Winston's Winter Wonderland

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Winter's Song
We were supposed to get an inch or so of snow overnight on Friday.  Well, by the time I left work that evening, the roads were already starting to get a little slick in places.  The grass was already covered up and the trees were bathed in this wonderful wet snow covering.  It was the kind that I had been very hard pressed to get pictures of over the years.  Usually, the snow that we get is either too dry to stick to the trees like this, or the rain that usually follows knocks it down too fast.  As I was coming home from work, I was looking at the trees against the white sky and wishing that I had time to get some pictures.  Unfortunately, by the time I got home, there was not nearly enough time to get out with the camera before the light faded away.  I just knew that the next morning would be a different story as the snow fell off of the trees.

Bark in the Blizzard
Well, when I work up, I looked outside to see what changes had happened.  What was this...the trees were still covered in snow, and the sky hadn't changed much at all.  I was going to be able to get some pictures today!  With the roads questionable, and my truck still clean, I didn't care to go out in search of pictures with the possibility of getting involved in a crash (I don't trust other drivers on slick roads).  Instead, I opted to stay home and do a little walk around the neighborhood and search out the trees that I found interesting.  A tree is a tree after all.  No since in driving to photograph something that you can walk out of the house and photograph just as easy.

Textures of Winter
I started out with the intention of looking everywhere to see what I could photograph.  The first part of my hike took me probably 200 feet from the front door of the house.  This was an open lot with trees all around it.  I went ahead and pulled out the camera and set it up with the 70-200mm lens.  I skipped adding any filters because with the snow coming down a little bit, I needed to keep the hood on in order to protect the front element.  There wasn't much need for any filters anyway as everything was very evenly lit with the thick clouds above.  The snow was actually reflecting the same light that was in the clouds, so I could pretty much shoot in any direction and include any part of the landscape with the same exposure.  The trick became picking out compositions.

Chilled Path
For the most part, I knew that I was going to be shooting woodland shots and predominantly monochrome compositions.  There were exceptions to that plan.  When it came to the monochrome choice, there were a lot of exceptions with splashes of color that added to the image.  I found a lot of interest in the woods around the house, and to be honest, this was the first time I had really tried to shoot in the neighborhood.  The snow made things much more interesting than they normally looked.

The thing that I most enjoyed about my little walk in the neighborhood was the absolute quiet that surrounded me.  The snow absorbed so much of the noise that was normally in the air leaving nothing but the crisp morning.  It was like going on a hike in an empty forest, I absolutely loved it!  The longer I was out, the more the snow started falling though.  I was sure glad that I had that lens hood on.  The rest of the camera was getting pretty wet, but nothing that I was really concerned about thanks to some pretty good weather sealing on the body and lens.

Winter's Fright
What I was finding was that the snow was doing a great job at simplifying the backgrounds in the images.  You could still make out the snarl of limbs, but the white made the primary trunks and branches stand out.  The textures of the bark really showed through which was one of my goals for this outing.  I wasn't really wanting to capture the typical snow scenes as those are always done, and I was already getting tired of seeing them on social media.  The last thing that I wanted was for my pictures to blend in with everyone else's from the area.  I had to put my little spin on the winter weather.

Snow Coatings
I don't get out to do much snow photography normally.  With my primary job as a Police Officer, I have been forced to drive in the white stuff every year for the last 18 winters.  I am confident in my ability to get around, but having seen the wrecks caused, I would just much rather avoid the situation all together.  In winters past, I have looked out of my window and wished that I had gone out to capture some of the snow shots, but had never really considered just going for a walk in the neighborhood before.  Thanks to my new "woodland" techniques, I am much better prepared for the types of photographs that I have been getting so far this morning.

Overlapping Seasons
I think at the furthest, I had walked about a half mile from home.  Considering I had never gone and shot around the neighborhood I was really surprised to see the image count adding up.  When it was all said and done, I had over 50 frames shot, and for the most part, they were all different compositions, and mostly different locations.  It didn't take long before I was already counting this little morning walk as a success.

Since I was starting to feel pretty good about how things were going, I started to get a little creative in my compositions.  I started to find interesting trees in the landscaping of lots, as opposed to the wild trees on the edges of properties.  Some of these actually turned out pretty good.  I did have to be careful of the framing to avoid including the houses in the compositions.  These were not quite rustic enough to actually fit my style of photography.

Radiating Winter
As I was shooting the scenes and looking in the histogram, I was pretty sure that there was going to be minimal post processing needed on these.  The contrast was already there, and the lighting was already so even that there wasn't much need in dodging or burning in the images.  It really did just rest on the compositions and what I found to put in front of the lens.  Some scenes really worked well, others didn't quite have the visual strength to make it past the original culling process.  However, I have to admit that I came back with well more than the half dozen I was expecting to.

Woodland Hush
Just as I was getting good and warmed up, I started to think about some other things that I could photograph.  I was seriously thinking about an old farm house that is about a mile from my house.  I've photographed it several times in the past and have always had pretty good luck with it.  I wanted to try a few things with it, but I didn't have a very clear idea of what I was after.  As I was shooting the trees, I considered some different compositions and techniques that I could use.  The sky wasn't going to work in any of the compositions because it was just too featureless to loom right over top of the house.  That meant that I would be shooting more intimate shots.  That was good since, I was going to have to keep my long lens on due to the snow that was falling from the sky.

Three Trees
Speaking of snow, it was falling pretty heavy at this point.  So much in fact that I had to stop down the aperture a little bit to slow the shutter speed.  I was seeing that the falling snow was starting to show up in the photograph and soften the overall look of the image.  While that would work for some photographs, I didn't want it to show up in these.  The longer shutter speed was able to eliminate the snow flakes as they fell.  But looking at the rate they were falling, I realized that it was getting too heavy to really continue.  I checked my weather app, and it was showing snow for the next couple of hours at least.  I wasn't seeing my chances improving for shooting the house any time soon.

Winter's Contrast
I abandoned the want for photographing the old farm house for the time being.  The plan was to go home and wait the snow out, hoping that I could venture out later in the day.  I left the camera in the garage, just in case, to keep condensation from forming on it, and inside of it.  When it became apparent that things weren't going to change, I went back out and packed it up.  I'll possibly be going out tomorrow morning to try some shots of the barn with hopefully a blue sky above it.  Who knows, I might get two treks in this weekend without even putting a key in an ignition.

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