This is What a Northern Ontario Winter Looks Like

Photographer Richard Main of Thunder Bay, Ontario, digs deep to discover the hidden joys of winter.

1 / 4
Ontario winter - winter in Northern Ontario
Photo: Richard Main

Winter wonderland

Winter—sigh. What can I say? My initial thoughts turn to the cold, lack of light and, yes, the snow. Even the cheerful lights on the back of the snowplow fail to lighten my mood.

They say that the perception of beauty is subjective, however. In other words, if I am not there to witness winter, is it still miserable? Reflecting on this thought would indicate that I control my emotional reaction to winter. I only need to look deeper to understand and appreciate what is in front of me. This is true for almost all aspects of life and even how we choose to view each other. I can choose to see the best or worst of what is in front of me. To truly see beauty, I must challenge myself to expend the effort and time to move beyond the obvious, the superficial, the shiny object. I must make the effort and commitment that comes with discovering the depth and genuine understanding of the beauty winter offers.

Take a look at this gallery of spooky Canadian photography.

2 / 4
A view of the contrasting hues of Lake Superior
Photo: Richard Main

The views from the north

The coldest nights can bring the clearest skies, exposing the numerous stars and even the aurora borealis. I must remind myself to take the time to look upwards and to the north. One of my favourite images was taken in the small, remote town of Atikokan, Ont., while the community slept. I imagine there were very few observers that early in the morning. Those who dared to stay up and look to the north were rewarded with a glimpse of the northern lights—a show of colour rarely observed.

Finding beauty in winter also involves timing and an understanding of weather. On some cold winter nights, frozen lakes and landscapes only offer a dark, desolate view; however, with a little planning and on the right night, the landscape transforms into a colourful vista rivalled by few.

Winter also involves endeavouring to persevere regardless of the conditions. Snow did not deter my enjoyment of a Family Day fireworks display, for example. The fireworks were only enhanced by the gently falling snow, allowing me to appreciate them in a unique way. I wonder how many Canadians have enjoyed fireworks in the snow?

We’ve rounded up the most awe-inspiring Northern Lights photos from across Canada.

3 / 4
northern ontario winter - Hockey rink in Atikokan, Ontario
Photo: Richard Main

Good old hockey game

While growing up in a small Canadian town, friendships and a sense of a community were also strengthened and flourished during winter. I played hockey on outdoor rinks with no limit of players—everyone with a stick played. Looking at an outdoor rink now brings back great memories of running into the shack to warm up, walking through the snow with skates on to get on the ice and, yes, the many now exaggerated glories of our skills. Winter made these memories possible—it was a season to look forward to.

Don’t miss this heartwarming tale of hockey in small town Canada.

4 / 4
northern ontario winter - Richard's granddaughter Charlotte making snow angels
Photo: Richard Main

Making snow angels

Winter provides a stark contrast to the other seasons, which I was reminded of by a comment my son made while he was living in California. He said that there is no need to ask about the weather. It is the same every day; sunny and hot with a good chance of more sun and heat. Here, I look past the first impressions of the forbidding cold to the season’s deeper beauty; the contrast of the cool blue tones of snow against the warm hues of the sun. Sometimes, winter is simply beautiful. From the pastel hues of an early sunrise to the bursts of colour spread on winter’s white canvas.

The season also offers an opportunity to explore our beaches and coastlines without the crowds. They are a white winterland waiting to be explored, providing solitude and time for reflection. I am truly fortunate to find these paradises nearby, to pause and to just breathe. I appreciate how these moments allow me to feel more connected to my surroundings.

I need to remind myself to adopt a positive attitude, plan ahead, dress for the adventure and just get out there. Remember, winter is an integral part of the Canadian experience. This is where we live. I’m heading out now to make some snow angels.

Next, check out more shots that showcase the beauty of the Canadian winter.

Originally Published in Our Canada

Newsletter Unit