Winter’s Grace

The solitude of photography in snow
Snow Forms, Yosemite
Snow formations on rocks, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California.

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I love to photograph nature during the winter. Emotionally, th quiet and stillness are calming and meditative to me. Here in the Yosemite area, the tourist traffic slows down and so the atmosphere is less frenetic. Over the years, I’ve made more Yosemite images during winter than any other season.

Visually, so many aspects appeal to me about the winter landscape. The bare branches of winter trees attract me to their strong lines and challenge me to compose images with dynamic graphic designs.

When snow covers the ground, it absorbs sounds and obscures many distractions, making landscapes more simple and sublime. When the su strikes the snow, especially at low angles, shadows and textures come alive. Rocks found along a river are transformed into sculpture.

The cold weather gives us another bonus of the season when ice forms an endless variety of patterns and designs on the often-quiet waters of winter. Exploring the frozen edges of rivers and ponds for magic designs in ice is a favorite winter activity of mine.

To visit William Neill's blog or sign up for newsletter updates on his Landscape Essentials course with BetterPhoto.com, and for information about his books, portfolios, new images and more, go to www.williamneill.com.


Black Oaks, Yosemite
Black oaks in winter, Yosemite National Park, California.

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When we photograph broad scenes in the winter, the images can benefit from the lines formed by bare trees that provide more graphic interest. If there’s snow on the landscape, then the brighter snow sets off interesting shapes, which again adds a stronger graphic design to landscape compositions. Yes, colors are more muted in winter, but I’ve always liked to create images with subtle or monochromatic color, so this is more of an advantage than a disadvantage for me.

The highlight of winter photography for me is when I manage to get out to photograph freshly fallen snow, especially before the snow is tracked up or melted off the trees by the sun. This freshness conveys a sense of the purity and wildness of nature. The photograph of snow forms shown here was made along the Merced River after a snowstorm in Yosemite Valley. Using a 35mm film camera, the highlighted shapes of the snow were isolated from surrounding distractions using a telephoto. I must confess that I made this image in 1979. I find it so rewarding to still enjoy some of my efforts from so long ago.

The photograph of oak trees was also made in Yosemite Valley after a snowstorm. I used my 4x5 camera to capture the wonderful patterns formed by these trees. I first photographed this set of trees 30 years ago, and now they have become old friends whom I’ve watched throughout so many seasons. I especially love their winter shapes, standing bare against the cold. I’ve often felt that nature's beauty is seen at its finest in winter’s elemental grace. Enjoy the season!

To visit William Neill’s blog or sign up for newsletter updates on his Landscape Essentials course with BetterPhoto.com, and for information about his books, portfolios, new images and more, go to www.williamneill.com.

 

William Neill is a renowned nature and landscape photographer and a recipient of the Sierra Club's Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography. Neill's award-winning photography has been widely published in books, magazines, calendars and posters, and his limited-edition prints have been collected and exhibited in museums and galleries nationally, including the Museum of Fine Art Boston, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Vernon Collection and The Polaroid Collection. Neill's published credits include National Geographic, Smithsonian, Natural History, National Wildlife, Conde Nast Traveler, Gentlemen's Quarterly, Travel and Leisure, Wilderness, Sunset, Sierra and Outside magazines. He is also regular contributor to Outdoor Photographer with his column “On Landscape”.

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