Winter is here and there is enough snow for me to put on my snowshoes and make my first winter hike to the high meadow above my home. Last January my walk up into that meadow’s deep snow was on a cold, -3C day, under a bright, almost-cloudless, blue sky, and I remember I was shooting with a lightweight, 18-105mm lens on my cropped-frame camera.
Yesterday I had chosen to mount a lightweight 24-85mm on my full-frame camera. Both this year and last I incorporated a polarizer to darken the skies, increase the contrast in the scene, and suppress glare from the surface of the bright white snow, on the partly cloudy +1C day that had me wishing I didn’t wear the extra undershirt.
I trekked up the hill, and as I had so many times before, I photographed everything. There are rarely any animals in sight in that long meadow. If so they can hear my snowshoes crunching through the snow on the long hill and stay hidden just out of sight. As there usually is when I begin to cross the meadow, a crow cries out a warning to the silent watchers. Then it got quiet with only the sounds from my snowshoes and camera’s shutter as I tramped around photographing the hilltop meadow above the Thompson River Valley.
As I have done so in the past, and too many times to count, I wandered around the snow-covered grassland photographing the two remaining structures from an old homestead under the looming Martin Mountain. I don’t know how long ago that area was farmed, or how old the buildings are, but there is what’s left of an old car that appears to have been wrecked and left behind some time in the 1930s or 1940s. There is an abandoned cellar, a barn, a shed, a fruit tree, a garbage dump, the detritus of a family’s life, a family who shut down their farm and left.
I like the solitary walk. I closed the front gate to our yard and started out on the road following tracks a lonely coyote made during the early morning hours. The tracks led up the road to a lower field and headed uphill following snowshoe tracks that one of my other neighbor’s must have made. I always expect to be the only human making tracks up there, however, this time I followed someone that took much shorter strides than me, eventually crossing the creek at the far end of the meadow and to keep going out of sight through the trees without returning.
I like snowshoeing. When I was a youngster snowshoes were the perfect winter accessory. We’d snowshoe up the hill, change to our skis that had been strapped to our backs and ski back down. I remember a trip with my younger brother Rodger, and a friend named Alan. We traveled for three days sleeping in snow caves we made by digging into snowdrifts. Snowshoes got us up hills and skis got us down.
All these years later I am still wandering the winter backwoods, only now I always carry my camera. Snowshoes are perfect for the winter photographer. I have also skied with a camera, but there is always the chance of falling and covering the camera with wet snow. At my age snowshoes are safer and besides it’s easier to position and reposition oneself while composing a photograph. Skis would not work as well.