With a clearer atmosphere, sudden shifts in temperatures, and partial cloud coverage, winter sunrises can produce some of the most glorious colours. In this post I take you through a winter full of sunrises.
As the world turns, the sunrise location gradually shifts over time. In this multi-season series of posts, I will take you through the various sunrise locations as seen from the west end of the city of Toronto, following the sun as it moves throughout the season, and from one season to the next.
[ Winter | Spring | Summer | Fall ]
December 21 – March 20
Officially, the winter season starts December 21 and ends March 20. Whether the weather follows this calendar date is another story! Using The Photographer’s Ephemeris, here’s a visual representation of where the sun rises, as seen from the red pin, which is the Humber Bay Arch Bridge in the west end of Toronto. The grey pin is the CN Tower, shown for reference purpose only.
The approximate time of the sunrise is written below the date. The light orange line indicates the direction the sun will be at; December 21 and January 1 sunrises are very close to each other, hence the thicker line in the image.
To illustrate these sunrises I’ll show you sunrise photos from various places along the lakeshore.
Out in the open
If you’re seeking the sun to rise somewhere near the CN Tower, wait for spring or summer since it will never rise there during the winter months. Winter is known for the sun to rise out in the middle of Lake Ontario (as seen from the Humber Bay Arch Bridge. While this doesn’t allow us to capture pretty pictures of the skyline and the sun, it does however allow us to capture the beauty of the sun with just Lake Ontario.
The photo below shows the sun covered by clouds—which might often be the case during shoulder months—but some clouds are desired, as it can help reflect the rays of the sun yielding in beautiful colours.
December 20 sees the sun at its furthest point away from the city. At this point you can see the sun looking out towards the lake—and if you’re lucky, the spillover of colours from the sunrise may just reach the city skyline too. December, being the start of winter, tends to be cloudier than usual so don’t fret if all you get is a week full of overcast sunrises.
Now we are getting into the core of the winter season. With temperatures well below zero degrees celsius we typically have lots of snow on the ground, and ice forming along the shores of Lake Ontario. During warmer winters it is not unusual to have no snow, but typical winters in Toronto calls for some pretty great photo opportunities. During extreme cold winter days, we can get a lot of different weather phenomenon (steam fog, steam devils, sundogs, etc.) making photographing sunrises a blast.
February in Toronto continues off from January with cold temperatures, snowy conditions, and icy shorelines. It’s another terrific time for sunrises, as it slowly inches its way closer to the city skyline. By the end of the month, the sun will be seen over the Toronto Islands (as seen from the Humber Bay area)—still a little too far away from the city buildings though.
One of my more popular images was taken on February 1, 2019 where the ice-covered branches on the trees created the perfect framing for the city of Toronto during a most beautiful sunrise. The sun, although rising well away from the city, was strong enough to cast its rays on the clouds giving off a beautiful pink-purple hue. The small gap right at the horizon allowed some of the yellow to pop out of the clouds.
March is a transition month from winter to spring. Earlier in the month we may still have snow covered landscapes but that will quickly melt away as the weeks go by. Chances of seeing the snow and ice along the shores will decrease as temperatures slowly increase over the month.
The end of March will also see the sun move towards the city skyline giving you a chance to see the sun within the outskirts of the downtown sky risers.
While winter can bring some harsh temperatures and conditions, I take advantage of them by photographing the uniqueness of what most people try and escape from. I hope these photos can inspire you to get out in the winter time, even if it is for a short stroll in your neighbourhood park.
Stay tuned for my next instalment in this series: Spring Sunrises in Toronto.
Do you enjoy taking winter photographs, or do you prefer to stay indoors in the harsh winter storms? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Pin the image on the left!