On and Over the Hills

"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle

January’s Downs and Ups

There are a couple of old saws often repeated by Albertans. One is, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change”. The other is, “It’s a dry cold”, with the implication that our frigid winters are much more tolerable than several degrees warmer in a humid atmosphere. (It’s another excuse for a good old prairie-versus-coast rivalry.)

Both are true and yet this month has attempted to belie them both. In decades past, winter was generally colder (see the second graph on this page). From November until at least March temperatures would generally stay below freezing, zapping us with bright sunshine on a -20°C day and blowing blinding snow at -10°C. It was true that the only constant was change but you really didn’t have to figure out what to wear each day other than a necessary decision with regard to that extra sweater.

The snow drifted softly and deeply for two weeks.

This January hit us with two solid weeks or more of daily snow and -20° to -30°C temperatures – a long spell of unchanging skies. As if we’re not all suffering from a little bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder or Vitamin D deficiency anyway, the lack of any blue skies, the accumulating depth of the snow and the bitter cold seemed to really take a toll on everyone. Spirits were decidedly low.

Then suddenly last week the temperatures swooped above freezing by several degrees. The sun came out for entire days and I managed to take a few pictures before the snow swiftly compressed and melted by inches.

I get to see the sun rise on the weekends.

Blowing snow melts on the windshield as the sun lights up the top of the weather front.

With the sun, came the wind, bitter and vicious. It was cold. Cold like I’m not used to. Thirty degrees warmer and the icy sting of moisture in the air was palpable on exposed skin. No number of extra layers seemed able to repel the penetrating humidity. So we can no longer say, “It’s a dry cold”, to describe our beloved winters, but we sure do know why we say it.

At the end of the week the mercury dropped again. The puddles and the moist top layer of snow re-froze into smooth, gleaming sheets. The moisture that coated everything froze and the moisture still in the air froze to it, thickening wires and needles and twigs. The sun hid beyond ground-hugging clouds and I got tired of waiting.

A dedicated dog-walker pushes on through streets that Public Works can't keep up with.

Sunrise and sunset still occur while I’m at work, so my only daylight fix is during my short lunch break. I hadn’t been out walking very much in January due more to the wind and snow (and possibly a bit of an energy shortage) than the temperatures. The odd time I did, I found very little inspiration in the flat gray world.

On Friday, however, I managed the better part of an hour away from work. The air was wonderfully still and the scene had brightened to white. Fat, bright frost coated especially the north sides of  the trees like fur. I still couldn’t go far: there was not enough time to make the circuit on snowshoes or skis in waist-deep snow, so I followed the snowmobile trails that circle the school yard at the edge of the bush. Facilitating my route while frustrating me with their thoughtlessly meandering and inelegant scrapes, I nevertheless shot frame after frame of whatever compositions I could find including what I consider the most unattactive kind of fence.

Going through my images at home however, I found that I had not captured the feel of the experience. So as I love to do, I ‘played’ with them. As readers know and is evidenced by the Flickr column on this blog at any given time, I am all over the place with my photography – no personal style to speak of. That doesn’t particularly concern me; I haven’t been shooting seriously long enough to expect to have found my way. Each image speaks to me with its own voice and I try to interpret it honestly each time. With Friday’s collection though, I decided I wanted to try to do a cohesive set. Just because. Here are the results. I hope I have conveyed a sense of calm, quiet winter.

Clicking on the last image will take you to my Flickr page and a description of ‘qámaniq’ – the important depression found at the base of conifers in winter.
The textures I used for these images were made and generously shared by Emma Cox and Jerry Jones.

26 comments on “January’s Downs and Ups

  1. Michael Mills
    January 30, 2011

    Was wondering why I hadn’t seen much of you on Flickr – now I know.

    But you certainly got a lot of beautiful images.

    • missusk76
      January 31, 2011

      Thanks, Michael. It’s been a blah month – work has sapped my meager reserves of mental energy, but I’m starting to feel a bit of spring inside even though the temperatures are back down in the low minus twenties.

  2. Bob Zeller
    January 30, 2011

    Cindy, that glorious sunrise photograph is phenomenol. What a beautiful image that brings back my memories of growing up in Michigan. I also the series of those textured photos.

    We have “dry” heat here, meaning the low humidity makes it more comfortable. It is correct, in that you don’t perspire, but it still pretty danged hot. Like standing in front of an oven. But I still prefer it over high humid areas, where the perspiration is very uncomfortable.

    I’m still not sure about dry or wet cold. I only know that when those arctic or Canadian northers (also called blue northers) blow through here, that wind goes right through my britches< 🙂

    I enjoyed your post.


    • missusk76
      January 31, 2011

      Hi Bob. Thanks for your compliments. Yes, our ‘heat’ is dry too although ‘heat’ might be stretching the term in comparison to the temperatures you experience. I remember a few weeks in Darwin, Australia during monsoon season when the temperature and humidity met in the high nineties – I think it was 95° and 95% humidity. It was almost unbearable. The stingers (deadly jellyfish) were in on shore, so we couldn’t swim. Crawling out of the pup tent in the early hours, we would wander in search of shade and water until the stores opened, hang out in whatever stores would not notice loiterers until the pubs opened and that would be the last move outdoors until well after dark and back to the pup tent! It was torture. I don’t know how the locals manage it, but I suppose you can get used to anything.

  3. photosbymartina
    January 30, 2011

    Wow….you know I was just thinking of you yesterday and here I’m happy to see what you have been up to or what’s been up to you! ;). Lovely sunrise, the colors just bring life to that snow. We have nothing to complain about when I see your photos. Although winter isn’t over for us anytime soon. I can relate to what you said about each image speaking to you in it’s own voice. I feel the same. The last images are neat, I like the look.

