Winter Magic

It would have been an easy decision to cancel our plans.

Record-breaking cold was expected throughout Southern Ontario … but we packed up our warmest clothes and went anyway.

Our destination was Niagara Falls.

Although Gilles and I had both been to the Falls numerous times, we hadn’t been there together in over 20 years and I had an agenda.

Like many Canadian communities, Niagara Falls has a Winter Festival of Lights which coincides with the holiday season. Β There are light displays along a 2 kilometre stretch starting at the Falls …. and I wanted to finally practice my non-existent night photography skills.

 

NF Lights_

Oh yes, it was cold. Β It was -13C (8F) cold … without the windchill.

I had planned on walking the 4 km route (out and back) but quickly changed my mind. Β Instead we drove the route back and forth several times, parking occasionally on the side of the road to zip out for photos.

NF Lights 2

After a while, Gilles simply admired the lights from inside the car while I fumbled in the cold with my tripod.

NF Lights 4

While I ooo’d and ahhh’d over the colours and reflections, Gilles (aka Mr Science) pondered penetrating questions like ‘how long would it take to set up all these lights?’ and ‘how many thousands of lights did they need?’ and ‘where are all these lights plugged into, anyway?’.

NF - Festival of LightsIn the end, we were both in awe of the experience.

 

NF Lights 3I’m quite happy with my first endeavours with night photography, in spite of taking multiple ‘shortcuts’ to minimize my time in the cold.

NF Lights 6In hindsight, I probably should have started practicing in the warm weather … but where would the challenge have been in that?

 

101 comments

  1. Hi Joanne. What a lovely festival. You did fabulous work! I love all the colors. LOL, it’s too bad you couldn’t find where they were plugged in… you could have brought a space heater and a long extension cord. Of course somebody would have gotten upset at whichever figure you had to unplug, but horsefeathers — that’s just too cold. Hugs!

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    • Can you imagine the horror if I managed to cause a power outage by blowing a fuse with a space heater in a park area?!! I would hate to have to explain that one 😬

      We used to have a saying at work that if you did something that resulted in being on the front page of the news, it likely wasn’t a good thing 😏

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  2. Loved your photos Joanne!
    We are New Englanders in Florida for the winter for our first season…but we’ve been keeping in touch with folks and the weather up north and heard about your cold spell. You did well to change your plan and drive the route!
    Been reading your blog for a while but finally subscribed…don’t know what took me so long! Lol!
    Anyway, reading established blogs like yours gives me inspiration for my own! Thanks!
    Nancy

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    • Awww – thank you, Nancy. Thank you for reading, thank you for finally commenting and saying hi πŸ™‚

      I found it took a while to get ‘comfortable’ in my blog and now I’m starting to rethink it again. I guess it’s not a surprise that they evolve – much like we do πŸ™‚

      Good luck with your first season in Florida. I imagine the months ahead will be full of firsts. Have you moved to Florida permanently, or just in a winter residence?

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  3. You’ve wowed me with your β€˜non-existent’ (#not) night photography skills! Perhaps it is that you such a wonderful muse. The β€˜Winter Festival of Lights’ are like a wonderful safari excursion! Like you, I β€˜oohed’ and β€˜ahhed’ at every one here .. but lucky for me I did so in the warm springtime temps of Durban …oh wait, the winds just kicked up, time to head back indoors!

    Liked by 1 person

    • hahaha! I feel your pain πŸ˜†

      It’s amazing the wisdom and guidance one can find on the internet to help us learn something new. I’m so pleased with how well these photos turned out … and the experience of being there was fun too πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. These are awesome Joanne! Night photography is one of the things that I’d like to work on. A festival of lights sounds like the perfect place (minus the cold!) πŸ˜‰

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  5. Beautiful photos Joanne! Did you use specific settings as they all turned out great?

    Niagara is such a great area to explore. Have been many times in spring, summer & fall but I yet to visit in the winter.

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    • Because of the cold, I wanted to keep it really simple so I just used a large aperture with auto ISO. We did a quick check on the results after a few photos and decided not to make any changes. I would have likely had even better results if I had set up the tripod properly and used the timer, but overall I’m quite happy πŸ™‚

      If you get a chance, visiting the Falls in winter is quite a different experience. I love the frosting of the trees that comes from the mist off the Falls. You’ll want to keep taking photos long after your hands have frozen πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been to the Niagara display once before and really enjoyed it – but you were brave to get out of the car! I’m planning on going to see the display at Ontario Place one night – that could be another cold weather photography challenge for you!

