Travel: Ontario Roadtrip, Part 2

This is the second (and final) part of my post on the road trip I did around Ontario in October of 2020. In the last post I covered the first half of the trip, west from Ottawa, through Algonquin Park to Manitoulin Island, and in this post I’ll cover Owen Sound down to the Niagara region and over to Prince Edward County. I forgot to post this in the first part, but here is a great resource for waterfalls (http://waterfallsofontario.com). Here’s a map of the route:

Ferry to Owen Sound

You can take the ferry from Manitoulin Island to the Bruce Peninsula. It’s pretty easy to figure out and not too expensive, but make your reservation ahead of time just in case. If you time it right, you can do a tour to see the Flower Pot rock formations from Tobermory when you get off the ferry. My ferry was cancelled every day that I was in the area due to high winds, so keep that in mind. Tobermory seemed to be a tourist trap and I was happy not to linger there. Good Grief Coffee roasters in Thornbury was good but pricey. I got some Cortland apples at an orchard near Georgian Hills Vineyard; best apples I’ve ever had. East and southeast of Owen Sound are a few wineries, of which I thought Coffin Ridge was the best. I’ve been to this area before, so I’m not mentioning all the sites in the photo tips below, just the ones from this trip.

Photo tips:

  • There are six camp sites on Flower Pot Island, which is probably the best option for getting a great photo in good light with no tourists in the frame; the tours don’t cater to photographers wanting to be there at sunrise/sunset
  • Going south from Tobermory, the Bruce Peninsula has a lot of neat limestone rock formations and trails to see them, I didn’t get to any but I had Bruce’s Caves Conservation Area highlighted as having good photographic potential
  • There are a bunch of water falls around Owen Sound, of which I like Weaver’s Creek Falls and Indian Falls, the walk to Jones Falls was pretty nice
  • Hogg’s Falls is small but quite nice
  • Singhampton Caves trail was amazing, lots of rock formations, and it had a really cool limestone crevice that you could walk in for over a hundred meters (there’s a viewpoint nearby too)
  • There’s a labyrinth in Collingwood that has photographic potential
  • If you head almost directly west you reach Southhampton which has a couple of photogenic lighthouses

Down to Niagara and Hamilton

Niagara Falls city is not overly exciting, a bit of a tourist trap. I stayed there to do sunset at the falls and then immediately head out exploring and hitting wineries. There are wineries all over the area, along Lake Huron on the way down from Owen Sound, then along Lake Erie on the way east to Niagara. Make sure to check some reviews and see which ones you’d want to visit (and opening times, they can be quite unique…). Niagara on the Lake is pretty quaint and of course it is surrounded by a lot of wineries too. Hamilton on the other hand is surrounded by waterfalls and is a great area to explore. I’ve included Toronto in this stretch; if you have time be sure to explore the city and try the restaurants/bakeries/coffee roasters/etc.

Photo tips:

  • Hamilton is surrounded by dozens of waterfalls, lots of photo sites there (http://waterfallsofontario.com/inventory_hamilton.php)
  • Waterfalls are great in overcast light, it avoids the bright sun spots that can happen in sunny weather, but if you can get some gentle light coming in and hitting some part of the composition it can raise the image to the next level
  • Make sure you have a polarizer if shooting waterfalls, it’s not even up for debate, it takes reflections off the rocks, takes reflections off of the water (adding contrast to the moving water), and helps to get slower shutter speeds that give the water a silky effect
  • Experiment with shutter speeds when shooting waterfalls; if you go to0 long the water is just a white blob with no detail in the water, but if you shoot too fast you don’t get that peaceful effect, lately I’m finding that 1/3 second is the sweet spot, but that’s just me
  • If you shoot Niagara Falls at sunrise the sun will come up right behind the falls, you might get lucky with the mist lighting up too
  • If you have time to devote to Toronto, there are lots of architectural shots you can do, on this trip I stopped in a church that had paintings covering every inch of the interior (see below), I did a post on Toronto architecture here: https://burntpixelblog.wordpress.com/2019/09/28/travel-toronto-architecture/

Over to Prince Edward County

I had a few sites marked on my map between Toronto and PEC but I didn’t make any stops since I wanted to get there and check in before it was too late. I just wanted to do some photo reconnaisance of the island, and also check out the famous wineries obviously. Note that you are not just surrounded by local wineries in/on PEC (it’s a county AND an island), you’re also surrounded by cheese factories. On the island and just to the north you can find Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co., Black River Cheese, Wilton Cheese Factory, Ivanhoe Cheese, and Maple Dale Cheese. I think they’re also known for their fruit if you’re there at the right season. I stayed in Picton which is the largest town and it’s nice and central. There’s a great coffee shop there called Beacon Bike + Brew which carries high end roasts, and you should make a stop at Stone Temple Coffees, a relatively new company (at the time) which was winning awards.

Photo tips:

  • Sandbanks Provincial Park is an obvious stop, although I found that most of the shots I liked best were around the park
  • Keep an eye out for old cars rusting away in a field, try shooting them with black and white in mind, or better yet (in my opinion) in infrared
  • Prince Edward Point has a bird sanctuary that’s apparently pretty famous, and there are also some neat trees near the end of the road growing at the water line
  • There’s a lot of coast here, so use the middle of the day to scout out locations for sunrise/sunset coastal shots
  • I haven’t been in the winter, but I would think that when spring is arriving there may be some neat ice formations along the coast
  • Something I noted about PEC is that there are lots of gigantic trees around with brilliant fall colours; I didn’t find any good spots during my short time there but I was quite impressed and there’s photographic potential

I wasn’t able to do any big international trips due to Covid but I was pleasantly surprised at how much there is to see in my (new) home province of Ontario. You can tell from parts 1 and 2 how much photographic variety there was on the trip, waterfalls, giant trees, hiking trails, crazy rock formations and limestone crevices, and some unique architecture along the way too. Not to mention all the bakeries, cheese factories, wineries, etc. I didn’t try any restaurants since they were all closed and I probably would have avoided them anyway due to covid, even if they were open. For photography I’d say the highlights were the giant pine trees in Algonquin Park, the waterfalls around Hamilton, the Cup and Saucer Trail on Manitoulin Island, the painted church in Toronto, and the crazy limestone crevice portion of the Singhampton Caves trail. I’d recommend poking around on 500px or Flickr to find sites you think might be interesting and start creating a Google map of the sites. Feel free to send me an email for ideas (also doing forget that there will be seasonal sites too, such as the trillium hikes in the spring). Add some some non-photo touristy/food related things onto the map and you’ll be good to go!

– Patrick

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