Saturday, February 11, 2023

Up and down at Woodside Park

 What a delight. I was recently mentioned in dispatches over at Jim Grey's dependable and always fascinating blog Down the Road, though it was kind of a wincing compliment. A boot in the pants to post more often. I keep promising myself I will. My hobbies have turned back inward to my art and my writing, and all the wandering just gets sliced, diced, and put into the Millennium Project for eventual accrual to the provincial archives (I hope) rather than forensically laid out here on City in the Trees like it used to be ten, fifteen years ago.

Well, I can't promise I'll be a daily doser here like I was back then, but I can certainly post about some of the wanders, if only as an aid to memory. I can't count how many times I've been back here just to figure out when it was I did whatever, and after about 2012, I really stopped providing myself that memory aid. Oh, anyway... here's something that some of you might find interesting if and when you pass by.

Bolton is a small town that's actually part of a bigger town, Caledon, to the northwest of Toronto out in Peel Region. It's pretty much on the border with York Region, and I mention it only as a geographic reference. The place I'm concerned with today is a few minutes' drive east of Bolton in Vaughan. I blogged about it once, way back in 2006, when P-Doug and I were first there. We didn't return until the spring of 2020 (during the meantime, Cold Creek Road has gone from gravel-dirt to paved). More recently, in the past summer or two, we've been back a few times. It's a moderately challenging climb and a beautiful hike; a place that was once cleared and populated in long-ago summers but is now conservation land slowly returning to wilderness.

Back in the 1960s, the place was called Woodside. It was a park or campgrounds of some sort. There's some suggestion, although it's not conclusive, that the site hosted a local nudist club for a couple of years in the 1950s before it moved on to a more permanent location. There really isn't much about it out there... well, why would there be? But it's been an interesting derelict for a long time, and frankly, I'm a little disappointed in myself that I left most of 15 go by before going back.

Like I said, there are some good hikes to be had there. Down in the valley, the most prominent remnant of what the place once was remains the concrete swimming pool, set ironically a 30-second stroll from the freely-running waters of the Humber River. Talk about belts and bracers. It's an absolute mess today; trees have broken through and are growing in it. But back Dr. Kimble was still The Fugitive running from state to state, it must have been the pride and joy of the place. 

York Region maintains an array of aerial maps that include some plates from various years in the past. It's by no means as complete as I'd like; there are decade-wide-or-more gaps in it, but it's way better than nothing at all. Here are some comparison shots of the site in 1954 and 1970, and contemporarily. The red circle in the modern view indicates the location of the house in the 1970 view that came and went in the meantime between 1954 and today. I'll come back to that later.

Along with the swimming pool, there were some interesting buildings on-site in 1970. I have no real idea exactly what they were, but I suppose they were there in support of the enterprise, whatever it was. 

By the pool here seems to be the central hub of the place. This must have been a snack bar and/or the changing room and washrooms.

Back when we were there in 2006, we wandered northwest a bit and found some old, long abandoned and largely collapsed wooden structures. I keep promising myself to go back and look for them again, but really, what would there be to see even if they haven't been cleared out? More pronounced collapse?

A few things have disappeared since we were there; the place was "cleaned up" by the region at some point in between. The wrecked car that once graced the place is gone.

...Although to the north, a more modern wreck exists on a small promontory of land on the far side of the river whose location and presence is much, much harder to explain! This view was shot telephoto from the heights on the west side of the river, looking down across it.

And the supports for a bridge that once gave vehicle access to what appears to be a farm on the far side of the river. When we were there, P-Doug suggested these were supports for a suspension bridge, but the aerials to me looks like just a more mundane pony truss. There's no way to really be sure at this point, however. Anyway, these, too, are gone, though the abutments are still in evidence.

If you go back to the maps at the start of this post, you can see there's some suggestion that part of the park included land up on the heights, were a single building at the lip of the valley is indicated. That's the house you can see at the bottom left in the 1970 view. That causes me to speculate if the house was in fact the administrative aspect of the park, at least for a time.

So let's consider the house now. Essentially, it existed from the 1950s or 1960s to sometime in the 1970s or so. Where its driveway met Cold Creek Road, you can now park and hike in along the way that once brought you to the house.

