We are under lockdown. But we can be creative about cherry blossom photography and still be safe and responsible.
Article and photography by Mike Simpson @mikesimpson.ms
Note: This spring is even crazier than last considering the level of coronavirus in Ontario – so please do stay local and stay safe. You should combine your photography with outings for exercise, groceries and essentials.
This article describes various options for shooting and viewing cherry blossoms in Toronto, but the techniques could work for any location anywhere. Please read on – and be sure to comment on my Instagram post.
Stay local: shoot your neighbourhood
I live near High Park and I’m a fan of the blooms. I think we have to observe and follow the rules so I stay more or less local to my area. In 5-10 minutes I can get to High Park, the Junction or Bloor West Village. If I’m more ambitious it’s a hike of 30 minutes to the Humber Bay – so I feel I can get out to interesting locations. However there are some interesting spots and subjects to shoot in the less glamorous corners of my hood.
I am not going downtown these days I am staying in and if I have an errand to run I can shoot close to home. A few other favourite locations near Bloor St include shooting the Toronto subway and Go train corridors.
If you look closely and get creative, every neighbourhood in the city has something unique and worthy for you to photograph.
Edit old shots from the archive
It makes me happy to hear people are exploring their archives! One approach you can take when you don’t get out so often is to edit old photos. This is a great way to revisit favourite spots that may be currently off limits.
A lot of people are enjoying re-edtiing and re-posting old photos. It’s a great approach, and we only suggest making the note in your caption that your shot is from the archive (we always recommend location tagging and being straightforward about where and when an image was shot).
Get closer with telephoto or macro
The feature photo for this article was taken in High Park in 2019 (pre-pandemic obviously). I was on a small rise looking down toward Grenadier Pond and caught the flowing colourful sari-dressed women walking out on the small dock at the water’s edge. It was taken with my compact Nikon using the handy 28-200 mm equivalent. I cropped in a little too so you are seeing a fairly significant zoom here.
Remembering this shot in particular I suggested to a friend @smaku that one approach to the challenge of fenced off cherry blossom areas was getting creative and going longer- of course with the restrictions and fencing it may be harder to get people in frame. However note that in my shot these people are probably 10-15 metres from the trees and creative framing made the shot possible.
The shot from U of T show the benefits of getting up close and personal with a macro lens or macro setting. Some smartphones shoot amazing macro giving great depth of field so this photography is accessible to many. I used my compact for these with the Nikon set to macro to obtain detail.
Cherry blossom blooms and walkers shot with telephoto lens at High Park’s Grenadier Pond, May 2019. This location is only partly accessible to the general public. Photo by @mikesimpson.ms.
Cherry blossom blooms at Robarts Library, University of Toronto, May 2019. This location is accessible to the general public. Photo by @mikesimpson.ms.
Places in Toronto to shoot
Again I have to emphasize we encourage you to NOT visit these places if you don’t live nearby. but if you do be sure to combine a walk or grocery store trip with a viewing of the blossoms.
University of Toronto
Blossoms are in bloom at the St. George campus and there’s no fencing. Maintain proper distance and check out the blossoms near Robarts library. The campus has a few nooks with other trees too. If you live downtown head over by bike or on foot and explore.
Located in the west end, the cherry blossoms are fenced off but at least this year the park is open (last year the city closed off the entire park). Though surrounded by fences photography is still possible. Consider shooting upward to avoid fence in your frame.
Like High Park, Trinity Bellwoods is fenced off this year so you may need to get creative. If you aren’t posting old shots, consider poking your lens through the fencing, or get over the top or use some creative depth of field to work around the fence and get your shot of the colourful blooms.
Other Locations and Tree Species
There are some other locations around the city. According to one estimate there are at least 50 different spots with cherry blossom trees suitable for photography.
I recall fondly that there is a crab apple tree near the High Park Nature Centre that explodes into colour sometime around late April or early May. It will not be fenced and it is adjacent the main road so it’s handy and I can easily incorporate it into my walks.
Beyond cherry blossom and crab apple trees also consider magnolias. Many have already reached full bloom and they can be found all over the city.
Stay safe – Sakura will return!
Overall the recommendation is to employ creativity and to stay safe, above all else. You can shoot cherry blossoms or other blooming trees in your neighbourhoods. Don’t forget to follow @tdot_shots on Instagram and on all your blossom and bloom photos to use the hashtag #tdot_shots.
Stay safe and local – and happy shooting my friends!
High Park cherry blossom walk, May 2019. This area is now surrounded by fences. Photo by @mikesimpson.ms.
Cherry blossom blooms on the shoots and bark, University of Toronto, May 2019. This area is accessible. Photo by @mikesimpson.ms.