Sunday, 24 April 2016

A Winter View from the Road: the power of black and white

Winter does not start on the solstice.  By the shortest day of the year, I've been driving to work in the dark for six weeks or so and there have been a number of snow storms.  Any time the temperature approaches 0 is a cause for celebration.  Nor is the next day (when the day is one minute longer) any indication that winter will soon be over. Some times Mother Nature will oblige with a chinook (not as often or as effectively as for Calgary) and melt all the snow, but wise people keep the boots, winter coats and mitts near by until April.  And my Vibe wears his winter tires from mid October to end of April.

It’s tempting to only see the misery of a northern Alberta winter.  By early November, it’s dark again for the drive to work and the first snows are covering the ground and changing the colours of fall to a stark black and white. Temperatures drop below zero (Celsius) and it becomes a battle with Mother Nature to survive until spring which will be five or more months away.

Thank you to the friend of a friend on Facebook who posted
this glorious photo of the Dunvegan Bridge in winter.
How could you not love this country?
I choose to see winter another way, because otherwise why would I have continued to live here for almost forty years. The short daylight hours are precious with the sun low on the horizon making the snow sparkle.  The long hours of night make it easy to watch stars (and the moon through the trees) and to catch the glorious sunrise and sunsets.  The black and white landscape has a beauty of its own, whether combined with the early winter fogs lifting from the river or when combined with the mid day sun. The paths we have hiked in the summer are completely different when visited on snowshoes.

I had tried unsuccessfully to catch the fall birds, but this
fellow just showed up as I was checking out the old buildings.

My favorite photo this winter.  Taken from the driveway just
a few days before daylight saving - so the sunrise was reflecting on the
ice and snow.  The next week it was back to driving in the dark.

Looking up (at the tall evergreen between the parking lot and work)

To live here, you adapt to the cold and the unexpected snow/sleet/freezing rain/slush.  My little Vibe, like its predecessors, leaves the safety of the driveway to venture out on the early morning highways often before the plows and sanders.  Only once this year did we have to turn around – we’d waited for sanding of the freezing rain coated road only to be stopped half way by a major accident which had closed the highway.  Vibe wears his winter tires and I have my gear that I know will keep me warm if I have to hike for an hour or two. In the back is the shovel, booster cables and tow rope for good luck that, touch wood, have never been used.

I took these photos in early November with the first major snow fall.  Vibe was proudly wearing his coat of salt/snow/ice like the veteran of six winters he is. I loved how desolate it looked when in reality I was on the north east corner of town.  The fog obscured the baseball diamond to the west as well as the houses just beyond. 

Yes, first snow of winter had left this much snow on the road.
Vibe was the first car along this path.

If you look with the right eye,
even the muck that clings to the bottom of the car
 has texture and beauty.

On another morning, I had pulled off at Brownvale to clean my headlights and to let the traffic behind me pass -Vibe and I are very cautious on icy/slushy/not yet plowed roads.  This photo looks like I am the only one on the road, where in reality the highway is just behind me.  I took this photo of the moon but my eyes didn't see the rest of the picture in the dark - my camera did though.

Most Novembers we spend a weekend in Jasper.  Sometimes it is still fall and we hike the quiet trails of the off season.  This year, the early snows gave lovely views and the challenge of hiking in “a bit too much snow for hiking boots but not enough for snowshoes”.  The local elk were camped nearby and with only us on the paths they calmly let us take photos. Not on my drive from home to work, but within walking distance of the highway.

We were really hoping that this fellow would not mind
us walking on "his" road.  He was determined to stay here and
 we wanted to walk past on the other side to get onto the trails.

I don’t know if catching the super moon this fall had me more observant, or if this winter has been more blessed with clear skies for the full moons, but it seemed like every morning there was an opportunity to snap a few more moon views.  Some I set up with my little tripod, but most of the time hand held would do.  I’ve discovered an odd habit of my camera that it wants the sky to be blue, even when my eyes see the world as black.  I can trick it by focusing on different parts of the scene, but perhaps this is telling me to figure out how to set exposures J

From the driveway with the moon peeking through the
branches of the maple tree.

All my eyes could see was the lights and the moon in the dark.

Of course, the view from the road would not be complete without some more weathered buildings.

Why you should get out of the car and check what you have
seen in passing a million times.  I remember these little orange
cans going in about thirty years ago - a project to give places for
birds to build nests as the trees were being felled to make way
for farmers' fields.  I discovered their real purpose - to mark
where buried cable is, which isn't as romantic.

And a quick check on the birds that visit our back yard.
Late winter and this little fellow is choosing his favorite
 seed from the pile that has been knocked down from the
bird feeders. First you search for your favorite (desert)
and when that is gone, you come down to the
ground and eat your veggies.

This jay thought he was perfectly safe in the middle of the crabapple tree.
Looking for bugs, I think.  He didn't realize that I was on the other
side of the window.  With a bit of careful focusing, I caught him
through the partly closed venetian blinds.

Playing with (Christmas) light from the same window.
Last, some fun ice on the roof effects from late winter.  Our patio has a metal roof and when it is warmed by the sun it becomes a snow slide.  This day, the snow stopped part way and made some lovely bumpy ice sculptures.

Next up, spring.


  1. Canada is so beautiful! I haven't been there in summer yet but it really does come alive during winter!

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