Winter in a Warmer City

As you’ve probably guessed from earlier posts, I lived in Ottawa, Ontario while I went to school for photography. Since graduating, I have moved to Hamilton, Ontario to be closer to Toronto. And as you’ve likely seen by now just by looking at my website, the smallest details of winter have always fascinated me. And unfortunately, since moving further south - and no longer have access to the incredible macro equipment my photography school provided - my ability to to get up close and personal with those tiny, icy details has been much more limited.

Ottawa experiences winter. And by that I mean it is almost a guarantee that you’ll be needing a warm parka, waterproof and slip-resistant boots, gloves, hat, scarf - everything. If you don’t leave the house looking like you’re leaving on an arctic expedition, well, you’re doing it wrong. In Ottawa, there’s a good chance you’ll experience a classic “Canadian Winter”, including the bitter windchills and the heaps of snow and ice. Now, I know full well that Ottawa winters still are nothing compared to the winters in the Prairies, or even down East in terms of snowfall, but in South Eastern Ontario? They take winter pretty seriously. They, unlike Toronto, don’t feel the need to call in the army if there’s a snow storm. Transport might slow down but it never stops if it can help it. And there is most certainly a fleet of snow plows waiting to clear and salt the roads and sidewalks by the time the next snowfall hits in a couple days’ time.

Right away, I’m going to make myself sound a tad strange, as I often prefer winters with tons of snow and ice. I figure: if I’m going to have to deal with below zero temperatures and wind that makes my face sting, then why not go all out? At least snow and ice looks pretty. It might be a pain to travel in, but once you’re home for the night and you can sit down in something comfy with a cup of hot cocoa and just watch the snow fall? It’s winter at its best. There’s something so serene about snow. It’s so much more picturesque than rain or even sun. Just the type of snow alone can set the mood. The light and fluffy stuff, with the big fat flakes that just kind of meander down to the ground make for a fun and scenic walk, whereas the smaller flakes that can be carried easily by a strong wind often are best enjoyed from inside while under a warm blanket. Snow and winter, for me, go hand and hand, and it’s not quite the same without.

So, you can probably imagine my disappointment after moving further south - especially after living in a city that allowed for so much quintessential winter - where for the first month or so of winter we had next to no snow and any snow we had barely lasted longer than a few days. And it was warm, too. It was like winter had been forgotten about completely and we jumped right into spring.

Thankfully, January gave a better performance than December did, and on my birthday no less! We finally got our first good dump of snow, and then from then on we only got more, until there was about half a foot of the white stuff all over the ground. There were a few days where it was bitterly cold - to near dangerous levels - and then not three days later, it was plus ten degrees Celsius and raining, and all that snow was gone. You win some and you lose some.

However, before the end of the new year, I purchased my very own macro lens. It’s not as strong as the one I used to take those snowflake photos, but it still does a fantastic job. And for my first time really testing it out, I thought what better subject than ice once again? This time I couldn’t attempt snowflakes but a small ice storm solved that for me. Before living in Ottawa, and lived in Kingston, Ontario. And with where it was located on the lake, we often saw more ice than snow, so seeing the effects of freezing rain here in Hamilton once again was the perfect opportunity to play around with my new lens.

And once again I am amazed by what winter can do. It might not be everyone’s favourite season, but it is still a beautiful one, no matter where you experience it. But it’s always going to be a little bit better if you get to see those small, icy details. Always try to take the time to enjoy those little details. It makes the season far more bearable.