Tag Archives: Pickering

“April Icicles over Duffins Creek”

“April Icicles over Duffins Creek”

“Whenever there is stillness there is the still small voice, God’s speaking from the whirlwind, nature’s old song, and dance…”
― Annie Dillard

Chilly water flows beneath icicles formed by the spray of the creek below. I found this to be an odd sight. April in my area has been ‘confusing’. We had beautiful sunshine and mild temperatures, followed by a deep freeze, snow, freezing rain, and strong winds, all within a few days. This has made it difficult to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

This small chute is located just below the Whitevale dam, north of Pickering, Ontario. It has become a fairly regular destination for me over the past few years. Primarily because I’m drawn to moving water and the serenity I find there, even as the water surges and churns over the rocks below the dam. It’s here that I make many of my winter photos of water flowing beneath the ice, or frozen in great icicles at the dam itself.

In this case, I found a lovely composition created by the tight combination of mist and air temperature. The moderately cold night had created conditions whereby spray from the water had splashed onto an overhanging branch and slowly frozen into these delicate icicle.  There was no wind, which provided me an opportunity to do a long exposure, which showed off the icicles and allowed me to put the water in the background into motion, as contrast between stillness and movement. Very much how I feel when I’m at the waterside.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 135 mm
1/10 sec, f/20.0, ISO 200

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“Ebb and Flow” – Duffins Creek Ice

“Ebb and Flow” - Duffins Creek Ice

Above is another photo of the winter waters of Duffins Creek, north of Pickering , Ontario. It seems the creek had frozen solid to the bottom recently, as water was flowing over the ice in many places.

This scene caught my attention as the sun revealed interesting aqua tones in the ice beneath the surface. The ice had tilted slightly, causing a bit of an ebb, or backflow, and created this wave that seems to be going against the current. The sunlit up the rocks under the water as  well as the ice slab in the background. It was a great day for light and that makes my day. It’s not a grand cascade in the mountains, but it is beautiful, nonetheless. The magic is in the light and the details the light brings forth. In this case, I chose a faster shutter to freeze the wave above the ice slab, as a long exposure lost much the detail.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200mm  f/2.8 @ 135mm
1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250

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“Abandoned” – North Pickering, Ontario

“Abandoned” - North Pickering, Ontario

Near my home is a large tract of land (7,530 hectares) which was expropriated by the federal government in the early 70’s as the site of a future airport. After several decades, the airport is no closer to happening, communities have disappeared and, other than a few residences and farms, most buildings have fallen into such disrepair that they have had to be demolished. For a few years it was even a challenge to photograph on these lands, which are public property, because the private security company hired by the government to patrol the land would frequently stop me and ask what I was doing, even though I had my camera gear clearly visible.

What this history has offered is some vast open tracts of rolling rural landscapes and a few interesting buildings in various stages of decay. I spend quite a bit of time in this area and it has yielded some nice photos which document the transition of this land over the years. There are now less buildings, thicker underbrush, and a generally overgrown appearance. The image above is a fairly typical fall view of the fields and woodlands. Soybeans, ready for harvest grow in the foreground and an abandoned building shows through the overgrown lot. What I found interesting on this fairly dull and overcast day, was the splashes of colour among the tree trunks and branches highlighted by a few rays of sun, offering a nice contrast to dark skies above. It’s one of those moments that’s gone quickly and rarely offers itself again. I also reflect upon the house, knowing people once lived there and wonder what those days may have been like. My mother-in-law’s family had a farm on the airport land, which has long since been demolished and leveled, yet the memories live on. I can’t image what it would be like to go back to the house I grew up in, only to find no trace of it ever existing.

Nikon D300
Nikor 70-300mm f/5.6 @ 195mm
1/200 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 200

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“28th Sideline Fall Beauty”

28th Sideline Fall Beauty

This has been a beautiful autumn. Generally, by this time of the year, the leaves are down and it’s hinting at the winter to come. It has made photographing fall colors a real pleasure. Bright reds and oranges are everywhere with a nice mix of yellows and some splashes of green, from plants less susceptible to frost.

The photo above was made along the 28th Sideline, in North Pickering, Ontario. The old maple trees here create a wonderful canopy over the road and there is not much traffic. The road itself is in the heart of expropriated lands destined, at one time, to become the new Pickering Airport. Those plans seem to have been put on the back-burner and some lands have been designated parkland. These lands, still full of fertile farmland, have fallen into disrepair, with a few farmhouses scattered across the vast acreage. Fields are still actively worked, but it has lost the feel of a once vibrant farm community.

The one gain in this situation is that there is a lot of land that has not been absorbed in urban sprawl and large expanses of rural wilderness can still be experienced here. I go to this spot every year, and it remains largely unchanged. A fun fact for me is that the eastern tree line (on the left side of the photo) is the eastern limit of the farm my mother-in-law grew up on. I’m sure she and her brothers played in these trees at some time.

