Expressing the Elusive (and some shots of Kelly)

Snow is an incredible thing. For as long as I can remember, I've been excited not only for the first snow, but for every time it would snow. Growing up in Wisconsin we got a good amount of it, and my love for the fluffy white stuff has only grown over time. Since relocating to Indiana, snow has been harder to come by, and I celebrate it at every opportunity. However it is more than beautiful and fun to play with; it is a photographic inspiration to me that stretches back years.

Starting in high school I would bundle up and trek out right after a fresh snow, and sometimes during the storm. Sometimes I would look for new places, but most of the time I ended up an a nearby monastery with tall evergreen trees and expanses of open space, covered in white. I shot there several times, and yet never created any photographs worth sharing with the world. Nevertheless, I was undeterred and wanted more than ever to explore the snowy world with my camera. 

Several years later, when I got my first 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (a staple lens for most photographers) where did I take it? Out into the first snow I could find, exploring nearby trails and enjoying the quietness of nature. Sometimes when I first started experimenting with long exposures, I'd press the cable release and just wait, still and silent, for the "click" of my shutter. In this time I learned to appreciate the stillness and the silence. Yet the silence and the stillness alone are not enough to captivate my attention for hours in the cold.

Ultimately the snow itself doesn't give me the motivation to get outside; it's my camera that does so. My camera provides the hope of being able to communicate what I feel and share with the world that beauty and joy. In an age where 15 million high-end cameras are sold per year and countless websites have collected petabytes of images, does the world need my snow photography? No. But each photographer brings his own background and emotions into his art, and sharing that with others is a way of expressing himself. Thus I constantly strive to capture what I feel when it snows in hopes that one day I can create images to help express those feelings completely. Frankly, I think my perpetual inability to do it justice over the years has fueled my desire to keep trying. Some photography can get stale, but in an area where I never have truly felt successful, it's pushed me to keep trying new things. 

In the past few years as I have transitioned into a Portrait Photographer, I've found more success in snow images since people as subjects come more naturally to me. I can capture their personalities in an environment that I love. This year as I was preparing and hoping for snow season, I approached our good friend Kelly to see if we could setup a session at the first snow.

I loved the idea because of the dichotomy; Kelly is one of the most perpetually cold people I know. During the summer, she will sit in a 75 degree room with a blanket and a hoodie on. She'll use a space heater to counteract the effects of air conditioning. She'll bring hand warmers to an ice cream parlor in August (OK, that one is unconfirmed). The bottom line is, I felt like she would be a perfect subject for portrait photography in the snow, and luckily she obliged. 

A couple weeks ago, central Indiana was graced with the first real snow of the season, and we went right out. It was ten degrees, the wind was horrible (windchill below zero), and the light was constantly changing, but none of that mattered - there was snow! We got out on the first day, and it's a good thing we did, since subsequent days failed to provide anything close to what we had. The snow melted quickly, the weather warmed up, and rain replaced my beautiful crystals of ice. Still I'm thankful for the brief time I was blessed with to create images outside in the snow. 

On a technical note, I opted not to attempt to match white balances for the session; we had periods of cloud cover (which I prefer), and others of sun. I decided to keep each shot true to its distinct mood, rather than trying to force something that wasn't there. In general that tends to be my approach, but it seems especially appropriate when trying to convey the beauty of my preferred shooting conditions. 

To me there has always been something magical about the snow. It transformed boring, lifeless, dreary, brownness, into something completely new. It took me somewhere, away from my life, my worries, and my concerns, and to this day, it still does. Some people have books as their way of escaping into an alternate reality; others have TV and movies; I have snow photography. 

Kelly, thank you for braving the cold you so hate and providing the subject matter for my snow photography this year. I'm sincerely grateful for the opportunity to capture these shots!