Since I like to geotag my 3D shots, and my now-ancient FujiFilm FinePix W3s don't have any geotagging facility of their own, I turn on the tracking app on my phone and put that information in later using Photo Mechanic.

But matching the shots later made me realize that, a some point, when you hike the trail along the edge of the valley, you are actually walking through the very spot where the house once stood.

And, in fact, on that spot, you can still find a little bit of what I assume was the concrete parking pad of the garage just a foot or two off the trail in the woods. Other than that, though, there's nothing left of the house per se; nothing at all.

By 1978, the photo evidence is the place was demolished and utterly gone. At the risk of repeating myself; below: 1954, 1970, 1978, 2022. (Interestingly, the bridge across the river to the far property still seems to have been there in 1978.)

Studying the place on Google Maps, I've long been intrigued by what looks like two extant structures. When we were there last year, I decided to finally make a point of finding them and learning what they were.

One of them, that white spot just to the lower right of the second "bullseye" in the above images, turns out to be, according to the consensus of friends' opinions, a smokehouse, built at a nose-friendly distance from the house proper.

The other was a barely-visible dot that turns out to be down the slope, and is, in fact, a long-ago pilfered Toronto Star newspaper box that subsequently appears to serve, or has served, some sort of role in drunken reveries down in the hollow.

There are four ways down into the valley from Cold Creek Road. The first is the most obvious, and the one we took the very first time we were out there. At a dip in the road, the actual road down to the park once existed. Even with the dip, it's a long, treacherous hike, and P-Doug scraped his knee badly our first hike down it back in 2006. Frankly, I can't imagine how anyone could have made it down there hauling a trailer without it jack knifing, so maybe it was tents only.

The second is just to the north of the end of the driveway, in the open space. It leads down to the cup of the valley to hook up with the first route near the bottom. The third is a slippery but more direct descent just a few yards before the second that drops you more or less where the swimming pool is.

The fourth, which we've discovered more recently, is a trail between where the parking pad of the house once stood and the proximity of the bridge abutments, lending some credence to the idea that the house really did have something to do with the park, more formal than just being a neighbouring property. It's not quite wide enough for a car anymore, but it's reasonably open most of the way down... once you can find it, that is. The first twenty yards of it are nearly completely lost in the trees, and we only ever found it in the first place by essentially reverse engineering it, coming up from an obvious gap in the trees at the trail in the valley.

I guess at this point I've exhausted all I really have to say about it, other than that it's a glorious walk from late April to early November, and one I hope to return to many more times in the future.

And here's to you, Jim, for getting me off my butt... or actually, on my butt... to write this all down. :)

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

When You Wish Upon a Star...

Not all went according to plan. At least, not at first.

The reconditioned W1 arrived on July 11th. I was ecstatic, of course. I took it out for a walk at lunch time to test it out. What an amazing thing to be able to take infrared photographs in 3D!

But when I got home and split the MPO files into right-left independent JPG pairs, I realized that the right images were somewhat soft and out of focus. I reached out to the guys at Life Pixel and asked about returning the camera to correct the fault. The response I got was immediate, kind, professional, and apologetic. They agreed to revisit the camera and see about making the right view just as sharp as the left.

Now, understand... The Fujifilm W1 is not a camera LifePixel lists as one of its standard models for reconditioning. They were taking it on as a challenge and, in a way, a favour to me. They even offered to replace the camera if they couldn't fix it, but I told them I appreciated their efforts, that it had been my gamble, and if it couldn't be done, it couldn't be done. No harm, no foul. It was all on me. So, with their kind indulgence, off the camera went on its way to Washington state again.

They went right to work as soon as they got it. And sure enough, working on it for a day, they corrected the fault. The owner even had a brief phone conversation with me to explain what they'd done. If I remember correctly, it had to do with turning the right lens assembly very faintly to intersect with the view of the left... obviously something they never have to do working with 2D cameras that only have a single lens assembly. They sent it back to me, and it arrived on August 3rd.

