A Spring Walk at Colonel Sam Smith Park

As the songbirds fill the air with spring sounds, the sun peaks through the buds and leaves, dappling light along the pathway.

Spring is not my favourite season at all. With itchy, watery eyes, stuffed and runny nose, sneezing and the works, it’s definitely not pleasant for any seasonal allergy sufferers like myself. But the silver lining to this season is the beauty that we see all around us as flowers start to bloom, buds appear on branches, and little furry animals scurry past us occasionally stopping and turning to show us their best side.

A flock of cormorants fly in front of the Toronto skyline.

One early spring morning I took a walk through Colonel Sam Smith Park to see the sunrise—and to hopefully catch a glimpse of the green heron that had been spotted here on numerous occasions. Spoiler alert: I did not find her anywhere in the park! My aim was to capture some tranquil and fleeting spring moments that I felt captured the season well. Big, bold landscapes like above may be breathtaking to see, but these quiet moments with just you and Mother Nature also offer some spectacular photographic opportunities. I hope to share with you some of my findings in this blog post.


As the sun rose above the horizon, its golden rays lit the leaves in front of me. Because the leaves haven’t fully matured yet, we can see the individual shapes of them, which I feel makes for a more compelling image. Being able to frame the city skyline and the sun in two different openings in the leaves was just a bonus.


fffA sunrise from Colonel Sam Smith Park.

Looking for unique patterns in nature can create interesting photos. In this photo below, the dimly lit background produces the perfect backdrop to create a silhouette of these sumacs. Do you notice the dual coloured branches here? The left side is brighter and more orange-coloured than the right side because of the direction of light. This adds depth to these branches, and creates a more impactful image overall.

Sunrise glow with

When photographers talk about the quality of light, we refer to the light as being diffuse (soft) or hard, and warm (orange) or cold (blue). Early morning light tends be on the warmer side (like in the photos above), and softer compared to mid-day sunlight. I hope you can see these qualities in the photos in this post.


Sleeping Swan Amongst the Giant

My favourite image that I came out with on that morning’s walk might have to be this photo below; I call it Sleeping Swan Amongst the Giant. The bottom half is almost eery compared to the brightly lit top half. The scraggly branches fill the bottom, and envelope the lone swan sleeping in the centre of it all. The branches continue to the top where the backlit leaves offer a little respite to the dark mood. We can still distinguish the different coloured leaves which I feel add to the interest in this photo.

Sleeping swan amongst the giant.

If we take a wider view of the above photo, we get the one shown below.

To give you an idea of what this place is like, here’s a wider view of the area. You can see the water in the foreground, and the tree actually extends further out and upward from the cropped view above.

I would have liked this view much more had it not been for the open space seen above the swan. Too much of the sky can be shown through the leaves, making this a focal point for the image and distracting our attention away from the swan.

To Focus Or Not To Focus

Here’s a decision we all have to make when we take pictures. What should we focus on? You can see the two versions of the same image below by sliding the vertical bar left and right. Slide the bar to the right and you’ll see the tree leaves clearly in focus and lit by the sun. Slide it to the left and you’ll see the reflection of these leaves on the water below.

Each version offers something a little different. One offers the crispness and clarity of the leaves and the other offers the simplicity of water and its ripples.

Which version do you prefer?

Either composition creates a minimal photo where the focus is on the leaves.

I found these rocks jutting out from the still water not too far from the above leaves. The ruggedness contrasted with the smooth surface of the water with the colours matching well between the two. The neutral tones of the rock and leaves are highlighted by the splash of sunlight on the left face of the rock.

Rocks and reflection of leaves.

It’s All About The Greens

In the next couple of photos I was struck by the lush greenery that was in front of me, thanks to the backlit diffused light that created a soft glow through the leaves. With the ever so gentle breeze, the light shimmered throughout creating an unmistakable spring moment that literally stopped me in my tracks.

Can you feel it too?

This next tree only showed its true beauty when the sunlight side-lit the tree, creating more depth to the tree. You can see how the left side of the tree is brighter than the right side because of this. Ideally I wanted a completely blue backdrop to accompany the yellow and green, but I couldn’t do anything about the clouds on the right. Some may be averse to my choice of crop in this image, but I didn’t want the distracting ground and surrounding shrubs to take our attention away from the leaves. I loved how fine the leaves were since they were still in the midst of growing.

Tree side-lit from the rising sun.

Squirreling Around

Squirrels are always fun, especially when they unknowingly pose for you. I’m not sure what this gray squirrel was looking at, but he did not take his eyes away from whatever it was. Immediately after I took this photo he jumped up onto a nearby tree.

Your friendly neighbourhood squirrel eyeing something up above.

This American Red Squirrel is the smallest of squirrels you may see here. While it may not seem so in the photo below, he is roughly 3/4 the size of his gray squirrel counterpart. Don’t you just want to pinch his cheeks? The large rock sitting just outside the parking lot of the park always has bird feed scattered on and around there. This brings in the many squirrels and birds to this general area so you can start your wildlife adventures without even leaving the parking lot.

An American Red Squirrel gives me a look.

The final two photos below play on the various patterns and light that shone on them.

In the first image you can see the fine twists and turns of the branches with their flowers filling the top half of the image. This contrast offers something of interest to the image. This photo was also intentionally cropped so that the flowers filled the top edge of the photo without revealing the background, allowing us to better appreciate the intricacies of the twists and turns and flowers.

If you look closely you may even see that the branches naturally lead our gaze toward these flowers too.

While there isn’t anything particularly special with this image of garlic mustard, the early morning light that was shining created the warmest of feelings even deep within the forest of trees. These are still growing I believe as their leaves had yet to show themselves.

Layers created by the sun peaking through the trees.

A Spring Walk At Colonel Sam Smith Park

Have you been to Colonel Sam Smith Park before? Let me know what you liked about it in the comments below!

You might also like my Photographic Guide To Colonel Sam Smith Park, where I take you on a visual guide to all the great places in the park that I enjoy taking pictures in.

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