Having a photo walk in the winter is not always the best idea. But we live in Canada, and I love getting out in the snow and taking pictures. But here in Southern Ontario Winter can be a trying time, with bitter cold, slate-grey skies, and generally not exactly lovely to be outside. Sometimes you have to roll the dice and see what you get. Last year we got treated to a snowstorm which produced some excellent images. This year, due to a busy January, I pushed the event up to February. It was worth the wait for a few reasons.
We were treated to some sun! I caught the 6:56 train out of Oakville and headed in much earlier to the city than I expected, but I didn’t want to let the morning light get away from me. So I grabbed a bagel at Union Station and headed out for a winding route to the meetup spot, Mast Coffee on Shooter Street. These days I usually roll with a single camera and a couple of lenses but this walk I decided to run with two cameras, the Rolleiflex 2.8F and the Minolta Maxxum 9 with the 100mm f/2.8 lens. For film, I had a pile of 120 (Berlin, Potsdam, F2 400, JCH Streetpan) and in 35mm only a couple of rolls, one of P30 and Lomography Metropolis. I left the Rollei in the bag and used just the Maxxum for the walk to Mast, and nearly shot the roll. From Union, I walked along Front, up Church, across Adelaide (spotting the stunning former Central Fire Station on Lombard) then up Jarvis to Shooter. Not the most direct route, but worked for my purposes. I still managed to get into Mast about a quarter to nine.
I should have been prepared for these numbers, but I could only look on in awe as the coffee shop filled up (I should start warning places) on average most events we get about ten to fifteen people, twenty at the max. But at final count, there was well above twenty, closer to twenty-five or thirty people. Not bad, considering I just changed things up a little and put details up on Instagram, Facebook, and Photowalk.me. Now on IG, there was plenty of shares of the post through tagging and a mystery account dedicated to Canadian Film Photographers. I guess having that extra boost along with the beautiful day and ‘warm’ temperatures helped bring out the people. And not just old friends, but also a lot of new faces. At least the place could sort of hold our numbers, but I knew that several people would be joining us at our next stop, Downtown Camera.
After our invasion of Downtown Camera came to an end, and we had all gathered outside, I set the group on the way. Our route, as you may have guessed by the title, took us straight west along Queen Street following the iconic TTC Streetcar Route. Queen Street is one street in Toronto that has the most amount of character. From the Beach in the east to the high-rises of the downtown. And as you got further west, the high-rises vanished, and old buildings took their place. The size of the group made it hard to keep everyone together, but I never intended everyone to stay together. A loose skirmish line as I called it and it allowed people to move between groups, faster or slower depending on what they had camera wise and who they wanted to chat with. I think I stuck somewhat middle in the grouping. But we ended up losing a few people along the way only to meet up with them at the endpoint.
From Queen Street, we headed south at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Down along Strachan, and passing by a couple of slum apartment buildings I had not seen in years, and honestly, I was surprised they were still standing, and even more so occupied. Then it was back into the jungle of high-rises that is Liberty Village today. But there’s still some traces of the industrial past. I took the small group I was with history the old Central Prison Chapel, which is completely gutted inside (we found a peephole) and up for lease. And then past the AR Williams building. The place sure has changed since I first visited the area back in 2005 for that first Toronto Urban Exploration Meetup. I had initially planned to head further west to the Carpet Factory and back, but I was feeling hungry, and we invaded the Craft Brasserie and Grill for lunch. I was smart and had the group sit down at the bar which ensured we had enough room for everyone and we’d get individual bills. The best part is that the staff were happy to see such a large group early in the day, even the manager came out and chatted with a few of us. While it was a long walk, it certainly was worth it. I walked away with five rolls of film and turned out plenty of excellent images from the event.
If you want to see my full album, you can find it over on Flickr. Also, if you’re interested in joining the community, we’re on Facebook and Flickr. Our next event is scheduled for the 18th of April run by Bill Smith, who has an excellent walk planned in the west end through Little Portugal and Italy. You can find the details on Facebook and Photowalk.me. Also, follow #torontofilmshootersmeetup on Instagram for photos from our events and announcements of future events. If you do share the photos from the walk on Instagram, make sure to tag it with the same hashtag.