The most expensive picture I’ve ever taken

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It was going to be great. A full weekend of travel and aviation photography at an airport I’ve never been to before. And the best part? The forecast was perfect!! Crisp and clear sunny skies were on deck for the two days I was planning on being at YYZ.

Long story short, I was getting a little burned out on SAN and LAX, and I began craving some aviation photography from anywhere else but these two locations. I found decently cheap airline tickets from SAN on Air Canada to YYZ for January 26th, and the airport hotel seemed reasonable too. Easy decision to reserve this trip, and I did it without much hesitation. My plan was simple: I would arrive at YYZ on late Saturday afternoon, and then linger inside the terminals for several hours getting some nice sunset and night shots of aircraft sitting at the gate. Since my returning flight to San Diego wasn’t scheduled to depart until early evening the next day, I could spend all of Sunday walking around the airport terminals and taking pictures. To say I was excited was an understatement. It was going to be awesome!

Everything started out fine. My Air Canada flight left SAN right on time, and we even arrived into YYZ several minutes early. Clearing customs was a bit of a hassle – they gave me one heck of a hard time for it being such a short trip. It was inconceivable to them that I flew all this way just to take some pictures of silly airliners. They eventually let me pass, and I proceeded into the main arrivals hall. That’s where my plan began falling apart.

Being from the US, I had taken it for granted that our airport terminals were open to non-ticketed individuals. Yep – I was promptly denied access back into the YYZ terminals for lack of a boarding card. Damn. I hadn’t thought of that! That pretty much blew the whole point of this trip – I came here for an aviation photography extravaganza, and it was denied in an instant. I was totally bummed out. I didn’t have the camera gear for outside photography (nor the proper clothing for sub-freezing temperatures), so it didn’t take long before I accepted the fact there was to be no aviation photography at all to be had on this trip.

Attempting to turn lemons into lemonade, the wanderlust in me realized that things weren’t so dire. I had never been to Toronto before, so instead of making this a photo trip, I thought that I could use this time to explore the city. That actually got me pretty excited…I love to travel and explore so this didn’t seem like such a bad alternative. Once again…this was goring to be awesome! All I needed was a little cash from the ATM for cab fare, and I’d be ready to go.

Or not. There wasn’t a single ATM in the entire airport that would accept my ATM card. I don’t recall exactly how much cash I had on me at the time, but it wasn’t much. Certainly not enough for cab fare to and from the Toronto city center. So now what? I felt stuck. Unable to take pictures, and unable to get cash that could get me into the city. Damn. It was at this point that I inquired about getting on a standby list for a flight back to San Diego that evening. That didn’t work either. I was going to be stuck here for another 24 hours. Total trip failure.

Things started looking up immediately after checking into my hotel. It was located adjacent to the airport, and I even managed to score a room overlooking the terminals and runways. Maybe things weren’t so bad after all? However, my little Nikon CP880 had a very short zoom lens, so there was absolutely no hope of getting up close pictures of the aircraft moving around on the ramp below. It was a great view, but the photo opportunities were non-existent. Feeling frustrated, I walked down to the main departure  hall at YYZ for a dinner of a burger and fries…

Later that evening, in sheer obsession-like determination to get a picture of an airplane from out of my hotel room window, I managed to get one decent night shot of an overview of the terminal below. It actually came out pretty good, and it’s still one of my favorite pictures to this day. But if only I had a decent zoom lens with me that day – I could have had some great shots.

Anyway, I did end up making into the city the next morning after finding a taxi that accepted credit cards. I spent most of the day checking out the CN Tower and some other nearby shopping centers. I would have liked to walk around more, but it was COLD! In addition, I wanted to make it back to YYZ early so that I would have time to take some pictures from inside the terminal before my flight back to SAN. Once again, my optimism was far too high – my flight was to depart from the international gates, which meant that there were no clear views out to the runways and gates. There was absolutely nothing to take pictures of and I had no choice but to sit in total boredom for the next four hours before my flight departed.

I went all that way (and spent all that money) for one lousy picture. At least I got UA Mileage Plus miles for it – as well as a quick look at Toronto. I guess it wasn’t all that bad, but wow…it could have been so much better!

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