190526 High Water - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

This was my fourth trip to the Toronto Islands in the space of a month. The water continues to rise, and within a week or two it is likely to exceed the records set in 2017, but the lake isn't quite there yet. In a normal year it's possible to walk to those trees, albeit not directly from where the camera is placed to take this photo.

This is a panorama stitched together from eight separate ten-second exposures, producing resolution far exceeding my current ability to print it. But the unending construction along the skyline makes every photo a fleeting record, so sometimes it's worth the extra steps.

A quick half-second exposure. The day was fairly calm, but where the waves are breaking would normally be dry ground. While I was there crews were clearing branches and debris that had been washed considerably farther inland.

The lonely tree, normally at the edge of the lake, but now well within it. The taller grass roughly marks where the shoreline would be. This is a four-minute exposure looking along the length of the inner harbour, with the working port lands in the distance.

Olympic Island, usually an open and inviting picnic spot, proves to be lower-lying than Centre Island with extensive flooding. With better footwear I might have crossed to higher ground and explored further, but as it was the water was across the top of my feet as I took this. It was the only time I've ever had my feet damp in my hiking boots. Fortunately this photo is shown out of temporal sequence, and was taken as I was on my way back to the city and a dry pair of socks.

Accidentally shot as five-shot exposure bracket, I decided to just go with it and processed it as an HDR. My apologies.

A barbecue pit on the shore of Long Pond, near the regatta seating. The half-second exposure shows the wake from a tour boat that cruises through the waterways. While it's nothing compared to what the wind-driven water can do, I am surprised that the erosion and flooding hasn't turned the inner waterways into no-wake zones.

The Carousel Cafe, originally designed as a bus station but repurposed as a restaurant without adjusting the decor or the acoustics, usually has several tiers of brick armouring the shore around it. The sign is set back on the lawn, as is the red lifesaving ladder at the far right of the photo.

The awnings of these boats barely passed under the bridge that carries the Avenue of the Islands to the pier. This half-second exposure was taken from the little patch of grass remaining in front of the picket fence of the Carousel Cafe.

A nice place to stop for a rest between the Centreville amusement park and Far Enough Farm. The most-submerged bench and red-and-white sign mark the curve of the shoreline here, with the trees normally residing on dry land. The near benches line the wide walkway.

And in this reverse shot we see what the red-and-white sign says – good advice at the best of times, but hardly needed now. While the other amusement rides remain dry, the narrow-gauge train tracks are under water at several points.


Having taken four trips to the Islands in less than thirty days – five trips if you include walking under the western gap to chase airplanes at the Island airport – I'm going to do something uncharacteristic and not visit next weekend. But the weekend after that, weather permitting, I'll be back again to see Gibraltar Point and the pier. The water level is expected to peak near that time, perhaps setting a new record. I can only hope that the residents, infrastructure, and shoreline escapes significant damage.