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    • Yes, Ontario Place is on my list! Last year we went down to walk around the waterfront at Ontario Place on New Year’s Eve. It was brutally cold! Hopefully this year it won’t be so unfriendly πŸ™‚

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  7. The pictures came out nice! Night photography I’m told is challenging, but I think you really captured the lights and colors in each. I only went to Niagara Falls once probably over 20 years ago. I really enjoyed it… I’m thinking a second trip is needed now. What I strangely recall isn’t the beauty of the area so much but the food. There were some really good Italian restaurants there back then. πŸ™‚ – Marty

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    • Come to think of it, we did notice many Italian restaurants as we were trawling Main Street looking for a place to have dinner.
      We ended up at one place that (mid-week and off-season) was quiet and the food was great.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I admit that the lights helped nudge my grumpy Scrooge soul into more of a Christmas spirit – as well as my Husband who promptly pulled out our Christmas lights and put them up outside in the freezing rain.
      That’s dedication to the art! πŸ™‚

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  8. Gorgeous lights, Joanne! And you did exceptionally well with your night photography. It would have been a bit too cold for me to set up a tripod and take a photo, so I applaud your efforts. I would have been in the car with Gilles. Brrrr!! I bet, though, you had something hot to drink afterward. Maybe a couple of hot adult drinks, huh?

    I was at Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side) a number of years ago, but didn’t go on the boat ride. I would do that if/when I get back there again.

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    • I was amazed to see that the boat was still operating from the American side. That would have been one very chilly ride!!

      I took my cousin from the Netherlands on the boat a couple of years ago and we got thoroughly wet! Maybe they don’t go as close to the Falls in the winter. I was sure the captain of our boat intended to sail right through the deluge. I admit it actually scared me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your photos are stunning! I am very humbled that you went out into such frigid temperatures for the sake of ‘art’ and very grateful that Gilles was there to ‘assist’. My daughter bought me some fingerless gloves so I can take photos in the colder weather. They have a little cap which folds over like a mitten. I notice you stayed over even though close to home. I think close to home holidays are perfect. Not too far to drive to and yet a different area to explore. Your use of a tripod makes me think I need to experiment using one. Thanks Jo!!

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    • Fingerless gloves wouldn’t have helped in these conditions. I had fully lined mitts on and my hands were freezing. I think it was from handling the metal tripod. The cold just seeped through my mitts. I didn’t even consider using the timer to avoid camera shake from the shutter but in spite of it, I’m quite happy with these first results!

      This is the first time Gilles and I have taken an overnight mini-vacation close to home and we both agreed that it’s something we should do more often. As my youngest son once wisely said, we chase the ‘big bangs’ in life but it’s the ‘small moments’ that have the most meaning.
      On ‘big holidays’ we are always rushing about trying to squeeze in as much as we can, but on this mini-vacation we were really laid-back. As you said – it was perfect!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Bravo to your photograkills Joanne. I find the cold weather very challenging for taking photos. I chuckled at the questions science minded Gilles was asking. I have a very like minded partner!

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    • Why is it that they can’t simply say ‘wow, that’s so pretty!’? πŸ˜†

      Long after we got home he was still commenting on all those thousands and thousands of lights and the work involved to take them all down again 😏

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    • I’ll admit that it was pretty tempting to simply stay indoors – especially since we had a nice bottle of wine and a little fireplace back at our B&B.

      Thank you for your kind words about my photos. Coming from you, I consider that a major compliment!!
      I had done a bit of research first on what to do … and of course once I got out of the car into the reality of the cold, I ignored most all of it. Instead of using the tripod properly, I used it as a monopod so I could move quickly 😏

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  11. I’ve been several times, too, and always love it! We went one time as a couple and camped a few nights, and spent the last in hotel, and that was my FAVORITE time. I’m glad you had another good time (not the cold part) because the shots you got are wonderful! I feel for you out there with your tripod, but I appreciate the photos. I love light displays. Twinkly lights are the best! We went downtown tonight for the circle of lights and drove home down the street with the big fancy houses which almost always have gorgeous light displays. Light displays make me happy πŸ™‚

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  12. I’ve been to Niagara falls twice, but once as an adult. It was the fall of 2001, and Rob and I had gotten married the July prior. It was our first trip after 9/11 and a very welcome refuge. We got an awesome deal through AAA, in a hot tub room, and the fall colors were absolutely gorgeous. I fell in love with the place! I am jealous of you for getting to go there at all, and this time of year it would be breathtaking!

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    • There is the common expression to describe the Falls – “the power and majesty” – that pretty well sums up their allure. I never seem to grow tired of seeing them ‘one more time’, although I would give winter a bit of preference. True, it’s off-season and a lot less crowded (not to mention that a lot of things are closed), but the frosting of the surrounding trees caused by the mist is spectacular!

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  13. I loved all of your photos, Joanne! Hard to pick a favourite, although, I am drawn to the second one from the bottom with the reflections. What type of camera did you use? Do you feel the tripod made a difference? We plan to go to the 12 Days of Christmas lights display at Butchart gardens this December. You have inspired me to bring along the tripod and actually plan my photo sessions…..although, toddlers running about often blur the results πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Erica – the reflections were my favourite too. The water was so amazingly still.

