Monday, August 29, 2005

Naked Truth: the Return to Hanlan's Point

Last week, I visited the nude beach at Hanlan's Point with my friend Dave, visiting from Rochester. I kind of casually asked my buddy P-Doug if he wanted to go down there this weekend just past, and to my surprise, he did. We made plans for Saturday morning, but when I noticed (thanks to an NOAA java applet P-Doug sent me) that Lake Ontario was actually at his warmest about 9 PM, and that that would let us take some fantastic sunset shots to boot, he agreed we should head down in the evening instead. As it turned out, Saturday had lousy weather, so we postponed to Sunday evening.

Winner 2005 Worst Poster Design

We parked downtown at a cheap lot P-Doug knows and took the subway the rest of the way to Union Station. Opposite us was this TTC poster about new buses, that someone had deemed "Winner 2005 Worst Poster Design". If you agree, you can (according to the sticker) register your accord at

City from the water

City from the boat

We caught the ferry at the terminal just as it was heading out. Actually, our timing was split-second and impeccible the whole evening, though we were forever under the gun. These are a couple of shots looking back at the downtown as we departed. Most notable are Skydome and the CN Tower.

Approaching Hanlan's Point

I'm right behind you, Ned

About the first thing you encounter on arriving at Hanlan's Point on Centre Island is the statue of Edward "Ned" Hanlan himself. He was a champion sculler of of the 19th Century, possibly the greatest ever. He was born, lived, and died in Toronto, and was, for a time, one of its aldermen. His family lived on the island roundabout the point that subsequently carries their name.

The Dream Shot

Last time I went to the nude beach, neither Dave nor I had our cameras. On our way back, we both stopped simultaneously and spontaneously at this spot, struck by the framing of the CN Tower in the trees. I swore that the next time I made it back, I'd take this shot, and here it is.

Wow, they're naked!

They're still naked

When we arrived at the beach, it was about 6:30 PM or so. There were two or three dozen sunbathers still down there, but their numbers thinned out relatively quickly. I stripped immediately, took a couple of shots, and then made a beeline for the water. It was far warmer this time than it was last, when Dave could not bring himself to indulge. At some points between the shore and the first sandbar, it literally felt like a lukewarm bath. It was absolutely wonderful.

Dog day ending

Goodnight, sun

Silver sunset #1

Silver sunset #2

...Breathes an air of gathering gloom...

Seeing as we both had cameras, P-Doug and I took turns splashing around and sitting with our belongings. During one of my swims, the sun really began to set. I came in, and we photographed a really beautiful sunset over Mississauga to the west. P-Doug headed back into the water while I stayed ashore and experimented with some moody black and white shots. For all of these, I attached P-Doug's polarizing filter to my lens. It really brought out the contrast in the sky. I'm really pleased with these shots.

Caught in flight

At one point, a large flock of seagulls passed around me, wheeling and cutting through the air. I did my best to follow their motion, and was rewarded with a couple of nice shots of the birds in flight. This is my favourite of the bunch.

The Cruel Sea


While P-Doug was swimming around, I decided to take a risk with my new camera and waded out about waist deep. I wanted to get some really dramatic water shots. I got some really nice stuff, but ironically, the shots I like best were ones I took right at the water's edge.

Garbed in an anklet — as a hedge against nudity

The lone primate in his natural state... as much as I'm willing to inflict upon you, at any rate. Probably more than you wanted to see as it is. :)

