Photography in Ontario : the Toronto CN Tower

It is always difficult to find new ways of taking pictures of such a popular touristic attraction as the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. This tower, with its 553,33 meters in height, is one of the most elevated free standing structure in the world.

Here are six photos that present the CN tower under a different perspective. It was necessary to take those pictures at different times of the day (including dusk and night) in order to obtain more diversified and original pictures.  I used a Canon 5D MKII camera for all the photos. I hope you like the shots!

Skating near the CN Tower inToronto, Ontario (2016)
Skating near the CN Tower inToronto, Ontario (2016)
CN Tower during nightime in Toronto, Ontario (2016)
CN Tower during nightime in Toronto, Ontario (2016)
Toronto's nature and the CN Tower (2016)
Toronto’s nature and the CN Tower (2016)
CN Tower and railway at night. Toronto, Ontario (2016)
CN Tower and railway at night. Toronto, Ontario (2016)
The CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario in 2016
The CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario in 2016
The CN Tower at dusk in Toronto, Ontario (2016)
The CN Tower at dusk in Toronto, Ontario (2016)

For more articles in the category « Photos of Canada », click on the following link : Photos of Canada

Last day at work for a flight service specialist (FSS)

A souvenir photo in front of a Eurocopter EC120 Colibri (C-FCOS) at the Quebec Jean-Lesage international airport (2015)
A souvenir photo in front of a Eurocopter EC120 Colibri (C-FCOS) at the Quebec Jean-Lesage international airport (2015)

December 2013. Time for retirement had come. On my last working shift as a flight service specialist (FSS), I was able to share good memories of the past experiences as a Transport Canada and later Nav Canada employee. A shift supervisor had bought an excellent chocolate cake which was rapidly taken care of by the employees.

The next year, during an official retirement party including two other retirees, the Nav Canada flight information center (FIC) employees in Quebec City (CYQB) presented us with several gifts. I used the gift certificates to book a helicopter ride.

The pilot headed towards the Quebec Bridge then followed the St-Lawrence Seaway to Old Quebec. He then flew towards the Davie shipyard, Île d’Orléans, the Montmorency falls and then returned to the Quebec Jean-Lesage international airport. During the flight, we were able to witness the arrival of the Queen Mary II cruise ship in Old Quebec. Here are some pictures that I took during the flight:

Samuel-de-Champlain promenade and St-Lawrence Seaway in 2015
Samuel-de-Champlain promenade and St-Lawrence Seaway in 2015
The Queen Mary II passing by Île d'Orléans enroute to Quebec in 2015
The Queen Mary II passing by Île d’Orléans enroute to Quebec in 2015
The Château Frontenac, Dufferin Terrace and a small part of Old Quebec in 2015
The Château Frontenac, Dufferin Terrace and a small part of Old Quebec in 2015
Davie shipyard in Quebec (2015)
Davie shipyard in Quebec (2015)
Orleans Island and St-Lawrence Seaway, Quebec, 2015
Orleans Island and St-Lawrence Seaway, Quebec, 2015
Quebec Jean-Lesage international airport in 2015. The Nav Canada installations are visible (control tower and flight information center (FIC))
Quebec Jean-Lesage international airport in 2015. The Nav Canada installations are visible (control tower and flight information center (FIC))

I hope you liked the real life stories as pilot, flight instructor, Transport Canada student and flight service specialist in Inukjuak, Rouyn-Noranda, Iqaluit and Quebec City, as well as FSS for Nav Canada at the flight information center in Quebec City. I have included all the stories and photos on my web site www.francoisouellet.ca , in the following “real life stories” sections:

Real life stories as a pilot

Life as a student at the Transport Canada Training Institute

Real life stories as a FSS in Inukjuak

Real life stories as a FSS in Rouyn-Noranda

Real life stories as a FSS in Iqaluit

Real life stories as a FSS in Quebec City

There were naturally many more stories that would have deserved to be written but, due to their particular nature, those stories had to stay confidential.

