Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Kenora March Palette: 2009

15 March 2009

I began to publish the Kenora Palette Series in March 2008.

March is a magical time of year in Northwest Ontario, though you have to wander the back country trails to appreciate the beauty of our region in its fullest flourish. The magic is not usually visible from the highways, as it is too subtle and delicate to be captured by this method.

We are travelling out of town for several weeks at the end of this week, so I selected today as the last opportunity to capture the waning winter magic of our surrounding trail system.

Most of today's photos were taken on a network of local trails which Susan and her friend Linda Moncrief helped to clear, beginning this time of year in 2008.

What creates the magic of the Kenora March Palette? Certainly the gently receding blanket of winter snow is a key ingredient, but there is more. Another required component is the evening sun - now venturing further north - which highlights the subtle and always muted tones of bare trees and stark granite against the crystal white layerings of now soft and gradually disappearing snow.

The temperatures this time of year can be quite variable. One day will see -28 degrees Celsius, and the next will register -4 degrees Celsius. The, out of nowhere, as has occurred the past two days, the temperatures will jump well above zero, and the crystalline fabric of winter will recede so rapidly as almost to disintegrate.

Come with me now for an evening walk along the winter trails northwest of Kenora.

The following photo illustrates well the principle of the subtle glint of light illuminating the diffusely pigmented surface of the birch in the darkening forest.

The following closeup of the same tree makes clearer still the ephemeral nature of the evening light as it yields to the darkness that until recently has ruled and dominated our landscape, challenged only by the fleeting dash of the winter sun across the southern horizon.

Occasionally our pathway is framed by fallen trees or other markers offered by nature. This particular fallen red pine, almost exactly horizontal, is my favourite of them all, though the opening created is somewhat lower than head height.

A glimpse to the side almost anywhere along the trail will reveal the irregularities of the natural world softened by thick blankets of downy northern snow. These views are almost always pleasing, despite their ubiquity.

Here is another similar view, though at an entirely different location along the trail system.

I also enjoy the delicate textures created by contrasting elements on a much smaller scale, in this case a balsam branch fallen into the snow cover on the trail.

It would be neglectful, of course, not to illustrate the trail itself. This is a typical view.

This large granite boulder, left behind by retreating glaciers, remains a favourite landmark of Susan's and mine.

There are complex, fractal, infinitely complex textures overhead in addition to those layering the forest floor.

I am also drawn to simple images, though even a single birch against the snow is not as simple as it at first appears.

From simplicity to complexity... again. Note that the tongues of snow cover are clearly giving way to the resurgent forest.

Though following rules which remain fully submitted to randomness, the following image of a young grove of birch trees certainly offers the illusion of order and deliberateness.

I entered this image not for the composition of its visual elements, but for its almost flawless representation of the full palette of March, though the fresher tones of green are not so obvious here.

This naturally occurring arbour is just as intimate and nurturing in life as it appears in the image below.

Another image which captures the palette of March almost perfectly.

And here are some of the umbers and greens which were neglected in previous palette photos.

The trail itself, traversed by dogsled more than by motorized vehicle.

The bare forest against the sky.

Here is the perfect photo to close our review of the current March Palette series. The vapour trails of the technological world remind us that the sphere of the natural world is finite in scope. However, there is more to explore here near our home than we can exhaust in the time available to us. Wilderness, though often intersected by the marks and scratchings of men and machines, seems here still to stretch without end in every direction.

Thank you for joining me again for this review of the palette of Kenora (Northwest Ontario) in March 2009.

The Kenora palette series:

The Kenora March Palette: 2009

The Kenora Palette: After the June Rain

The Kenora May Palette Erupts into Green Tones, but also into Unexpected Hues

The Kenora Palette in May

The Kenora March Palette


  1. Very well done. I know there is hope for you when you say stuff like "the last opportunity to capture the waning winter magic" & "March is a magical time of year".

    Very soon I know you'll be able to follow along watching hockey.

  2. March is not beautiful in town or along the roads. Machines and nature interact poorly this time of year. But March is one of the best times in the bush. Certainly one of my favourite times of year to run. As for hockey - well, I am comfortable with Canadian spelling, and I can understand curling. But they'll have to make the hockey puck the size of a curling stone for me to follow the game of hockey!

  3. FANTASTIC SHOTS....No wonder you guys love it so much living there.

  4. Your descriptions are as pretty as the pictures themselves Laurence. I love the words you choose.

  5. Thanks Wendy! I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. Maybe this is just how my brain works - by turning pictures into words! I'll never compete with Nick of course!

  6. Nice post and images! I love walking through the woods and outdoor walking trails in the winter.

  7. Looks like this was the last hike of the winter. The lake turned slushy with warm weekend temperatures, and now has frozen rock-hard again - too slippery to navigate. Also, we're soon on the way to California, so the palm trees and flowers are up next!