Winter Scenes: Pros and Cons

Wagon in Winter, near Palo, Linn County, Iowa

I love a good winter photo.  Especially when you can grab the texture of the snow, and double-especially when you can catch shimmering glints of sunlight reflecting off the snowflakes.

Take this photo, for example:  I shot this back in 2005/06, my first winter in Iowa.  It is down the road from where my photo club meets, and I stopped and shot this on the way in.  There was something about the whole scene that appealed to me.  It evokes a peaceful feeling, a quietness.  It is actually somebody’s front yard, but is cropped well.  It also helps that it has the aspects mentioned above, the texture and the glints of reflective light.

Those are the pros.  But, I don’t have very many winter shots, because of the cons.  What are the cons, you ask?  Well, there’s only one.  It’s cold.

Yes, that’s right, I am a west coast, “first world” American, and I am not overly enamored with the cold.  It’s really that simple.  I admire photographers who routinely go out every week in the winter to get a shot.  That takes perseverance and dedication.  Then again, for many of these people photography is literally their bread-and-butter.  For me it’s more of a sidelight.  I still need to keep my day-job.

Take yesterday and today, as a case in point.  It’s been absolutely beautiful.  Fresh snow.  Fluffy-type snow, which is best for those reflecting sunlight glints I keep mentioning.  Clear blue skies.  Everything needed for a truly nice winter photo.  Unfortunately, it’s also been about -2 degrees… and that’s the high!  Wind chills have been -20 degrees, and lower.  Brrr… I’ve been staying inside, working on my websites and blogs, and catching up on things that way.

Many of the winter shots that I do have were taken when I was driving from one place to another and happened to have my camera with me, which I will continue to do.  Stay tuned.  🙂

Local Flavor

Statue of Nile Kinnick at Kinnick Stadium, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa

Keeping in theme with Iowa, I took these about four years ago.  They’re at Kinnick Stadium, home to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.  This is at the entrance to the north end of the stadium.  It is named for alum Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner, who died in World War 2.  According to Wikipedia, it is the only college stadium named for a Heisman Trophy winner.

The statue is very striking.  Very dignified.  The location is kind of tight, and you don’t really have many good choices for vantage points and good composition.  You’re somewhat stuck with what’s there.  Move back too far and you get several extraneous things in the shot that seriously detract from the shot.  While this can be disappointing, there are still several good opportunities, you just have to look up for most of them.  Looking up at a subject isn’t always a bad thing.  It adds something of a larger-than-life perspective, which works well in scenes like this.

I like the three layers in this shot.  The plants in the foreground add a pleasant aspect that helps break up the hard lines of the stadium structure, in a pleasant way.  The statue itself being the main focal point.  The ‘sign’ on the stadium wall providing self-explanatory context.  I have three shots total from this location currently processed and available, and two of them can be found on my nostalgia page, at least for now.

I’d like to go back and get some more shots from around the stadium, not to mention the historical aspects of Iowa City, itself.  I don’t get down to the Iowa City area nearly enough.  A nice local flare is always interesting, and helps break up what can be the monotony of farms and barns and windmills.

More Old vs New

Old Barn and New Windmills, near Saunemin, Livingston County, Illinois

My ultimate goal… well, one of them, anyway… is to find a really good shot of an old windmill and a new wind turbine.  That would be awesome.

In the mean time I have also been looking for anything that showcases the contrast between old vs new.  (I love then-and-now photos!)  I recently found an old barn surrounded by dozens of new wind turbines.  I was able to get several nice shots from various perspectives.  This is one of my favorites.

Missy and I were traveling between Champaign, IL, and Ottawa, IL, having taken side trip in a more purposeful venture to eat at Wienerschitzel.  Their chili cheese dogs and chili cheese fries are that good, good enough to travel an extra night and four hours out of our way, but I digress.

Anyway, here we are gliding down Hwy 47 and I’m scanning the countryside for something to shoot.  I spy this barn down a gravel side road and decide to check it out.  Parked about a half mile away, and worked my way up so that I could get several perspectives.

As I got closer I see a hawk perched on top of the roof ridge.  It seems to be very interested in this interloper invading its personal space.  After several minutes and shots it takes off… in my direction.  The bird swooped down about 20 feet above my head.  I’m not sure, but I think it might have been sizing me up to decide if I was small enough to haul away for a tasty treat later.

The hawk eventually settled in a safe distance away and left me unmolested.  Was kind of a relief.  Not only was I going to be dinner, I was also left alone to finish my shoot.  I finished up, hiked back to the car, and continued on the trip, and the result is the shot you see here.

Red Barns and White Snow

Red Barn and Farm in Winter, near Ely, Linn County, Iowa

Makes for a nice contrast-y combination, don’t you think?  Everything is easily discernible.  The barn just “pops”.  There’s a sense of stillness in this photo.  It’s obvious this is a working farm, as evidenced by the items carefully stored outside.  There’s also a sense of… almost hibernation.  Activity is on hold, most equipment has been stored inside protected from the elements.  You can bet the farmers are inside, enjoying the warmth that modern life affords them.  One would think they’re sitting by the fire, sipping a hot drink, partaking in a favorite leisure activity, and basking in a well-earned rest, but they’re probably actually actively planning and doing paperwork for the next season.  No rest for the weary, as the old saying goes.

I shot this a couple years ago not too far from where I live.  This weekend I was finishing up re-processing all my existing photos that I currently have offered for sale, and came across this one.  I’ve always liked it, the contrasts and all, but never knew what to do with it.  The white sky overwhelmed everything else.  The eye was drawn too much to the white sky and away from everything else.

By cropping it to a 2:1 ratio mini-panorama format the whole feeling of the photo is reversed.  Now, the white sky is just a complimentary aspect to the overall scene.  Now, the red barns dominate the scene and draw the eye, as it should be.  You’re now focused on the primary aspects of the image.  We have wonderful processing tools available these days, and can manipulate in ways that just a few years ago were unimaginable, but it’s amazing how often something like a simple crop is what makes the difference.