There is magic in a solitude of a Spring morning.
Fresh air carried by the breeze along the river, gentle mist and first rays of sunshine, they all conspire to create a great and optimistic mood. Early Spring may be the best time. Just before crowds overwhelm these parks and chase away the wildlife and just before the full growth of vegetation alters the landscape. Gentle light of the early Spring morning wraps everything in a magical glow, dew on the ground and solitude that is energizing and inspirational.
Home Smith Park sits just along West bank of Humber River, between Dundas and Bloor Streets. It is the stretch of the road connecting Old Dundas Street to Old Mill Road, an oasis of greenery that is accessible and busy stretch on late Spring and Summer afternoons, and with full justification.
As it truly is, a magical place.
Medium: Kodak Portra 400 film and Fuji Superia Xtra 400 film (135 format)
Gear: Nikon FM with Nikkor 35mm 2.8 and Nikkor 135mm 2.8 lens
Process: Unicolor C-41 chemistry, Epson V600 Negative Scan
Last days of Winter, the snow is still around, the quiet envelops the ravine and hardly anyone is present. The park road is still closed for traffic, covered in ice and snow, an invitation for some but barrier for most.
In a few week, so we hope, the snow will be gone. The grass will get its start and the ramps will be open, welcoming masses to Sun’s warm glow along the river. But for now though, the stillness prevails, for a few more weeks, maybe a better part of the first Spring month.
Not much longer, you feel it first in the air. It does look wintery and desolate, but at the same time, it feels brighter, ready for the change. At the end of long five months, the time is coming, time for Spring.
Medium: Fomapan 100 Film (135 Format)
Gear: Nikon FM / Nikkor 35mm 2.8 AIS lens
Processing: ID-11 1:1 / Epson V600 Direct Negative Scan
If anything, this Winter of 2019 was a stubborn one. Just like a familiar but awkward guest, refusing to leave for hours with their shoes and coat on, not taking the hint. The hint from a longer daylight, earlier sunrises and merciless march of the calendar. Not this winter, it cannot, will not, take the hint.
Gradually, more and more water on Humber’s surface is visible. The ice is all gone, save for a few snowcaps on boulders in the stream. It is time to warm up, we are ready to trade the uniform white and gray for spring colours, our greens, yellows and reds.
It is time.
It was time a while ago, but the awkward goodbye continues, snow is still on the ground, more rushing water the only hint that perhaps the point of departure for this Winter is near.
Medium: Fomapan 100 film (135 format)
Gear: Nikon F4 / Nikkor 35mm 2.8 AIS lens
Processing: Ilfosol-3 1+9 Dillution
When I seek rapids, my attention typically turns to natural cascades and flow control barriers. In winter, however, ice changes that a bit. The water creates new flow as it struggles to break free from the firm cold surface.
Why is this interesting?
Water picks its way around ice, creating and expanding cracks. It forms a changing abstract scene. Perhaps I am fixated by the contrast between cool stillness of ice and bursting energy of rushing water. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of difference between still whiteness of ice and dark movement of water. Whatever the case, it draws my attention and holds it for a few minutes.
We all find some symbolism in this semi-abstract landscape. This winter scene that is at one perfectly still and fully dynamic. Winter rapids, nothing else like it.
Medium: Ilford FP4 Plus film (120 format)
Gear: Mamiya 645 with Mamiya Sekor C 80mm 2.8 lens
Processing: Ilford ID-11 Developer 1:1 dillution, Epson V600 direct negative scan.
At that time, right after the last of the snow has disappeared and before the nature awakens, is the opportunity to get really close to the water. On a muddy and cloudy morning, the rushing water is the start. This ultimate point of interest, pure force of the new season, is uninhibited by colour, vegetation or any other distractions.
Humber River in early Spring, pure unfiltered power and force of the water. Fast moving water, as if to announce the arrival of this long awaited Spring.
This is a bit messy and muddy, but the view of the rushing spring water is unobstructed. Time to take a bit of a different, more muddy perspective on this river. Slow down the shutter, minimize the aperture, squint as it were, and see how it all looks then.
