Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seeing Winter

Up until today, our winter had not delivered any covering of snow, and the iconic images are just not found on my walks.  Can you still feel the winter without snow?  Well, I think it is easier with a cold blue sky such as I found at Hog Hole on Cayuga Lake last week.

On that day, the blue sky was very transient and I soon was left with the grey sky.  Thankfully, the clouds had some features to them, and I could move to a black and white image that also conveyed a coldness.  What is missing is the feeling of the cold wind coming off Cayuga Lake.

I resisted the temptation to put a bluish cast to the scene. It seems cold already. (This is an iPhone photo, converted to b&w in Lightroom 4. )

A few days later, we had a lot of rain, a freezing night and then some sleet in the morning.  A hike at the nearby Steegee Hill Preserve found another cold image.  Those little white spots are balls of sleet. I can hear them hitting the frozen leaves, making a sound that is unique. It just sounds cold.

Most of the trails are on old logging roads with deep ruts from the heavy log skidder.  The ruts were   filled with water.  Overnight, the pools of water were covered with a thin sheet of ice.  As the rainwater seeped into the ground, a thin filagrie of ice was left, delicately suspended above the damp leaves. 

Today, heavy snow is being forecast to be on its way.  It will be easier to capture the feeling of winter, but perhaps I've found more creativity while facing less iconic weather.  I just wish I did not have to drive thru a snowstorm tomorrow.  Hopefully, I'll still have snow when I get back home.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Few Views of the Winter Solstice

As I walked through the now barren herb garden at Cornell Plantations last week, the statue of the Yarb Woman seemed perfect for how I feel at the winter solstice.

The Yarb Woman looks over her sleeping garden cleared of all the remnants of cone flower, aster and thyme. Her patina of red and blue seems the only color remaining.

The daylight is brief and the night long. Most days are damp and chilly. Our personal energy seems at a low point.

So, what is this winter solstice revealing to us at what feels like a low point?  We know the sun will return and start a renewal of life.  It seems a time to be optimistic in the face of long nights,  to remember  how we complain about the hottest days and to recall  how the heat can sap our energy.

Beyond the cold, the darkness and the lifeless fields, we know that life is still good.  It is really extraordinary.  The buds lie asleep on the beech and the azalea alike, and their time will come to our delight. Be patient.

This time is also a challenge to a photographer in love with the colorful blooms and the birds of summer. I have to find wonder in the subtleties of the season if I am to photograph.  This blog is my attempt to match the feeling of the solstice to the feelings in the photos.  (All photos taken with Canon G9 or iPhone4s.)

One morning, I took a walk around a nearby pond. The teasels remained for the gold finches to pick apart for seed. To match the feeling, I reduced the color to just a  hint, for the sun only added  a hint of warmth to the day.  That matches how the gold finches' color is also reduced to only a suggestion of their bright yellow breeding colors.

During my walk, the sun made an effort to warm the day, and some color did erupt for my camera's pleasure.  Note the lone green pine tree reflected in the pond beyond the ice.  It is our knowing perseverance.  How welcome is that little bit of green.

Yet, the predominate color is a dull red found in these dead stalks and a cold blue from the sky.  And, I realize it too is the color of the deer in winter. Not the warm honey red of summer, but a darker and more somber hue that makes it easy to walk past and not see the animal standing there.

I realize that I long for the first real snowfall this year to replace the ground's dull browns and to gracefully dress the brown weed stalks.  The last two days' rain would have been more uplifting as snow.  I grew up in the south were snow was the exception, and I did not get to really appreciate its gift to raising the spirits until I came to the New York's Finger Lakes. 

So, today, as I walked my neighborhood, the stark outline of barren oak trees made me pull out my iPhone and record how I felt on a rainy December day when there should have been snow.

I guess I am in a winter solstice sort of funk, and need some snow to brighten up the landscapes and give me reason to pull out the snowshoes for a brisk hike.   Or, maybe I need  to dance around a bonfire?