A Photo In The Life Of

A Photo In the Life Of is a weekly photo blog written by Larry Lewis. Topics include photo opportunities, past and present, product reviews and other topics of interest to photographers and photo lovers.

The R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, Art Deco in Toronto.

Situated at the end of the 501 Queen Street Car Line is Toronto's largest water treatment plant.  Designed in the art deco style, this cathedral-like building has been nicknamed The Palace of Purification.

The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant has been a part of my life for much longer than I've been shooting photography. As a resident of the East Side of Toronto, I drive, bike and walk past the building regularly. My eyes are always drawn (safely when I'm driving of course) to the vast, stark facades of the buildings. They appear to be out of place in this residential, trendy lake-side neighborhood. The buildings looked more like an institution of some type than a water treatment facility. 

I've enjoyed shooting the building since my Yashicamat film camera days when T'Kara, the family dog, and I would play ball on the large lawns and hills on the property between shooting exposures. The large hills and open expanse allow the photographer a countless array of shooting angles to discover. The complex features tall towers, long wings and winding roadways that look like gray ribbon.  The topography features a steep hill, a long beach, a point of land, and Lake Ontario. Like many architectural photographic treasures it cannot be fully explored with one visit because, being in an open area, the tone and mood changes with the weather and time of day that you shoot. Even the harsh shadows of mid day sun provide a dynamic, interesting subject. 

Construction on the plant began in 1932 and the building became operational on November 1, 1941. In 1992, It was named a National Historic Civil Engineering Site by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. Currently it cleans water for approximately 45% of Toronto and York. The Globe and Mail posted an article and pictures from the construction of The Plant in 2012. 

R.C.Harris Building east side entrance

R.C.Harris Building east side entrance

The imposing facade of the R. C. Harris plant has been featured in many movies and television episodes. Most notably for me, as an asylum in the 1995 horror film In the Mouth of Madness, the Elsinore Brewery in the 1983 film, Strange Brew and the Mellonville Maximum Security Prison in an SCTV episode with John Candy and Andrea Martin.

The interiors are just as opulent with marble entryways and vast halls filled with pools of water and filtration equipment. I have not been inside the building. At one time tours of the building were available, but due to the nature and function of the building these tours were stopped quite some time ago. There are some good interior pictures and an article in the Torontoist.

All images for this post were shot on the same day using a HDR technique. I used my Canon 17-40mm f4 L and 70-200mm f4 L lenses, bracketing 3 exposures for each image. As this was my first HDR project I have a lot to learn, but overall I'm happy with the first attempt. I was disappointed with some of my results and look forward to going back and improving on my effort soon. I will publish some of the results in a future post, documenting my HDR experiences.

There are many 'HDR haters' out there, but I encourage anyone who has not tried HDR to give it a whirl. It is the type of technique that can be done subtly to give a little more detail in shadows and highlights, or done to great effect, giving your photo the appearance of a painting or ink print. There are many resources online to help with shooting and post production techniques.  A 3 part series; The Art of HDR Photography by Uwe Steinmueller was published on dpreview.com in 2011 that I enjoyed at the time, and I believe is still relevant.



A Photo In The Life Of is a weekly PHOTO blog on LARRYLEWISPHOTO.COM.   It is an evolution of my original blog A Photo in the life of  that began in 2006.  I hope to give a little context to my photography and maybe make a few new photography friends. To purchase a print visit Shop. If the image is not listed Contact Me for availability.

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