Toronto Skies Deliver Stunning Sunset Lightshow

By Simon Burn – subscribe to Simon’s YouTube channel

For landscape photographers, there’s nothing like a good meet-up – especially when it’s an international event. David Griffiths, well-known for his photography and filmmaking in the mountains of Snowdonia and on the island of Anglesey, came to photograph Toronto and Niagara Falls.

This was the third day of his visit. We had already done Toronto at sunrise and Niagara Falls.

(By the way, everyone living near Toronto knows that visitors may be somewhat interested in touring the city, but what they really want to see is Niagara Falls. It’s OK, we accept that.)

Mike: What do you call a gathering of photographers? A toggle, maybe?

Meet-up Started at Toronto City Hall

There were five of us for this meet-up: Simon, Dave, Andy, Mike and Kathy Goodwin. We met at the square in front of city hall where a Chinese festival was in full swing. From there, we took a meandering walk towards the waterfront.

With plenty of time before sunset, we scoped out unique downtown views of the CN Tower framed by the iconic TD Centre office buildings, and the soaring interior of the Santiago Calatrava designed galleria in the BCE Place towers.

Kathy: The CN Tower is visible from many spots in the downtown core

Andy: Flying the championship Toronto Raptors flag on the water taxi

Going to Toronto Islands? Here’s a Tip

From BCE Place we walked down to the ferry docks for the islands. But rather than take the ferry there, for just a little more ($10 each rather than $7.50), we took a water taxi. It was much faster and fun to be so low on the water. We would take the ferry later since it’s free to come back.

Once we got to the islands, we still had a few hours, so we meandered towards the east end where we would set up for the best view of the skyline.

Kathy: The butterfly garden attracts hundreds of Monarch butterflies, it was quite the sight!

A Butterfly Garden Works Its Charm

We came upon a garden planted specifically to attract butterflies, and it certainly succeeded. It was somewhat humorous watching five photographers snapping away at hundreds Monarch butterflies on various flowers. 

Andy: Not quite sunset yet, but things are looking promising

Dave: Still waiting for sunset, so let’s do a long exposure

Would Sunset be a Dud?

Shooting from the islands, the sun would set behind the skyline to the west on the left side. So, what we were hoping for was a vivid sky with the lights of the towers in front of it.

It looked disappointing at first. Although there were plenty of clouds to illuminate behind the buildings, it seemed like the sun would simply disappear into cloud cover in the west.

Kathy: Oh yeah, it’s starting!

And Then the Magic Happened

There were just enough gaps, and the clouds in the west were thin enough for the sun to light up the skies in front of us.

We got the full spectrum from orange, pink five shades of violet. As the clouds blew across the sky and the buildings lit up, we shot everything we could hope for in an urban sunset.

We couldn’t have asked for more from the location and the weather. It seems David had brought us good fortune, since we had perfect weather for all three days we were shooting.

Mike: Ooh, those colours are starting to kick off now!

Simon: Wow, we weren’t expecting this!

It’s Dark and We’re Hungry

As luck would have it, the Island Café was right behind us. We were looking forward to a hot dinner and a cold beer. But as we approached, it was clear they were closing for the night.

However, the friendly staff suggested that since they were all going to The Riviera restaurant for a nightcap, about a 10-minute walk away, we should go there too. And so we did.

Just what we wanted – a cozy place where we could settle in. It was burgers and beer (Dave’s favorite) all around. Since we had already missed one ferry home, we had time to relax before the next one.

Dave: It was completely dark now, but why stop shooting?

The Big City Night Ferry

Even for those of us familiar with Toronto and the islands, there’s something magical about taking the ferry back to the lights of the city late at night.

It’s relatively quiet although there’s still boat traffic, and airplanes are landing and taking off on the nearby Island Airport. About 20 minutes later, we were back on the mainland.

Dave: Toronto’s night time street life is in full swing!