Well, the arrival itself was an adventure. Let me quickly tell you about that. Lately, my job has had us coming back into the office on Wednesdays. August 3rd was a Wednesday. UPS was going to drop it off that day, and the last thing I wanted after all this was to have the thing dropped off outside my door and vanish before I got home. So, I made arrangements to have it delivered to a nearby UPS depot. Turned out to be a little hole-in-the-wall convenience store. During the day, I got email from UPS telling me it had been dropped off. At the end of the day, I took the bus a few stops further to go pick it up. They told me it had not been delivered yet; that it would probably arrive that evening.
Disappointed, I started walking home, got about half way there, and turned around. I was going to sit it out. I went to the pub next door to the place that had only three beers and downed a couple of pints of Canadian while I waited. P-Doug offered to come up and keep me company and maybe go to Pizza Hut after. Just before he arrived, I decided to check again. I showed them the email saying it had been delivered (secretly terrified they'd "delivered" it to someone else). Well, that did the trick. They really went and looked this time, and hey, presto, whattayah know, there it was. Idiots.

So, off P-Doug and I went to Pizza Hut, where we looked it over (I had no battery with me, so looking at it was all we could do), and eventually he dropped me off and I had the chance to actually try it out. Well, it was late in the evening by then, so the interior shots weren't too great, but they were good enough to confirm that both lens assemblies were in focus. I was looking at my first crisp, clear 3D infrared images. I took it out the next day into the sunlight and the shots were spectacular. Everything I hoped they'd be.

Infrared shots typically benefit from having level and/or curves corrections done on them in Photoshop to really emphasize the contrast. The shots you're about to see are side-by-side JPG images rendered by StereoPhoto Maker, and then curves-corrected and reduced to 20% of their original size for presentation here. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends of all ages... let me now present to you actual single-click 3D infrared images, taken at various times and places over the past month. Click on the first one, cross your eyes, and arrow-key through the remaining shots. See the world as you've never seen it before... thanks to the guys at LifePixel.


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Infra-ready to go...

So a few hours ago, I heard from LifePixel with some good news...

Your order is complete

Hi there. Your recent order on Infrared Conversions, IR Modifications & Photography Tutorials | Life Pixel IR has been completed. Your order details are shown below for your reference...

A second email informed me...

Life Pixel complimentary IR training session invitation

Now that your converted camera is on its way back to you it’s time to schedule your complimentary One on One 30 Minute Online Training Session – a $40 value!

Whether you are new or experienced with digital infrared photography, you will find the session quite useful in helping you get up to speed with your IR camera and help you learn required techniques for great results.

It's kind of them, but I don't imagine I'll take them up on it. I've been shooting digital infrared for about 15 years now, and I've been pretty happy with my results for a long time. Besides, most of what they're keen to impart is for the wide-spectrum filter (I opted for a hard cut B&W filter) and processing RAW images, which the W1 doesn't produce (it creates MPO files, which are nested JPG pairs).

And then one last, faintly intriguing missive... Kind of a courtesy call...

The conversion went smoothly but there is one small thing.  In 3D mode, it shoots a 2D and 3D picture at the same time and they are both good.  But, in 2D mode, there is a spot on one side of the image and we have no idea why.  Once you get it, please let me know what you think.

I emailed them back and told them I'd certainly have a look, but in all honesty, I'd never used the pure 2D feature of the camera in the 13 years I've owned it, and couldn't give a fig about it. It's not how I used it in the past, and not how I intend to use it moving forward. If they got the 3D functionality to work, that's really all I care about.

So, anyway, hopefully the old W1 will be in the mail soon, and maybe as soon as sometime next week I'll be able to start taking honest-to-goodness infrared 3D photographs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Lost Homes on Sheppard Avenue

There's a short strip of single family homes on Sheppard Avenue that I've been vaguely aware of for decades now, since I moved to North York in 2000. They're on Sheppard Avenue, a little east of the two homes I've had since moving here. They always kind of caught my eye in passing because of the pretty stand of trees that front them.

A few years ago, they were bought out and boarded up in anticipation of a single long unit of stacked townhouses. That will move more families into the same space, but it really will not have the charm of the current homes. I also don't think the little grove of trees in front of them will survive.

Here's how the places looked when they were still homes, and how they look at the moment. (From Google Maps street view.)