Nikon D300
Tamron 18-50mm f/2.8 @ 36mm
1/125 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 100

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“The Struggle”

“The Struggle” - Rainbow Trout run at Whitevale, Ontario

On the spring theme of the Rainbow Trout spawn that occurs every year in this area, here’s a slightly abstract image of a trout mid-run up Duffins Creek, near Whitevale, Ontario. The image above is a time exposure of a single trout swimming against a particularly strong current at a point where the clear water in the foreground is mixing with water contaminated with clay, caused by the spring melt run-off from an adjacent bluff.

The dark and barely discernible shadow of the trout hangs suspended above the rocks as the water flows rapidly around him. He appears, for the moment, to be running against the odds. The reality of the image is that the fish is actually ‘stuck’ as the world around him rushes by; neither progressing nor loosing ground. He’s in a transition between clear and murky, movement and stasis.

In the end, he broke though and continued his journey up-stream, though that outcome seems uncertain at this moment in time.

Nikon D300
Nikor 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 125 mm
1/8 sec @ f/4.8, ISO 250

“28th Sideline Poplars” – Pickering, Ontario

28th Sideline Poplars - Pickering Ontario

Among my favourite photos from last year.

Have you ever driven past a place dozens of times and thought, “I should stop sometime and make a photo of this”? That was the case with these poplars in Pickering. They are at the corner of side roads that I pass several time a year. But, the light is never quite right, or it’s dull and uninteresting looking.

On this particular day, I had my camera with me, but had no intention of doing any nature photography. It was a dull, rainy day and the landscape was pretty washed out. As I approached the trees, the sun broke through and the poplars lit up a bright yellow. I thought, “I should stop today and make photo of these today”. As I was having this internal conversation, the light began to shift again and a light rain started falling. So, I swung the car around and parked on the shoulder, got my gear ready and proceeded into the adjacent field to see what the light offered. It was not till I got home and looked at the images that I realized just how stunning they turned out.

I am so happy that I made the decision to stop (with some prodding from my wife). My advice, when the opportunity presents itself, take it, it may not present itself again. To this day, I have not seen the conditions even close to that day, driving the back roads of Pickering.

Nikon D300
Nikor 70-300 mm f/5.6 @ 70mm
1/4@ f/11.0, ISO 200


“Pine Cone Gall on Sandbank Willow” – Whitevale, Ontario

“Pine Cone Gall on Sanbank Willow” - Whitevale, Ontario

Pinecones on willows? I keep seeing these pin cone-like structures on the ends of sandbank willow branches along Duffins creek and always wondered what they were. They actually are not a natural part of the willow, but rather, the homes of Pinecone Willow Gall-midges (Rhabdophaga strobiloides). These midges secrete a chemical that forces the willow to create these pinecone-like pods to provide the midges food and shelter. The adult midge lays its eggs in the terminal bud of the plant in the early spring and the willow begins to form the pods. The larval infection does not seem to have any adverse effects on the willow. In fact, some of the ‘infected’ branches look larger than the non-infected ones. Bio-chemistry in the insect world!

I did notice that some of the pods have burst open into what looks like a dried flower. Nature is truly amazing. I’ll have to pay closer attention to these next time I’m out.

Nikon D300
Nikor 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 140 mm
1/160 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 250

“Rainbow Trout Jump” – Whitevale Dam, Pickering , Ontario

“Rainbow Trout Jump” - Whitevale Dam, Pickering , Ontario

With the weather turning warmer in Ontario, I thought today would be a nice day to take a walk along Duffins Creek, near Whitevale, Ontario. It’s spring, the snow is gone, and the Coltsfoot is blooming, so it’s also time for the annual rainbow trout run up Duffins Creek to the Whitevale Dam. The dam was built several years ago to prevent the rainbow trout, which are an introduced species, from eating the native brown trout fry. The rainbow spawn up Duffins Creek but can’t get beyond the dam. In the right conditions, like today, they jump up the skirt of the dam trying to climb it. But, it’s much too high.

This photo is one of those times where everything just comes together, with lots of patience. Timing the jump of the trout into the shadows, to light it up like this, and to get the shape of the fish in the air just right took many attempts and I have to say that I am very pleased with this ‘mid-flight’ image.

Nikon D300
Nikor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 70 mm
1/400 sec @ f/10.1, ISO 250

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“Blazing Hillside”

"Blazing Hillside"

Part two of my November 2014 hike. As I said in yesterday’s post, I was actually hiking to a small grove of trees that I had photographed successfully in the past. The light conditions where not good in that location but it was spectacular on my hike in and out of the forest.

The photo above is testament to that. The late afternoon sun was close to setting but bright enough to make everything it touched glow with light. Doing vertical pan photo abstractions has become a favourite technique for me and the results can be quite astounding and unpredictable.

This grove of planted pines was found along one of the many paths leading through the Walkers Woods Conservation Area north of Pickering, Ontario. There was still snow on the ground from the previous day’s snowfall as well as a smattering of bright orange oak leaves. It seemed the elements all came together in this photo. When I got home and previewed my photos it looked like the whole hillside was on fire, thus the title of this piece. Many people have commented that it looks like a painting and I would agree. I am very pleased at the results and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Nikon D300
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @26mm
1/4sec @ f/32, ISO 200