Tag Archives: Photo Essay

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. I will do my best to visit it again if I’m still healthy and we’re allowed to walk through the park at that point. 

This is the second instalment of a monthly photography series I started back in February. Each month I will share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year.

As I mentioned last month, this is a slushy, muddy, and unpredictable season that has only grown sloppier and more unpredictable as climate change has disrupted our traditional weather patterns.

The  interesting thing about this part of the year is that we never know in advance what to expect. Will there be a blizzard? Will we have sunny, spring-like weather? Everything can change in a day or even over the course of a few hours while winter is slowly giving way to proper spring weather.

It turns out that the temperature on March’s visit was 10 C, exactly the same as it was on the day I visited in February. That wasn’t so much as coincidence as me not wanting to do this photoshoot when it was 0 C and raining outside. Ha!

Photo of a World War I monument at a Toronto park. There are bare tree branches in the background and dry steps leading up to the monument in the foreground.

The monument I blogged about last month had a reprieve from the snow and ice of February.

A dirt running trail at a park. Part of the trail is filled with mud and a little water.

The running trail I shared earlier has changed as well. It was less muddy when I visited it this time, although this is something that will continue to fluctuate quite a bit for at least the next month.

If you look at the background, you’ll see two people using that trail! Other than the reduction of snow piles, the biggest difference between last month and this one is that there were about a dozen other people and a few friendly dogs using this park during my visit.

Bare tree branches against a blue sky.

You’ll notice no changes in the foliage this time. Everything is brown and dead or dormant now. April is the absolute soonest I’d expect to see any greenery in Toronto, and it generally remains somewhat rare for most species until closer to the end of that month. Dead leaves on the ground.

You can still see leaves on the ground from last autumn.

A tree that is still covered in brown, dead leaves.

And some trees still haven’t released their leaves from last autumn. I hope this little one survived the winter.

A bird's nest in a dormant, leafless, tree.

One of the really cool things about March is that you can see last year’s bird nests in the trees. I’ve read that some species here return to the same nest every spring to raise another brood of chicks.

Sights like this aren’t possible once the trees have leaves again. You can hear the chicks peeping sometimes if you walk right underneath their home tree, but it’s hard to spot their nests in May or June. A dirty patch of snow on a sidewalk. There is a blue glove and many leaves stuck in the snow.

Yes, we still have snow here and there. If anyone is missing a blue glove, I know where you lost it!

Toronto can get snow in April, too, although it generally melts fairly quickly.

A photo of a park in March. The trees are bare and the ground is brown. But there is no snow on it.

We definitely have less snow than my previous visit, though. Look how clear the ground is. In month or two, I’ll be able to walk on it without getting mud all over my shoes. For now, I’m sticking to the mostly-dry sidewalk.

A dead tree. The top half has been shorn off and is lying on the ground. Was it damaged in a storm?

My final photo is a sad one.

One of the trees in this park didn’t survive our winter storms. I saw a couple of other trees that had sustained minor damage, but this one is unfortunately gone for good. The last time this happened, the city cleared away the stump and debris before planting a new sapling in its place several months later.

I hope to share photos of that new sapling whenever it arrives. If this happens after the conclusion of this series, I’ll write an addendum to it.

A Photo Essay of Toronto in February

The idea for this new series came from two places.

Terry Tyler’s year-long photo series on what her local park looks like in each month of the year.

And Marianne Arkins’ comment on a post I wrote last month in which she asked me to share more of my photography.

Once a month, I will share snapshots of one of the parks in Toronto so my readers can get a feel for what the climate is like then and what the foliage is (or isn’t) doing. I may share bonus photos of other parts of the city, too, once the weather warms up and I’m spending more time outdoors.

February used to be a colder and snowier month in Toronto than it is in this century. I didn’t grow up here, but the weather in my childhood home state of Ohio is similar enough for me to make the comparison between them.

Climate change has shifted those historical weather patterns. February now acts like March in this part of the world. By that I mean that it’s unpredictable and often stormy. One day you could have a blizzard and overnight lows of -20 C (-4 F) or colder. A day or two after that it could warm up to 10 C (50 F) and sunny.

Landscape photo of a park. Image on left is of a World War I statue. There are numerous trees in the background and a road in the foreground.

My visit happened on a warm day when it was about 7 C (44 F) outside. The sun was shining, but there was still some snow on the ground.

The orange fence you see is the background is part of a city project to revitalize this park. It’s a heavily used area and the ground had been pretty trampled before city workers started to cordon off areas to let them rest.  Close-up photo of snow sitting on the steps of a World War I monument.

A park monument covered in snow and ice.

Photo of trees in a park. There is a bench and walkway in the foreground and a large patch of snow covering the grass in the background.

All of the plants are dormant or dead at this time of the year. You can see a few straggling leaves from last autumn still holding on, but the trees’ branches are bare other than that.

Notice that you haven’t seen any people here yet. While I do my best to avoid taking photos of strangers, this isn’t a popular time of year for going to the park in general. I didn’t see anyone in the distance while I was there.

Close up shot of a pile of snow beside a sidewalk and the trunk of a tree.

There is generally some snow on the ground in February. It melts on warm days, but we’ll probably continue to get more snowfall and to see patches of old snow hanging on in shady spots until April. A running trail covered in slushy snow and half-melted ice.

The photo above is of a muddy running trail that is flooded with half-melted ice and snow. Normally, it would have a flat, solid dirt surface.

One of the reasons why people don’t visit our parks as often, or at all,  in February has to do with what the land is like now. The cycles of freezing and thawing creates less-than-ideal conditions in the park for many common activities like having a picnic, exercising, or otherwise straying from the sidewalk.

We get so much precipitation in Toronto that it’s hard for the ground to absorb all of it when it’s cold outside. This sort of flooding is normal and generally keeps happening until April when everything thaws out and the soil can absorb more water.

The park actually looked pretty good when I visited it. It can be much more flooded than this at the end of the winter. There have been times when the entire sidewalk was covered in ice if we’d recently had a big snowstorm that melted and then refroze overnight.

I will pick this series up again next month when we’ll see what March is like here.