Tag Archives: Photo Essay

A Photo Essay of Toronto in July

marigolds growing by lush, green plantsEach month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the sixth instalment of this series.

Click on February, MarchAprilMay, and June to read the earlier posts. It was a blissful 27 Celsius (81 Fahrenheit) and sunny on this morning visit.

July was an incredibly hot month, so I jumped on the chance to show up earlier in the day and snap some photos before the temperatures soared to 35 C (95 F) or more again.

Let me be honest with all of you. The photos for this month, August, and maybe even September are going to be pretty similar to June’s photos. Everything is green, lush, and growing furiously.

The true difference between June and the rest of the summer has to do with the temperature. June still has mild, pleasant days, but that becomes a rare treat between now until October most years.

A World War I memorial surrounded by green, lush trees in a park.

Welcome to the park in July. If you were actually walking here with me, I would have recommended you bring a water bottle and put on some sunscreen. The sun is quite powerful at this time of the year, and I wouldn’t want any of you to get burned or dehydrated.

A close-up photo of the World War I memories. It's green

Anyone who comes here later in the day might see the air shimmering in the heat. For now, it’s warm but still pretty comfortable in the shade. Some of the weeds are starting to take over the steps on this monument. I suspect this is due to city workers not having as many resources for park maintenance as usual.

A dusty running trail at a park. The trail is lined with large, healthy trees.

The running trail is firm and dustier than usual due to our dry summer so far.  It’s heavily used in the morning and evening, probably because running in 40 C (104 F) heat at midday is at best miserable and at worst a recipe for heat stroke.

I love seeing all of the walkers and joggers out and about early in the morning or after the sun begins to set and the weather is less hot. (Even if you choose to jog at 3 am, you probably won’t find overnight temperatures lower than 28 C (82 F) or so for the next couple of months).  Everyone seems to be incredibly polite and kind even when the trail is overflowing with users which makes me proud of my city.

Large, green branches of a tree against a bright blue sky

You all knew this shot was coming! I love the bright blue skies of this time of year. We won’t see much of that in the autumn and winter when I return.

A skyward shot of many overlapping tree branches filled with leaves. They're so lush you can only see a tiny sliver of the blue sky.

But now it’s less common to see blue sky between the branches of nearby trees. They’ve grown so much that they block out a refreshing amount of heat and light.

A sun-dappled park. The grass is heavily shaded by the leaves of the enormous trees growing there.

Here’s another example of what that looks like. Most people who visit the park now flock to these shady areas. Sitting in direct sunlight for longer periods of time is simply too hot, especially with the high humidity we tend to have now.

A tree that had half of its branches shorn off last winter. It is green and thriving now.

Our tree friend that lost half its branches last winter is thriving from what I can tell.

A tree that lost about a third of its branches in a storm last winter. It is green and thriving now.

And so is our bigger tree friend that lost about a third of its branches. I’m still amazed at how well they heal.

A sapling growing in a park.

The saplings that were planted last month seem to be doing really well, too. A heavily shaded stone path in a park

I am seeing a decrease in visitors to the park like I expected last month. Given the steamy weather and the increasing number of places in Ontario that are reopening as our numbers of Covid-19 cases continue to decrease, this is completely understandable.

And that’s all until August!

A Summer Without Tourists

Toronto, Canada skyline. The famous CN Tower is one of the buildings in this shot. The foreground is of part of Lake Ontario There are a few things about Canadian and, more specifically, Torontonian culture that I should explain here for anyone who isn’t already familiar with them before diving into the meat of this post.

I am speaking in broad generalities here and this is a large, diverse country, so please make friendly allowances for that if your Canadian cousin/acquaintance/coworker etc. has had other experiences. There are no secret Canadian meetings where we come to a consensus on this stuff, and it’s just about impossible to get 38 million folks to agree on everything anyways.

With that being said, people make less small talk here there than do in my birth country, the United States. It’s good manners to nod and say hello to neighbours and other folks you’ve seen around before, but you generally don’t talk to strangers unless you have an excellent reason to do so.

At least in large cities here, sidewalks are serious business. Locals walk briskly and single file unless the sidewalk is large enough for larger groups to walk side-by-side. Loitering should only be done in places where you won’t slow down the flow of traffic, especially at lunchtime and in the early evening when the sidewalks are filled with nonstop crowds.

