April 10, 2018

Sunny, 28 Degrees, Calm Winds.

On days like this it is truly a privilege to live in rural Michigan. Walking through our little village and up a dirt road to a beautiful woodland on a day when pristine snow drapes every branch is a real joy. There is an atmosphere of profound peace, especially early in the morning, when the sun is just rising and the light is still colorful and soft.

A streetlight created this effect. 

Last night, as my wife and I were getting ready for bed, I looked out the front windows to see three or four inches of fresh, fluffy snow on everything. I was not expecting this and it had an absolutely magical look. For some reason, the sky was brighter than the snow on the trees. It was a look I’d never really seen before, mostly for lack of observation no doubt.

You can still see the buds on this branch. 

I grabbed my camera and walked around the block taking pictures in the strange night-time light. Everything looked incredible. I had to shoot at a high ISO and with the aperture wide open, so I don’t know what the images will look like, but I’m hoping for something interesting. If it were not for this project, I would never have left the house at that hour to photograph.

I like the weird night sky color and the light from a streetlight. 

I resolved then that I would try to get up early and catch the snow on the trees before the sun and wind knocked it off. I was able to get up pretty early. I skipped my shower, grabbed a cup of coffee and got out the door before the sun was up.

See how soft the light is here. A little ground fog at center right.

As I leave the house, the light is beautiful and the landscape looks like a frosted cake. The sun is lighting some clouds in the east with shades of orange and purple and I can’t wait to get to the woods. I put Jamie on a short leash and we hustle up there, trying to catch the early light.


When we get to the woods, I shoot the road as I always do before stepping into the woods themselves. When I get up into the small meadow that starts my off-road walk, It is spectacular. There is a soft fog floating above the ground and the light is gorgeous. I take a few quick shots, probably doing the scene a disservice, because I want to get down to the woods and the marsh where I know the sun will be rising and lighting the scene brilliantly.

See how delicate the light is with the sun just above the horizon?

We hustle down to the spot by the Pine grove and the marsh where the sun streams in across the landscape and afford a lot of good scenic vantage points. It is beautiful at this time of the morning. The light changes minute by minute as I scramble from one place to another, trying to capture the feel of the morning.

Just a few minutes later and the entire scene has changed. 

Yesterday I noticed the extra detail I got from using the Canon 5ds. I also noticed that many of my shots were subtly blurred from hand holding a long lens. So today I decided not only to use the Canon, but also to carry my tripod. It’s a lot of extra bulk and weight, but I’m hoping for really sharp and detailed images.

Its all about the light.

I wish the sun would just pause at this hour of the morning. I hate to have to rush when things are so beautiful. I had to walk past some beautiful scenes to get down to this place, but it’s the only thing to do.

The light is still warm and colorful when I get there, but it’s quickly becoming brighter. It’s still beautiful, just different. I shoot until I’m satisfied that I have what I need, then I hike back up to the road and take some more shots up there in the brighter light. The sun is touching the upper branches now and the scene looks completely different.

The sun is like a fire here.

Big clumps of snow are now dropping from the trees and pelting me as I stand in the road. It’s a good thing I got up early or I would have missed the pristine snow. As I walk home with Jimmy, the sun is lighting the tree brilliantly, and the sky is getting bright blue. It’s still beautiful, but now the snow is eroding off the branches and it’s not quite as beautiful as it was an hour before.


All in all, a beautiful 12 hours or so of snow. I honestly will miss the drama and beauty of snow when spring finally arrives here—if it ever does. Snow on this date is not really terribly unusual here, but we still feel surprised and disappointed when it happens. This is a little later than usual, I’d say, and we have yet to have any warm weather this spring. And that is a little unusual.

Now the sun is really up. Completely different again.

I have to mention Jamie here for a minute. He has been so well-behaved and patient as I’ve done all this photography. He was always a good boy, but now that I’m stopping all the time, standing in the middle of the road for a few minutes, asking him to come to me so he won’t be in every scenic shot. He’s done it all and with incredible calm and graciousness.

When I’m taking my road shots now, I don’t even bother with the leash. He stands quietly by my side. He never runs up and down the road. When cars come by, he stands quietly. He knows to stay out of the way. When I finally reach into my pocket and pull out his leash, he comes to me and looks up at me with his beautiful, soft eyes and picks up his nose so I can slip the leash over his head.


I always give him a little rub around the face and tell him what a good boy he is—and then he’s immediately ready to start traveling, turning up the road toward home. What a great dog.

On days like this where he is extra patient with my hurrying up to the woods and then stopping one place and another, I always let him stop more often on the way home to sniff and pee wherever he wants. It seems the least I can do for such a good dog.

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