Monday, January 4, 2010

Whiteout Over Skarf Mountain

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: What is it about the solitude of a raging blizzard like this that I find so serene? I shot this yesterday at Skarf Mountain. The blacksmith's shop is the back, red building almost at the center of the picture.

The trip had been dicey. Instead of taking 20 minutes it took closer to an hour. When I reached the farm the thermometer in my dash board, which had read a reassuring 9 degrees F. on the way over, had dropped to 7. When I opened the car door, wind and sparkling snow blew in and reminded me to put up my hood. This was fine, crystal snow that didn't stick or compact into balls. It just blew around. It was especially deep in the hollow of the farm road, and it was cool falling in around my ankles.

Because I didn't know how much cold I could take, I moved quickly. I sought a specific spot and composition, and when I couldn't find it I might have panicked, but decided immediately to drop my plan and fall back on things I knew. A broad, rocky, swamp of a brook divides the west field from the east field. If I could cross into the east field I knew the angles would work, but the whirling drifts of snow made the brook hard to see. Wandering into it would be an ankle buster at least. The bridge was near the back end of the field. My spot with good angles was just on the other side.

And so it was that when I set my tripod here, just east of the brook, the moment fell into place. It was as if a switch had been turned, and inside the whirl of wind, urgency and drifting snow was a kernel of downy stillness in which to stand, a place where the hollow, old barns might remember sheltering the herd through other storms and other times, a place where the forge might remember fire, a serene place to watch the magnificent expanse of wind and white drifting in front of me.

On the other hand, maybe it was just the quiet from turning down my hearing aides so they wouldn't whistle with feedback under my hood.