Tourists are the exceptions to these rules. If a stranger asks you for directions or advice on visiting your neighbourhood, you always stop and help them to the best of your ability. Sometimes a large group of tourists will walk slowly down the middle of the sidewalk while trying to figure out where to eat dinner or which attraction to visit next . This, too, is okay. Guests should always be treated with respect and kindness. Just turn the corner and take another street if you’re truly in a rush. If not, slow down and savour the moment.

Now that you know a little bit about how things normally function in urban Canada, let’s continue.

Toronto was eerily quiet in March and April when the Covid-19 lockdowns began. It’s slowly grown more active again as our public health agencies have given our premier permission to reopen certain businesses and relax the quarantine and physical distancing rules.

Yet this still isn’t like any July I’ve known in all my years here. Just like everywhere else, there are no tourists here.

The sidewalks by the busiest roads are beginning to fill up again, but they’re much quieter than they should be. Some streets are still completely empty even at what should be the busiest portions of the weekend.

No one has asked me about good local restaurants and whether the trendy, expensive ones are worth the money. (Some are, but most aren’t in my opinion unless you’re a diehard foodie and Instagrammer. Let me direct you to an awesome hole-in-the-wall down the street instead if what you really want is a full, happy belly).

Nobody wants to know whether they should visit the Toronto Zoo or the Royal Ontario Museum. (They’re both fun, but save the zoo for a day with nice weather when you’re not planning to do much else at all. It’s 90% outdoors, requires hours of walking to see it all, and really isn’t close to any other major attractions at all).

People don’t approach each other much at all these days. We generally keep our distance whenever possible for disease prevention reasons. With the exception of the occasional person asking for spare change, I can’t remember the last time I spoke to a stranger.

In short, it’s quiet here.

A Photo Essay of Toronto in June

A park filled with large oak and other trees. Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the fifth instalment of this series.

Click on February, MarchApril, and May to read the earlier posts. It was 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and sunny this time which I think is the perfect weather for a park visit.

June is a transitional month that includes large temperature swings. The early part of it can see high temperature of 10 to 15 Celsius (55 to 60 Fahrenheit), while a few days to weeks later the hottest point of the day could leap to 35 to 40 Celsius (95 to 104 Fahrenheit).

That is to say, keep your shorts and sandals handy in June….but don’t put warmer clothing into storage quite yet! The nights can still be chilly, and this can be a stormy time of year as well.

Landscape snapshot of a healthy, green forest at the edge of a park.

Let’s take a look at the park from a distance. Isn’t it green and vibrant? Every tree that survived the winter has sprouted its full complement of leaves now. The effects of all of that greenery is stunning.

World War I statue surrounded by luscious green trees.

All of the bushes, trees, and other plants around the statue at the front of the park are green and vibrant.

Top half of world war I statue surrounded by the peaks of tall trees.

There was a time when you could see through to other parts of the park from this vantage point. That time has passed for now.

A dirt running trail in a park.

The running trail is dustier now then it was in May. See also: my new shoes that got covered in dust while I was exercising there the other day. Luckily, they wiped clean again easily.

This trail is otherwise about the same as last month. Barring thunderstorms, I expect it to remain firm and dry until the rainy autumn begins. This is even more true this year due to the fact that the longterm prediction for Ontario’s summer weather is calling for less rain than usual.

Shot of various canopies of leaves from trees against a bright blue sky.

I think you all knew this shot was coming. There’s nothing like standing underneath a canopy of thick, healthy leaves and hearing them rustle in the wind.

 

A sun dappled sidewalk in a park. There is an empty bench in the background.

And another sun-dappled sidewalk. I’m so grateful for the massive trees that provide all of this shade. The rest of my summer visits will probably happen early or late in the day to avoid the full brunt of the midday heat and humidity, but even then standing in the shade makes things much more comfortable outdoors.

Stump of a tree that's been cut down.

Sadly, not every tree survived the winter. One huge change I noticed between May and June is that city workers have finally cut down the dead trees and carted away all of the broken branches I shared in previous posts in this series. That was a welcome surprise!

A tree that lost half of it's trunk in a winter storm. The left half that remains has sprouted green, vibrant leaves.

But our two tree friends who were badly damaged last winter are doing incredibly well.

A large tree that lost about a third of its branches in a winter storm. It is now green and vibrant at the end of spring.

Seeing all of the healthy leaves they’ve sprouted this season gives me a lot of hope for their longterm survival.

The park has been quite busy this month in general. While restrictions on what people can do continue to be lifted, folks seem to be spending more time outdoors this year due to all of the news reports we’ve heard about it being safer to spend time outdoors than in stores or other places where everyone is constantly breathing the same air.