Thanks for the encouragements and comments shared in person or via electronic communication.

N.B.: All the articles published on the web site www.francoisouellet.ca are under copyright protection. All rights reserved. Thanks for your understanding.

Street photography in Toronto, Ontario

Of graffiti and garbage cans

Of graffitis and garbage cans in Toronto
Of graffitis and garbage cans in Toronto

The lady on the wall seems to be annoyed by the smell coming out of those garbage cans that have been placed right under her nose. It would have been better if somebody had at least thought of closing the lid…

A safe bike…or maybe not

Street photography in Toronto: what's left of a bike that was locked for more security
Street photography in Toronto: what’s left of a bike that was locked for more security

There are two versions for this street photography taken in Toronto, Ontario in 2016. The first one, that is the positive side of the story, shows that people are locking their bike piece by piece. It takes more time, but at least the bike is safe…

The second version, less positive, represents what is left of a bike that was locked by the front wheel only…

For other street photography pictures posted on my site, click on the following link:

Street photography

A storm goes through the Quebec Jean-Lesage international airport

A roll arcus cloud in development ahead of a thunderstorm approaching the Quebec Jean-Lesage airport in 2012.
A roll arcus cloud in development ahead of a thunderstorm approaching the Quebec Jean-Lesage airport in 2012.

Summer 2012. A very active cold front had been sweeping across the province and was about to hit the Québec Jean-Lesage international airport (CYQB). Considering the winds and the temperature spread, as well as the weather radar, it was obvious that it would be a very interesting show.

The Nav Canada control tower and flight information center (FIC) being collocated, the common stairway surrounding the tower became a privileged spot from where to take pictures. As a flight service specialist (FSS) on a short morning break, I grabbed my camera and headed outside on the stairway, just in time to see a line of roll arcus clouds arrive over the mountains to the north-west.

A roll arcus cloud ahead of a thunderstorm heading for Quebec City in 2012
A roll arcus cloud ahead of a thunderstorm heading for Quebec City in 2012

The first showers started, quickly followed by strong gusty winds and hail. In order to protect myself from the severe weather, I just had to slightly change position on the stairway and use the tower as a shield. Satisfied with my shots, I abandoned my observation post and let Mother Nature express herself.

A roll arcus cloud in development ahead of a thunderstorm approaching the Quebec Jean-Lesage airport in 2012.
A roll arcus cloud in development ahead of a thunderstorm approaching the Quebec Jean-Lesage airport in 2012.
An arcus cloud ahead of a thunderstorm approaching the Quebec Jean-Lesage airport in 2012
An arcus cloud ahead of a thunderstorm approaching the Quebec Jean-Lesage airport in 2012
An arcus roll cloud in delopment near the Quebec Jean-Lesage airport in 2012
An arcus roll cloud in delopment near the Quebec Jean-Lesage airport in 2012

Aviation photography: plane spotting at the Toronto Lester B. Pearson international airport (CYYZ)

Air Canada Airbus A330-343 C-GHLM in Toronto 2016
Air Canada Airbus A330-343 C-GHLM in Toronto 2016

Here is some information aimed at helping tourists visiting Toronto, who like photography and aviation, and would think of booking one day during their visit to head to the Toronto Lester B. Pearson international airport (CYYZ) for a plane spotting photo session.

Initial planning

If you can, get a scanner or download an app on your cell phone to get real time information on air traffic around the airport: you will then know in advance the type and nationality of inbound or departing aircrafts.

http://www.torontopearson.com/app/#

Search for websites giving you access to Toronto airport VHF frequencies and program your scanner if you decided to get one.

http://www.canairradio.com/yyz.html

Have a look at different plane spotting websites for the Toronto airport: there are many precious advices from experienced plane spotters that will prove useful in heading to the best spots and avoiding common mistakes. I used the two links below:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zdHrYLKKTr6s.kVyJADEEDD94&hl=en_US

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zoK-gCuBpw20.kihycrsJLTH8&hl=en

Print two or three maps of secondary routes around the airport so that you can orient yourself when there is a change in runway use due to different winds or if you use a taxi ride to move around the airport: the driver will always ask you details on how to get there since those secondary routes are not a common destination for him (and chances are that he will not know where to go if you ask him to head to threshold of runway 05. Basically, he needs road names, not runway numbers).

