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Where to Photograph Autumn Colours in Ontario?

Last updated March 2011

At Barron Canyon!

Just about everything got rushed as soon as I read the Algonquin fall report: “Percentage of colour change: 90-100%”

Reading it set the whole lot in motion for me. Instantly I decide that I will drive 800 kilometers in the next 24 hours. That is my initial estimate from Oakville to Algonquin’s east gate, then short stops on my way to the west gate, from which I will then start the drive back on highway 11 and highway 400 to Toronto.

When back to Oakville, I have instead accumulated a total of 1,100 KM. But it was all worth it. Although I didn’t snatch enough time for photography as I would have liked, I enjoyed immensely the foliage’s vibrant colours.

So, it is 1 AM Saturday morning when I get out of the house, at which time the Nuit Blanche in Toronto has probably just got started. My dog Tasha is asleep at this time. I assume all dogs in the Greater Toronto Area are at wee hours of the morning. I jump over her to get to the outside door as she takes the whole width of the hall when sleeping. She looks at me surprised as I struggle to carry my 55 pounds of photographic gear, with a familiar look that I’m certain it could be replaced with “You must be out of your mind!”

That’s ok, you just don’t understand Tasha. It’s a human thing.

I take the Peterborough route towards the east end of Algonquin Park.

The ride was bumpy that night my friends, like an old car going over an unpaved street.
One of my tires was giving up on me, but also due to some patches of heavy rain. “Whatever”, I said and continued relentlessly to my destination.

I arrive early in the morning at Barron Canyon. I arrange my Lowepro backpack and start on the trail. The mist is still in the valley at this hour and allows me few minutes of preparation. Just enough to setup my tripod and prepare my camera. It is still raining light and I stop for a quick second to admire (again) the 1Ds Mark II weather sealing.

I snap a quick one, for testing purposes, but I like what I see. It is the first frame for today’s trip, but also a keeper.

Unexpected features all around me. It feels like I just stepped outside of the province of Ontario and into some unknown territories with higher elevations. 100+ meters of deep chasm, right at my feet, makes me pay more attention where I step. 10,000 years ago the canyon was formed due to melting glaciers. The brochure I picked up on my way up continues on to estimate the volume of the ancient raging waters at 1,000 times the volume of the Niagara Falls. Impressive indeed.

Image without polarizer

The light is not what I would like it to be, but you can see people canoeing in the canyon. So, click, click. That must be an amazing experience. Put a note in your calendar for next summer-fall vacation. Visit Barron Canyon. Send a greeting card to Mike with your picture.

It is still raining and mist continues to cover the valley. I rotate the B&W polarizer to decrease the amount of water reflections:

Same image as above with polarizer

The Light is still not cooperating, but reflections are gone. Notice the differences? Look at the water reflections in the canyon. Also the reflections on the foreground rocks are reduced, although in these photographs, prepared for web illustration, may not be so visible. Note: A good quality polarizer is one good photographic accessory that you should have with you at all times.

Part 2 will soon complete my short story and will display more of the keeper images from Algonquin’s Barron Canyon. Until then I hope you can still catch some good colours in your perfect light.

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