I do expect park activity to slow down as it gets hotter and more humid outside, but it’s quite possible that won’t happen. So much depends on if the rate of new Covid-19 cases continues to drop in Ontario and which entertainment venues, if any, will be deemed safe to reopen before autumn arrives.

Stay safe, friends! I look forward to showing you Toronto in July next month.

A Photo Essay of Toronto in May

A tree filled with beautiful pink blossoms. This is the fourth instalment of this series.

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. Click on February, March, and April to read the earlier posts.

May is by far the most beautiful time of the year in Toronto in my opinion. It was a balmy 17 degrees Celsius (63 Fahrenheit) according to my weather app when I visited this month. The sky was bright blue and there was a warm, gentle breeze in the air.

The restrictions on park usage are slowly beginning to be lifted here. We are now allowed to use picnic tables, basketball courts, tennis courts, and soccer fields so long as everyone you use them with belongs to the same household and you maintain at least six feet of distance from other folks. Going to the park to walk, jog, or sit on a bench is still permitted as well.

It was quite busy there during my visit this month, so you’ll see some strangers in the distance in a few photos. Keeping all of them out of my shots simply wasn’t possible.

Landscape shot of an urban park. There is a monument surrounded by green trees.

This is the time of year when you don’t have to look closely for signs of spring. They’re everywhere. While not every tree is obviously green yet, I’ll get into that later on in this post.

Close-up shot of a moment. There are green trees in the background and green bushes in the foreground next to the steps on the monument.

Look! The bushes in front of the monument are turning green now. There are also plenty of wild plants like dandelions growing between them.

Photo of a dirt jogging trail at a park. It is flanked by vibrant, green trees that have recently awoken from their winter dormancy.

The jogging trail is firm and dry once again. (It tends to become muddy after spring and summer thunderstorms, although generally not at much as it is in late winter and early spring). This summer it will be a dusty place to exercise if we go through long dry spells, but the trees lining it will provide some relief from the hot sun for determined joggers.

This trail was once again in heavy use due to the gorgeous weather and the fact that the majority of our stores and other destinations are still closed to help contain the spread of Covid-19. I’m glad I was able to get a clear shot of this area of the park for all of you.

 

A tree whose leaves are still in the budding stage. There are partially and fully green trees in the foreground of this park shot.

As I hinted at earlier, about ten percent of the trees don’t have leaves yet. This isn’t due to sickness or injury. If you look closely at them you’ll see the buds of their future flowers and leaves.

I’ve often wondered if these are the same trees that hold onto their leaves in November when most other trees are bare. Let’s see if that’s true in six months!

A canopy shot of white, red, and green tree leaves against a bright blue sky.

Every winter I yearn for moments like this. There’s nothing like standing underneath a thick canopy of leaves from multiple tree species and hearing them rustle in the breeze.

A skyward shot of large, healthy tree branches filled with leaves against a bright blue sky.

I’ll indulge all of us with a similar shot. If there’s anything more peaceful than moments like these, I couldn’t tell you what they are.

One thing I haven’t covered yet in this series is the size of the trees we’re talking about. Some of them are saplings that have roughly the same circumference I do as a slim, petite adult woman.

Woman leaning up against a massive elm tree, smiling, and pointing at it.
Yours truly for scale.

But we also have trees that are much larger than that. It’s amazing to feel the difference in the air temperature immediately below the biggest trees in the park when compared to standing in direct sunlight on a warm day. I’d bet it makes the temperature feel ten degrees cooler on warm days…and more than that on the hottest ones!

There were two marvellous surprises at the park this month. Do you remember those two trees I blogged earlier about that were severely damaged in a winter storm? They’re somehow still alive. A tree that has lost half of it's trunk but somehow managed to grow green leaves again this spring.

This is the tree I photographed over the last few months. About half of its branches were ripped off in that storm, and its trunk was badly damaged as well.

The half of a tree that was ripped off in a storm. It's sitting on the park ground next to the remnant of the tree that has begun to grow leaves again.

Here’s another shot of it so you can see just how serious that damage was. I have no idea what its longterm chances of survival might be, but I was thrilled to see it growing leaves again. May it live to see many more springs.

There was another, much larger tree that suffered a similar injury in that storm as well. I’d estimate that it lost about a third of its branches.

A massive tree with four huge branches, one of which has been shorn off in a storm.

It’s looking quite healthy…

A branch larger than half a dozen full-grown humans that has been shorn off a massive tree in a storm.

