Photographing a Lonely Winter Day in December

By Dr. Robert Berdan
December 22, 2013



Back road in winter by Robert Berdan



It's three days before Christmas, I roll out of bed at 7:00 am, it's still dark outside, I shower, dress and wait for my friend, Kamal Varma to drop by at 7:30 am. We grab a quick breakfast at MacDonalds and head east out of Calgary. It's -20°C, cold but not too cold. As we drive east toward Airdrie there is ice fog. Our plan was to look for snowy owls in the Irricana area. I drive down many of the back roads and we see some mule deer, white tailed deer, magpies, gray Partridges, ravens, snow buntings and several coyotes. The coyotes take off as soon as we stop the car. We encountered one deer that appeared to have been shot and only its head removed by a poacher and we just shake our heads. (Nikon D300s with 70-200mm lens).


House and water pump in winter field by Robert Berdan ©


The sky is completely white and appears to merge with the foreground. Barns, fences, trees and various irrigation equipment protrudes from the snow fields and we stop to photograph the interesting patterns. Everything appears in black and white except for some grass that pokes through the snow in places.


Irrigation piple in winter field by Robert Berdan ©


Irrigation pipe and wheels against the snow


Irrigation equipment in winter field by Robert Berdan ©


Irrigation equipment in snow covered field fades off into the distance



Old storage sheds in winter field by Robert Berdan ©


Old storage sheds in a field




Two trees against a curtain of white sky


Wheat blades poke through the snow by Robert Berdan ©


A few blades of wheat poke through the snow that forms a white canvas.


Cattails in winter field by Robert Berdan


A pattern of cattail stalks grabs my attention as they recede into the distance.


Snow buntings in winter field by Robert Berdan ©


We found several large flocks of snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) feeding on and next to the road.
They feed on seeds, flies and other insects and buds on migration.




We often saw ravens feeding on dead wildlife such as deer next to the road.


white tail deer leaps through the snow by Robert Berdan


White-tailed deer leaps through the snow and displays its bright white tail.



Female mule deer in winter by Robert Berdan


Mule deer looks back at me while I photograph her from the road.




Large group of Mule deer congregate north east of Calgary.




Mule deer aggregate in groups of 10 or more and feed together on the side a hill north east of Calgary.



Gray Partridges in winter by Robert Berdan ©


Gray Partridge (Perdix perdix) are found primarily in the west in agricultural fields with crops such as corn, wheat and oats. Most of these birds are non-migratory. Hunters often call these birds hungarian partridges. The adults have a cinnamon coloured face, with a gray neck and black banding. The eat mostly seeds and row crops, green leaves in spring and insects when breeding. Photographed with a Nikon D300S, 300 mm f/2.8 lens.


Snow covered field merges with white sky by Robert Berdan ©


Next to the road this field seems to merge with the white sky in the distance.


Winter fence by Robert Berdan  ©


Some of the fences had a thin layer of rime and hoar frost


Fence, snow and old cabin in field by Robert Berdan ©


Fence and old cabin in the field



Thin layer of frost covers this fence.


Fence in snow with two sizes of poles by Robert Berdan ©


I always find the repetition of fence poles in a snowy field interesting. This fence had two size of posts short and long ones.



Tree in winter form a fence in the snow by Robert Berdan ©


In places trees form a fence line




In this photograph the snow covered field appeared to merge with the white sky. This image reminds me of the "stupid" artI have seen in several art galleries like the Smithsonian where the curator hung up a blank white canvas and nothing else. Without a building, fence, tree or road it's very difficult to make out where the horizon ends and the sky begins.



Old barn in winter by Robert Berdan  ©


An old barn in the snow. I scanned the windows checking for a Great horned owl and hoping to see one perched there.



We stopped in Bieseker for lunch and asked some of the patrons if they might have seen any snowy owls, some had seen one a little further up the road. Folks seemed excited about Christmas and were generally chatty. After lunch we headed east toward Drumheller and then south again down more back roads. I had brought my Samsung Galaxy III phone in order to test its camera features and use the GPS with Google's mapping feature. The maps were great and showed me exactly where we were. I took some panoramas with the camera phone and a few pictures (see top banner image), but focusing was difficult with the phone camera in bright light. I felt so much more comfortable photographing with my DSLR cameras and although we complained about not seeing any snowy owls that day - we both acknowledge how great it was just to be outside exploring the country side with our cameras RB.


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