara Falls for the train home, but that walk itself was one of the highlights of the weekend away.

The Laura Secord homestead.

The walk from Fort George to Queenston Heights is an historic one, and the Secord house was an important stop even though the two trails we were following split to go around it. But this is also the start of another trail of historical significance that I would like to walk some day.

For the sake of completeness, we backtracked to where we left the Brock Side Trail instead of going down a different side street to rejoin it. 

This was the psychological destination for our walk, and its highlight. We joined the Bruce Trail Conservancy in the spring, and this marked our fifth walk along its trails, and our first walk without a group. Spotting the blue side-trail blazes was something of a game, and Penny proved vastly better at it than I did. So when we're hike leaders, years from now, she'll take the lead and I'll bring up the rear. That's where the photographers usually end up anyway.

But if Penny's stronger at spotting the route while we're underway, that leaves me to do the pre-planning and arrangements. So it's not a good thing that our walk turned out to be over 25% longer than I had expected, and I underestimated just how much there would be to see along the way. Instead of having ample time to make the train we had to abbreviate a lot of sightseeing and skip several breaks toward the end.

The Queenston-Lewiston bridge, which Americans call the Lewiston-Queenston bridge.

This was a fun bridge to walk under, and despite my dawning awareness of the time pressure we stopped for a few photos there. Like most of the photos from our weekends away, I'll probably never post those here; they're really only meant as souvenirs for our digital photo frame. But this infrared photo is of broader interest — to me, at least.

Flags don't show up in infrared.

I had noticed this before, at the Bobcaygeon Canada Day parade, and like the effect here. They're small in the frame, but the international border at the midpoint of the bridge is ceremonially marked by two blank banners. Even if I'm the only one who can see it, that makes me happy. It's something I hope to explore more, on both sides of that border if I have that chance.


I'm a fan of continuous improvement.

The walk from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the train station in Niagara Falls was one of my longest, and the whole weekend away was a nice challenge for my travel abilities. Not just physically, and with its preparations, but with the support equipment.

I normally use a decade-old Pedco Ultrapod II as part of my audio recorder mount, and after borrowing it from myself for this trip I've bought another one that will be dedicated to my travel and hiking kit. This little tabletop tripod weighs about 100 grams, and can hold my XT10 with its 55-200mm lens, or my D800 with its smaller primes. Amazing. My Lowepro Photo Sport 300 backpack also proved itself over the weekend, suggesting that Greg Lowe's legacy still echoes through the company, and making it my pack of choice for many future self-supported trips.

Less happily, the little GPS tracking watch that I've used for shorter hikes proved inadequate for a ten-hour day, and its charging cradle is impractical for travel. So I've supplemented it with a better GPS data logger that can retroactively geotag my photos and also feeds position information to my phone. That's going to be very handy for the second half of this year. And I've also learned a lot more about the battery life of a couple of my cameras, which has planning implications as well.

Next up is my weekend trip up north, where I'll be able to put a lot of my previous lessons into practice, and learn a few more things for my potentially longer road trip in the fall. I haven't gone anywhere in a long time, and I've been surprised to discover just how much I've missed it.


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