Cessna 560XL S5-BAV Toronto 2016
Cessna 560XL S5-BAV Toronto 2016
British Airways Boeing 777-236 G-ZZZA in Toronto 2016
British Airways Boeing 777-236 G-ZZZA in Toronto 2016

Before leaving your Toronto hotel

Before you leave the hotel, look at the Toronto weather forecast, among them the TAF, to know the wind pattern for the day. The Nav Canada site has everything you need to know and there is a possibility to choose between coded or plain aviation language.

https://flightplanning.navcanada.ca

The Environment Canada site is also very useful:

https://weather.gc.ca/city/pages/on-143_metric_e.html

Don’t forget to bring many snacks as well as a bottle of water since you will possibly be at a good distance from a restaurant for many hours, depending on which runway is in use. The same goes for additional batteries and memory cards for the camera.

Don’t forget the scanner, the cell phone (to call a taxi driver or get access to the arrivals and departures information) and all the photo equipment needed, as well as an abnormally high number of clothing layers necessary in case of winter photography: eight hours almost immobile outside in February calls for an appropriate preparation if you want to appreciate your experience. If you economize on clothing, it is certain that you will have to shorten your photography session.

I chose February for its very interesting light and not for its temperature! Most of the shots in this article were taken in only one day at the Toronto airport, between 10h30am and 18h30.

American Airlines MD-82 N482AA final 05 Toronto 2016
American Airlines MD-82 N482AA final 05 Toronto 2016

From the hotel to the airport

If you chose to stay at a downtown hotel in Toronto, the best way to get to the Toronto international airport is to use the UP Express train, from the Union Station on Front Street. Its use is very simple and departures are made every fifteen minutes. In February 2016, the cost was CDN $44.00 for a return trip to the airport, while a taxi ride cost $130.00.

UP Express Toronto 2016
UP Express Toronto 2016

The UP Express ride only takes 25 minutes and the train stops at Terminal 1.

It is preferable to avoid using your car around the Toronto international airport since some secondary roads are private and no stopping is allowed. You will take more time to look for police than to enjoy your plane spotting photography session.

Once you are at Terminal 1

Once you exit the UP Express at Terminal 1, get your scanner and monitor the ATIS frequency (120.825) to get the latest information on the runways in use for take offs and landings. For my photo session, the ATIS announced that runway 05 and 06L were in use, both for arrivals and departures. I took a taxi, showed the map with secondary roads to the driver and within few minutes I was where I needed to be and started the photo session.

Air Transat Airbus A-330 C-GTSN Toronto 2016
Air Transat Airbus A-330 C-GTSN Toronto 2016

A preliminary internet search allowed to discover that heavies mostly arrive from Europe during the afternoon et that runway 05/23 is favored for Emirates Airline Airbus A-380 arrival. I thus decided to position myself near runway 05 instead of 06L.

There are two or three quite isolated spots around the airport that provide interesting point of views for aircraft photos but that can present security problems for a photographer working alone with expensive equipment. Experienced plane spotters suggest that you should be accompanied by friends if you decide to opt for those spots (see the “plane spotting” internet sites suggested at the beginning of this article).

Emirates A-380 final for Toronto (CYYZ)
Emirates A-380 final for Toronto (CYYZ)
Emirates A-380 on final for Toronto (CYYZ) 2016
Emirates A-380 on final for Toronto (CYYZ) 2016
Emirates A-380 on final 05 for Toronto (CYYZ) 2016
Emirates A-380 on final 05 for Toronto (CYYZ) 2016

Technical advices

For precise photos of aircrafts in movement, I use the following parameters with my Canon 5D MKII camera:

1. Only the central AF Point of the auto focus system is selected and not the surrounding ones in order to avoid that the camera sets the focus on other objects than what I desire (trees, ILS structure, buildings).