The Night’s Not Over for Most of Us

Since Andy lives downtown, he took the subway home, thinking the rest of the crew were just picking up their cars from the underground and heading off.

But no! Too much to look at and photograph in the big city. All those opportunities for night time street scenes, especially the big brightly lit, multi-coloured TORONTO sign.

It was a long day for the international meet-up. The next day, David was off to the airport and back to the mountains of Snowdonia.

Mike: Night time is the right time to shoot the iconic Toronto street cars

Simon: A high viewpoint, and Simon got his final image of the day

Mike: Back at Nathan Phillips Square where we started

Simon: The Toronto sign is the most Instagramable spot in Toronto.

Watch Simon’s video from the day:

Watch David’s video from the day:

Simon Burn

Simon has been a photographer and creative director in the UK and Canada for over 25 years.

He worked with Andy for multinational corporations and brands before veering off to work on travel, tourism, food and lifestyle projects. Simon has travelled all over North America and Europe, working with consumer brands, tourism associations, and resorts. His work has been published in books, graced the covers of magazines, featured on TV; and he’s also worked with other photographers in the role of creative/art director and photo editor for publications and brands, in addition to being a photography competition judge.

In 2018, he started his own YouTube channel to share his love of travel and landscape photography and filmmaking.

ExploreDiscoverShoot is borne of Simon, Andy and David’s combined creative, business and technical skills, a strong entrepreneurial flair, and passion for photography and content creation.

The opportunities to work with other creators, share ideas, and promote creativity and knowledge, is a driving force with infinite possibilities.

Simon Burn

Simon has been a photographer and creative director in the UK and Canada for over 25 years.

He worked with Andy for multinational corporations and brands before veering off to work on travel, tourism, food and lifestyle projects. Simon has travelled all over North America and Europe, working with consumer brands, tourism associations, and resorts. His work has been published in books, graced the covers of magazines, featured on TV; and he’s also worked with other photographers in the role of creative/art director and photo editor for publications and brands, in addition to being a photography competition judge.

In 2018, he started his own YouTube channel to share his love of travel and landscape photography and filmmaking.

ExploreDiscoverShoot is borne of Simon, Andy and David’s combined creative, business and technical skills, a strong entrepreneurial flair, and passion for photography and content creation.

The opportunities to work with other creators, share ideas, and promote creativity and knowledge, is a driving force with infinite possibilities.

David Griffiths

David has been a creative landscape photographer for over 40 years. He lives and works on the island of Anglesey in Wales, with the high ridges of Snowdonia on his doorstep.

David is an experienced hill-walker and wild-camper, which combined with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his locality, often puts him in the most spectacular locations when the light is just perfect to capture the scene.

He has been fortunate enough to travel the globe and now focuses on the virtually unknown landscape photography locations of north Wales. His photography reflects the ever-changing light, weather, tides and seasons of this spectacular region.

David is an advocate of lightweight equipment to facilitate his hiking, camping and photography passion. As a mountain and coastal guide to this region, he's among the best. He’s never happier than when he's guiding and coaching photographers to make the most of his region!

David also takes you along on many of his location shoots through his weekly landscape photography vlogs on YouTube at D Griff Gallery.

David Griffiths


David has been a creative landscape photographer for over 40 years. He lives and works on the island of Anglesey in Wales, with the high ridges of Snowdonia on his doorstep.

David is an experienced hill-walker and wild-camper, which combined with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his locality, often puts him in the most spectacular locations when the light is just perfect to capture the scene.

He has been fortunate enough to travel the globe and now focuses on the virtually unknown landscape photography locations of north Wales. His photography reflects the ever-changing light, weather, tides and seasons of this spectacular region.

David is an advocate of lightweight equipment to facilitate his hiking, camping and photography passion. As a mountain and coastal guide to this region, he's among the best. He’s never happier than when he's guiding and coaching photographers to make the most of his region!

David also takes you along on many of his location shoots through his weekly landscape photography vlogs on YouTube at D Griff Gallery.

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