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The Toronto Skyline

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Last updated June 2004

The Toronto Skyline on a 10' x 4' Print

In 2004 I have been asked to shoot the Toronto skyline in panoramic format, as a visual representation of the city, for a private event held at Toront's Roy Thompson Hall. The exciting part of the assignment wasn't the subject matter itself but the size of the final print. The requirements indicated the image size to be as large as possible, considering that the photograph was to be displayed as the stage backdrop with a floor seating over 1,500 people. Since the photograph clearly intended to symbolize Toronto's skyline and be seen and recognized by everybody, including being captured on cameras, the -as large as possible- suddenly took a different meaning. With respect to the photo shoot location, the Toronto Islands had the perfect angle to capture in its entirety Toronto's distinctive skyline. With few previous occasions I have already researched and shot the skyline, so for this assignment, the location choice was quickly narrowed down to Ward's Island, the east section of the old peninsula. That's not to say Ward Island is the only spot to capture the Toronto skyline, the selection was purely a personal preference. I've seen literally at least 20 great skyline compositions from all islands.

In regards to extremely large print sizes, it was clear to me that, although Canon 1Ds Mark II is capable of generating large images due to its 16.7 Megapixels, achieving a panoramic format of this magnitude and still maintaining print quality required stitching multiple images together.

So, with these directions in mind, one lovely morning I drove downtown to take the early morning ferryboat to Ward's Island. You can check the Toronto Islands Ferry Schedules online.

The following photographs were made during that morning and were presented for selection to the event organizers:

1. First image presented was a hand-held shot taken directly from the ferry during the half hour travel to the island. The frame captures the early morning sunlight rays hitting the lakefront buildings. Due to its light ambiance, reflections, architectural lines and the overall mood, I've decided to present this one in black and white.


2. Similarly to the one above, the second image is also a black and white version, processed with an infrared look and feel and using tree branches as an additional compositional element:


3. The next image was presented in colour, using a slightly different angle and more of the tree branches to frame the composition. The early morning shadows created by surrounding trees drew leading lines to move your eye towards the Toronto skyline.


4. A 2004 photograph of the Toronto skyline was also included for selection, showing the CN tower and the not-yet-fully-developed main section of the city skyline against an unbroken cloud pattern:


5. A panoramic stitch of multiple shots was my preferred option and in the end was the image of choice for this assignment. The resulting image stretched on approximately 20,000 pixels width with 3,200 pixels height. This size would allow a 20' x 4' print without losing image quality.

Although selected as the winner, the image was cropped down to the main section of the buildings along the remarkable CN tower for greater impact.

The full panorama: When viewed at its full length you can easily note the smog above areas of the city. The final crop and further processing in Photoshop eliminated this issue.

The crop below was then printed on a 10' x 4' high quality paper, mounted and displayed as the Roy Thompson Hall stage backdrop.


The following snapshot, while taken handheld and in not-so-adequate lighting conditions by one of the event organizers, is showing the Toronto skyline backdrop in its stage setup.

Photograph by Christopher Nivet

There you have it, a Toronto skyline photo assignment with a 10' x 4' print deliverable. Other commitments prevented me to see the image displayed during the one-day event. However, I've been receiving great feedback and was able to see the image in various event photographs such as the one above. It's been a successful assignment and naturally a great experience for me.

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