A day of snow 6th February 2019

Snow, let's talk snow. A word that many dislike but most photographers love. In Bedfordshire a good snowfall is a rarity, we don't often get any decent prolonged periods of snow. Snow usually comes and goes in a day. It's rarely deep enough or stays long enough to be useful to most photographers. And one thing I've noticed it that very often it never falls on a weekend!

If the right amount of snow does occur and I'm free the next problem with snow is getting places. In Bedfordshire we are not really prepared for snow. Whilst main roads are gritted the problem is getting to those main roads as the minor roads are usually ice rinks. Sadly as we don't often get snow very few vehicles are prepared for winter with winter tyres or any winter weather related equipment such as snow chains/socks, etc making things a little more difficult.

Being Prepared

I'm trying to be a bit more prepared for the fleeting glimpses of snow we get. I've worked out you need two things to be able to get out and enjoy some snow photography. Firstly you need to ensure you have the right kit to be able to keep you warm for long periods out in the cold weather. Investing in good warm clothing can be just as important as camera kit to get photos in the snow. Some form of camera protection is also useful just in case you get caught out in falling snow (or actually planning on shooting in falling snow).

Secondly you need a place to go to already in mind. It has to be somewhere you know well, somewhere you have visited many times and know how to use the limited time you are likely to have. There is also the point about knowing how to get there. It's important to know you can get there and routes are clear. For me that place is Woburn as it's relatively local, road access is usually ok and it's a location I know well. For me it ticks all of the boxes.

Back in 2018

It's not very often that the right kind of snow and free time match up. For several years I seemed to miss every chance of snow we got. In early March 2018 there was the 'beast from the east' and I got a chance of good, deep, useful snow rather than just the usual dusting. I had the chance to put my snow plan into action at Woburn.

The roads weren’t great early morning. Checking google maps I don’t think I’ve ever seen a road network where most roads were highlighted in red! I delayed my visit until late morning hoping the road would be clear. This worked as late morning I manage to get to Woburn. The main draw for me at Woburn are the Red Deer. I've always wanted to capture them in snowy conditions and as yet I still haven't as I couldn't find any Red Deer. Woburn is also home to Pierre David deer, a native species of China. Pierre David deer are at home in snowy conditions. When you first see a group of Pierre David deer one of the first things that you notice is a clicking noise when they walk. The tendons in their heels click as they walk. It's said this clicking is help the herd stay together during a blizzard. Usually I find Pierre David deer hard to photograph but in snowy conditions they just look right.

It was during this visit a friend phoned me to say he was photographing a black swan on a frozen pond. The pond was partially frozen with snow covered ice and water rendered black, perfect for striking black and white contrast images.

Fast forward to 2019

Recently the weather forecast was predicting snow, but I never really believe it until I see it with my own eyes! On the Tuesday night snow came but it wasn't enough for photography (but at least it made that night's football match interesting). There was more snow forecast for overnight later in the week. Normally this wouldn't be of any use as I would be at work but it just so happened that it was a day I had off work on annual leave. Once again I had a chance to put my snow plan into action.

I woke up that morning and we had had some snow, just enough to make a trip to Woburn look worthwhile. I arrived in Woburn mid morning to find there was just enough snow to be useful. Over the years I've noticed there is usually a little more snow in Woburn than where I live in Bedfordshire (it's probably due to the lie of the land and Woburn is about 70-80m higher above sea level than where I live). As I walked into the park I passed the same pond as the previous year. Once again there was a Mute Swan family and a Black Swan swimming around the pond. The pond was mostly frozen with a small section of unfrozen water in the middle. After last years results that was enough for me to stay there rather than venture further into the park in search of the Red Deer. The Black Swan stayed mainly in the middle of the pond whilst a Mute Swan family was up on the ice close to the bank. For the next few hours I spent time photographing the Mute Swan family. My eye was caught by the contrasting colours of the juvenile Mute Swans and the ice.

Sadly I had to leave early afternoon. Once home by late afternoon the snow had pretty much disappeared. In all it felt like it was a good use of time and the limited snowy conditions. Once again the snow only gave a fleeting chance to capture some snowy wildlife photos.