170506 Behind - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

One of the more interesting things I've done recently is take the "Behind The Falls" self-guided tour, which is what they call charging admission and then letting people wander around at their leisure. I've never done the tour before, although I've wanted to for a while. When I've been at the Falls on a busy day being in small tunnels never seemed that appealing. Going during the off-season made all the difference.

Getting there is easy. From the entrance at the back of the visitor's centre it's just a couple of flights of stairs and an elevator ride down to the tunnels and a two-level outdoor viewing platform. 

There are two portals tunnelled into the rock that open into the space behind the falls. Standing here is a little like sheltering in a cave from a thunder storm that is very, very angry at you personally. Naturally, I stayed here for a very long time. My camera and audio recorder both survived, but they were a little damp from the experience.


Next time, with a waterproof camera and a tripod, I'll try to record a better video. But until then this is all I have – in-camera audio and held against the railing while a few other people milled around beside me. It's a fairly short video, because after less than a minute I wasn't willing to keep the camera there any more, and never wanted to try again. 


The outdoor observation deck has two levels. This is the lower open deck that's reached by a flight of stairs; there's also a smaller and all-season covered deck above. Depending on how the wind is blowing this area gets very, very wet. I was one of the only people who didn't put on the yellow poncho; I needed access to the pockets in my rain jacket, but maybe wearing jeans wasn't the best choice. It took me most of the afternoon to dry out. My hiking boots, however, remain awesome.

The BtF deck is about where the Maid of the Mist boats reach as they hover in the current before turning broadsides and being swept back to the dock. Being on the boats is still a more intense experience than visiting the viewing platform, but it's much easier to set up a tripod on land.

Not that it's actually easy to use a tripod on land, either. I had my little Novoflex with me, and discovered that all of the stonework around the viewing area was slick with algae. Positioning the audio recorder was a fun game of finding places that weren't too wet or too sloped; long exposures meant holding the tripod in place to stop it from sliding.

And everything was soaked. I brought two small towels with me and was running out of dry spots to wipe things on, and my lens cleaning cloths couldn't keep the filter dry. Everything performed flawlessly, though, so that's a win for Sony and Fujifilm. Just to be safe I did pull the batteries from all of my gear and give them plenty of time to dry out, just on the off chance that a little moisture got in, but it was all good.

All told it was a very pleasant day, and I'll definitely go back on one of my followup visits. The middle of winter might be cool.


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