      I think the tripod made a huge difference to keeping the camera still. Admittedly, because of the cold, I was using it more as a monopod so I could take quick shots. As a result, I was getting some blur from camera shake. Had it been milder, I would have taken more time.

      I was using a Sony Alpha 7II with a 24-70mm lens. I hope that doesn’t sound like I actually know a lot about cameras. I’m a regular on Google asking beginner-type questions 😏

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    • My favourites were all the lights reflecting off the still water too. It had a fairy tale quality to it and I’m glad I got one good shot of it πŸ™‚

      We did manage to find the power outlet for one of the displays (the moose). It appears that there are outlets all over this park area – maybe a foot off the ground. The cost and effort to put in all those outlets would have been significant!!

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    • It was, Bridget! We’ve never taken a mini-holiday close to home before and we both agreed it’s something we should do more often. I was afraid that Gilles might get bored at the slow pace, but he actually enjoyed it. Sometimes slow is good even for an adrenaline-junkie πŸ™‚

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  14. I’ve never been to Niagara Falls. Obviously if I ever go, I’ll have to go twice – once in the summer, and once in the winter!
    So, what was your technique for the photos?
    I chuckled at you comment about -13C. You are so right – sometime this winter, it will seem like a wonderful mild temperature! I shoveled the white stuff today, again, in -4C, took photos of the new snow, and thought it was positively grand!

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    • The Falls really is something that should be experienced In both seasons. The spray from the Falls frosts everything around it which is magical.

      I’m not such a big fan of snow. That layer of whiteness gets tiresome after a while. Maybe if I had learned to ski at some point in my life I’d feel differently 😏

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    • Oh yes. I haven’t ventured back outside since we got home πŸ™‚

      I’m really happy with most of the photos I took. I can imagine how disappointed I’d be if they all turned out a blurry mess.

      I didn’t know about all the Festival of Lights either. I love all the light displays at this time of year – makes me feel like a kid.
      I’ve made a list of them within a 2 hour drive and I’m hoping to drag Gilles out to see all (some) of them 😁

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  15. We had the opportunity to go to Niagara in January of 1978. We were staying with an aunt in Michigan and wimped out. We were so cold the minute we stepped outside. We only had lightweight (Australian) winter clothes. Anyway two years ago we finally made it to Niagara Falls ( in early Summer). You are very brave but at least you were dressed for the weather. Great photos!

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    • I can imagine how brutally cold it must have felt for you – going from your hot summer temperatures to our January deep freeze!!
      Even for us, it was very tempting to wimp out!!

      I hope you enjoyed your visit to the Falls. The city is a bit of a tourist trap but I love the Falls and rejoice every time I see them … although on this trip ‘seeing’ the Falls was actually a challenge with all the low hanging mist.

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  16. These I ages are gorgeous Joanne, I think you did great πŸ˜€ My big question comment would have been – I hope they’re not all plugged into the same receptacle.

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  17. Mr. Science would have wonder how long would it take you to freeze taking night photography? And you have proven him wrong that you did not and able to take all these gorgeous lights! My niece lives at Niagara Falls. I wonder how she is faring.

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    • hehehehe! He didn’t have to wonder if I was freezing – I was quite vocal about it, especially the one time I jumped out of the car without my hat and mitts. I thought I’d only be ‘a minute’. It wasn’t. By the time I got back into the car, I was a popsicle.

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  18. Beautiful shots, in my view. I hate tripods, but it’s hard to do night photography without them. I can imagine just how hard that must have been to mount the camera and adjust the tripod with frozen fingers.

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    • I’ve always avoided night photography because of the whole tripod thing. In my opinion, all that fussing with equipment loses the spontaneity of a photo. I guess that’s the thing with night photography – there is no spontaneity!

      Because of the cold, I ended up mounting the camera only once – in the car – and used the tripod like a monopod outside. If it had been milder, I would have taken much more time and effort, so overall, I’m pretty happy with the results!

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    • The sad part is that at some point in January/February I’m going to consider -13C not so cold πŸ˜•

      It would have been easy to wimp out on this excursion but I’m glad we braved it. We actually had a lot of fun. We agreed that we need to get away together on these small adventures more often.

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    • I know there were a lot of things I should have done differently but I was just happy that they were mostly in focus πŸ™‚

      As much as the darkness at this time of year can be so obsessive, the bright lights of the holidays always makes me happy. I still feel that child-like wonder πŸ™‚

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  19. Hats off to you (or maybe keep the hat on)! We have a similar but simpler set up locally and I never get out of the car. Whatever day we pick is the coldest of the year. It looks beautiful and your pictures are perfect! So worth it!

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