The Magic of Winter

"Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder--no matter how old you became and how much you'd seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered." --Candace Bushnell

I have a love-hate relationship with photographing in winter. I love the still of the forest as the snow falls. I love smell of pine in the air. I love the scenes, layered in a magical white, monochrome save for the colors of the buildings such as a red New England barn. But let's face it, a New England winter, or any winter spent in the northern reaches of the United States, is not an easy one. Going outside requires more layers of clothing, which make it more difficult to move. It's easier to slip and fall and get hurt. Just getting where you want to go can be downright hazardous if the roads are icy. When it's really cold, your mind works more slowly, leading to errors. So when I return from an outing in the cold, I feel that much more gratified at the images I was able to produce.

Part of the problem with photographing the winter landscape is the timing. If you don't catch the snow when it's fresh, soon after it's done falling, if not while it is still falling, it doesn't look as magical. Snow falls off trees, which instead of looking as if they've been frosted, simply look dead. You have to be able to move quickly and find your spot. If the snow turns to rain at the end of the storm, you might not even get your chance. This happened to me often last winter. So far this year I've had some better luck. This past weekend, my wife and I headed to Vermont, and of course I brought my camera with me. It snowed Saturday night and was still coming down when woke up Sunday, so we headed off to Stowe for some morning exploring in the snow. We came across Grandview Farm and the red barn against the white landscape was simply beautiful to see.

As we were returning from Vermont, I decided to take the scenic route home. Highly recommended. Rather than take the interstate, which, while a few minutes faster, is also the less direct way home, we took some back roads, which led us to the Kancamagus Highway, which, if you're going to visit New Hampshire, is a must-drive. The gorgeous views through the White Mountains are not to be missed. It was on one of the back roads before we got to the Kanc that we came across this hillside full of evergreen trees, covered with the snow that fell the night before. It was a gorgeous site to see so of course I pulled over and made a few images.

Probably the best part about photographing in the winter is the later sunrises. Before I left for Vermont Saturday morning, I woke up early to catch the sunrise at Willard Beach in South Portland. I had been hoping for sea smoke, but it wasn't cold enough. However, the sunrise was one of the most intense I have ever seen. The sky glowed a brilliant red before the sun breached the horizon, and the water reflected the color beautifully. While the temperatures- about 7°F- made it tough to work, the sunrise was well worth it. We'd had snow a few days earlier, which thankfully stuck around a bit. I spent about an hour out in the frigid temperatures photographing before I headed back to my car so I could pick up my wife for the drive to Vermont.

Winter at Diana's Baths

Earlier this month, I headed to New Hampshire to see what I could capture there. I stopped at Diana's Baths near North Conway and hiked in to the falls to find this scene. It was snowing lightly and while there were others walking through the woods as well, there was a stillness in the woods and near the falls that just made it amazingly beautiful to see. I worked several compositions but it wasn't until I moved to this small cascade that I found a composition I really felt good about. I was working quickly, as I'd already had a mishap with some snow crumbling beneath me and revealing that I was actually standing in the brook, with a wet foot. So I made this exposure just as the sun tried to peek through the clouds, and called it a morning. Seemed like a perfect way to end the day.

So, as much as it's harder to get out and shoot in the winter, I do enjoy it when I come back with these magical winter landscapes. Those southern photographers can laugh at me all they want as my teeth chatter, but they aren't getting these winter scenes like I am!