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One day in Ontario

Claire Hefferon reaches for the sky on a swing on the Toronto Islands

During my recent trip to Canada I was lucky enough to visit two of Ontario’s most impressive and diverse attractions in the same day: the Toronto Islands and Niagara Falls.

We set out early for the Toronto Islands, getting one of the regular ferries from the city. The Islands, the only ones in the western part of Lake Ontario, are a very short distance from the city itself and offer great views of it.

But perhaps the best thing about the Islands is that once you get there you feel like you’re a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Adding to the sense of calm is the fact are no cars allowed over, which means that bicycles and the odd service vehicle are the most obtrusive form of transport – though the Islands are also home to Toronto City airport, on its north west tip, it doesn’t interfere with the peace and quiet.

We arrived on Centre Island on a sunny September morning and spent a really nice few hours ambling about, taking in the beautiful surroundings. It is impeccably well-maintained without losing it sense of natural beauty.

It is the kind of place that’s good for your soul as well as your lungs.

As you stand on one the many beaches looking out on the vast Lake Ontario you feel like you could be on a remote Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not right on the doorstep of a city of well over 2.5 million people.

Lake Ontario glistens in the sunshine

A dedicated swimmer cuts his way through the water after wading in from a beach on Centre Island

One of the beautiful beaches on the Islands, protected by a breakwater

An example of the colourful flora and fauna

Looking back towards Toronto, where the CN Tower dominates the skyline

As well as being a peaceful haven, it seems it also something of a playground for the people in Toronto, particularly in the summertime, with its amusement park, an array of attractive beaches and no end of opportunities for boating, canoeing and other water sports.

My favourite Toronto Islands fact is as follows: in 1914, Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run into the waters of Lake Ontario from the then Toronto Maple Leafs stadium (which was moved to the mainland in the ’20s).

I wish we could have brought a blanket, a picnic basket and spent the day there, but thankfully we still had enough time to really appreciate it and there was another significant item on our schedule…

The Horseshoe Falls

The Niagara Falls are one of the most photographed and written about attractions in the world and I’m not going to add too much more to that massive file of information here.

What I will say is that because they are so well-known, so well documented and – no matter when you go – the area so full of visitors, that it perhaps lacks the charm, the sense of the unknown and discovery that we love to find elsewhere.

The fact that town built around it is full of some of the tackiest attractions in existence probably doesn’t help either!

But all that is simply blown away when you’re standing there on the edge and looking down at one of the most amazing natural phenomenons on this planet. It’s breathtaking. No photographs you have seen or articles you have read can prepare you for the sheer scale and beauty of it.

The peace of the Toronto Islands was in stark contrast to the power of the Niagara Falls.

The green colour of the water, seen flowing over the Horseshoe Falls in the photograph above, is a by-product of the estimated 60 tonnes per minute of dissolved salts and “rock flour” generated by the erosive force of the Niagara River.

The force of the water is certainly something to witness and looking back up the landscape as the river thunders down towards the falls it was almost like an apocalyptic movie scene coming to life – if only it weren’t so beautiful.

The geography, history and stories that come with it are also fascinating. Plus, tacky attractions can be a lot of fun too if you let your silly side out to play! If you are anywhere near it you simply have to experience it.

It was a busy day and it was a long day, but it was a great day.

The Maid of the Mist makes her way from Rainbow Bridge, past the American Falls towards the Horseshoe Falls.

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All your photos are of you

It can be fascinating to observe photographers in action.

We all enjoy looking at a great image, but I’m sure you, like me, often find yourself wondering about the means which achieved that visually appealing end.

Seeing a snapper in action can give you a greater insight into the person behind the camera – from how they see the world to how they interact with people – than you might hazard a guess at from just seeing the final image.

I know quite a few photographers and they all have different ways of doing things, but who they are and the images they produce are inextricably linked.

I firmly believe that truly great photography is borne not out of a love of the act of photography itself, but a love of people and the world around us.

Canadian photographer Claire Bouvier is a great example of this and I hope she won’t mind me making her my case study for this post!

I met Claire last weekend through her friend, namesake and fellow Kingstonian, the beautiful Claire Hefferon, whom we both like to take photos of – I just get far more opportunities!

Ms Bouvier is a talented photographer, managing to combine a keen eye with an enthusiastic and effervescent approach.

Her eyes and imagination are very quick to pick up on what is going on around her and she’s also quick on the draw with her camera when she likes what she sees.

Claire is what I’d call a “constant framer”, always creating stills of real life with a photograph in mind.

Making people feel at ease with a camera aimed at them is not easy for most of us, but Claire has that happy knack.

It was great to see this lively shutterbug set off into the crowd at a concert armed with her camera, self-confidence and charm, making friends as she captured impressive images. No mean feat.

The drive to explore and discover, allied with a deep interest in the people and world around her are what seem to fuel Claire’s passion for photography.

The substantial point I’m driving at in this post is that no matter what or whom you aim your camera at, ultimately your photos say just as much about you as anything or anybody that may appear in them.

They are an expression of how you see the world, how you feel and, ultimately, who you are.

(Here’s a couple of unfiltered/unedited shots from the gig. Happy snapping Claire!)