5 Frames at Ontario Place with a Rolleiflex 2.8C

By Harry Weide

When I was growing up in Toronto in the 1960s and 1970s, there are two endeavours by the Province of Ontario that I distinctly remember. One was a new provincial song for Canada’s centennial in 1967, an incredibly cheesy ditty called A Place to Stand. The other was Ontario Place, an amusement park that opened in 1971. The park had the usual rides and fast food, but also the Cinesphere, which is the world’s first IMAX theatre, exhibition pods build on stilts in the lake (very modern), an amphitheatre, a marina, and parkland. The site ceased operations as an amusement park in 2011, with only the amphitheatre and marina still functioning.

Ontario Place Cinesphere, Pods, and BIkers
The Cinesphere (world’s first IMAX theatre) with a view of the “pods” in the background.

In the meantime, the unused buildings at Ontario Place have become a bit scruffy, but the site is still open to the public as a park. I live about four and half kilometres away and often ride my bicycle through the property. No matter when I go, there are always at least a few people biking, jogging, walking their dogs, sunbathing, and even swimming in the frigid waters of Lake Ontario. It is a lakeside oasis in a very busy city.

Ontario Place - Sunbathers on Hill with Cineshpere in Background
The hill that this person is sunning on will be flattened and covered by an enormous indoor water park & spa complex. Entrance fee to the complex will be $40 per person. Currently, there is no cost to enter the park.

The future of Ontario Place is now a subject of great debate. I won’t go into the details, except to mention that the Ontario Minister of Infrastructure famously recently said “Every single time I have visited the site [Ontario Place] it is not enjoyed by Torontonians or Ontarians. I have issues with that statement, beyond the tortured syntax.

Ontario Place - People in Chairs
The southwest corner of Ontario Place, which will be redeveloped. Ostensibly, the public will have free access to the waterfront after the redevelopment. The wind turbine is located at Exhibition Place, another Toronto tourist attraction trying to forge a new path.

I have a Rolleiflex 2.8C on loan from a friend. I’d already put one roll of film through it, and decided that I should use the second roll to document Torontonians not enjoying themselves at Ontario Place. My friend acquired the camera in 1968, so I would argue that the camera was still relatively current in 1971 when Ontario Place opened.

Ontario Place - People on Hill with Toronto Skyline
This portion of the park may remain unscathed after the redevelopment. The Toronto skyline in the background includes the CN Tower, at one time the world’s tallest freestanding structure.

Here in Toronto, this April (2023) we had a few record-breaking unseasonably warm days, so I headed to Ontario Place on a sunny Thursday afternoon with the Rolleiflex to document people not enjoying themselves.

Ontario Place - Path with Toronto Skyline
A waterfront path in the Trillium Park portion of the site, at the east end of Ontario Place. Some redevelopment proposed, but possibly much of Trillium Park will stay as-is.
Finally, some technical notes, if you’re interested.

My major push into getting back into film photography is an Intrepid 4×5 camera. To keep film costs low, I’ve been using Fomapan 100 4×5 sheet film, so for the Rolleiflex, I used 120 format Fomapan 100 to remain with a known quantity. I used the film at 100 ISO.

According to my light meter, the “sunny 16” rule was appropriate. Since I was including moving people, I set the camera at 1/250 and f/11 for the entire roll. The exposures looked good, with none of the shots overly light or dark. So, for the most part (see below) the camera’s shutter and diaphragm were working fine.

I developed the film in Blazinal, the Canadian formulation of Rodinal, for the recommended time of nine minutes. I don’t get around to developing film that often, so I use a developer that has a shelf life of, well, forever…

Decades ago I had a darkroom in the basement of my parents’ house and processed a lot of 35mm film, so developing film is not new to me, not to mention the 4×5 sheet film I’ve been working with lately. The first roll of 120 that I developed about a month ago was fine. This roll had a lot of marks on the edges; I’m not sure whether they are uneven development or water marks. Some of the frames have a bit of lightness on the right side; you can see them in the photos. I’m suspecting the shutter.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson 4990 and touched them up in Capture One Pro. Other than spot and dust removal (there is always way too much of that to do), there were only minimal adjustments to exposure, mostly lightening the shadows. I’m thinking that Fomapan plus a bright sunny day plus Blazinal/Rodinal resulted in high contrast exposures. The only cropping I did was to exclude the marks at the edges of some of the frames; otherwise they are the entire negative.

This is the first time I’ve worked with 120 and a Rolleiflex, and except for the small items I mentioned, I’m happy with the results. The camera behaved well, and it was easy and fun to complete this self-imposed assignment. I’m going to return the camera to my friend soon; mostly because I don’t want it to be distracting me from my 4×5 work. If anything, I may borrow it again to try some colour film.

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Comments

Castelli Daniel on 5 Frames at Ontario Place with a Rolleiflex 2.8C

Comment posted: 20/06/2023

If you live in Toronto, and you are a classic Nikon user, are you a Trontorian Nikonion? Sorry, Dad joke… I like the photos. My favorite is the dome just peaking over the hill. To me, it’s got a dystopian humorous bent to it. Not a Dad joke.
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Harry Weide replied:

Comment posted: 20/06/2023

In my predigital film days, it was Pentax, but then sold all my analogue gear and became, in fact, a Torontonian Nikonian with a D70s. Then I sold all of that to join the Fujifilm brigade. Now, I'm back to also dabbling in analogue.

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Ted Ostrowski on 5 Frames at Ontario Place with a Rolleiflex 2.8C

Comment posted: 18/06/2023

I'll never forget seeing IMAX North of Superior at the cinesphere. Ontario Place just opened and it was inspiring. The film, started with a normal size image on the screen of a bush plane fling over the Ontario north and the music exploded and so did the screen to full size IMAX. The audience was clutching their armrest as we experienced a sense of motion, it was revolutionary, now its yesterdays news. the premier of Ont is not addressing the concerns of Ontario but it is listening to developers, buff said.
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Harry Weide replied:

Comment posted: 18/06/2023

I also remember seeing "North of Superior" at the Cinesphere. I think it was a school trip. The part I remember most is when the point of view was from the bush plane and the plane banked to turn. Because the image was so big, it felt like the entire theatre was dipping. I'm sure I gripped the seat's armrests in order not to fall.

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Karen McBride on 5 Frames at Ontario Place with a Rolleiflex 2.8C

Comment posted: 18/06/2023

Thanks for the article. It brought back memories of Ontario Place for me. It will be interesting to see what happens to it all. I’m waiting for a Rolleicord to arrive from eBay so I can dip my toes in the 6x6 120 world. Should be lots of fun.
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Gus on 5 Frames at Ontario Place with a Rolleiflex 2.8C

Comment posted: 18/06/2023

Harry, beautiful photos. I like how you’re using photography as a… polite comment… on public land use and government policy. I suspect your sense of humour prevents moisture from damaging camera equipment.
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Erik Brammer on 5 Frames at Ontario Place with a Rolleiflex 2.8C

Comment posted: 18/06/2023

Ontario Place truly appears to be a place of genuine misery. Thanks for sharing that rather depressing experience, Harry!
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