2016 Winter Landscape Workshop Follow-up

It’s been a crazy couple of months here at MSPP, and while the world  is thinking “spring” I feel like I’m still trying to wrap up winter! Is it March yet? (I know, I know, we’re halfway through April).

Regardless, I’ve wanted to share some info and some of the awesome photos created by participants in my February “The Midwest Winter Landscape” workshop. We had a fabulous winter season from mid-January through mid-February and I was thrilled that just a couple days prior to this workshop, the ground was covered with 8-10″ of snow and rivers and streams were frozen – with a few open areas, perfect for water feature photography. Scouting locations at Ledges State Park, the location for this workshop, 48 hours before the workshop, I was thrilled with the conditions. In fact, while scouting spots where I wanted to cover specific teaching material, the scene looked like the below gallery (note, these are just handheld snaps made with my favorite little fixed-lens mirrorless camera, largely to create references for location and possible compositional recommendations):

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And then, the unthinkable happened: a mid-February HEAT WAVE! 24 hours after shooting the above photos, it was 50+ degrees fahrenheit, and the forecast was for the temps to remain that warm through the weekend! Ugh! For once in their life I had 10 participants praying for cold and snow, but instead we got two days of May in February.

The lovely snow pictured above melted. Nearly all of it. By the next morning the little meandering stream pictured above, which was crossable in places by walking across 8″ or so of ice cover, had become raging river of snow-melt. It was completely uncrossable on foot – too deep and moving too swiftly. Really, raging.

This led to a somewhat last-minute re-plan of the workshop itinerary. We did have a fantastic sunrise, and found some excellent ice crystals and frosty landscapes early in the morning. And I knew of one area within the Ledges that is shaded all day – there is never direct sun in the winter months. I suspected that there would still be a (small) snow field here, and perhaps some frozen stream water segments. But it required a bit of a hike over a muddy, somewhat slippery (due to overnight-refrozen melt from the day prior) ridge. Luckily, my awesome participants were game for the hike, and I had my fingers crossed that I was right on the snow field call. Turned out, I was! We descended the ridge trail and found a lovely section of snowy woodland. Though there was only a very small amount of ice remaining in the nearby stream. But plenty of subjects to photograph, nonetheless.

After a lunch-hour trip into town for some warm food and a bit of classroom-style discussion (it was so warm out we could have just picnicked!), we returned to the field to photograph at some scenic overlooks, and found some more snow in another section of the forest.

Two participants in the workshop shared some of their images with me directly, and generously have allowed me to include them in the gallery below. So please enjoy the below gallery of photos created by participants Chuck King of Des Moines, IA, and Frances Kuelz of Minnetonka, MN:

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Thanks for allowing me to share these, Chuck and Frances!

Additionally, some other participants have shared some images in my Peterson Photo Workshops Participants flickr group. You can find these here.

Thanks to all the participants for a very fun day – we cursed the warm temps in the morning, but had fun, hopefully learned some solid landscape photography techniques, and created some great landscape and nature photographs. Congrats on the excellent work!

I’m looking forward to my next nature photography field workshop, Spring Wildflowers and Landscapes, where we’ll study professional macro and close-up field techniques while photographing Midwest varieties of woodland wildflowers, and explore the Iowa forest landscape in spring. I do still have just a couple spots left in that workshop, coming up May 7.

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