Sunday, December 18, 2005

Old friends in new clothes

I haven't been down to the East Donlands Park in about three months. Last time I was there, the river was still warm enough to wade, and it was still barefoot hiking season...


Time of the season

...Well, hiking season it may still well be, but not unless you're nicely trussed up. It was hand-numbingly cold as I took these shots. But I wanted to get out with my cameras and do some winter photography in a place I was familiar with from one season, but had never seen in its other facets.

Today I had with me both my cameras; my Canon 350D Rebel XT and my Kodak CX7330. I set the CX7330 to photograph in black and white and left the XT on "program" setting, letting the camera itself do all the tricky grunt work. Getting fancy with settings is a warm weather game. I was interested in contrasting how the scenes would look in colour and native black and white, again, without having to constantly flit settings back and forth on the XT.


The approach

Above is the view heading down from Finch Avenue to the path through the forest to the old track of Cummer Avenue, which is a five-minute walk in good weather, but about ten minutes in the low-traction snow.


Up the path

Above is a view of the path as you step onto it. On the left in this shot is the East Don River. I found this shot very compelling when I got home and looked it over. It's the kind of scene, when I was a boy, I used to fantasize about simply disappearing into, becoming one with. The calm, cool simplicity and stillness of winter, forever.

Below is the first of our comparision shots. These are both panoramic images composed of three shots each, assembled by a stitching program that came with the XT. This is the first bend in the path as you head northward, before you emerge into the flood plain.






And, speaking of which, below is a comparison of how the flood plain itself looks in black and white and colour. I only bothered to take shots for a full panorama in black and white; the colour version is a single image.






...I find the image in black and white much more sombre, more alluring somehow than the colour image. There's a sort of cheeriness in the colour one I find distracting from the solemnity and solitude of the place and the moment.

I find the same to be the case below, on the approach to Old Cummer Avenue Bridge itself. Judge for yourself.






Last summer I was here frequently. I walked to the river and waded in it well over a dozen times; it was a magnificent communion. I'm fascinated by the place because it was once such a vital part of city life... cars crossed this bridge hundreds of times a day; people lived down in the valley shouting distance from where I was standing for these shots.


Looking west across the bridge


Looking east up the former route of Old Cummer Avenue -- must have been a steep climb in winter

Once on the bridge itself, I took in the beautiful views of the river just doing its thing.




Looking south down the East Don


Looking north up the East Don


The beauty of water in transition

Under the bridge itself, a broad sandbar had built up on the west side. This was utterly swept away in the August storm that also bisected Finch Avenue itself in the west end. I thought I'd see if things had changed. Sure enough, it looks as though the river is trying to pay back what it stole in its swollen rage: it has began depositing sand again in the slow, lazy west pocket of the bridge.






After taking in the bridge and the river, I headed west along the old track of the road. This way follows along the hydro corridor for about a hundred yards/metres and then heads abruptly north into the woods again. It's along this stretch, and northward, that about a half a dozen homes once stood, till the 70s and 80s. Once they were gone and the land upon which they stood was absorbed into the park, the old road clearance itself was closed, but continues to live on as a footpath.


Someone's home stood here till about 1980


"And miles to go before I sleep..."

Something about hydro towers has always captivated me, even as a little boy. They seem like the skeletons of giant robots, just waiting for their chance to spring back to life and attack...


Skylines


Thy fearful symmetry I


Thy fearful symmetry II


Thy fearful symmetry III


Thy fearful symmetry IV


Brothers west


Brothers east

At this point, I was heading back. The remaining shots are wandering southbound again back the way I came, towards Finch Avenue.


What a driver heading east on Cummer Avenue in winter once saw


Southbound on the path


The bend seen from the north side

I'd brought my wide angle lens with me but completely forgotten about it until this point. With numbed hands, I managed to attach the thing to the primary lens and I got these marvelous, Christmassy shots. The last one, with the single ice crystal caught in the needles of a pine tree, I am particularly happy with. And we'll sign off on that. Hope you enjoyed the little stroll.


Snow and pine needles


Evergreen overpass


Nature slips an ice diamond onto the finger of a tree

11 comments:

Donwatcher said...

Nice pictures. I have never been in this area during winter. I would be careful about wading in the Don. There are still places where raw sewage enters the river. A recent study in Taylor Massey Creek found e.coli levels between 10,000 and 1,200,000 / 100 ml.

DW

A thinker said...

