190823 Island Lights - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

The Toronto Islands are a special place at night, when all the different colours of streetlamp come out to play.

The ambient orange glow of most of the lights is the reason why I bought the RGB Luxli LED light; no known colour temperature matches their output, so I need to be able to set hue values from a different scale. But new this year is the appearance of brilliant blue-white lights that must be LEDs. I suspect that this is a test installation to see which can attract more bugs, but so far the answer is "both of them".

Somehow the streetlights on the island manage to be too bright and not useful all at the same time. Strong enough to destroy night vision, and too sporadic to illuminate the road. Of course this is a service road meant for vehicles with headlights, but even the main routes are spotty enough that I need a marker light to stop from being hit by cyclists. They, typically, manage to survive unlit.

The water treatment plant. This is taken from across a wide field, shot at an 80mm-e, and the fence shows a bit of the classic island orange from a distant lamp. No light painting was involved, although I did have my utility light handy for navigation, and used it occasionally.

For example, that bluish-white LED flashlight was the perfect choice to illuminate the "No Trespassing" sign that I accidentally walked past before taking the two previous photos.

The sign is reflective, and here the camera is off in the weeds to make it more prominent, and I'm adding light to make it visible. It's about fifteen or twenty feet from the centerline of the road I was following, and I genuinely did not see it. If I had it would have saved me some time – it wasn't that interesting a place – and I would have had a better chance to marvel at it. The detail photo has been adjusted to bring it out a bit more: it's so old that most of it has been handwritten in to fill the faded spots. That's amazing.

Another photo with added light to bring out the road sign: this is the link to Gibraltar Point and Hanlan's. It's been cut off by high water, but was passable again for most traffic. Ferry service to Hanlan's resumed just a few days after this was taken.

The white glow on the trees is coming from the water filtration plant, while there's an orange glow behind the sign from one of the classic streetlamps. Little did I realize how much I'd miss those after just a little more walking.

This is the road as we get to the Hanlan's Point ferry docks and island airport. This part looked like it was always above water, and has had some work done. I wasn't expecting this parade of brand new super-bright LED lights – this was the only place I saw them with consistency. I might have missed some, I suppose, but on this night I went from Ward's to Centreville to Hanlan and then back to the Centre ferry docks again, all between dusk and dawn. I think I would have noticed any other strip of landing beacons for UFOs. White balance for this shot is 3600k, +23 tint.

You really, really shouldn't sit in this chair. Happily there was a matching one that wasn't marked as a hazard, as well as the regular benches at the Hanlan ferry shelter. This is a mix of the classic island orange and new LED lighting, and even in person they're too different to both look "white" at the same time. I decided to set the white balance for the chair, and let the LEDs land where they may: 1000k, +43 tint. I didn't know that Capture One could even do that.

And this is what the city skyline looks like at 3:50am from the Hanlan docks. I was scouting for somewhere to take sunrise photos, but once I saw it in person I decided to walk the three or four kilometers back to the lookout near the Centre docks instead. I like this different perspective, but it was less flexible than where I wanted to be for daylight – and there's no boat home from here, so I was going to need to walk back anyway. So I might as well do that at four in the morning and make the best of my limited time in the dark.