Travel: Toronto Architecture

I had a chance to head to Toronto for a few days and thought I’d share a few photos. I’d been there when I was really young and couldn’t remember much of it, so I thought I would see it again and do some architecture photography while I was there. After a bunch of searching around on the internet I had a number of sites picked out; I was only able to shoot about half of them, as the others either didn’t allow tripods, had too many tourists crowding them, or they were closed because it was a weekend. I’ll list a few sites but this isn’t an exhaustive list as I’m not overly familiar with the city yet. Keep in mind that most cities have a “doors open” weekend when you can get in to see buildings that are normally off limits.

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I saw the ferry getting ready to head back to the mainland so I waited and timed the shot for it to go past me. This was a two minute exposure.
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Here’s a four minute exposure but the water isn’t quite as smooth as I would like. Note that you may need a longer exposure. Although my clarity and contrast adjustments in lightroom were global, maybe I should not apply them to the water. I’ll have to give that a try.

The Toronto islands are highly recommended if you want a nice view of the skyline. Either the central island or Snake Island would be best for photography. I didn’t make it to Snake Island but due to its angle of view and some shot I’ve seen online I think it would be a good spot. You might even consider two trips out there if you don’t get good light on the first trip. Sunset would be the best time, and you can check the Photographer’s Ephemeris (free online) if you want to know if the sun will be behind the buildings at the time of year you’re planning to be there. At some times of the year sunrise might be good as well if the angle of the sun is such that it will light up the buildings. Keep the ferry times in mind though; you might want to go when sunrise is later in the morning so that the ferries are running.

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The CBC atrium, handheld.
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The Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
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The Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

Wandering around the financial district was great; probably the closest thing we have to New York City in Canada. I checked out the CBC building’s atrium, Union Station, Hotel Fairmont Royal York (there’s supposed to be a double spiral staircase there but I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it), Metro Hall, Commerce Court, and Brookfield Place. The Hockey Hall of Fame seems to have a nice ceiling inside, but I have no interest in hockey and didn’t want to pay the entrance fee just for the shot. Puente de Luz is a bit to the west and seems like it has potential for photography.

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This was a building beside Brookfield Place.
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In Commerce Court. Note, they don’t like tripods inside this building.
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In Commerce Court. I found this shot a couple days before but only had it handheld at about ISO 1600. I wanted it at a lower ISO and on a tripod so I could be sure it was sharp. I just shot with a tripod until security told me I needed a permit. So… handheld was ok, but a tripod suddenly means you’re a professional and need a permit, strange.

Northeast of the financial district there are a few sites around the Eaton Centre. There’s the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre (but check tour times, there aren’t many), the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute (if you can get in), St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Atrium Mall, and the Eaton Centre itself has a neat spiral walkway connecting it with another building (it’s the one crawling with tourists that I gave up on).


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At the Atrium Mall.
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Ryerson University
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Ryerson University
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St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. I didn’t know a place could have both cathedral and basilica as part of the name.
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St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica.
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St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica.

In terms of museums, the Ontario Art Gallery has an amazing wooden spiral staircase inside, but you had better want to see the rest of the gallery too, because the entry fee is an eye-watering $25. Actually all the museums in Toronto that I researched seem to have extortionate pricing (Casa Loma mansion is over $30, the Royal Ontario Museum is $25, etc.). The ROM has an interesting modern exterior which is nice at night with streaking traffic going by with long exposures. Inside there’s a cool looking angled staircase, but I wasn’t going to pay $25 just to get a photo of it. The Aga Khan Museum looks like it has a nice reflection in an outdoor pool, but it’s a bit of a trip to get there by public transport (about an hour).

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The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). This must be a popular shot, there was another photographer here at the time. I walked a little way down the block and shot from this angle instead. This is a surprisingly difficult place to get a nice clean shot.
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The wooden staircase at the Ontario Art Gallery (OAG). My photos don’t do this staircase justice, it’s pretty impressive. The entry fee is impressive too, $25. You can get a year long pass for $35, which is a good deal, but it doesn’t help tourists who are just passing through.
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Ontario Art Gallery staircase.

Just south of the ROM there is the University of Toronto campus that has a lot of interesting architecture. This is where I didn’t get into too many areas. The one I regret missing the most is the Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library. Look it up online, lots of potential there photography-wise.

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The Ontario provincial parliament building.
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Trinity College Chapel.
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I’m not exactly sure of the name of this place. Next time I would stand farther back, or at least be more aware, so my shadow wouldn’t be in the shot.
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I can’t remember the name of this place. It’s one of the dormitories of a religious college at the U of T. The white line in the background is traffic going past.
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At the U of T.
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The exterior of the Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library, or the John P. Robarts Research Library, I’m not sure which. The inside is more impressive but it wasn’t open at the time.
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John P. Robarts Research Library.

That’s about it for now, I don’t want this post to get too long. As always, if you want to get an alert when there’s a new post just scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Follow button.

– Patrick


P.S. – Just a few more shots:


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