When It Snows…

…In the Life of a Landscape Photographer

Living in Virginia now, I have noticed a wide variety of reactions from people when it snows. Some people are very happy when it snows, and wish it would snow more often. These people don’t even mind all the shoveling! Others are happy about it for a while and then the novelty wears off (usually about the time that snow plow has gone by for the last time, leaving a huge mountain of ice boulders in front of their driveway). The majority say,

“I don’t mind the snow, as long as I don’t have to go out in it”.

I am not in the majority, and I’m midway between the other camps. Since I was born and raised in Upper Michigan, I am no stranger to snow, and lots of it! I learned how to drive in the snow. In fact, my first driver’s ed lesson was during a snowstorm!

Winter in the Midwest

When we lived in southern Wisconsin, we saw a lot of snow there, too. We lived in a metropolitan area (Milwaukee) with a population of well over a million people. In both Michigan and Wisconsin, I could get around fairly easily when there was snow on the ground. It was a lot easier having a four-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive. There were some hills that had to be avoided during severe winter weather, but for the most part, I could get to where I wanted to go without too much difficulty.

As a photographer, I usually made my way out to one of the Great Lakes for sunrise shots, particularly just after a snow storm when there was fresh snow on the ground. There was always a multitude of places to visit. By being willing to brave the cold winter weather, it opened up more options for photography.

Winter in the Midwest can often stretch out into April. If I was not willing to go out at dawn in the winter months, it would be a painfully long winter without photography.

Winter in the Blue Ridge Mountains

After decades of living in the Midwestern States, we moved back to Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winters don’t drag out nearly as long and they’re not as severe as they are in the Midwest. As a landscape photographer, however, there are still some challenges to shooting in the winter. It becomes much more difficult to get to the top of the mountain overlooks in the winter. Most of the gates on the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed in the winter and with good reason. There aren’t enough patrols to keep an eye out for cars that might slip off the mountain road and over an embankment. Weather conditions at the higher elevations aren’t readily apparent to those of us who live in the valley.

After a winter storm earlier this month, I ventured up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to an ungated area. To see other photographs from that adventure, visit my Snow in the Blue Ridge Mountains blog post. That area of the Parkway was plowed, but one of the roads leading to the Parkway was not. It was rather exciting! It reminded me the winter roads that I traveled on in the Midwest to get to my remote destinations.

Another 1.2 miles further up the mountain. There’s a lot more snow!

Staying Home

This past weekend, we had another storm that dropped 7-8 inches of snow, but the last few hours of the storm consisted of sleet and freezing rain. The temperatures then dropped below freezing and this made travel dangerous. Mountain roads are often very narrow and there aren’t any shoulders. Having a four wheel or all wheel drive doesn’t make it any easier (or safer) to drive in icy conditions.

Since I couldn’t safely go out, I spent some time looking through photographs from last year when I could go out. I had driven out to Mill Mountain in Roanoke after a snowfall. I’m happy to live in an area of the country that sees the changing of the seasons and gets an occasional snowfall. It’s a blend of both worlds – winter doesn’t last forever, but when it’s here, it’s a photographer’s dream.

I almost didn’t see the star ornament as it blended in with the trees so well.
The snow really weighed down the branches of the pine trees on Mill Mountain

All photographs in this blog are available for sale in a variety of print sizes at Beautiful Sun Photography.

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