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Snowfall on the Michigan Backroads 12 12 08

I expected to have hit the grouse woods by now with my old, twelve gage Winchester. Today, with the cutoff date for grouse season just a couple weeks away and the holidays at hand, I suspect that’s not going to happen. It’s okay, though. I’ve discovered a new form of hunting, and with the partridge cycle at its low, this kind shows much more promise. Armed with my Canon EOS 400 camera, I’ve been returning from the fields with my game bag full. And what’s particularly nice is, there’s no limit on photographs.

Better yet, outdoor photography season runs year round—and, to my surprise and delight, I’m finding that winter in Michigan brims with subjects. Everywhere I turn, I see images waiting to be captured, hidden amid the trees, nestled in snowy meadows, drifting through the sky, parading across hillsides.

The landscape has stories to tell, hinterland dramas recorded in the Braille of rabbit tracks in the snow, the cuneiform of tangled roots at the base of a fallen tree, and the ghostly expression of an old, weather-worn stump where woodpeckers have been chiseling away.

You don’t have to look far in the wintry countryside for photos that practically compose themselves. The pictures are there, waiting for you. All you have to do is pull aside, get out of your car, and look around. There, in that roadside swamp—see how the slanting sun dapples the tumbled, frozen terrain? The swamp is a jigsaw puzzle of snow and ice, light and shadow. Can you put it together with your lens?

Farther down the road, you park by a nature preserve and head down the trail. The rabbits have been busy here, weaving crisscross trails over the snow. Other creatures have left their signature footprints as well—whitetail deer, raccoons, various birds, perhaps even a red fox. The forest floor is a vast white page spread beneath the trees, written like a diary with the winter activities of wild animals.

Forging onward, you head up a small rise, then back down, emerging out of the woods into open marshland and the light of the waning day. On the other side of the snowy flats, dark, wooded hills rise into shadow, set against a patchwork canvas of sky and cloud. But here on the trail, the sunlight searches out hidden corners and conspires with the snow to turn commonplace objects into strange and wonderful art. That trailside bench up ahead, for instance, is nothing you’d want to sit on right now, but it’s magical to simply look at.

Back in early November, as the leaves of autumn faded and fell away, I wondered, in that dreary interlude before the first snowfall, what opportunities the coming winter would hold for someone like me who doesn’t ski or snowmobile. Now I know. As with the rest of the seasons, winter in Michigan possesses its unique brand of grace and grandeur. This is the time of year for crackling log fires, mugs of robust, black stout, and good books. But it’s also the time to layer up, head outdoors, savor the ice cream air, and enjoy the confectionary artistry of the northwoods in the winter.





Written by Dave.