My Canadian holiday last year was split between two cities – St. John’s followed by Toronto. St. John’s is a city on the east coast of Canada, about as close to the UK as you can get and just five-and-a-half hours flight from London. In fact you can fly directly to St. John’s Airport. It’s where my friends live, who kindly offered to put me up for eight nights and show me the sights before heading onto Toronto.
Surrounded by the natural beauty of Newfoundland, pronounced ‘Newfinland’ by the locals, St. John’s is built around a harbour and overlooked by Signal Hill. It was my first experience of Canada and the North American continent and it definitely lived up to my expectations with wide roads, big cars, and friendly people.
The city itself sprawls from the harbour to the countryside, with the downtown area being a hub of offices and shops. It’s quite different to a UK town or city, as the ‘centre’ doesn’t have a high street with full of commonplace stores, they tend to be on retail parks and malls dotted around the city.
I explored the bars, restaurants, and shops downtown. What made it stand out for me was colour of the jellybean row houses, the sight of arriving cruise ships, and the views from Signal Hill.
I also used St. John’s as a base to explore some of Newfoundland, and even with a week in the area I only managed to cover a small part of what Newfoundland has to offer (the part known as the Avalon Peninsula) getting as far as Come By Chance.
If you get to visit St. John’s I recommend visiting these places… Tim Hortons for amazing coffee, Quidi Vidi for lovely walks and a local brewery, Signal Hill for views over the City, The Bagel Cafe for the best breakfast known to man, the Johnson Geo Centre for some entertaining education, George Street for endless bars and the opportunity to be screeched in, and The Yellow Belly for Canadian Poutine.
Over the last few weeks blogging has sadly taken second place to work. A project I’m working on has taken me around the UK, giving me lots of opportunities to photograph some great places (photos coming soon!) but no time for anything else. So for now a return to my series of photos from last years Canadian holiday with just ten photos from Niagara Falls.
I visited Niagara Falls on the last day of my holiday; hiring a car in Toronto and driving one-and-a-half hours around Lake Ontario to spend a couple of hours exploring this natural wonder, before driving back to Toronto’s Pearson Airport and flying back to England.
The falls themselves are simply amazing, the sheer size and the roar of the water is stunning. I was hoping for clear blue skies but was confronted with a dull rainy day which doesn’t make for the best photos.
What I hadn’t realised before my visit is that the town of Niagara Falls is split in two by the Niagara River – one side in Canada and one in America. I was on the Canadian side and didn’t have the time to get over to the American side – although checking the location (geotag) information on my photographs I can see that I did technically get into America without using my passport due to the country boarder running right down the middle of the river!
The Canadian side definitely gives better views of both the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls, but once you’re aboard a boat (Hornblower from the Canadian side, Maid of the Mist from the American side) you get the same experience.
Before you board a boat from either side you get given a waterproof poncho to wear. Obviously the falls produce a lot of mist, but I wasn’t prepared for just how close the boats go to the falling water! Despite the poncho both me and my camera got soaked – luckily I could get changed after, and my Olympus EM-1 camera is weather proofed.
After my soaking I headed back into town and I went up the Skylon Tower to get photographs looking down on the falls. The views from above didn’t disappoint, although they didn’t last for long as incoming rain obscured the view.
I didn’t have time to explore much else of the town, although what I did see looked very touristy, almost resembling a tacky British seaside town with its endless gift shops and casinos. But I’ll definitely return some time for a longer visit in the hope of getting better weather for daytime photographs and at some night-time ones too.
Trying out local food is usually one of the enjoyable adventures on holiday, and this was definitely the case when I was in Canada last year. I’d previously tried one traditional Canadian dish, poutine, which is essentially chips, cheese, and gravy… and that set the bar for some fantastic culinary experiences.
The trouble with food photography is that usually I’m too hungry to worry about getting great quality photos. Some of the photos here were taken with my mobile phone. Enjoy the photos below and don’t drool on your keyboard!
Another ten photos from my Canadian adventure last year; this time from my trips to two aquaria – Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium in Newfoundland and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto.
The two aquaria are vastly different – Petty Harbour was small and intimate and it’s whole building could probably fit into one of Ripley’s tanks. Although it’s on a much smaller scale, the enjoyment factor was no less.
Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium is only open for a few months a year. It gets most of its’ exhibits from the local area and then releases them back to the same place at the end of the season with a ‘critter release event’. See here for a video of their 2014 event. Some of the animals can be picked up and held, and friendly staff are happy to chat and educate about the environment.
Petty Harbour itself is a very pretty fishing harbour and home to the excellent Chafe’s Landing restaurant where I got to eat moose… more on that in an upcoming blog post.
By comparison, Ripley’s Aquarium is huge. Literally in the shadow of Toronto’s CN Tower and next to the Blue Jays stadium. The number of exhibits and the size of the tanks is amazing. I particularly liked the tunnel under the ‘dangerous lagoon’ tank which has a moving sidewalk to allow you to watch the sharks and other fish swim over you.
Whilst I love aquariums, they’re definitely at the ‘challenging’ end of the photography scale… tanks are often dimly lit, animals move fast, the tank glass and moving water mess up optics, and there’s reflections everywhere. Packing my Lenskirt was a wise move, and then it’s wide aperture, high ISO, fast shutter, and lots of patience and luck.
For the first blog post of 2016, some photos from last year when I went to Canada. I’ve got lots of photos to share form my Canadian adventures… just ten at a time of course.
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing and photographing was some of the wildlife that inhabits Canada. On my list of wildlife to shoot, well photograph, was a whale, a moose, and a beaver. I managed two of three, but had to cheat a bit with both of those as you’ll see below. It’s disappointing to miss out on some of the wildlife I wanted to see so I guess I’ll just have to return to try again some time.
Most of the photos are from the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland where I spent the majority of my holiday.
I did a whale spotting boat tour with O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours from Bay Bulls. When I went, on an overcast day in September, it was just out of whale season and no whales appeared. But I did photograph some puffins and eagles in the wild. It was very cold out on the water so if you ever go be sure to take a big coat! Ironically when we got back to dry land the weather started to improve and quickly became warm and sunny.
I also visited Salmonier Nature Park which is a government run conservation park. The park is so vast that all the animals have lots of space which is always nice to see.