Photography and Art

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Leslie Street Spit

I'm a walker. Given my druthers, I'd rather take a nice walk than do almost anything else. Give me a bag full of cameras and lenses on top of a nice place to walk and I'm in my element.

I live in Toronto, so I'm always on the look-out for good places to walk. Somehow, I've managed to luck into an autographed copy of Hiker Mike's Best Hikes in the Megacity and Beyond. One of Mike's favourite hikes is the Leslie Street Spit, a wonderful wilderness jutting into Lake Ontario just east of Toronto's downtown.

Last week, on a particularly cold and windy day, I set out to hike to the end of the spit. It's about 5 kilometers from the parking lot to the lighthouse at the end of the spit, so it took me a couple of hours of brisk walking with the occasional stop to take a picture. There were a half dozen cars in the parking lot and I must have passed a total of 8-10 hardy souls on my walk.

I took my camera backpack, so I had the full arsenal: two DSLR's (Canon 5d and 20d) as well as three lenses. I also took my lightweight Manfrotto tripod, much to my later regret.

As you walk along the spit, you nearly lose all sense of being in the city. You see a lovely widerness of marsh land and woodland and only the occasional intrusion of the CN tower on the horizon spoils the illusion. Even in late November, the wetlands in the spit were home to ducks, geese, gulls and the occasional swan. I had the fortune to see a swan taking off and flying away, but wasn't fast enough to capture an image.

The only flies in the ointment were the result of my equipment. One of the legs of the tripod decided to self-destruct when I put the tripod down in the grass to free my hands to steady the camera. It wasn't an expensive tripod, but it certainly casts doubt on the Manfrotto brand as far as I'm concerned.

The other issue was a result of driver error. I was hoping to experiment with HDR (high dynamic range) photography by taking three different exposures of each image (hence the tripod to keep everything nice and still) and then processing them in Photoshop to create a 32 bit high dynamic range image. Unfortunately, when I picked the menu option for bracketing photos, I mustn't have had my reading glasses on and I bracketed white balance instead of exposure. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer!

Luckily, I was able to get a dozen decent images. Here is a sample:

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