…especially when you consider just how badly it was damaged. This photo captures most, but not all, of the dead branches from it. If any arborists read this, I’d love to get your opinions on the chances of these trees healing from their injuries.

And, yes, it’s odd for gigantic branches like these to remain in the park months after a violent storm. As I mentioned back in February, branches this large and potentially dangerous for folks who may climb on them would typically be cleared away within days in non-pandemic conditions.

 

A sun dappled sidewalk in a park

I’ll end this post with a lovely shot of a sun-dappled sidewalk. A month or so from now we’ll all be quite grateful for the shade these trees provide on hot, humid summer days!

A Photo Essay of Toronto in April

Green plants growing in a concrete planter. This is the third instalment of a photography series I started earlier this year.

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. Click on February and March to read my earlier posts.

Shortly after my March post went live, a long list of restrictions were also placed on what Torontonians are allowed to do in our parks.

No one is currently allowed to use any of their facilities including dog parks, playground equipment, pools, sports fields or courts, zoos, and similar places.

The use of park benches has also been curtailed. You could sit on them for a brief rest if necessary when I visited, but people received fines for lingering or sitting too close to strangers on them last week. (Those fines seem to have ended now).

We are still allowed to walk or run through the park as long as we adhered to the six foot physical distancing rule that has been put into place to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. I have always respected the law when writing these posts and will continue to do so.

The temperature on the day of my visit in April was 11 C, one degree warmer than it was in February and March. We’ve had some cold days this April, but I do expect the average daily temperature to rise by five to ten degrees by the end of May.A photo of a statue in a park. There are steps leading up to the statue and the bushes around it are still dormant from the winter.

Upon first glance, the park honestly didn’t look that much different now than it did last month. Anyone who looks closely at this photo might see a few green weeds growing next to the dormant bushes, but that’s about it so far.

A flat, dry running trail at a park.

But the running and walking trail is completely dry and firm now! I’ve seen multiple people using it while (mostly) following the physical distancing protocols. Getting this picture took some patience so I could show you the trail without taking photographs of strangers.

A photo of a bare tree in April. There is a bird's nest in the uppermost branches.

Some of you might be surprised to hear that many of the trees in southern Ontario don’t have leaves on them yet at all. The ones that do have only just begin to show their first hints of green which you will see later on in this post.

Spring is a slow process here that requires patience, but there are many signs that things are changing if you look down instead of up.

 

Buds on a small tree.

Before you have leaves, you must have buds! And the majority of the trees and bushes here are budding now.

You’ll also notice some little blue flowers in the grass. I think they were Blue-Eyed Grass, and they make my heart sing. Winter is finally over in ways that are more tangible than a date on a calendar.Blue flowers growing in a park.

Here’s a closer shot of the flowers. They only bloom for a few weeks in April from what I recall from previous years.

It’s interesting to see last autumn’s leaves interspersed among them.

A red breasted robin sitting on a green lawn.

Squirrels and red-breasted robins are everywhere in the park now. You can hear many other birds chirping in the trees, too.

Bushes covered in green leaves and yellow flowers.

There are other splashes of colour now, too. Soon the trees will be as eye-catching as these bushes.

A city park landscape. The grass is green and covered in blue flowers. The bushes are just beginning to turn green, and the trees still look bare.

Here’s a shot from another part of the city that shows the ground-up transformation of Toronto in spring so you can put it all into perspective. The grass and flowers are vibrant, the bushes are just beginning to turn green, and the trees still look dormant unless you’re standing right next to them.

Other than the obvious changes in human behaviour, there was one sign of Covid-19 at the park that I found interesting. A dead tree. The top half has been shorn off and is lying on the ground. Was it damaged in a storm?

 

City workers have not been able to clear away any of the fallen branches or the dead trees from the park. (I noticed a second dead tree on this visit but couldn’t get a clear shot of it). This stump and all of those branches are still covered in caution tape.  I’m reusing last month’s photo since it looked exactly the same.

Normally, this would have all been cleared away weeks ago. Toronto is a tidy and punctual city when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic. I totally understand why that isn’t possible right now, but it’s a reminder of how much this virus has interrupted everyone’s routines.

My hope is that everyone will respect the physical distancing rules so that parks will at least remain open to walk through. We will see what happens over the next several weeks.

Stay safe, everyone!

A Photo Essay of Toronto in March

Note: I wrote this post in early March before Toronto began shutting down businesses and public places in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no restrictions on travel, spending time near other people, or park usage at the time of my visit. What April’s post in this series will be like still remains to be seen.… Read More