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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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