Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First snowfall. In communion.

It had been a gentle Fall; rain, wind and plenty of sunny days. No frost. All the more shocking when the temperature plummets overnight and the snow begins to fly. Morning`s first light illuminates the bedroom with a cool white light, so different from the slowly waxing flicker that struggles to push the darkness aside that we are used to at this time of year. Time to jump out of bed and get the woodstove going and warm the kitchen up. It is bright and cold this morning and everything; the balcony, garden, trees and rocky knolls are transformed.

Before I light the fire, make the tea, I take the first photograph of the day out of the window. An early dawn panorama of big white trees. Firs carry their layers of white on fans, a complex arrangement of interlocking planes, while the bare maple trunks, branches and terminal twigs are careful white line drawings. An even grey cloud layer blankets us in silence. Before the snow can begin to degrade from this perfection I will be out and about recording this moment.

Even as I wander through our forest and later on a walk down into the valley I know I am taking Christmas card kinds of images. Partly this is on purpose, I need to select something soon for our season`s greetings mail out and that need is driving my vision today, but really it is all perfection and the novelty draws me to record the obvious. How pretty the snow is with a few bright leaves sticking out. How warm is the fluffed-up red breast of a robin in a landscape of white and cool blue. I am like a tourist snapping away at the tried and true and unable to see any other reality that might co-exist with quaintly costumed locals and dramatic canyons at sunset.

A few days later the novelty has worn off and a cold rain is pelting the snowy ground. A new pattern of white and green covers the ground under the somber tones of the now snowless forest trees. These melt patterns are more interesting to me, there is the possibility now of experiencing a voice in this landscape that speaks of something beyond pretty, beyond eye candy. I dress for the rain, slide into my winter gumboots and tuck my camera inside my jacket to keep it dry. Feeling the cold and soaking rain personally is an important part of the process if I hope to get close to what is happening here, and I need to do that, to cross over into the other, if I am going to understand what is going on and record an authentic image. No more a tourist in a winter wonderland, I am back home again.

To keep my camera dry, I find myself testing first with my eyes, mentally framing and then referring it to my inner editor. I am not staring at the world through a viewfinder with the camera screwed to my face. I am part of the world and not separate from it and this makes an immense difference. When I whip the camera out and quickly make a photo I have already checked it out and know that it is right. Up on the ridge of a moss and snow patterned rock outcrop in the forest the land pulls me in and guides my hand.

This morning there are still patches of white, flashing their morse code of dots and dashes in the shady places and the pond has rain puddled on its icy surface. The trees sigh and sway in the south-easter and the grey clouds slide by close overhead. Yesterday morning was the last hurrah of this first snowfall with its bright sun and the mist rising off the cold ground. I was there too, recording that moment of everlasting transformation.

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