Toronto Nightscape—Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

I have lived in the Toronto area all but five years of my life, but I can’t remember the last time I had gone to Centre Island. For some reason, when you live in a city, you take for granted the very things to which tourists flock.

So when I was participating in a volleyball tournament on Centre Island, I decided to take along my camera gear and stay into the evening hours to do something that I have wanted to do for some time, but haven’t because, well, I live here—take pictures of the beautiful cityscape of Toronto at night.

I knew there would be a lot of waiting, but I hoped good things would come of it.

24 spoof svphoto

5:00pm

With the tournament all but over, I had some time to kill until the sun would set. I used the time to scout out a good location from which to take pictures, one that gave a relatively straight-on view of the city, with little more than water in the foreground. After walking along the north edge of the island, I found a perfect spot, a rock outcropping, just north west of the Centre Island Ferry Terminal.

The location of the rock outcropping, about three hundred metres northwest of the centre island ferry terminal (43.6242 °N  79.3794 °W)

The location of the rock outcropping, about three hundred metres northwest of the centre island ferry terminal (43.6242 °N 79.3794 °W)

7:00pm

I set up my tripod on the rock outcropping and retreated to a nearby picnic bench, good book in hand and began to read. It’s not like this spot is a well kept secret. By the time I was ready to shoot, there were four other tripods set up behind where mine was located. I knew I still had a couple of hours until the sun set, so I alternated between reading my book and watching people taking pictures come and go.

A screenshot of TPE (The Photographer's Ephemeris) app for iOS, an incredibly useful tool which gives you sunrise and sunset times and locations all in the palm of your hand.

A screenshot of TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris) app for iOS, an incredibly useful tool which gives you sunrise and sunset times and locations all in the palm of your hand. The information here tells me the sun sets at 9:00pm; Civil Twilight ends at 9:36pm; Nautical Twilight Ends at 10:23; and Astronomical Twilight Ends at 11:22.

9:05pm

The sun had just set, but was still still illuminating the upper half of some buildings. The sky was still much too bright compared to the buildings and the water in the foreground.

centre island setup

My Really Right Stuff tripod all set up and ready to go on the rock out cropping. To the left of the frame another photographer is setting up his gear.

9:46pm

This photo was taken 45 minutes after the sun had set. Normally, when taking pictures soon after the sun sets, I would use a graduated filter to hold back the brightness of the sky. But in this situation it wouldn’t work all that well because it would also make the buildings dark and take away the brightness of their lights. So without the use of a graduated filter, as you can see, the sky is still too bright and the buildings too dark. I needed the sky to be darker yet. So wait longer, I did.

toronto nightscape fail

Toronto Nightscape Too Early
Nikon D800 w/ 24-70 f/2.8 @ 34mm, ISO 100, 30 sec at f/8 with Lee Filters .9 (3 stop) ND filter

10:13

The following pictures were taken over an hour after the sun had set, and 10 minutes before the end of nautical twilight. The lighting was perfect. Ten minutes later, the sky would lose it’s bluish tinge, and plunge into a blackish grey light.

toronto-nightscape-panorama

Toronto Nightscape Panorama
Nikon D800 w/ 24-70 f/2.8 @ 34mm, ISO 100, 120 sec at f/8 with a Lee Filters .9 (3 stop) ND Filter

toronto nightscape

Toronto Nightscape
Nikon D800 w/ 24-70 f/2.8 @ 34mm, ISO 100, 120 sec at f/8 with a Lee Filters .9 (3 stop) ND Filter
This is a cropped version of the final picture above and edited some more with Nik Software.

10:28

After seeing the picture above and knowing I had captured what I had envisioned, I reframed the picture to contain less of the entire cityscape, and more of what’s in the centre of the frame, not unlike the cropped version above. I took several more pictures but with the darkened sky, some interest and depth is lost.

Toronto NightscapeNikon D800 w/ 24-70 f/2.8 @ 45mm, ISO 100, 60 sec at f/8

Toronto Nightscape After Dark
Nikon D800 w/ 24-70 f/2.8 @ 45mm, ISO 100, 60 sec at f/8

10:45

I soon realized I would not be getting a better shot than the one at 10:13, so I called it a (long) day, packed up my gear and caught the 10:45 ferry back to the “mainland”.

11:30

As I drove home from the downtown core to my home in Markham, winding up the Don Valley Parkway, I reflected on the day..the volleyball to start the day, the waiting in between games, the waiting for the sun to go down, the waiting for the light to be just right, the waiting for the water taxi, party boat, or airplane to clear the shot, the waiting for the exposure time to be completed, and then waiting some more for the in-camera noise reduction to do it’s thing…it was a long day with a lot of waiting.

But looking at the picture that I got, the picture I was hoping to get, I’d have to say it was worth it, because sometimes good things come to those who wait.

 

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Comments 2

  1. I have been searching for a panoramic nightscape of Toronto and found your beautiful photos on Google. The one taken at the darkest hour is my favourite and I wonder if I could buy a print and what would it cost? Also, are they a certain size?
    Look forward to your reply.
    Patte Parker
    Stratford ont.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Patte,

      That’s wonderful! The image you like is not currently in the shop, but we can put it there. I will email you the size and prices.

      You can also check out the images of the Toronto cityscape I do have in the shop here: https://svphoto.ca/shop/cityscape/

      Also make sure you signup for the newsletter so you get notifications when stuff in the shop goes on sale.

      Thanks, Steve

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