The homes appear to have been built in 1957. As you can see, this part of Scarborough was the fringe between suburban and rural at the time, and Sheppard Avenue was still just a two-lane cross-county road. (These shots are from the Toronto City Archives collection of aerial photos.)

So I thought it would be a good idea to go out and get some shots of these places before they're finally gone. They have been boarded up for at least a few years now. Odds are, it won't be long.

I got P-Doug to man the second W3 (these shots are all natively 3D; I'm just putting up the left side images here) and we set off on Sunday morning a week ago. The first place we took some shots of was the little strip mall on the southwest corner of Pharmacy and Sheppard Avenues. This mall itself is due to disappear soon, but for the moment, is still in business.

On the southeast corner, across the street, is a new condo building with some commercial space downstairs that replaced a different strip mall that had been there since probably the 1960s.

The houses in question are now fronted by a long wooden barrier. What I found most interesting is there was no evidence of any driveways; just paths to the sidewalk. It occured to me that the driveways might be coming into their backyards from the street behind, and P-Doug made the same suggestion when I mentioned the lack of sidewalks. That turned out to be the right guess. Once Sheppard was four-laned, either in the 60s or the 70s, that was probably a godsend to the people who lived here.

In order to get any shots of the places, I had to stand on tiptoe with the camera poised over the top of the barrier, and essentially shoot blind.

We didn't get any shots of the backs of the houses with their driveways that Sunday, so I decided to go back this Sunday just past and do that. Thing is, there, there are other houses, and I was a bit concerned I'd look creepy doing it. But, you have to break some eggs to make an archive, so it's either do it or whine that I didn't once the houses are gone.

I decided to walk it rather than drive. I took one of the W3s and also the S80 I had converted to shooting infrared. It was a bright June morning; just the time for making the ordinary look ethereal.

Getting to the boarded up places involves crossing the 401 on Victoria Park Avenue. This stretch is also designated "The Highway of Heroes" as it's the part returning fallen service men and women take after landing at CFB Trenton and the Don Valley Parkway (oddly enough, about a kilometre behind me in these shots below) that takes them to downtown Toronto to the coroner for certification.

Going through the neighbourhood to the south of the houses, I took a number of IR shots. These are the ones I liked best. Oh, I can't wait to be able to do this in 3D... hopefully soon.

The street that the houses back onto, where their driveways were, is called Abbotsfield Gate Lane. It's actually two streets that meet as a cross and all share the same name. The eastward branch was the part in question, and it still has one house extant on it, right on the corner. Sure enough, the people who live there were right outside; a dad and his toddler son and a friend or other family member. While, strictly speaking, it's still a public street, it still felt a little like I was intruding, since there's no real reason to go down there. The road ends in a cul de sac and doesn't have a path leading out... so why are you there, kind of thing? Fortunately they utterly ignored me, didn't ask why I was there, keep the evil eye on me, anything like that. Nah, it's just some old weird guy taking over-the-fence shots of places about to be torn down; a nerd, a harmless crank. If that's what they thought, they totally called it. :)

This is what I saw. Or, more correctly, what my cameras saw for me. (Note: in the shot immediately below, the house just off to the left side there is the one that's still a home, and likely will continue to be.)

I took a few shots on my way back, during which I decided to go past my place to the grocery store to pick up some stuff to make soup. The entire walk was 6.4 km, or just about 4 miles. That surprised me; I would have guessed about half that. Anyway, I saw a number of interesting things on the way back, a couple of which I'll share here in passing.

This house is also on Sheppard. For the moment, it's still a home, but I have to wonder how long it will be here. Single family homes are rapidly disappearing from up and down Sheppard Avenue East.

Whatever business this used to be, it's in the process of becoming something else.

I suppose The Toronto Sun thinks this is clever. And if you're a) over 50 and b) read at a grade three level, then yeah, I suppose it's a real laff-riot.

It's also been my observation that Scarborough, the eastern quarter of Toronto and, for about 200 years, a separate municipality, has been the poor stepchild since it was incorporated into Metro from 1953 to 1998 (after which it became part of the City of Toronto proper along with the rest of Metro). It looks like the people of Scarborough have started to speak up about that, too. This photo was taken on Victoria Park Avenue, which is the border between Scarborough and North York, the part of Toronto where I live.