190819 High Water - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

Perhaps my last photos of high water for 2019, as the TRCA has officially lifted the shoreline hazard / flood warning that has been in place for the entire summer. But perhaps not – it has been two weeks since these photos were taken, and the lake level is still high enough that it's above some of the erosion countermeasures that were visible in the spring. My next trip in September will give me a better chance to compare.

I don't always need everything I bring with me on these overnight outings, but I do try to use everything that I have. These photos are about the only time my little LED panel was actually important – every other light painting opportunity was handled by the flashlights that I had in my pockets. But for this I dug the Viola out of my bag and set it up on a sand bank, sitting on its little tripod, and running at a comparatively high power. I could have done without it, but on mostly moonless nights like this one carrying different lights does come in handy.

And this is what the camera was doing while I set up the light for the lifeguard tower. This is where the water intake for the Islands treatment plant comes ashore; I've photographed here before, but the tree wasn't actually sitting in water back then.  From the far end it's possible to look back and have a decent view of the beach and skyline, but I wasn't wading through water to do it.

This photo is four minutes long at f/5.6 and iso1250, and I did use a flashlight to highlight the tree a bit. Moonless nights are tough, even with this much sky glow to light things up.

Two more with light trails. Apparently some night photographers try to avoid these, but I'm not sure why. It's tough to get star trails this close to the city, so how else can I convey movement over eight-minute exposures?  

I'm not sure what the aircraft was in the lifeguard photo – I was a bit distracted at the time – but checked flightradar for these two. The Air Transat A321 in the photo with the rocky foreground lit up its approach lights during the exposure, which was a bit of good luck. It was landing in Toronto after a four-hour flight from Cuba. The final image has an Air Canada Rouge 767 coming in from Trinidad, which was a five-hour trip. That photo was actually planned to catch the flight, which is something I might try again, and hopefully with better results.

One advantage of being able to track these flights is to finally confirm where the skyglow is coming from on the other side of the lake – that's St Catharines and Niagara Falls in the distance. If I spin the camera a bit to the right, like in the second life guard photo, I catch the lights of Hamilton. With a bit of elevation and a longer lens I can even make out the individual streetlights from the bridge that crosses its harbour.