Winter’s grasp has begun to sprawl across parts of Northwestern Ontario. Some meet this frost with a grimace of dread, but if you wield a camera and the will to shoot, you should think twice about hibernating this winter.
Here are six reasons to put your woolies on and make your way to Ontario’s Sunset Country this winter for all things photography.
The Light is as Lovely as Ever
As a photographer, I throw the term "golden hour" around a lot. For those unfamiliar, this phrase typically refers to the magical lighting the sun provides roughly an hour around it rising or setting.
However, with shorter days and a lazy sun hanging tight to the horizon, "golden hour" becomes golden days, and the light produced will keep you outside shooting until the sun fully sets. Cloudy outside? No problem—overcast skies are nature’s light-box. Fresh, even light all over, instead of harsh shadows you’d get shooting in the middle of long summer days.
I’d recommend shooting landscapes or portraits in this lighting. Even the most everyday objects, or animals such as chickadees, are enchanting in this light—so don’t be afraid to try your hand at lifestyle or documentary photography.
Northern Lights and Dark Skies
Once you’ve had your overwhelming fill of mystical light during the day, give yourself a break. Put the kettle on, dry your socks, and charge your batteries. After a few hours of rest, you’ll want to be back outside looking for clear skies and, of course, the ultimate bucket list sight, Aurora Borealis.
With limited light pollution in Ontario’s Sunset Country, all you really need to do is get yourself outside of town and look north––or east, or west, or south. That’s right, in this part of the province, the northern lights can be found in every direction.
While you wait around for the lights to show up, capture some constellations, or the Milky Way. With long exposures, you’ll be astounded to see just how many twinkling stars appear in your frame. Have a good battery life and lots of Hot Paws packed? Try your luck at capturing star trails.
With short days of golden light and long nights of dark skies, you’ll have to remember to sleep.
Enough said, right?
Ontario’s Sunset Country has an abundance of accessible waterfalls and whitewater in its region. There is no shortage of picturesque water, whether your thing is cascading waterfalls or babbling brooks.
Running water is the last to freeze, if it does at all, and those sparkling ice shelves along the shore can’t be outshone.
Feel like challenging yourself? The opportunities for long exposures are endless with moving water.
Winter Activities, Festivals, and Holidays
In my opinion, the best sports and activities to shoot happen in cold weather. From pond hockey to snowmobiling, skijoring to festivals, winter activities and events offer a chance to shoot a certain type of resilience found in northerners.
Head to a ski hill and I bet you’ll find at least one person up there skiing in their jeans. Chat with some freestylers and set yourself up at obstacles to capture that beautiful white wave tailing them over jumps.
For ice fishing, first and foremost you want to be safe; chat with someone at a local tackle shop to get the inside scoop on conditions before you go out on the ice. That being said, safe ice is a blast! Capture hard-water anglers in their natural habitat, bundled up and happy.
Festivals in Ontario’s Sunset Country are fuelled by spirit and playfulness. From light shows to ice sculpting, everywhere you look there will be something to photograph.
Wildlife and Sunsets
Sure, we have exceptionally late sunsets in the summer, but that doesn’t take anything away from our sunsets of truly epic proportions in the winter.
Wildlife is abundant surrounding our town centres. From Thunder Bay to Kenora, wildlife will pop up where you least expect it, or exactly where you would. Animals that are rarely seen in the summer months make more frequent appearances in the winter. A lot of sightings of lynx are recorded, as are owls, foxes, wolves, and deer. I’m personally challenging myself to find a lynx to photograph this season.
Many people are reluctant to go outside in the cold. This is justified, but what is the difference between you and them?
You have a camera, and a desire to capture unique scenes. So put on your long johns, pack a thermos of hot chocolate ,and head out into the wilderness for a serene adventure without the summer crowds. You won't regret it.