190803 Martin Goodman - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

Two decades ago I would commute by bike from my job with a computer company at Queen and Broadview to my home in the Upper-Right Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto. On the way there, invariably in a hurry, I'd take Kingston and Queen across the city. But at the end of the day, with more time and less stuff to carry, I'd take the bike paths almost door-to-door from the lower Don river all the way through the beach. The only place where I'd have to play in traffic was a short stretch of Unwin Avenue through the port lands, at a section where the Martin Goodman trail went away. That industrial on-road section started here at a rather scary single-lane bridge, which here causes the red and white lights of passing cars and trucks to merge.

A separate span for bikes and walkers was added in the years since I stopped using this route, but the missing trail link remained missing until just a few weeks ago.

The new path is beautifully smooth tarmac that's mostly set away from the road, where it runs through Toronto Region Conservation Authority land across the top of the Leslie Street Spit. It's not lit for travel at night, which might be an issue that needs to be addressed for safety and our darker winter afternoons. But for now it's a nice way to get through the natural environment without spoiling the village's rustic aesthetic.

On a personal note, this stretch of road used to be where I'd try to sprint and unwind on my full-suspension racing bike, seeing how long I could stay at my top speed on the aero bars. It wasn't very fast or for very long, honestly, but seeing this pavement makes me think it'll still be a prime spot for the Tour de Bike Path participants.

And it wouldn't be Toronto without a little situational weirdness, like a highway "construction" sign tied to the side of a chain-link fence. It's just what we do.

What I do, for these photos, is play around to try to get the look that I want. The Unwin Bridge and Construction photos are stacks of multiple frames, combined with light painting, to reveal details and intensify the traffic. There was nothing to intensify in the Rustic Aesthetic photo, but I walked through the frame during its two-minute exposure with my flashlight to accent the markings and the fence. The light behind the bushes is a parking lot, so I can't take credit for that.

Not that it matters, but through trial and error I've finally found some perfect equipment, and that's not something I say lightly. The flashlight that I'm using is the Olight S2Rii – you'd think it was a camera with a name that convoluted – which has a great beam with a slightly blue tint that works beautifully in urban settings. Perfect size, long life, and excellent controls, too.

For a tripod I'm using the Gitzo Mini Traveler, placed on a rock, a bench, and the ground, counting from the top to bottom of the page. It's very light, amply strong, and easy to carry. I've used many tabletop tripods in my time, and keep quality ones from Manfrotto, Novoflex, and Sirui close at hand. This little carbon-legged Gitzo one combines the best elements of all three of my long-time favourites for merely the combined price of the most expensive two. That makes it a bargain, right?