The Edge of Night

The first ferry back after the sunset was at 9 PM, so that was our target. Since neither of us was actually wearing a watch most of the time, we had no firm idea of the time. At one point when there were only about a half-dozen others left on the beach, I chanced our stuff being stolen and went in to join P-Doug in the water. When I asked, he reckoned the time to be about 8:20. About ten minutes later we went ashore, only to find it was actually 8:45. We dressed and really hustled to catch the ferry, making the trek in a mere ten minutes. Both in keeping with my habits this summer and to speed the journey, I went barefoot. P-Doug was concerned for me, since the path is asphalt, but I've taken several four-mile walks on streets and sidewalks to the East Don Parklands this summer, so this was nothing to me. Besides, I could never have run the last hundred yards or so in my sandals; they have no ankle bracing. We made the ferry with just moments to spare, and I spent my time at the bow, photographing the city. I was taking shots at 1/5 of a second at ISO 800. Most of them are shaky and worthless, but this one came out spectacularly, I think. It reminded me of the title card to the old soap opera The Edge of Night, so that's what I've called it. I think the purple-lit rim of the Skydome is what really makes the shot.


Polt said...

Thanks for the photos. I loved the ones of the cityscape. I think that view, from the lake, of the city is one of the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. Can't wait to get there again...only a month! WHoo-hoo!

barefoot hiker said...

Thanks, that's really kind of you. :) Funny thing is, first time I looked over my shots, I didn't see anything I much liked from my trip back photos. But on second look, that one caught my eye, and the more I look at it, the more amazed I am I got it. Not trying to claim the credit; a lot of it was serendippity. If you click on the image to see a larger version, you'll notice that both the white and red lights that run up the tower are on. These are both on for about half a second ever so often, and they're not in close sync. I remember trying consciously to get the shot when the white lights were on, but just by chance, the red lights came on at the same moment. So it's even more amazing for that, even though there's no way that could be appreciated by anyone who wasn't there without me writing a long explanation like this. :)

So you've been to Toronto before? That's cool! Hopefully the water will still be warm enough to go swimming, if you decide to visit the point.

Daniel wbc said...

Beautiful photographs! My favorites are the black and white ones and that last color shot at night looking back at the city.

I've never been to Toronto, but now I definitely will add a visit to my "to do" list.

barefoot hiker said...

Thanks, Daniel... new to SLR photography, but trying to learn the basics. Then I remind myself even a monkey could probably take a dozen "good" shots given over 325 exposures over a day. Ah well. :)

My suggestion is, visit Toronto in the warm weather... the Pride Parade in June or Caribana. The rest of the year, save your money and just swing by Milwaukee. :)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant last shot. The purple roof is just perfect.

I have to say, I noticed one thing odd. The statue at Hanlan's Point ... is wearing pants. ;-) Of course I'm kidding around here, but there is a strange irony in a nude beach at an area named after a man whose statue is clothed. Doesn't seem right, you know?

barefoot hiker said...

Brilliant last shot. The purple roof is just perfect.

Can't claim the credit for that, but it sure does make the skyline stand apart from every other Great Lakes skyline you see, doesn't it? That and the Tower. Makes for an interesting effect late at night as you drive east on the Gardiner, approaching what leaves one with the powerful impression of a massive erection wedded to the world's worst case of blue balls. ...There, now that I've utterly stripped the last vestage of poetry and romance from the image, I'll move on... :)

I have to say, I noticed one thing odd. The statue at Hanlan's Point ... is wearing pants. ;-) Of course I'm kidding around here, but there is a strange irony in a nude beach at an area named after a man whose statue is clothed. Doesn't seem right, you know?

He is indeed, but when they put the statue up in 1928 was just about the time the city was getting prudish about that kind of thing (it was technically illegal for men to go publically topless in Canada until 1968, believe it or not). Not long before, it had been common to swim nude at the Point and in the Don River. This isn't to say the city would ever have erected (pardon the pun) a statue of a favoured son and one-time alderman with his less public attributes on display, but given the nature of the times, we ought to be glad that's all he's wearing. There was at least that much of a nod to Greek classicism left, by God.

Masnick96 said...

I loved Hanlan's Point! I vowed to myself that when we move to Toronto I'm going to spend as mush time there as I can on the weekends...

barefoot hiker said...