Nice shots! I especially love the hydro towers. That kind of thing is one of my favourite photo subjects :-)`

Lone Primate said...

I would be careful about wading in the Don. There are still places where raw sewage enters the river.

Down around the area you've indicated I'd be concerned; I don't think I'd be enthusiastic about getting into the Don much south of Eglinton. But further north, the city largely dates from the 1960s, and untreated biological effluent is a rare commodity in such areas. I know for a fact that storm drainage is guided to the river in the park, and of course there's the run-off from lawns, but that's the nature of... well, nature. Nothing's really clean. But hereabouts, the water runs rapidly, it's not brackish, it doesn't smell, there's not much rubbish in the water, and I don't drink it. I appreciate your concern, but life's too short to deny oneself the simple pastoral pleasures. You can take a chance and enjoy our all-too-brief summers or play it safe and be felled by something else. The risks, so far, have been far outweighed by the delights. Take a chance, give it a shot next summer... but up here, not down there. :)

Lone Primate said...

Nice shots! I especially love the hydro towers. That kind of thing is one of my favourite photo subjects :-)`

Thank you. :) You know, I don't mind admitting, I'm always nervous when I get near those things. I found the unearthly noise of the power lines just over my head really unnerving when I was taking those shots. I had the distinct feeling of being an infidel defiling the sanctity of the temple of some foreign god, waiting all the while to be struck by lightning...

katherine said...

Hi Lone -- Nice images out of that winter hike. : ) I like seeing the contrast between the color and b&w shots. Proves how color (or the lack thereof) sways the way we perceive. Which was a reminder I needed. Thanks!

The first thing I thought when I saw the photos of the towers was imagining the sound you must have been hearing and the creepy feeling I've gotten when I've been in similar proximity to such towers. Really nice shots though. Sort of conveyed a War of the Worlds feeling, though that might have been helped along by your captions. ; )

Lone Primate said...

I like seeing the contrast between the color and b&w shots. Proves how color (or the lack thereof) sways the way we perceive.

I'm weirdly torn by the dichotomy. I love black and white photography. There's something about a greyscale image that's just leaden with importance. It's as though the photographer is saying to you, "Nevermind the pretty colours, nevermind the pleasing chromatic melodies... LOOK at this. This is important. See it for what it really is." Which is ironic because, of course, that's not what it really is. But it's like you're being given the ability to cast aside some rose-coloured aspect of life that shields reality and really bring some stark, precise truth to people when you capture an image in black and white. But on the other hand, I always feel like I'm somehow cheating myself and my viewers out of something whole: the colour is, after all, part of the real world, and if you don't capture it, it's gone forever. You blew it! All you got was a record of the relative intensity of the reflected light. I doubt I will ever find the courage to dedicate myself to black and white photography, though somehow I wish I could.

The first thing I thought when I saw the photos of the towers was imagining the sound you must have been hearing and the creepy feeling I've gotten when I've been in similar proximity to such towers.

It's amazing how unnerving I found it getting up under that thing. I was genuinely afraid of it, and only lingered a minute or so. I wasn't comforted by the fact that I was under those wires all the time I was walking back to the bridge, as well as crossing it. It must have been strange for the people who lived there, their houses in such close proximity to those angry wires, always growling like enslaved genies waiting to break free and take revenge. Must have been the sort of thing going through the minds of the residents whenever the winds rose...

William said...

i heard a rumour if you take a flouresant tube under one of those towers it glows maybe next time you go you should try a mythbuster for us. great pics especially the b and w ones .no snow for edmonton plus 6 global warming eh .

Lone Primate said...

i heard a rumour if you take a flouresant tube under one of those towers it glows maybe next time you go you should try a mythbuster for us.

I wonder. I know it's unscientific to suppose this but I can't help imagining me standing there as 50,000 volts course through me like some Monty Python sketch. :) Might be interesting to try, though, if there's anything to the idea. ...The spontaneous glow, I mean, not me being electrocuted.

no snow for edmonton plus 6 global warming eh .

Yeeeaaahhh... there is no God. :)

A thinker said...

Yes, I have to admit you are braver than I. The hum of the hydro towers always scares me off getting too close.

Ce la vie. . .

teflonjedi said...

I say, great photos, you're making me at least momentarily homesick for Ontario...didn't think I'd miss the snow like that!

Lone Primate said...

didn't think I'd miss the snow like that!

You just think you do -- wait'll you drive in it next time. :)