The treachery of ice

I don’t usually go hiking in the winter.  I’m rather attached to my fingers and toes, and I have yet to find a decent hat that keeps me warm and isn’t itchy and annoying.   When you add that to the lack of snow shoes or snow pants, it’s usually easier for me to just stay home and warm during the winter.  I’m not truly an outdoorsy type, I just act like it during the summer.

That said, I braved the 19 degree weather (with windchill of 16) today in hopes of some decent pics of the first “real” snow.  We’ve had snow, several times actually, but this is the first batch that actually stuck and didn’t melt overnight. 

I discovered a few more things I really don’t like about trying to photograph in the winter.  It’s cold.  Very cold.  My camera doesn’t like cold (or rather I’m paranoid that the thing is going to freeze into a plastic chunk.)  Did you know it’s really hard to hit the controls on a camera when you’re wearing gloves?  Manual focus is out of the question, and I think I stuck with one aperture the entire time. 

The worst part though, is the ice.

Most of my favorite hiking routes and areas have water somewhere in them.  I love water.  It fascinates me.  Ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers, puddles – all of it. The problem is, it’s covered with ice during the winter here.

Now, logically, that’s not a big deal.  Ice is easily recognized.  It’s clear, it’s shiny, it’s hard.  Easy to avoid, right?  Nope.

You see, ice is not wet.  Ergo, snow sticks on top of it and doesn’t melt.  Meaning, I can’t see the ice because of the snow until I hear this ominous crack sound.  If you weren’t already cold that crack sound is enough to freeze your blood because you’re instantly wondering how long you have before you die of hypothermia and your feet freeze off.

I’m usually an off-trail kind of girl.  If I see something interesting I’ll head over there to photograph it.  I have a decent sense of direction and can usually find my way back to the trail.  Assuming I can see what I’m dealing with.  If everything is covered in snow and ice, it’s safer to stick to the trails and not go exploring straight into freezing water.  And sadly, sticking to the trail is usually quite boring. 

I did catch a few interesting photographs when the sun came out long enough to cast shadows.  Thanks to the handy cattails, I knew exactly where the water line began and I could get a better photograph of the ice, snow, and fluffy cattails.  If I wasn’t already freezing, I would have tried to capture photographs of some of the birds happily pecking away at the cattails.  It seems that they don’t easily come apart on their own: birds help open the seed pods and spread the fluff into the winter wind.

And now, a few hours after I took this image, it’s snowing again.  Again!

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5 thoughts on “The treachery of ice

  1. …sigh…
    How I long for a locale with seasons. And by seasons, I mean the model of seasons taught to us in schools: cold, snowy winter; rainy, windy spring; warm, sunny summer; and a brisk, crunchy autumn.
    You hear stories on the news about how Florida is getting unseasonably cold weather. In fact that’s the story this time just about every year; it’s as if they expect it will be 70 and sunny all year there, despite over 500 years of recorded hurricane patterns to the contrary. That definitionally is insanity, trying the same thing over and over, hoping for different results. If they wanted that, they should come live in San Diego; it really is between 60 and 80 all year, with very few outlying days or precipitation.
    The problem is that when the sky is cloudless blue all the time, it is just as depressing as when it is sunless grey (though I can’t understand this, sunless grey skies, on the 2 days a year we get them, are my favorite days of the year).
    I love being reminded of seasons and few images capture winter (yes, yes, I do know that winter doesn’t officially start until next week, but tell that to the snow :-P) better than the frozen surface of a body of water in a slow-moving battle for supremacy with the vegetation fighting to survive at the water’s edge. I choose to believe that it was part of the God’s design that this aspect be captured on film; a series of still shots in nature, patiently waiting to be recorded in the and hearts and minds of those who slow down enough to notice it.

    Thank you for helping me experience a season I really have felt cheated out of being able take part in for much of my life.

    • I wish I could pack up some of this snow and ice and send it your way – we certainly would never miss it! I’m not too sure that you would still feel cheated out of winter if you could feel today’s bitter wind (16 degrees f with 15-25 mph winds.) I’d gladly weather swap right now 🙂

  2. Your photos are wonderful.

    I feel the same way about shooting in the cold–I can’t stand it. I worry about the glass in my lens exploding or snow and rain getting the camera wet, falling on the ice and breaking my camera, or getting frostbite. What I’ve done instead is learned to shoot indoors with natural light.
    I’ll leave the snow and ice shots to others with more fortitude. 🙂

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