White space

hook-shaped sapling

Snow is a harsh editor, bringing out the most dramatic details and burying the rest. This black gum sapling grows less than ten feet from a trail, but I’d never focused on it before: an antelope in mid-leap, looking back over its shoulder.


From almost nothing in the depths of the hollow, the snow grew thicker on leaves and branches as I climbed the side of the ridge. A hundred yards beyond the “antelope,” I surprised a doe that had been bedded down under white mounds of mountain laurel. For once, her tail matched the color of the woods, and it was the grayish-brown of her winter coat that flashed alarm.

snow textures
(Best viewed at larger size)

What begins as erasure, a laudable minimalism, becomes positively rococo as every last detail is freighted with a burden of white space.

snow on witch hazel blossoms

Witch-hazel blossoms are capable of self-pollination when cold prevents the late moths, flies, and beetles from visiting. Is it possible that an early snow like this could also do the trick, if it were to soften and slide down a branch just so, from one flower to another? Well, probably not. But I like the idea of snow as a matchmaker, for some reason.

snowy trunks

Going back along the ridgetop, I relished the silence and the fact that, for once, I didn’t break it just by walking: the fallen leaves were as muffled as those still clinging to the trees. From time to time a leaf-sized clump of snow would plummet to the ground, making a leaf-shaped print, like a promissory note.

20 Replies to “White space”

  1. lovely, lovely photos.
    I liked the red oak(?) and pine(?) standing together, like they are whispering into the quiet white.

  2. Aah, I can just FEEL the silence, the scent and the whiteness, thanks to your fab photos and perfect descriptions. I want snow! It’s so much more magical than dreary endless rain.

  3. The moment I saw that first picture I immediately thought of the chi wara headdress of the Bambara people in Mali. And it is, of course, an antelope too!

    Wonderful pictures. Snow? you’re soooo lucky. Alternating pissy and torrential rain here with now, at night, loud thunderstorms.

  4. Gorgeous photographs. Yes, antelope – and the cathedral of branches and witch hazel spectacular too.

    It is the same here in the VT Champlain Valley – branches laden and furred, deer a brown alarm.

  5. Beautiful. I’ll have to be content with enjoying yours I guess — judging from our recent lack of precipitation we’ll probably get skunked again this year.

  6. No snow here yet, but I certainly enjoyed seeing your very well-composed photos! The first three photos almost made me wish for a good snow… though I think I’d settle for vicarious snow through your eyes!

  7. Astounding. My favorite is the third. Did you fuss with it to make it completely black & white? It pulls me in. The texture in all that contrast is incredible.

    The first’s composition reminds me of some old gorgeous tapestry with a hart looking back over its shoulder.

    Wonderful walk, and photos, and thoughts.

  8. Thanks for all the kind comments, y’all.

    Cady May – Yes, red or scarlet oak (those aren’t its leaves in the background) and pitch pine.

    marja-leena – Well, the magic only lasted one day, of course. Yesterday it was back to rain and drearyness.

    rr – I’m familiar with that headdress. I suppose it might’ve influenced my seeing. Good call!

    Karen – Well, we’ve been in a bit of a drought here too, you know. So who knows?

    ..deb – Yes. I have Photoshop and fuss with all my photos to a greater or lesser extent. That two-tone black-and-white is accomplished through a property called Threshold. I also adjusted brightness and contrast and used a little Unsharp Mask (50%, 3-px radius).

    The sad thing is that I am still a total idiot as far as the more complicated adjustments on the camera itself are concerned.

  9. The sad thing is that I am still a total idiot as far as the more complicated adjustments on the camera itself are concerned.

    That’s what Photoshop is for. When I worked on video shoots, the standard line was “fix it in post” (as in post-production). Since I can’t actually see anything up close to me anymore, I can’t see what I’m shooting (no viewfinder, just a display), so I’m not only an idiot with the settings, I’m also blind. (Must get Photoshop one of these days…)

    Great shots, and nice commentary. Looks like it was beautiful. It’s early in the season. There’s sure to be more.

  10. Thanks for stopping by. You’re right in a general sense, but it still is damn helpful to know about things like white balance, photometry, and auto-focus mode, even if you let the shutter speed and depth of field adjust automatically.

    You really should get Photoshop, if you can. It’s so much fun!

    The temperature got up past 60 today, but I gather the cold is due to return tomorrow and bring some snow with it. It would be great if we had a couple inches on the ground by Monday – opening day for regular rifle deer season in PA.

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