Create: Learning to See Winter

There are times when I try to do nothing. Just stop and stare. What is happing in my immediate vicinity? What am I missing? What can I learn? We now live in a location with four distinct seasons. And winter here is no joke. One of the entertaining things about living in Northern New Mexico is that most Americans have little knowledge of this place. So, when I mention things like snow and ice I routinely get “What? It doesn’t snow in New Mexico.” Well guess what? It does.

The days are short and harsh. Temperatures in the teens, wind and sun that feels feeble against the cold but burns nonetheless. Chapped lips, cold toes and red noses are the norm. But there is more.

Winter brings new light, different light and contrast of color that ONLY comes when the days fade and the nights take control. Winter light. A cold tone hue that overpowers the warmer notes. This is a beautiful aspect of life in the high desert. Snow skies, moodiness and the struggle that comes when smoke pour forth across the ripples of the plains.

17 Comments on “Create: Learning to See Winter”

  1. I look forward to winter here in central North Carolina, no leaves on the trees, longer shadows, no heat and humidity. Black and white shooting is much more provocative then. We don’t get much snow, though it is spitting snow right now as I type this, but we do get the gray days that appeal to my monochrome eye.

    1. Chuck,
      I know those gray days. Indiana as a kid. New MExico is sunny almost all the time which makes winter a bit easier.

  2. I enjoy winter here in the Highlands of Scotland – not so much snow where I live as we are close to the coast, but I don’t have to drive far to get mountains. Our days are also short and can be harsh; I much prefer the cold, frosty, sunny days to the wet, windy and generally dreich days that suck the soul out of you.

  3. I usually take a trip to Hokkaido around this time every year. Not for the minimalist Michael Kenna tree in the snow photos (although I have tried) or images of those red-chested cranes (the world has seen enough of those) but to feel the desperately cold temperatures and harsh conditions of a winter so close to Siberia. It truly makes you feel alive.

    Stay out too long unprepared and you’re in trouble. The camera is an excuse to go there for that experience.

    1. Sean,
      Yes, you let yourself get one ounce too cold and it’s a major issue. And it comes on FAST.

  4. Winter light is the best, at least in the mountain west. Back east, Andrew Wyeth said: “I prefer winter and fall, when you can feel the bone structure in the landscape—the loneliness of it—the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it—the whole story dosen’t show.”

    1. Tim,
      That is a great quote. My only issue with this time is the short days. I have so little time to make anything these days that by the time I’m off my calls the sun is gone..

  5. I suppose one could, and did, say that it is all about the light. Well, ok, winter is all about the light… and all the things that it shares space with in the zero-ish degree temperatures. The shift to winter is like a reset button for me.


  6. Is that Casa de Milnor? What a stunning location for a house!
    I absolutely love the snow and the cold. I want to move to Hokkaido but the wife says NO WAY!!
    I saw a documentary recently about the coldest road in the world “The road of bones” in Russia, built by forced labour in the Stalinist era. Its so cold many workers died and were buried under the road. I would love to go there and have a look!

  7. Tasty prose Dan. I think most folk here in the UK see NM through the eyes of Breaking Bad’s director… almost always blue skies. But then I realise that’s ABQ if I can be so presumptions as to use that abbreviation.
    Winter usually inspires the melancholy in us. I use the term inspire in a positive sense, at least in the creative sphere. I write this from the train from Bristol to London, having spent most of last evening standing on set in freezing fog. The cold in dry climes is, I believe, more acceptable. I think I’d swap 32 degrees F of freezing moisture for 16 degrees F of crisp dry high desert cold:)) hey, my cold is worse than yours buddy !! 😃

  8. Every year of my life, I’ve stepped in snow in the winter. I’ve longed to live in a place where I don’t look like the Michelin Man for three months. I really do get the whole “Snow Bird” concept. But alas, I’ve come accept that things will never change.

    If you can’t beat them, join them. I got some studded tires for my bicycle and snowshoes for my feet. It’s made waiting for spring a little easier.

    1. Leon,
      That’s it. A balance. I put a bike on a trainer inside where the sun filters through the house. When it’s 12 degrees outside I’m in here sweating. My wife and I are thinking about a small, portable IR sauna. So we can REALLY bake ourselves during these months. And it’s good for my Lyme.

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