The winter of 2009/10 is still quite young, and no one knows what it holds. But at this early date there is one thing I can say for sure – when it comes to snow crystal photos, it won’t be the worst winter ever.
I don’t feel like digging into my records to figure out which season exactly was the worst. I first started photographing snow crystals in 1997, and the first few years I worked on it were a real challenge – especially shooting very unforgiving color slide film. But there was one year when, even with digital cameras and a refined and predictable technique, I only managed two good shots. It’s just a question of what nature tosses your way, and if you are there to receive it.
That is part of the deal with nature photography, at least as I practice it. You take what the earth gives you. Sometimes it is generous; often not. And when not, you just get up and go back out, faithful that things will change. Whether it’s hunting for snow crystals, visiting a pine barrens, hoping to find wildflowers or dragonflies – sometimes nature is bountiful, sometimes not. And often you come home with nothing to show for the effort.
Some days I wish that it all could be easy. Maybe I could fly to places where the subjects I want to photogrpah are right there waiting. I’m sure dragonflies are on the wing somewhere. Snow crystals fall in perfection someplace else. Sometimes I feel that I lack dedication, and if I was really serious I would not just shoot photos in my little corner of the world, but rather would go where the subjects are, and really produce. It could be easy… and rewarding.
But if I have learned anything from observing nature, it is that the easy is the most unnatural. And if I have learned anything from art, it is that the product is a distraction and it is the process that is the most compelling. So while bleak winter days can be unrewarding; while a whole winter can pass and yield just two snow crystal photos; while there are days I return empty handed, again; and nights dark with doubt – ultimately it is part of the dance, part of the process, part of creation. No matter what, it’s a blessing and not to be denied just because there is nothing to show for it.
Yeah – I know – try explaining that to folks who ask “But what did you do today?” So I am happy to record in my journal – “2009/10 is not the worst winter ever wrt snow crystals.”
And so here we go – two more shots from Sunday night, embedded in this post. The session was not quite as productive as I had hoped, but there is at least another shot in the works and what the heck – did I mention that this is not the worst year ever when it comes to snow crystals?
A feeble mid winter sun greeted us early this morning, December 27, and then the clouds rolled in and brought an exceedingly light snow. Come evening, barely half an inch of fresh snow lay on the sidewalks and the car windshields. I had checked the snow throughout the day only to find it to be tiny, crunched-up bits of dusty ice. But stepping outside this evening to grab a log for the fireplace, I was surprised to see that the dust had changed over to some very nice snow crystals.
I fired up the camera and for brief intervals in the evening the dust gave way to crystals, which in turn gave way to dust again. Here’s the first shot of the evening:
Here’s another shot from tonight – the little specks all around it are the ‘dust’ I as referring to early – tiny bits of eroded snow crystals. They make the main subject look quite large – but it was well under 1/16th of an inch in size. More shots will be coming in the next few days.
For an interesting article on Heart-shaped ice crystals, check out The Story of Snow blog.
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
– Tao Te Ching
Saturday, December 19, 2009. In the small hours of the morning snow falls gently to the ground. I wake up, watch, doze back off. The shiny black streets and sidewalks tell me that it’s too warm for snow crystal photos. Maybe later, maybe in the morning, maybe in dreamland.
In the morning a thin layer of crusty snow and ice rests atop automobiles and cold garage roofs. The gentle snow persists – why not try, just a few photos…
Here’s the best of a very brief excursion – and I like it. I think it is one of the best photos I’ve made all year, and I say that in December. And I like it because it is unlike anything I have ever seen before, or done before. It is a one drop oasis in the vast desert of sameness – and yep, my photos – so many of them – are right out there in the badlands. Sometime a drop of water is more refreshing than you expect.
A lightly different take on the photo can be found at the Story of Snow blog.
Last week’s storm brought several inches of hard driving, wet snow to Kalamazoo. But after the blizzard passed temperatures grew more mild, and soon patches of grass began to emerge from the melting snow cover.
A slight dusting of lake effect snow a couple of days ago is all we’ve seen of the white stuff since then. I spent a few disappointing hours out in the light snow, catching only highly irregular crystals and the broken arms of dendrites.
Here’s the one and only whole crystal I managed to photograph – it’s a start!
If you are interested in snow and ice photography, you might want to hop over to storyofsnow.com and check out Jon Nelson’s article about photographing ice thorugh cross polarizers.
When I hold a camera in my hands I feel like I am in possession of key that can open up the wonders of the world. I feel all the more like that when there is something special, different, unusual and ephemeral about that key.
This summer I broke out a few of my last rolls of Kodak High Speed Infrared film. 35mm black and white film loaded into a glorious old Pentax LX – if ever there was a key capable of tumbling the barrels of the most obscure lock, this is it…
Oh well – not much to show for it. A stunted, shot up tree out standing in a scrubby field that I visit all too often.
To me the key might be an old camera loaded with expiring and extinct film. For others it might be the latest wonder digital camera and the uber-fabulous long lens. But in photography, keys are ever more available. And once you have that dream-bag full of keys, the real work begins: finding the locks…
Winter arrived a few days ago. It ripped into town at the end of a 50 degree day – blasting winds and a sudden drop in temperatures. Slush snow followed by pure crystalline snow blew in under winter’s skirts. Dragonflies na more.
