Snowshoes Are Perfect For Winter Photography         

Passing the shed

Afternoon sun

Melting snow

Barn View

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.

A Photographer’s Walk on Snowshoes

Snoeshoeing-2

Wind-swept-field-2

 

forgotten-barn-2

Tracks-2-

 

Almost a year ago to the day I wrote that I looked forward to enough snow-pack on the hills to snowshoe in, and as then, after a morning of shoveling a deep path to my chicken coops, clearing the driveway, and another path to the front porch, I was again taking my first winter hike up to the high meadow above my home.

Last year my January walk up into the meadow’s deep snow was on a sunless, stormy day. And I recall setting a high ISO so I could get a shutterspeed that would let me handhold my camera, and then returning home in a snowstorm.

This time I mounted a light-weight, 18-105mm lens on my camera, stuck an old tea towel in my pocket in case I got my camera wet from the snow, and headed out in the balmy minus 3C day under a bright, almost-cloudless, blue sky. And instead of struggling with low, flat light, my ISO was set at 400; and I added a polarizing filter to darken the skies, increase the contrast in the scene, and suppress glare from the surface of the bright white snow.

I trekked up the hill, and as I had so many times before photographed everything. When I stroll up into that long meadow I rarely see animals, however, they are surely there hiding, and I did hear a snort from something as it moved through the trees, and when I began to cross the meadow a crow cried a warning to hidden watchers, then everything quieted, and the only sound was from my snowshoes and my camera shutter as I photographed the Thompson River valley far below and the tracks I made through the meadow.

My last article was entitled, “What Makes Photographers Happy?” Photographers wrote me noting that, “there is nothing like a new lens” or “fun day with my clients”, and I can’t agree more. I must include the words of three bloggers that sent their comments to me: Northern Desert photography, Nature Photography by Martin Ryer and Jane Lurie Photography.

The first from blogger Northern Desert says that happiness is “The process of being out in nature searching for the shot, be it landscape or wildlife. I love the post processing, editing job. So fun to see what you can do with software. Love talking with and interacting with other photographers about photography.”

I also had to pause and think a moment about the words of blogger Martin Ryer who wrote about when he has“…results that exceed or even completely differ from any preconceptions I may have had. It’s when this happens that I feel myself entranced by all of the possibilities that photography offers.”

Blogger Jane Lurie’s comment is delightful, “…I’m very happy when my final result is actually what I conceived in my head when I saw the shot. Capturing that small moment in time is a beautiful thing.”

What great thoughts on photographic happiness and I agree with everyone.  As for me, I will include the following from philosopher and theologian, Paul Tillich, who wrote, ” Language…has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude ‘ to express the glory of being alone.”   To those words I will add that my quiet, solitary walk and photo excursion on snowshoes made me happy.

As always, I look forward to your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

A Short Walk on Snowshoes

Photos by Snowshoe 2   Thompson River Valley

windswept snow

Old car in snow

Log building in snow

My snowshoe easily broke through the two feet of snow that covered the well and down I tumbled into the soft snow. My years of experience as a photographer reminded me to “  at all costs”, and although my leg twisted and snow covered me, I held the camera up high and safe from the wet snow.

I should have remembered that hole. It’s not like I hadn’t been there many times over the years photographing the rusting 1930’s car. I would go there spring, summer, fall and winter in the rain, snow, and sunshine. I should have remembered where it was, but as usual, it’s always about the photograph. I had put on my snowshoes and hiked up the rolling hills to a long meadow not far from my home.

I have always liked snowshoeing. In my teens my friends and I would head out cross-country trekking for hours through the deep powder in the mountains.  I remember overnight trips where we dug snow caves to spend the night in (snowshoes also made great doors). Then we’d ski down long valleys and snowshoe up hills as we moved through the snow covered mountains.

My rural home is surrounded by wooded forests and rolling hills that are perfect for walking, or as today, snowshoeing. Each year I look forward to enough snow-pack to snowshoe in, and after another morning of shoveling a path to my chicken coops, to the car and cleaning the driveway, I decided it was time for my first winter hike up to the high meadow above my home.

The day was overcast, but today’s modern cameras easily handle ISOs of 800 and 1600, so the lack of bright reflection and low contrast on a snowy landscape made everything so much easier to see and photograph. And handholding is undemanding as one can keep the shutterspeed way over 1/400th of a second and still achieve lots of depth of field.

I mounted a 24-70mm on my camera and set out to photograph the snow covered hills on the quiet, cloudy day.  I like hiking when the only sound is my footsteps, or in this case, my snowshoes.

I hiked up and, as usual, photographed everything. When I stroll through that long meadow I rarely see animals, but I always feel as though I am being watched. That’s a good thing. This time a crow swooped low and circled me as I photographed the Thompson River valley far below. I am sure it was wondering what I was doing there.

I could see a storm rolling down from the mountains and photographed that also. Soon another crow appeared overhead, and this time cried a warning that I am sure was about the storm. And then it began snowing. There is nothing like standing in a forest meadow during a snowstorm; it’s quiet. The sounds from both the Trans Canada Highway and the CN Railroad alongside disappeared.

Thirty years ago, when I first started wandering that area there were three buildings, two old cars and an apple tree.  Now the struggling tree no longer bears fruit, someone hauled off the better of the two cars, one building fell down, and the last two are just hanging on.

Still, it’s a great place to snowshoe with a camera and I was having fun and the heavy falling snow didn’t bother me, I just kept wiping the water off my camera as I photographed the on-coming storm, the old buildings and the remnants of that old car and that’s when I fell into the well.

I think stumbling, bumping into things and sometimes falling while paying more attention to the subject being photographed than things in the way isn’t that unusual to those of us that participate in the exciting medium of photography.

I was wet, but I was fine, the camera was fine, and the snowshoes were fine, and best of all, I got lot of great winter pictures.

I’d really like to read your comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com