2. The AI Servo setting is more efficient than the AI Focus or One Shot. The aircraft will be followed precisely.

3. If I want to include surrounding objects in the photo, I adjust the aperture to 7.1 or 8, instead of 11 or 13. I thus avoid increasing the ISO too much, which would affect the picture’s quality if it has to be enlarged with Photoshop.

Westjet Boeing 737-8CT C-GWSV Disneyland Livery in Toronto 2016
Westjet Boeing 737-8CT C-GWSV Disneyland Livery in Toronto 2016

4. To take pictures of an approaching propeller powered aircraft, a speed adjusted to 1/125 is generally adequate. You must pivot according to the aircraft movement so that it looks like it is immobile in your viewfinder. The picture is easier to take when the aircraft is farther away but becomes more of a challenge when it gets closer and flies by you since you must constantly change your pivoting speed.

Porter Q-400 C-GLQD on final for Toronto Billy Bishop airport (CYTZ) 2016
Porter Q-400 C-GLQD on final for Toronto Billy Bishop airport (CYTZ) 2016
Air Canada DHC-8-102 C-FGQK Toronto 2016
Air Canada DHC-8-102 C-FGQK Toronto 2016

5. A shutter speed that is too high will immobilize the propeller of an aircraft and make it look like the engine is not working, which will take away realism.

6. Throughout the day, position yourself so as to have the sun behind you (if there is any sun!), unless you are looking for special effects.

Global 5000 GL5T C-GJET in Toronto 2016
Global 5000 GL5T C-GJET in Toronto 2016

7. A very high quality lens, like the Canon 50mm 1.4, allows for beautiful pictures during the evening since there is no compromise on ISO, as the lens does not need much light. The grain size stays relatively small.

Air Canada Boeing 777 final 05 Toronto 2016
Air Canada Boeing 777 final 05 Toronto 2016

8. I use a very low ISO if the photo includes an interesting but far away aircraft, in order to be able to crop the picture with Photoshop. Since I cannot compromise on the speed to avoid a blurred picture, it becomes obvious that it is the aperture that pays the price.

Air Canada Airbus A-330 final 06L Toronto 2016
Air Canada Airbus A-330 final 06L Toronto 2016

9. If the situation allows it, add visual references other than clouds to get a bit more variety in your aircraft photo collection.

Air Canada Boeing 777 final runway 05 Toronto 2016
Air Canada Boeing 777 final runway 05 Toronto 2016

10. Try a black and white photo if the cloud formation is particularly interesting.

C-GQBG CL-415 and cirrus clouds on a black and white picture
C-GQBG CL-415 and cirrus clouds on a black and white picture

11. RAW+JPEG files allow for important adjustments when necessary. A JPEG only photo gives you little leeway when you want to correct mistakes or during problematic lighting conditions.

12. Variable sky conditions and constant direction winds are preferable for your photo session since the runway in use will not be changed in the afternoon and your pictures will benefit from different light intensity and cloud formations.

13. If you want to take the aircraft in relation to the ILS poles and you are looking for a symmetrical photo, just move few inches to the right or left while the aircraft is approaching or going away from you. You will also want to avoid that the horizontal poles of the ILS cut the plane and make it difficult to see.

Westjet Boeing 737-800 final 05 Toronto 2016
Westjet Boeing 737-800 final 05 Toronto 2016

14. Have fun experimenting, like taking a shot just above your head while including other objects for added interest.

On the ILS 05 for Toronto 2016
On the ILS 05 for Toronto 2016

15. Instead of always showing the whole aircraft, try a close-up view.

Air Canada Boeing 787-9 C-FNOI in Toronto 2016
Air Canada Boeing 787-9 C-FNOI in Toronto 2016

16. The close-up view might be such that even passengers of an aircraft on final will look at you while you immortalize them.

