170422 Day Trip - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

This isn't a photo of Niagara Falls, although that's was where I was yesterday. It's the Burlington GO station, the train-bus transfer point on the trip between Toronto and Niagara Falls, and the site of a generous layover.

The trip via public transit from my home to the top of the Falls takes about four hours, and costs a bit less than twenty dollars, each way. That's not bad, but not trivial, either. I plan on making the trip a few more times this year, possibly once per season, as a way to go somewhere different that's camera-friendly and interesting. That many trips is still about the same cost as one day in New York City, and Niagara Falls has the benefit of not being in a country ruled by a rage-tweeting muppet. Not on the Canadian side, at least. And staying with domestic cell phone coverage is another big plus.

There's a lot to see in Niagara Falls, and I'm looking forward to experiencing it in different seasons. A day with mediocre weather in late April is going to be a very different experience from a visit in late July. I suspect that my next trip will need to spend less time in the more tourist-intensive areas, so perhaps an exploration of the off-strip motels will be an interesting diversion. The tackiest areas, like Clifton Hill, will probably wait until winter. That's when its artificial colour and light will be most important, and the wax museums could be a handy place to warm up. So this time I went for the main camera-magnet, the reason for the town's existence: the Falls themselves.

So that leaves one significant question: even assuming that one has created the best photograph of the Falls in all of recorded history, then what? It's sort of like taking a perfect photo of a duck. It's still a duck. But still, one can't just not photograph ducks just because they're just ducks, if you know what I mean.

So I spent most of my time in Niagara Falls alternating between pretending I was trying to find a new way to photograph a Canadian icon and just giving in and playing as best I could while being cold and wet. Sometimes that worked, and other times it was just a fun way to spend the day, which is reason enough to be there. And it was an excellent trip.

Travelling is always a learning experience, even for a day trip. I brought a conventional camera with one lens, the spherical Theta, and my bigger audio recorder. Along with some other supporting odds and ends, like snacks and a pair of towels, this worked out to a reasonable eight pounds for my bag weight. I've done trips to New York with more, so it's fairly manageable, but ten pounds is my hard limit.

While I used everything I brought, I can still simplify. Next time I probably won't bring the 360 camera; I didn't use it much, and even though it's small using it well takes a disproportionate amount of mental energy. And I'll likely switch to my smaller sound recorder. Waterfalls sound a lot like highways. If I manage to resist the siren call – duck call? – of photoing the Falls themselves, then I don't need the little Novoflex tripod and ten-stop ND filter, saving more mental and physical weight.

That's a solid pound less to carry, some of which I'll reassign to an external USB battery that can keep my phone happy. Having one of those yesterday would have saved some non-fun excitement when it was time to catch the bus home, although stress about making the return trip is a long-standing tradition of my visits to Niagara Falls. The goal is still to be able to enjoy the outing with as little difficulty as necessary, and making sure that I have the right stuff with me is an integral part of that.


Powered by SmugMug Log In