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Quiet Landscapes

Winter images that capture the contemplative nature of the season
Quiet Landscapes

Cook’s Meadow, Winter Sunrise, Yosemite
Annette Bottaro-Walklet
The elm tree in Cook’s Meadow strains under the weight of a heavy snowfall at sunrise following a classic winter storm in Yosemite Valley. An exotic planted by the park’s early European settlers, the tree’s spreading branches bear an uncanny resemblance to the profile of Half Dome, making it a popular visual accent year-round. There was at least a two-foot snowfall that made navigating with a view camera and photo backpack all the more challenging for Annette, who was up to her waist in the white stuff. But she was fortunate not to have to travel to be there. For the best results and fewest headaches, it’s essential to be on location as the storm breaks, because in all but the rarest situations, the freshness is gone in minutes. With the advances in weather forecasting that do a much better job of gauging snow-lines (the elevation where it will snow), it’s possible to better anticipate what’s coming and secure accommodations before the storm arrives.
Toyo 4×5, 90mm Angulon, Fujichrome Velvia

Music is the space between the notes.
—Claude Debussy.

Winter is a season of silence, where one celebrates absences and delights in solitude. It’s a season of long shadows, simplicity and space, of energy and magical transformation.

Aspen Trunks and Shadows, Grand Tetons
Keith S. Walklet
The warmth and low angle of the late-afternoon light in Grand Teton National Park transforms a clone of aspen into a painterly scene of color and form. With the low angle of light, the absence of foliage and a white canvas to paint on, winter is the season of shadows. Tightly framed to eliminate any distractions, this image of aspen trunks is simply a collection of lines and shapes. Viewed straight on, the lines would have all been vertical, but by shifting around off-axis, the vertical shadows climbing the slope become diagonal, introducing depth and dynamism. There’s a color relationship at work, as well, when the sun is shining. Cool, blue shadows contrast with the warm color and temperature of direct sunlight.
Pentax 67, 135mm, Fujichrome 100

It’s no secret among friends that my wife and I are most comfortable apart from the clatter, and rarely are found crossing tripod legs at popular vistas, so it’s natural that winter is our ally, a coconspirator in dalliance, delay and quiet contemplation.

Elm and Snowstorm, Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite
Keith S. Walklet
Weather makes for dynamic conditions—if one can shelter equipment and focus on creativity. Blizzard conditions in Yosemite hide the valley’s immense granite walls and reduce the color palette to shades of gray. Wild weather can transform recognizable objects like the pines and famous elm tree of Cook’s Meadow into nothing more than a celebration of pattern and texture. A long lens compressed the scene, and a fast shutter speed froze the oversized flakes between the photographer and the trees, creating a screen through which to view the scene.
Pentax 67, 300mm, Fujichrome 100

Granted, we had the good fortune to have a front-row seat to all its glory for 14 years as residents of Yosemite National Park, and we had the luxury of time to get to know our home intimately, how the light moved through the day, the cycle of the seasons and the mechanics of storm behavior. Those moments, some captured with our cameras, and many others simply recorded on “neurochrome,” are now woven into our DNA.

Hoar Frost, Rose Hips, Idaho
Keith S. Walklet
Frost coats a thicket of wild roses mid-winter in the Boise foothills. In a frosty or snowy landscape on an evenly lit day, hints of color peeking out of what appears to be a black-and-white scene can surprise the viewer, who at first glance might be lulled into thinking the image is monochromatic. The soft light of open shade makes it easy to see into the shadows and appreciate the delicate lines that are the essence of the image.
Pentax 67, 135mm, Fujichrome 100

We’re quiet by nature, and winter, more than any other season, speaks to us. The transformations that happen over the course of days, hours or even in minutes make it easy to maintain a sense of wonder, and inspire reverence and, occasionally, the desire to do nothing but curl up with a mug of something warm and just watch in awe.

Frosty Cottonwoods, Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite
Keith S. Walklet
It’s the freezing and thawing of snow in the valley that leads to the growth of ice crystals on the grasses and, in this case, cottonwood trees. As snow on the ground melts in the daytime, it introduces a lot of moisture into the air. When temperatures drop overnight, the moisture condenses into clouds of fog and then freezes on the twigs. Repeated cycles of freezing and thawing can result in ice crystals four to five inches long. “Echoes,” similar shapes or patterns that are repeated in a scene, are always interesting to me. In this case, I chose to highlight the relationship between the irregular surfaces of the cliff outlined by snow and the filigree of frosty cottonwoods in the foreground. As is often the case, I’ve cropped out the sky, creating an illusion that the cliff is even higher than it is.
Pentax 67, 135mm, Fujichrome 100

We both revel in the silence, the serenity and the slower pace of winter, which makes it much easier to appreciate special details, whether it be the gentle bend of snow-laden branches or intricate patterns in ice. Though many of our earlier images can be considered iconic, we aspire to be more poetic than documentary.

Snow Shadows
Annette Bottaro-Walklet
Buried beneath nearly two feet of snow, the irregular surface of a meadow is reduced to a series of gentle mounds with dappled shadows from nearby trees. Intrigued by these sylvan shapes and the quality of light, which was bright, but diffuse, Annette used a 200mm focal length to isolate simple shapes. The resulting combination reminded her of the ropy sections of a flowing river.
Nikon F3, NIKKOR 70-200mm, Fujichrome 50

To see more of Keith S. Walklet’s and Annette Bottaro-Walklet’s photography, visit