The color of winter

A year ago I wrote a post entitled A season of a different color in which I discussed the inception of this blog, my boyhood introduction to photography, and the color palette of winter. Regarding the last of these subjects I explained then that some of us who live in higher latitudes may reasonably observe that winter is the season most lacking in visual interest. Landscapes are bleak, seemingly lifeless, and days are short. I have learned,however, that if you take the time to look closely you will discover that there is color, texture, and interest in everything and that winter is, in fact, far from colorless, it’s just that its palette differs from those of the other seasons. One must learn to discern and to appreciate this difference. Below are three colorful images captured over the recent Holiday. I hope you enjoy them and that they make you realize that winter is every bit as colorful as spring or fall, you simply have to learn to see these colors of winter. Clicking on any of the gallery images will take you to a carousel view and the x in the upper left will bring you back to this text.

Among the barns in our area the one shown on the top, right is perhaps my favorite and has been the subject of several previous posts. It is a beauty and greets me on my travels to and from town. It will celebrate its quasquicentennial in less than a decade and is in active use throughout the year. I am a great admirer of old barns. They speak to me when I stop to listen. They tell me stories of friends, harvests, flood and drought, and both very hot and very cold weather … but mostly they tell me stories of hard work, satisfaction, and perhaps even reward. You can hear these stories especially well if you are fortunate to be able to explore the interior of a barn. The patina of time reveals much, and without words. This one sits in the middle of the Susquehanna flood plain. It has a panoramic view of the river valley and of Bald Eagle mountain to the south and the hills of Swissdale to the north. If you look closely you can see a holiday wreath prominently displayed for all those who drive past its facade. This image was taken before sunrise this past Wednesday morning. I had been diving back home when, as I greeted my old friend, I noticed that the morning sky behind it was painted in subtle shades of blue and purple pastel.

When compared to the others, the larger image on the left speaks in bold splashes of bright, sunlit, color. It was taken from a steel truss railroad bridge which crosses Pine Creek at Ramsey, along the Pine Creek Rail Trail. We had guests this week and when the weather had finally cleared, we thought a walk was in order. The sun was in-and-out, making conditions difficult for photography. I did manage, however, to get one nice shot just as we turned for home. This same bridge was the subject of another post submitted back in August. You can see, by clicking for a higher resolution version of the image here, just where I constructed a cairn in the steam bed … where the stream narrows and the increased flow forms a u-shaped riffle. The water was much warmer then and Sycamores were in full leaf, precluding a view of the understory which now reveals its hues of rusty red. In the absence of colors contributed by the deciduous trees, pines along the lower river valley and higher hillsides finish off this riparian palette in green.

And last, but certainly not least, I captured the sunrise yesterday as I made way to town for morning coffee. As I started off the farm I noticed a blush of pink to the east and over my left shoulder. I kicked myself for not bringing along the D600. As I continued the blush faded and I was relieved. Having thoroughly enjoyed my first few sips of coffee I got back into the truck and turned for home. I exited the main road and noticed the intensity of the rising sun, now over my right shoulder. Within just a minute or two the rumpled underbelly of the cloud bank was ablaze with color which cascaded over the near and distant hills. I pulled over and grabbed my reading glasses and the HX9V from the glove box. The first image was recorded at 7:35 AM and the eighteenth just two minutes later. Then, all at once, the color raced across the sky, over, and then behind me. This diffusion of colors had the effect of diminishing the overall intensity of each but they continued to blush blue, purple, red, and orange as they had at twilight. I have commented before on the luck which is often involved in capturing nice images … I believe that I was very lucky indeed on this particular morning.

13 thoughts on “The color of winter

    1. Brrr … you got that in one. We are expecting more snow overnight and then subzero temperatures tomorrow. Perhaps those of you living in the south and west know something that I don’t. Joanna and I were thinking of moving, someday, to New Hampshire (even further north) … maybe we should rethink this? I envy you your warmth … but, then again, you have many more 100+ days than we do during summer. Life, in absolutely every way, is a trade off! What say you? D

      1. I notice the high heat and humidity more than I did half a lifetime ago, but my body is much better at dealing with 100° than with anything even close to freezing. For other people the reverse is true. I knew from an early age where my comfort lay, and I moved southward while still in my 20s.

  1. Wow, David what a beautiful set of winter images. You’ve caught three very beautiful but different palettes. I especially love the pale blue and pale green of the river shot … I would have loved some fresh winter colours like those today. It’s been grey and wet all day long here, not even a peep of sunlight.

  2. The bridge looks like a painting and very “two-dimensional”… again! I hadn’t recognized it but clicked the older post where I commented on the lack of depth. Is there something special about the bridge or do you always take photos of if at a time when the light does evoke this “illusion”?

    1. Very interesting, I just took a closer look at that older image and must agree with you about the lack of depth in the bridge. I think two aspects of post-processing are generating this effect.

      1. When sharpening the image I can ‘mask’ aspects that I want to be ignored by the sharpening routine … thus leaving them less sharp than other (unmasked) elements. So, I’m guessing I masked the bridge and other aspects of the background while concentrating on the cairn for sharpening. So the cairn is sharp and everything else is less so.
      2. There’s a control called ‘clarity’ which adjusts contrast in the midtones of the image. I think what I did was to selectively decrease clarity in the background (including the bridge) and selectively increase clarity in the cairn itself. The combined effect would be to sharpen and cause the cairn to stand out and to cause the bridge to have less depth and to dissolve into the background.

      So, your eyes do NOT deceive you! D

  3. Breathtaking! I enjoy it best when I look at an image and see what it makes me feel. Here’s what came:

    Creek: Cold and quiet. No need for snowshoes just yet. I look at the creek and wonder if it will freeze this year as I can easily imagine skating along it if the conditions were just right. Might get a few more of those hefty rocks like the ones you used and make some goals. Maybe some of the boys will join me for a game of hockey.

    Barn: Feels like mid-day and something tells me a short journey is just about over. Time to break out the camp stove an make some tea before moving on.

    Sunrise: You’ll have to give me some license here as my eyes see sunset instead (nothing wrong with distorting the facts a bit). I’ve cut a half-cord of wood today and have a lot of it on the slide behind my old ski-doo. Probably will chop some of it up tomorrow. For now, I’m just looking forward to basking in the heat of the wood stove for a while.

    And, yes, all three impressions were not total fiction but reconstructed; inspired by your images which, in turn, recalled a few memories, long buried …

    1. And isn’t that, after all, the ‘point’ of all things artistic? I’m so very glad that the images allowed you to retreat inside your head … if even for just a very few moments. This post seems have had something of a boomerang effect my friend … my inspiration provided you with inspiration which has bolstered my inspiration to keep on taking inspiring pictures. Many thanks, indeed. D

    1. Thanks Charlie … your words were a real ‘shot in the arm’ this morning. Here’s to your Holiday Season and a very happy New Year as well. A special word of gratitude for your specific mention of your impression of the quality of the images … few others take the time to do so. D

  4. These ARE beautiful images. The barn is my favorite. The white of the snow against the red of the barn evokes a timeless feeling. Just like a Norman Rockwell painting. Also liked the reflection of the mountains in the water, along with the sky. Gives it nice symmetry. And yes, you were lucky to capture the mottled sky with all that blast if color. You have a knack for capturing the special within the ordinary.

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