    • missusk76
      January 31, 2011

      Hi Martina. The seasons have their own challenges where ever you live. I do feel there are qualities to ‘our’ winter that I appreciate as much as I might complain. I did miss it the two times I’ve been in more tropical climates at Christmas and the one entire year I spent where seasons roll much more subtly. I suppose the answer is to adjust whatever you need to in order to minimize the negatives and appreciate the good bits.

      I went cross-country skiing yesterday when it was below -20°C. The sun was shining, the sky was blue with light, fluffy clouds and best of all there was no wind. The deep snow, having experienced the recent warmth, was nicely packed so that cutting our way through the bush was really quite easy, only drawing a few centimetres of snow rather than the potential thigh-deep drag! It was a perfect few hours.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention January’s Downs and Ups | Photographs and Words by Cindy Kilpatrick -- Topsy.com

  5. themichaellamcollection
    January 31, 2011

    Love those snow images, and that sunrise… wow! love those colours!

    • missusk76
      January 31, 2011

      Thank you, Michael. I haven’t kept up with my email at all this month and haven’t seen what you or Martina (above) have been up to. I do miss checking out the blogosphere and will be back at it soon.

  6. farmhouse stories
    January 31, 2011

    It’s interesting you talk about x-country skiing, as that’s exactly what I was imagining as I looked at your final few images. The scenes looked just perfect for jumping into, you really captured that middle of winter feeling.

    • missusk76
      February 2, 2011

      Thank you, Cait. My ski-friend and I call what we do ‘skiking’ rather than skiing because we’re really just hiking on skis. It’s such a great way to explore in the winter, although we do get ourselves into some sticky situations when the bush gets thick or steep. I can’t compare it to snow-shoeing, because I’ve never done that, but I do enjoy it very much.

  7. julianhoffman
    February 1, 2011

    It’s wonderful to see some of your images, and read your words, again Cindy. Accepting that sometimes we’re just not up to it, or the moment isn’t right, is a gift in itself. So often pictures and words are ‘put out there’ to keep to some odd idea that more is better. And that final set of textured images are really evocative and well worth the wait.

    I have to confess that the grey world appeals to me deeply; together with a friend who shares that sensibility we often talk about the “monotony of blue sky” only partly in jest! There is something very reminiscent of the painter Caspar David Friedrich about them. You might be able to find a painting of his from the early 1800s called ‘Winter Landscape’ which your last image reminds me of (minus the church!) online. I think you’d be quite interested; I’ve seen a real painterly depth to your images before and these speak to me a great deal. Lovely to see them and hope the winter lifts you before spring! Best wishes, Julian

    • missusk76
      February 2, 2011

      As much as I crave a hit of sunshine after many days of cloud, the grey world does have its own appeal. I’ve struggled at capturing that close, silent feeling in my pictures. Thank you so much for introducing me to Friedrichs’ work. I’ve spent some time perusing his work on the web and would dearly love to see some in person. His inspiration may have been different from mine, but I admire his ability to imbue his images with such rich spirituality and natural beauty.

  8. Augustine Bohonik
    February 2, 2011

    Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds

  9. pixilated2
    February 3, 2011

    Cindy, I enjoyed your altered images. They reminded me of all the old tinted postcards that my grandparents used to collect (which I now own).

    For Christmas Bob got me the Low End Photoshop to use with my infant photography efforts… It is a very slow process to learn. I would very much like to try some layering with some of my work, and have saved some interesting “textures” I want to try, but I have to figure it all out to be able to do so. Ah well, someday…

    As always, I have enjoyed your post!

    • missusk76
      February 5, 2011

      Hi Lynda. I have a box full of mid-century postcards from Trinidad that belonged to my great aunt. They are quite wonderful to look through. I still haven’t bit the bullet on Photoshop. I use a free program called Gimp, which has more features and possiblities than I’ve been able to learn in the year and a half that I’ve been using it. Ah – for more time to play! Thank you for your comment and your compliments.

  10. Shelly
    February 5, 2011

    Beautiful winter photos – I especially liked the dog-walker and sunset photos! Thanks for sharing

    • missusk76
      February 5, 2011

      And thank you, Shelly, for popping in and for your compliment.

  11. flandrumhill
    February 5, 2011

    Hi Cindy, Nova Scotians also use if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. Until recently, we managed to get through the winter with hardly any snow or extreme cold. We’re presently enjoy temperatures that are above freezing and are expected to persist throughout the week ahead. We just never know what to expect.

    Despite the presence of deep snow, there are those depressions under many of the trees known as Qámaniq. It is wonderful to learn the word for them from you. In past years, when the snowshoe hares were plentiful, they would rest in those places. They are still frequent hang-out spots for pheasants.

    • missusk76
      February 5, 2011

      I read on your blog how your Snowshoe hares are in a low swell this year. They are numerous here judging by their tracks. I seldom get to see them, and then only when they’re stealing ‘home’ at sunup. I have found little evidence of the grouse this winter. My guess is they’re sticking to thicker bush than I can access right now. I suspect they’re spending a lot of their time in the trees.

  12. Mike
    February 5, 2011

    Great shots – especially the sunrise. I got a bit chilly going through all of them. 😉

    • missusk76
      February 5, 2011

      Thank you, Mike. (But those were warmish days 🙂 )

  13. Rose
    February 6, 2011

    Simply stunning, the winter shots are amazing! And the one with the dog-walker is breath-taking. Well done!

    • missusk76
      February 6, 2011

      Thank you, Rose. The weather that day sure took your breath away. 🙂

  14. Inflation Silver Gold
    April 17, 2011

    Breath taking amazing, your pictures are some the best i have seen on the web in a while.

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This entry was posted on January 30, 2011 by in Processes, The Journey and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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