United Express on final at the Quebec Jean-Lesage international airport.
United Express on final at the Quebec Jean-Lesage international airport.

17. Chances are that you will meet other enthusiast plane spotters in the same area as yours since they also prepared themselves for a successful photo session.

Westjet Boeing 737-800 C-FYPB in Toronto 2016
Westjet Boeing 737-800 C-FYPB in Toronto 2016

18. Since you are in Toronto, head to Toronto Harbour when you are back downtown. You will witness the air traffic surrounding the Toronto Billy Bishop airport (CYTZ), formerly known as Toronto Island, and possibly take some original shots.

Porter Q-400 C-GLQM and C-GLQB at Toronto CYTZ 2016
Porter Q-400 C-GLQM and C-GLQB at Toronto CYTZ 2016

19. This is the photo equipment used for my Toronto airport plane spotting session: Canon 5D MKII camera and the following Canon lenses: EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. No polarizer was used that day since I wanted to increase my margin of manoeuver with fast moving aircrafts under the February low intensity light.

Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767-300ER final 05 at Toronto 2016
Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767-300ER final 05 at Toronto 2016
American Eagle CRJ-701ER N523AE Toronto 2016
American Eagle CRJ-701ER N523AE Toronto 2016

Aviation photography requires much planning for successful photos. But all your efforts will rapidly bear fruits once you are on site and you will not see time pass! Have a great plane spotting session and give me some news of your experience if you can!

Air Canada Boeing 767-375 (ER) C-FCAB in Toronto 2016
Air Canada Boeing 767-375 (ER) C-FCAB in Toronto 2016

You can have access to other aircraft photos taken at Toronto through this link on my site:
photo galleries/aviation only

For other articles on aviation and photography, click on the following link: Aviation photography

Photography book: Matthieu Ricard’s “An Ode to Beauty”

« A hymn to beauty, this is what photography is for me »

Cover of Matthieu Ricard's book "An Ode to Beauty"
Cover of Matthieu Ricard’s book “An Ode to Beauty”

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who spent over forty-five years in the Himalayas. Throughout the years, he has produced many photography books. He is a man of immense talent and what he produces is of a very high quality. His new book “An ode to beauty” is no exception.

For thirty years, he photographed with two Nikon FM2 cameras and then switched to a Canon EOS-1Ds and a Canon EOS-5D. The Canon lenses used for his pictures range from a 12-24mm zoom to 100-400 mm. Landscape photography requires that he adds graduated neutral density filters to his lenses in order to reduce the contrasts between sky and earth.

When Matthieu Ricard comes back from a trip, he says: “I work on the images so that I can recapture the feeling, the emotion, the colors and the light that I saw with my own eyes”.

Like many experienced photographers, the author studies the work of other photographers in order to always learn something new. About Matthieu Ricard’s images, Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote: “Matthieu’s camera and his spiritual life are one, and from this spring these images, fleeting and eternal”.

“An ode to beauty” is made of human situations, facial expressions and the changing lights of landscapes. The composition is well thought through.

Matthieu Ricard is clearly an expert: technically demanding photos are very well executed. There are, on his images, numerous magical moments, where the photographer had only a very short time to react. It is the case, for example, of a photo where the sun rays hit an ideal part of a mountain chain at the same time as a rainbow colors the dark clouds in the background.

It is a unique book, made of exceptional images reproduced with great care. Most images demand a lengthy contemplation. There is no “Photoshop” effect and saturated colors here: everything is perfectly balanced.

Thanks to this book, the reader can look at the planet Earth in a very different way.

For more photography books, click on the following link: Other photography books

Title: An ode to beauty
Author: Matthieu Ricard
Editions : YellowKorner
©2015
ISBN : 978-2-919469-86-4
All of Matthieu Ricard’s photography rights are given back in totality to his association Karuna Shechen: www.karuna-shechen.org