I feel bad about it... it's been open for most of a decade now as a nude beach, first as a pilot project and then as city policy, and I've lived a subway ride from it for years. I have to get down there more often next summer.

I've been to your site before -- as you know, since I've left comments there -- but it seems you've changed the link (true?). I can't recall whereabouts it is you're living in the States just now.

Polt said...

yeah I'll be up there exactly one month from today (despite the gas prices). I doubt I'llgo to the point though, cause 1)I'm not much of a beach person and 2)when I do go, people try to roll me back in the water, thinking I've beached myself. Nah, kiddin. In Toronto, we stay just a block from Church Street, so I spend a good portion of my time there. BUt I like walking all over the city. It's just great!

barefoot hiker said...

yeah I'll be up there exactly one month from today (despite the gas prices).

Cripes, we're taking a beating right now. A friend sent me e-mail I read this morning quoting $1.19 a litre and I thought (I hoped) he was joking. It was $1.03 when I drove home last night and I was calling them pirates. But nope, there it was when I drove by... 119.6¢/L.

In Toronto, we stay just a block from Church Street, so I spend a good portion of my time there. BUt I like walking all over the city. It's just great!

Well, weather'll be cooling by the end of September. Might just be possible to swim in the lake; I have no idea; but my instinct is it'd be for the hardier among us. But since you're not planning to anyway, it's academic. :) Hope you enjoy the trip, and how far your dollar goes. :)

Polt said...

Hey, I got a question for you, kinda off topic, but nonetheless, you have any restaurants you'd recommend we visit? We have some that visit all the time, and while we like them, I'm thinking there's such a variety, we might want to expand our horizons a bit. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Masnick96 said...

Yes, I've changed the site to Still in Denver - hopefully Toronto soon :-)

barefoot hiker said...

Hey, I got a question for you, kinda off topic, but nonetheless, you have any restaurants you'd recommend we visit?

Speaking strictly for myself, I've always been a fan of the Dawat Indian Restaurant in northwest Mississauga (3687 Nashua Dr # A; sorry, no website that I could find). They're quite close to the airport. I have a friend who visits annually from Connecticut on Victoria Day weekend (late May), and he insists on making it our first stop. Very good, relatively inexpensive Indian buffet. I was introduced to it by an Indian woman I was seeing for a while. That part of town is heavily, heavily East Indian (all three candidates in a recent provincial election were born in India), so to rate in a place like that, an Indian restaurant's got to be good!

Mongolian BBQ is something I was introduced to in Los Angeles over ten years ago... later encountered in Chicago... but didn't find here in southern Ontario until about five years ago. My favourite is The Great Khan. You select the shaved meat, veggies, and sauces you want, then they're seared by the cooks on a huge BBQ in only a minute or so. Fantastic stuff, and you can go up as many times as you like over two hours (last I recall). About $15 for lunch, all told, but it's worth it, believe me. This one is definitely don't-miss. It's at the Pacific Mall at Steeles Ave. and Kennedy Rd.

Satay On the Road is another great restaurant. Wonderful Thai food. We typically go to the one on Bayview Ave.

If you're willing to go a little further afield, The Black Forest Inn in Hamilton is highly recommended. Hamilton's our version of Pittsburgh (if you saw the movie Canadian Bacon, you saw Hamilton at the very end... not its best side). It's just around the bend of Lake Ontario at the beginning of the Niagara Peninsula. The Black Forest Inn serves German, Austrian, and Hungarian dishes, and in large quantities. If you're in the west end of southern Ontario doing something, it's a great little detour on your way back to T.O.

And, if you completely lose your mind in your wanderings and happen all the way east to the Ottawa River, you'd be doing yourself a real disservice if you don't stop and eat at Valois' in Mattawa. Their view overlooking the Ottawa Valley and the towering hills just across the river in Quebec are nearly enough to make you believe in God. The food -- especially the pies -- are worth the trip, on the off chance you wind up thereabouts.