The Soul of Snow

I looked outside and saw trees, both skeleton-like and evergreen, covered in snow. It’s that time, bright white and deep shadow. This always makes me revert back to my Ansel-Adams-devotee days, to the clarity, the snap of his images, to the simplicity of his zone system, and to his spiritual alchemy of film, paper, and chemicals (I will always treasure the magical moment when an image emerges on paper soaked in developer).

I’d moved from that purity to the convenience of digital platforms. But I couldn’t forget the insight of a famous Canadian photographer, “If you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls, but if you photograph them in colour you photograph their clothes” (Ted Jones, the father of Canadian photojournalism). 

(Agree? I don’t, completely. The goal of all serious photography is to find the “soul”, the vitality of a scene, isn’t it? Still, I do find that seeing a scene in black and white, as a preview or with a viewing filter, often helps me to better sort what I see, how the elements touch each other. If it works for Scorcese, it can work for me.)

Off I went walking into the snow, looking for its soul, trying to again see in black and white and zones of gray. What did I see? My snow is not one, it is, sometimes…yet other times…

  • …Quietly dominant,
  • …Deep & wide,
  • …Legato,
  • …Staccato,
  • …On the move,
  • …In the way,
  • …Isolating,
  • …A welcome challenge,
  • …Pure sport for dogs,
  • …Slow to traverse (not for dogs or mice, but for me),
  • …An enticing trickster, with tire-spinning ice and leg-sucking, shoe-filling holes,
  • …Heavy, like rocks,
  • …Light, as air,
  • …Encapsulating ice-fog (when blown up into an coming wind),
  • …Monolithic,
  • …Vulnerable (rollable, chopable, pushable),
  • …Short-lived,
  • …Seeping in, flowing down, giving life.

On a lighter note, I was enjoying a tee-shirt I recently saw: “real photographers shoot black & white, eat sushi, and drink scotch.” Yea verily.

Go forth and enjoy what you see.

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