Friday, February 25, 2011

Winter Shadows

It's a unique challenge to capture the beauty of winter in pictures. On cloudy days there are no shadows, and pictures tend to turn out dark and dull; on bright sunny days the light bouncing off the snow tricks the camera so getting the exposure right is almost impossible.

One thing I notice while tramping around the woods or fields on snowshoes are the winter shadows. Especially along the north side of a fencerow on an open field, the tree shadows, long bluish lines across the white snow, are amazing.

In the woods, if you can capture it effectively, the shadows are even more interesting. Shooting into the sun, but trying to hide the sun itself behind a tree provides a realistic view of what you're actually seeing in the real world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Glorious Early Spring Day

Well, I know it isn't quite spring when we wake up to 20 below temperatures, but the sun today was definitely moving toward spring, higher in the sky, brighter, and warmer than those cold January days. The season has turned a corner; it will be maple syrup season before you know it - the surest sign of early spring.

So I took a drive to explore the north-east corner of the Beaver Valley, toward the backside of the Blue Mountains, a rolling gentler landscape than the narrow upper valley. Here long rounded slopes fold in on each other forming the valleys of Mill Creek and Indian Brook. The Epping Sideroad in this photo is headed straight east; over the top of the farthest hills are the ski runs of Blue Mountain.

Partly, this is a country of apple orchards, hundreds of acres of them, the apple trees heavily pruned for ease of picking. This is a favourite area for growing apples because of the ameliorating effect of Georgian Bay and the long escarpment slopes on the local climate. Georgian Bay is cooler in the spring, and delays apple blossoming, thus reducing the risk of early spring frost damage, while the long slopes lead to cold air drainage, reducing the risk of cold night frost damage.

One brave owner has opened a small winery, and is even trying out grapes in on the slopes!

Driving east, you gradually rise up toward the back of the Blue Mountain slopes, a series of large but gentle hills in contrast to the steeper slopes lining the west side of the valley - here seen in the distance looking back to the west.

Finally you get to the back of Blue Mountain, on Swiss Meadows Drive, just behind the chairlifts unloading hundreds of snowboarding teenagers. Here you look east over the town of Collingwood, the old grain elevators on the far right hand side of this photo, the lighthouse on the left hand side. And in the distance, the far side of the bay, curving north toward Christian Island.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Winter in the Valley

The first view of the Beaver Valley seen by many visitors is the one you get driving north out of Eugenia and coming over the hill of the Niagara Escarpment on Co. Rd. 13. Stretching ahead of you, the road goes steadily down into the village of Kimberly, through the village, past the two ski clubs (out of sight on the left), and up the opposite hill, until it disappears beyond Epping - a 10 km view, increasingly a view of forest rather than farm fields.

The upper end of the valley is the narrow part, a classic U-shaped glacial valley, rimmed with the steep hills of the Escarpment, and vertical bedrock cliffs, especially on the east side. Among these, Old Baldy is the largest and most obvious cliff (centre of the picture), a popular viewpoint with a spectacular view!

Off to the left on the west slopes where the snow will last a little longer in the spring, the ski clubs pattern the hill with their many ski runs, bringing more traffic in the winter than during the summer. So far it's been a good year for skiing, but with 9 degrees and rain forecast later this week, who knows if there will still be skiing during March Break this year?

Beyond Kimberly the valley slowly starts to widen out until it opens to a gentler view as you pass Heathcote and drive toward Clarksburg and Thornbury and the many apple orchards. Here the abrupt cliffs of the Escarpment are left behind, and the valley is wide and rolling. The Beaver River wanders downstream through the wide valley to Georgian Bay at the Thornbury Harbour. It's joined by a number of tributaries, the largest of which is Mill Creek, and brings hundreds of fishermen to town later in the year.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bitterly Cold but Sunny

Well, it's a beautiful sunny day when you look out the window, but there's a bitterly cold wind chill when you actually get outdoors. Another of those 24 hours when the forecast said 'we expect less than 1 cm. of snow', but by morning there was 7 or 8, enough that I needed to blow out the driveway yet again. Otherwise, it's a good day to stay inside and watch winter through the window!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

After the Storm

Wednesday's storm did bring a fair bit of blowing snow, maybe 20-30 cm, even if it wasn't the 'snowmaggedon' that was forecast. It was sunny the next day though, so I headed out for a ski on the Glenelg Nordic Trails.The track was fast, the temperature cold, and my skiis working better than last time. Headed north into the cedars, through the swamp, with snow piled in giant white marshmallows on the evergreens. Out in the open the wind had blown the snow into drifts, but here in the forest, fresh snow was piled up everywhere. Horizontal branches were covered with a mantle of snow, while smaller evergreens almost disappeared under the white stuff.Enjoyed a long ski through the pine plantations, around the maple bush, down the edge of the field, and then through the cedar swamp. I was the first person on the trails since the storm, the entire way, and snow was everywhere. For those who enjoy winter, it was a beautiful day. At least we didn't suffer from 'snowsteria' here, as they did in the big smoke!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow and Frost

Groundhog Day, and the Big Snow Day, Feb. 2nd. The groundhogs aren't going to see their shadows today, in this enormous winter storm! So that tells us it will be an early spring - if you believe the groundhog.A day or two ago was a beautiful sunny morning with fine light hoarfrost, left the valley dusted with white in the morning sun. But it's tough to capture with the camera what your eye sees outside.
.And today the storm left a foot of snow here overnight, sculpted into drifts in places, but swept bare in others. Snow stopped for an hour or two this morning, and then started up again, leaving another few inches - just after I blew out the driveway.

Tried to get a picture of snow falling, but it's trickier than you think. By tonight there will be a good 16" of new snow, at least in places - I still think in inches for snowfall, but I guess that's near the 40 cm. they were predicting.

Tomorrow perhaps I'll get some good pictures; it's supposed to be sunny. Snow appeared to stop in late afternoon, so I took the dog around the loop, but as soon as we started up the snow promptly started again. Ploughs haven't been around since early this morning, so there's another 6 inches to walk through. No fresh tire tracks at all, so it looks like most people are staying home sensibly and taking a snow day.