Coming to Grips with Winter (and a horrifying ending)

I hate winter. I hate snow. I hate the cold, the dark, the icy roads, the shoveling and scraping but, most of all I hate the absence of color and aroma. This is why I love taking pictures in winter.

Yes, there’s the beauty of snow-capped and ice-framed trees…the sublime quiet of their form and texture. Like this…


But you can only take so many thousands of pictures like this before you say, “I want a living leaf. My imaginary kingdom for a living leaf.

And some color would be nice

So, beloved Canon 5D2 in hand, I ventured out into the cold Canadian winterscape in search of color (after kissing the camera of course) (and the Sigma 24-70 lens) (after having my lips stuck to my wonderful Kia Soul just a few days ago, I patted my Soul affectionately and said, “Good girl.”) (and then left my Soul behind).

I walked for miles. And miles. And miles with a song sitting vaguely at the edge of my mind, but ever elusive. I traversed vast snow-shrouded fields, trekked to the summits of cloud-touching snow banks and giggled as I made now-angels to mark my path so that I could find my way back.

All this within the borders of Freddie Beach, a small city perched precariously at the edge of the Earth.

Just as I was about to scream, “Oh shit!” to the gods and those who haunt the forests with snowmobiles and snowshoes…and thermos full of tasty hot chocolate (which, at the time, was sitting safely on my kitchen counter wondering wtf)…I spotted the color. It was muted and almost shy, like something recently birthed from the frozen ground.


I quickly cleaned my lens and set my camera to ISO 200 (it was overcast), f/11 (to bring out a world of detail), 1/240 (because I was shaking from the cold) and 70mm (because there was no way I was going to struggle across that wasteland of white up to the subject).

I think, at one time, this might have been an ice house…a structure used to keep winter within its walls year ’round to preserve food. Or it might have been someone’s pot garden…a structure used to keep summer within its walls year ’round.

I took three pictures, using different compositions. I rejected the two with dragons flying out of the door. They seemed so out of place, and I would have been accused of gratuitous Photoshopping.

It wasn’t until I processed the image that I saw it.

A dust spot…rearing its ugly head at the top left of the image. Just as I was about to eliminate it with the Spot Remover, I thought, That’s not a dust spot. That’s a dragon flying into the void of another Canadian winter. So I left it in…for those who still believe in dragons. See it?

Back to the moment, though, I suddenly had an urge to crawl under my bed with a thermos of hot chocolate and wait for spring to arrive.

When I arrived home…the hot chocolate was gone and I had a feeling of something ominous present. And I heard a voice, “Serves you right, Biff.”

I looked at the counter behind me. Sitting on it with a terrible smile was…the fox! And beside him, smiling just as evilly was…the soul-sucking editor of the Twisted Tails Anthologies…J Richard Jacobs.

He ground his teeth together and said, slowly, coldly, blood-suckingly, “Hello, Biff.”

(To be continued)


A Mission From Trees

Have I mentioned yet how much I hate winter?

“Biff…we get it,” said the fox. “You’ve told us over and over…you hate winter more than Windows 8.”

“Whoa now, fox,” I said. “The only thing in the world that’s as hateable as that is Windows 8.”

So, I guess I’ve mentioned how much I hate winter. I mean, It’s cold, dark, slippery, wet, icy, odourless…you have to wear 50 pounds of clothing, none of which includes sandals…oh…and get this…my friend Gary Stairs just came in and added one more thing about winter…it’s colorless. How could I have forgotten that one? I’ve shot winter pictures that have provoked people to ask what process I used to convert them to black and white…and they didn’t believe me when I told them they were in color. At least, until I hit them over the head with my camera several times, yelling, “It’s color! It’s color!” I’m really sensitive about these things. And my camera is heavy.

So…winter. It’s here. And I’m still waiting for summer. But you can’t always get what you want…but by jeezus…I’m going to get what I need. I need to get outside with my camera. I love the candid people portraits, but I dearly love nature. And trees.


“What about trees, Biff?” said the fox.

They’re beautiful. They never stop being beautiful. They’re beautiful all year round…when they’re in full leafage in summer, green and glowing in the sun. When they’re erupting color in the fall and when that matrix of buds coats the branches with spots of green in the spring. They’re…

“Hey, Biff, aren’t you forgetting something?” said the fox.

“You’re really messing with my train of thought here, fox.”

“Uh…winter? Trees in the winter?”

Anyone have a good recipe for fox stew?

OK…trees in the winter. I really hate to say this, but trees in the winter take my breath away. Especially with a white coating of snow. I love the contrast, the delineation, the emphasis on structure that you don’t get with full foliage. In the summer you get form, shape, texture and color. All of which is pretty damn cool, but not as mesmerizing as when you can you can see right into the physical essence of something that predates even me.

I just stood outside Reads, under a tree with light snow packed gorgeously on its branches, and closed my eyes, listening, feeling, smelling…opening myself to the tree. After a couple minutes the tree spoke to me in the form of a large patch of snow plopping onto my head. But hey, if bird shit is supposed to be lucky…

My head is wet, but I’m not going to wipe it off. It’s a sign. I’m going to treat it like a christening and a calling and write holy things about trees. But not with words.

With my camera. This is what I need…to get outside with my camera every chance I get this winter and pay homage to the trees.

I inadvertently started this morning…before I knew that I was on a mission from the trees…

winter-5 winter-6 winter-8 winter-9 winter-7