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Anyone who has wandered out into the woods after a fresh heavy snowfall will remember the sound – the sound of utter silence. As a someone who makes his home in Southern California, fresh snow still has that wondrous effect on me. Every time I see it I need to revel in it for a while, just to take it all in. The world becomes covered in such a beautiful white blanket that, for a brief moment, it feels like perhaps I shouldn’t disrupt its purity by stepping out into the winter wonder woods. But, soon enough the excitement grabs me and I run off into the silence, watching those giant snowflakes drifting softly through the air, perhaps even letting them land my tongue.

Snowstorm ~ Deschutes NF, OR
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24-105mm, tripod
Exposure 1: iso 100, f/16, 2.5 sec
Exposure 2: iso 3200, f/16, 1/13th sec
Notes: I use the high iso exposure to freeze the snowflakes, which were added onto the low iso exposure using the lighten blend mode, to reduce noise.

After spending several days in Northern California this winter, I headed up towards Oregon to meet up with a good friend, and photographer, Marc Adamus. An hour after I arrived in Sisters, OR, it started snowing – just in time for me to find some Ponderosas before we planned to meet up the next morning. As the light faded, shifting to a blueish hue, I finally found a suitable grove. Ponderosa forests are one of the most photogenic, and as it turns out, easy to photograph, forests imaginable. The open spacing, perfectly sized trunks, and beautiful red colors make them rival even aspens for beauty. Layers and contrasts come almost for free, especially with some fresh snow to simplify the forest undergrowth. Still, finding that perfect grove isn’t that easy!

Silent Night ~ Deschutes National Forest, OR
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 70-200mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/16, 16 sec

One of the things I was dead set on seeing during my trip up to Oregon was frost and snow covered trees. The Ponderosas have it easy in their sheltered groves. At high altitudes, however, the brave trees that manage to make a living take a severely harsh winter beating, surviving 50+ mph winds on a regular basis. These winds deposit thick layers, sometimes over 10 inches, of rime ice on just about everything that sticks out above the snow. In the Sierras our high altitude trees are so scraggly looking that they’re no longer photogenic, but the Oregon and Washington trees look proud and stately all the way up past the treeline. Of course, conditions need to be just right for them to look at their best. Fortunately, some big wet and windy storms came through during my stay, though snow levels forced us to abandon a trip in the Cascades and head for the much drier Warner Range instead. On new years day Marc and I started the 3 mile snowshoe trek up to the summit of Drake Peak, where we set up our tent in one of the most idyllic of you can imagine in Oregon’s highest highest mountaintop forest at 8,500 feet.

In a Frozen Fairytale ~ Drake Peak, OR
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod, headlamp
Exposure: iso 100, f/8, 2.5 min
Thanks Marc for lighting up the tent!

For the whole afternoon the mountain was covered in fog and clouds. The trees were like frozen ghosts, blending in with the white atmosphere. But we had high hopes for sunrise – weather reports suggested the storm should clear sometime in the night. Well, as night set in, the winds picked up – those 50 mph winds that is. The Mountain Hardware Trango held up without a wimper, even with only a few guy lines tied out. By morning the winds had died down and the fog started to break up, revealing a spectacularly silent and vibrant sunrise, which illuminated the sparkling white landscape with the most delightful hues of pink I’ve ever seen. These poor trees may suffer several months of the year, but they sure do get to see some spectacular sights, and a live a quiet, albeit windy, life.

Silently Suffering ~ Drake Peak, OR
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/18, 1.3 sec

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7 Comments to “In a Snowy Silence”

  1. Roberta says:

    Beautiful images – especially that last one. I just love the colors, and the slumped tree. It’s like it’s saying “enough already…..when is spring”; which is the same thing I say when winter gets too cold or too much snow!

  2. Excelent work and excelent adventure Floris!!

  3. Kari Post says:

    These are just beautiful. What inspiring work.

  4. Wonderful shots Floris! Especially love the pastels in the last one with the thick layer of rime. Been watching the development here closely and it soon will be peaking but the light hasn’t been anything near good. Always been a fan of campsite shots, so I really dig this one as well.

  5. Kent Mearig says:

    I like the new look. I think the top photo, the one I hadn’t seen before, is actually my favorite of the group. Just thought you might want a heads up that I noticed a few typos in this post. Keep up the good work.

  6. Floris,

    If you’re attentive and willing to drive on short notice, you can often find rime ice and snow in your (relatively) local area, up in the San Jacinto mountains. Keep an eye on NOAA’s predictions for Idyllwild and Pine Cove (zip 92549) and then bring a pair of snowshoes to get up into the high country. I lived there for eight years before relocating to Arizona; drop me an email if you want more details or suggestions. It’s not to these levels, but it can be quite striking nonetheless, like a little outpost of the Sierras only two hours from Pasadena.

  7. Gigi Remington says:

    Floris,

    I liked Snow Storm very much. It is such a pleasure to look at your gorgeous shots, each of which represents a moment in your life captured as you see it. I gave your calendars as Christmas gifts to friends and have one in my office. Your beautiful pictures brighten my day. I am looking forward to the “owl month” of April.