Monday 3 January 2022

The Mists of Winter

December deceived us. After a series of decent snowfalls through Advent we thought that we might see a white Christmas, or at the very least that we could get away to snow in the mountains over the holiday period. Unfortunately, the closer we got, the warmer the weather and the more elusive the winter conditions. We had one great morning hoar frost that I was too busy to monopolise on, and that was it! If we're in Germany at New Years we have a standing invitation to visit friends just over the border in Austria. In previous years we've had to shovel 50 cm of snow off the cars and out of the drive in the morning, have been able to ski cross country around the lake, or even skate on the lake one snow-free winter to the music of the ice singing to us.

Traces of Winter || Olympus 41 mm, f/13, 1/20 s, ISO 400 
This year all we had were a few piles of snow, a very sad looking cross-country track - or Loipe - on the mountain pass and a half-frozen lake that was of no use to man nor beast. Settling down after we arrived in their grand picture window living room I was a little dejected. Some photographers keep abreast of the weather, hovering over reports like a hawk. Christian Irmler's latest YouTube video is all about interpreting meteorological data and seems all very 'next level' to me (or maybe that's one of the reasons why he's a much better photographer than me). Yes, I follow the weather forecasts a little bit, but I tend to react rather than plan, making use of what I have rather than planning ahead. But that's why my eyes suddenly lit up sitting in that window making me grab my camera and tripod and dash to the terrace in the fading light. 

Wedgewood Scene || Olympus 38 mm, f/8, 2.5 s, ISO 200 
The snow might have been tatty, the ice incomplete and the sky thoroughly uninspiring, but there was MIST! And there were trees! All of a sudden, things were looking up. Mist has the ability to transform dull forests into places of wonder, creating layers and atmosphere out of featureless rows of trees and so when the mist started drifting across the water, the camera came out.

My father joined us for Christmas this year and came down to the mountains with us. He's not quite as agile as he used to be, but for an octogenarian he does very well. He's very interested in current events, a keen reader of political biographies and an ardent Europhile, making birthday present shopping easy for us this year (below). 

Dad at 80 || Olympus 38 mm, f/4, 1/13 s, ISO 800
The next morning, we all headed out to do our own thing; the kids went off to search for a suitable piste whilst our host took to his e-bike and dad ambled around the village, leaving Sharon and I to hunt for sufficient snow to cross-country ski on. We found a very sorry looking Loipe in Going, which is allegedly located at the foot of the Wilde Kaiser range, but with the thick fog we were having, it was very difficult to assess the veracity of this claim. Thick fog. Trees. Again, we were able to make the most of a poor situation.

Foggy Firs || Olympus 44 mm, f/16, 1/8000 s, ISO 200
After traipsing round the surprisingly good track twice, we decided that the snow wasn't going to get any better (well, I decided, Sharon had to find out for herself the hard way that I was right) and thought that we'd try out our hosts' recommendation and head up to the Hintersteinersee ('lake-behind-the-rock' - ever inventive with their names these Austrians). Driving up from the village of Scheffau in the valley, we caught occasional glimpses of the snow-kissed mountains, finally arriving at the lake to find ourselves on the magic border between mist and sun. There was a ridge of rock between the lake and the sun. Everything in the shadow of the ridge was covered in mist, including the completely frozen lake, everything else was in the sun, and there was snow. Finally we'd hit photographic Eldorado.

The Magic Border || Olympus 25 mm, f/16, 1/200 s, ISO 64 
After a leisurely lunch in the Seestuberl we headed out to circumnavigate the lake anticlockwise. There's a good track along the north side of the lake but the shore is sadly inaccessible for the most part, being privately owned. There are a couple of spots though where it was possible to traipse through the snow to the waters edge to catch a few images. 

Winter Birch || Olympus 17 mm, f/11, 1/40 s, ISO 64
Buoy in the Mist || Olympus 61 mm, f/8, 1/400 s, ISO 64
Swimming Platform || Olympus 75 mm, f/8, 60 s, ISO 64
Frozen Reeds || Olympus 100 mm, f/8, 1/10 s, ISO 64
Misty Farmland || Olympus 100 mm, f/8, 1/60 s, ISO 64
Reeds and Mist || Olympus 28 mm, f/8, 1/500 s, ISO 64 
At the far end there is a cluster of guest houses (that looked to be a little more cozy than the Seestuberl if I'm honest), where the path then turns the corner to the much more adventurous south side. The trail becomes more of a path here, cutting through the forest, going up and down much more than we expected. Where there was snow on the path it had become very compacted, usually at the most inopportune spots (of course). Shooting from the shady side gave some more abstract images of the ice and the mist.

Patterns in the Ice || Olympus 57 mm, f/8, 1/25 s, ISO 400
Beech Leaves Against the Ice || Olympus 41 mm, f/11, 1/4 s, ISO 400
It did freeze overnight on New Year's Eve, letting me grab these ice abstracts from the lake shore.
Ice Abstract I || Olympus 100 mm, f/8, 1/320 s, ISO 400
Ice Abstract II || Olympus 50 mm, f/13, 1/50 s, ISO 400
I'd packed the Big Gun (Olympus M. Zuiko f/5-5.6 100-400 mm) in the hope of catching some garden birds in the snow as I had done a few years before, but, alas, the bird table was empty this year. As we were getting ready to go out to lunch on New Years Day, however, I noticed the sun catching the Dreibrunnenjoch over the lake. I could pick out some detail with my trusty 12-100, but putting on the 100-400 I could really get some reach and was able to catch this scene as a Last Hurrah.

Magical Winter Mists || Olympus 292 mm, f/8, 1/640 s, ISO 400
All that remains is for me to wish you all the best for 2022, health, happiness and great photos!

No comments:

Post a Comment