Medium: Ilford HP5Plus (120 format)
Gear: Diana F+
Awhile back, Lambton was a small mill village and place where Dundas Road crossed Humber River. Today, it is a relatively peaceful stretch of the river. Buildings along the river are gone, and busy Dundas Street crosses high above the water over a modern concrete bridge.
Under the busy thoroughfare bridge, the river moves along on its path to the lake. The river, now completely enclosed in parkland on either bank, is hard to reconcile with sites industrial past. As Old Dundas Street trails off into a dead end, the new forest takes over, hiding the river and all its power.
The experienced of a winter morning under the Lambton Bridge is special. Snow is covering most of the water, making it a place to meditate and reflect on the perpetual change along the shores of this river. This is a great place to step into the nature, just around the corner from a busy urban hive.
Medium: Ilford FP4Plus (120 format)
Gear: Mamiya 645 / Mamiya Sekor C 80mm 2.8
By the middle of March we’ve had enough of Winter. No matter how charming the snowy landscape may seem, we’re ready for Spring. Longer days bring higher temperature and ice starts its gradual retreat. But, before its exit, Winter puts on one more show – ice jams.
In its lower valley, Humber river’s sweeping turns accumulate large blocks of ice. Daily thaw and nightly freeze change this scene continuously. This landscape is as treacherous as it is mesmerizing. A somewhat false sense of calmness rules this temporary scene just before the first rays of sunshine arrive.
Like so many winter scenes, this is only a temporary calmness. It will be gone in a matter of weeks, leaving behind wreckage. Each Spring starts with clean-up. In the mean-time though, we can enjoy this calm winter scene for one last time this season.
Medium: Foma Fomapan 100 (35mm film)
Gear: Nikon F4 / Nikkor 24-80mm 2.8-4 AF-D Lens
How do you tell the real cold has arrived? Rivers freeze over.
Humber River freezes by Old Mill, typically by mid January. The ravine transforms into a giant ice tub. Rushing water is replaced by icy stillness. Trails are closed and covered, blended into a continuous surface of white quiet. Somewhere underneath that thick ice, the river still flows.
January of 2019 was particularly cold – producing a massive ice harvest. This is how we can always walk on water in this country – mere mortals braving the deep cold of dark January. Canadian Winter – the season that tests us all. With its harshness and length.
Persevering through it, we first learn to tolerate, then embrace, and finally find joy in those dark and cold mornings. I guess you know you belong here once you find excitement in standing on the river ice surface in freezing cold and enjoying every second of it.
This particular roll of venerable HP5Plus did not quite capture what I hoped for, but definitely left me with a note, a memory, of images that are still left out there, on the ice covered Humber, that cold morning in January.
Medium: Ilford HP5Plus (120 format)
Gear: Mamiya 645 / Mamiya Sekor C 80mm 2.8
For the past 8 years, predominant location for my photography was Humber Bay Park. This is an amazing place, but I feel that the time has come to turn my attention elsewhere.
Not too far, though 😉
Humber River has a deep historical bond with this place, Toronto. It is the ancient highway, a powerful and untameable river with complicated history. So, I decided to start turning my attention more towards this river. 2019 will be the year to look at Humber River more closely.
A natural place to start is the mouth of the river, a place where a very photogenic bridge combines with its reflection to create the Eye of Humber, almost a symbol of new long term photographic adventure.
This bridge and its surroundings must be one of the most commonly photographed places in the city. Good reasons for this include vista of downtown, spectacular sunrises and contemplative space in and around Sheldon’s lookout, just on the West Bank near the bridge. Humber River pedestrian bridge is not only the link between the two sides of the city, but also a gateway of sorts into the world beyond the lakeshore, frontier only Humber River can get you to.
So, few days into 2019, I thought it would be fun to bike down to the mouth of the river and shoot a roll of bulk loaded roll of Fomapan 100 film with my lightweight kit – Nikon FM with 35mm f/2.8 AI lens, some filters and the trusty MeFoto Backpacker Classic tripod and a shutter release cable.
This is the lightweight kit since it requires very little space and fits in a bike bag along with a tonne of space to spare. This roll of Fomapan has been developed using Balzinal (Compard manufactured R09 formulation) in 1:50 dilution.
Right at the mouth of Humber, a start of the new adventure.