The cold air came, stayed, and then got colder. Looking at the forecasts we are poised on the edge – and as we dive deeper we go into cold and then very cold in the next few days. I scramble around tying up the loose ends I left undone during the moderate, so reasonable fall…
One loose end is to pull out the *ist-D I use for snow crystal shots, wash up it’s sensor, and get ready for another round of snow crystal photos. But I also use this camera for digital infrared, and as I prep it I dive into the memory card and realize that there are a few shots from the spring there.
And so here is a shot of 115th Ave, all washed out in the spring rains, the dogwoods in bloom (obviously)… Shot taken May 5 - made today.
I just put the teacher’s guide for The Story of Snow online at storyofsnow.com. If it’s of interest - hop over there to grab it!
Saturday, November 28.
Winter gave a slight feint earlier this week. It grew cold on thanksgiving and that night a bit of snow fell – enough to linger for a few hours the next morning on rooftops, cars, and piles of leaves. But it was gone soon and here we are, the next day over, and it’s back to 50 degrees.
I was impressed to see dragonflies lingering-on last weekend – will they still be around now? Do the Autumn Meadowhawks stay until it is too cold to hang on any longer, or are their days numbered by some other measure? It seems that if all the other dragonfly species come and go based on the unknown logic that whirls behind the natural world, then someday the autumn meadowhawks will also just disappear for the season, even if it never gets cold at all.
They probably will – though it will get soon cold so who can tell which from what. But after last week’s successful hunt I ventured back out to the Allegan Game Area today, specifically to the Swan Creek Levee, to see if any Meadowhawks remain. It’s almost the end of firearm deer season (it only lasts two weeks) and the woods were already less crowded, though the road back to the levee was dotted with parked vehicles and occasional parties of hunters.
At 1 PM the thermometer in my car registered 49 F. (An hour later it rose to 52, and then dropped for the rest of the day.) The November sun hung low in the sky as we pulled into the parking area. I figure that the levee area is pretty safe during hunting season – the game preserve is to the north, Swan Creek is to the west, and the area due east of the levee is often flooded (it more or less is now.) There were no dragonflies in the parking lot and none in the field next to it. I made my way down to the levee, with the low hanging southern sun glaring in my eyes. A short way past the dam a dragonfly rose up before me. A few minutes later, two more rose up and then flew out over the water…
And that was it. Three individual dragonflies, but still - three.
I wandered to the end of the levee, and walked back with the sun to my back. One skittish Meadowhawk flit form rock to rock, sometimes landing on the gravel trail. The image above is the one shot I managed to get of it before it too flew out over Swan Creek. I’m guessing, that’s it for this year.
A couple of hunters wandered down to the levee while I was shooting, rifles in hand. Lookin at their orange jumpers and jackets, I felt a bit underdressed in my greeen shirt and blue jeans, with only a faded hunter-orange stocking hat on my head. Time to head home.
On the way back I drove by the field I affectionately call the Old Farmstead to see if the logging had begun. As I mentioned in an earlier post, several of the pines had day-glo ribbons tied to them, and logging activity had begun in the field directly to the south.
Sadly, the logging has started in earnest. The small parking area that I would slip into is chewed up into a rutty, muddy mess. I’m not sure why they bothered to mow the field because it looks like the trees are being cut down and then dragged across the fields. The very sandy soil has given up the plants that clung to it, and now a good portion of the field is just a torn up sandy mess. I’ve seen similar tracts in the other fields around Allegan – swaths were there are just ruts, open sandy soil, and few plants growing. I never knew where they came from – but now I do.
Oh well – they seem to only be taking pines at this time. Hopefully the large oaks will be spared. I can’t criticize the cutting of trees in a place where they were grown to be cut, but it’s sad to see a place that I enjoyed visiting being treated so roughly. I should have spent more time at other places, so to have something to fall back on.
Next summer’s reports will be from new locales…
Stylurus over at the Urban Dragon Hunter’s blog logged a new late-date for Michigan Odonates this year - December 1st. You can read his post here - be sure to read the comments since that is where he updates on his sightings.
The 2009 Signature Gallery is getting set up and soon will be open!
This year the gallery runs from December 5 to the 26th, with the Artist Reception on Sunday, December 6 from 12 to 5.
The address is 4644 West Main Street. Our new location is in the Westwood Plaza at the corner of West Main and Drake Road - near Mackenzies¹ Bakery and around the corner from Coney Island. The space was formerly used by Wild Goose Chase and most recently Quilts Plus.
I won’t be participating this year, except for the inclusion of the three framed prints. (Go figure - we finally snag a location between a Coney Island and Bakery and I miss out!) But I plan to hang out at the reception for a while.
Stop in and see the fabulous assortment of art objects in all media at the gallery!
For info about all things Signature, visit the website at www.signatureartistcoop.com
The Kalamazoo Nature Center’s Buy Local Art and Gift Fair is coming up in just 2 weeks. I’ll be on hand to sign books and talk about snow crystyal photography from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. The Art Fair runs from 10 to 4, and in the afternon the results of the Photoblitz contest will be unveiled. Holidays At The Homestead will also be in full swing, with live Celtic Music, horse drawn carriage rides, and other holiday festivities from the past at the historic DeLano Homestead. For more about the event, visit www.naturecenter.org.
And don’t forget the December 4 art hop at Nature Connection in downtown Kalamazoo!